News about the kind of rich and famous people who are rich and famous for being rich and famous doesn’t usually hold my interest. It’s too pedestrian. It’s too shallow and stupid. I don’t feel a burning desire to hear about the antics of douchebags who let overrated nightclubs charge them an arm and a leg for the privilege of being swarmed by skanky, disingenuous halfway whores like piglets around mother’s teats the moment their bottle service order arrives. You know, not my circus, not my monkeys.
So I don’t think I’d ever heard of Dan Bilzerian until the other day, when he was arrested by the Los Angeles World Airports Police and booked into jail without bail on an out-of-state felony warrant. Initially, the consensus seemed to be that the arrest was for a recent assault at a nightclub in Miami. As Mike Cernovich put it in another tweet, “Hanging out with ‘models’ at ‘hot clubs’ is overrated, as Dan Bilzarian (sic), who is in jail for kicking a bottle rat, recently learned.” In a separate incident, Bilzerian had inadvertently broken a woman’s foot by throwing her off a roof and into a swimming pool stark naked during a pornographic film shoot, as one does. Despite these incidents, the actual reason for the police meeting his arriving flight at the gate (the technical term for this is “not fucking around”) was a sealed arrest warrant out of Clark County, Nevada, for possessing explosives and attempting to make a bomb. (Yes, I just linked to TMZ. Through my fault, through my most grievous, etc.) Bilzerian has historically enjoyed explosives (if you’ll pardon another TMZ link), and there have been conflicting stories about whether the Clark County charges have been dropped, but Bilzerian has since been released, making a bit more room in the LA County jail system for the kind of homeless people who are pissed off because “sheriffs think they the motherfucking police!”
I must run with a different crowd.
What caught my attention about Bilzerian was Cernovich’s mentioning that he was kind of a big deal. Hearing about Bilzerian, I thought, shit, who is that guy? Why would anyone give a damn about him? Is he some kind of male Paris Hilton? The answer to the last question is a definite yes. Wikipedia forthrightly summarizes him as “an American actor, poker player and trust fund beneficiary.” Bilzerian once won $36,626 in a televised poker tournament (it’s hard to get much deeper into professional wankery and bad broadcasting than that) by finishing in 180th place. (How on earth does a “World Series” of anything have a 180th place? I’ve run in Saturday morning footraces that were lucky to have a 60th place finisher. This is like bragging about the second-place trophy for men in my age group that I was once awarded for being one of two men in my age group.) Bilzerian’s acting career is even weirder: earlier this year he sued two film producers for breach of contract on the basis that the producers had shorted him on the screen time that he had demanded in exchange for a one million dollar production loan. It’s easy to imagine SAG representatives being of a mind to strangle him for trying to buy his way into an acting role with a seven-figure payola offering. Or maybe throw him off a roof and then have their lawyers sandbag him over medical expenses.
So this douchebag has lots of family money that he throws at other douchebags in an effort to buy their favor and incidentally gets involved in battery and reckless endangerment and maybe some home bombmaking. If this were just the dissipation of the wealthy, it wouldn’t bother me much. As I said, I run with a different crowd. The problem is that Bilzerian has five million Instagram followers. That’s how interested the public is in his antics. He’s running a sort of freelance Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Other people want to be like him. Perhaps they, too, will bring out the long knives.
People like Dan Bilzerian have a corrosive effect on society. They’re caustic anticivic agents. They encourage men who might otherwise pursue careers of some social value to instead hustle for fame and fortune in the hope that they, too, will one day be able to surround themselves with a quasiharem of young women who are artificially top-heavy, not all of them even pretty, and by the looks of them dumb as a pile of bricks. They encourage women who might otherwise pursue careers of some social value and the company of modest, decent, productive men to instead devote their lives to chasing after prominent club scene douchebags. As with real estate, prices are set at the margins, and Dan Bilzerian is one of the margins that sets prices for other men. It’s no wonder that there’s so much positional violence at nightclubs and that even momentarily calm nightclubs are commonly on the metastable verge of positional violence. The pool of prospective mates is narrowed, largely by weird social contrivances, resulting in a dangerously large pool of put-upon loser bros and scheming outer-circle bottle rats, and eventually someone gets kicked in the face.
The standard tradcon gloss for this dynamic, shared by some of the primmer factions on the left, is that the problem with these clubs is that they sell sex and drugs. This is a misguided assessment, and also a very effective red herring for moral panic concern trolls. Most people who traffic drugs for a living (meaning anything from cigarette sellers to tasting room employees to cocaine dealers) and pretty much all sex workers would love to be able to have the police take the loose cannons who show up at their workplaces downtown to cool off. The ability to actually do this instead of forlornly wishing for it is one of the things that distinguishes legal parts of the sex and drug trades from the black market parts. If I get trashed and stumble around a tasting room coldcocking people and breaking shit, I can expect to leave in the backseat of a very nicely painted Impala. If I do the same things to a prostitute, my odds of going to jail drop. They drop precipitously if I attack a drug dealer who is carrying product. There are a lot of dealers who move some heavy-ass drugs and a lot of prostitutes offering services that I don’t want to contemplate who do their level best every day to steer clear of erratic nutcases and violent assholes. There are also plenty of bars and clubs that allow peaceable drunkenness and sexual overtures but do an excellent job of signaling to thugs and yahoos that they aren’t welcome and deterring them from acting on their impulses if they do show up.
