Picks and Pans Review: The Billionaire Boys Club
They were bright young men, privileged and protected. The majority were cut from the upper crust of Los Angeles society, honor graduates of the exclusive Harvard School, a preppy enclave. The group founder and leader was Joe Hunt (whose real name was Joseph Gamsky), quiet, intelligent and devoted to making fast money. In the spring of 1983, Hunt formed a fraternal investment group that would use the members' financial and social connections. He named it BBC in honor of his favorite Chicago bar (the Bombay Bicycle Club) and it came to be known as the Billionaire Boys Club. Within weeks, membership swelled to about 30 greedy young men. Soon, Hunt was manipulating the group's finances and controlling the personal lives of all its members. Hunt even approved the women the BBC boys dated and the apartments they rented. No one minded as long as they thought the investments Hunt made were profitable.
Then business deals led to the loss of several million dollars. In a panic, Hunt chose the deadliest escape route-murder. Together with a handful of the more cold-blooded Boys Club crew, Hunt plotted the death of a friend, Beverly Hills con man Ron Levin, and allegedly followed that up with the kidnapping of Hedayat Eslaminia, a onetime Iranian government official and drug abuser. The kidnapping, which resulted in Eslaminia's death, was given the code name Project Sam.
The Billionaire Boys Club is a murderous tale set in a decade devoted to the accumulation of wealth. Horton, whose Los Angeles magazine article on the BBC led to a TV movie starring Judd Nelson, is a better reporter than writer, so while her book is desktop thick with facts, it is also filled with true-crime clichés. Yet the story of The Billionaire Boys Club is such a strong one that it easily leaps any such hurdles placed in its path. (St. Martin's, $18.95)