The sorts of nightclubs where Dan Bilzerian hangs out are different. They seem to deliberately maintain a baseline of rudeness, aggression, and imminent violence on their premises. They absolutely love artificial scarcity. They do their best to contrive it where it otherwise wouldn’t exist. There are compelling circumstantial reasons to believe that their owners routinely bribe local governments for special consideration from permitting and police departments. It’s hard to imagine a legitimate policy interest in allowing club owners to set up sociosexual environments that are designed to provoke public fistfights.
Then there’s Bilzerian’s acting and gambling careers. Only a fool would expect success from following in his footsteps. But, as Sociology Doge always says, Wow Much morons Such dumbo.
Acting is a meritocracy except for when it isn’t. The plebes must show the studios that they have what it takes. Relatives of celebrities are able to pull strings for legacy admissions at levels above their seniority and competence. The more obscure wealthy are sometimes able to get their way, or in Dan Bilzerian’s case, sort of get their way, by throwing money at decision makers.
The key difference between acting and gambling, however, is that the studios aren’t set up so that the house always wins. They need talent in order to make money, and they usually need it badly enough to pay handsomely for it. Many Hollywood bigshots are cheap shysters by nature, but they usually know better than to cross the guilds. Casinos, by contrast, have a compelling interest in not allowing their customers to come out ahead. They’ll keep an eye on the floors and throw freebies to gamblers who look like they’re about to leave, but if they had net payouts on their games they’d all be as broke as Donald Trump. There would be no gambling industry. It’s not like they’d make back their losses on food and drink receipts.
Dan Bilzerian is wealthy enough to dump money down a hole at casinos and then make himself look like a brilliant champ when he wins some of it back. For that matter, he probably has his own accounts receivable operation for graft payments from other influence peddlers. Every celebrity has some seedy operation offering him money in exchange for press. My paternal grandfather, a US Army officer from the late 1930’s through the early 1960’s, also dumped money down a hole at casinos. He got his whole family into debt doing that. A former drinking buddy of mine from an affluent minor industrialist family near Philadelphia used to lose up to $7,000 a week, mostly on online poker, which he played six screens at a time. This fucker was pissing away a sort of sinecure at the family business by gambling, walking into lampposts while drunk, going mouth-to-rail with the R6 tracks in Mayanunk and needing $3,000 worth of new teeth (again, not while sober), and haplessly trying to game nightclub barmaids by making awkward, annoying small talk and giving them lavish tips.
His dad was a hopeless drunk, too. I once upset a metastable pile of Yuengling bottles that he had stuffed to the gills of the bottom third of a refrigerator at their shore house. I was helping him retrieve beer from the fridge, and bottles just started spilling out onto the concrete floor. None of them cracked, and obviously this dude had one ramshackle way of storing beer, but I still felt bad about upsetting his pile; he was amused and hail-fellow-well-met about the whole thing. His wife, my drinking buddy’s mother, was the next thing to silent for our entire visit. She had this tragically sheepish, vacant look in her eyes. In retrospect, I think she may have been snowed on pharmaceuticals. Knowing her family, I can’t blame her.
Dan Bilzerian is a portal into the weird world of trustfunders, but as a social phenomenon he’s also a portal into the perhaps more disturbed popular view of trustfunders. Just bringing up the subject tends to stir up a hornet’s nest full of envy, resentment, and awe. Where the congenitally wealthy are concerned, it’s hard to tell from minute to minute whether their socioeconomic inferiors want to imitate them, join them, rob them, kill them, or impress them into chain gang labor on a sugar plantation out of pure spite.
Of course the assumption is that because they were born into money they’re automatically a bunch of leisured degenerates. I have trust fund beneficiaries in my extended family, and none of them act like Dan Bilzerian. Granted, their trust fund is fairly small, but it wasn’t small enough to keep its less responsible beneficiaries from making terrible financial decisions and then trying to milk the trust to pay their bills. These two beneficiaries are basically middling white trash who fancy themselves local dirt track royalty and can’t stay out of money trouble. The other three beneficiaries have held down steady jobs for decades and basically have their shit together.
The tropes about trustfunders are consistently foul: Arab royalty/Eurotrash/Miami/Hollywood spectrum party animals, Portland hipsters who “drink coffee for a living,” western seaboard hippie circuit trustafarians. Obviously, these are not very sympathetic characters; quite a few of them are every bit as foul as their reputations. But suggesting that they’re annoying and parasitic simply because they’re rich is a category error. Family money mainly allows them to express their natural vices in a more conspicuous fashion. Without family money, many club douchebags and bottle rats would be chronically in and out of jail on account of their proclivity to violence and aggression. Taking away family money from floundering hipsters wouldn’t magically give them the organization and drive to stay solvent and steadily employed; they might get their shit together, or they might end up on Section Eight or living in used tents from Goodwill down by the river, either of these scenarios meaning that we, as taxpayers, would have the honor of footing the bill. The trustafarians, being mainly lazy, are probably the most reachable of the derelict trustfunder lot, but stripped of their money they might well turn to lives of petty crime, since they’re obviously beyond the pale of shame for sitting around the town square dressed like downmarket Robin Hoods and begging for alms. Alcoholics, for their part, will still be alcoholics. Some of them are loaded in both senses of the term, but they aren’t all.
One does not simply impose self-reliance, unless one is in paranormal communion with John Galt.
Wealth is part of the problem, insofar as it can be used to buy pathological varieties and degrees of privilege, but it is neither a guarantee nor a precondition of disordered living. I know people from modestly affluent families who act like Dan Bilzerian to the extent that their finances allow it, and I know other people from what looks like serious money–enough money to finance frequent rock climbing, yachting, general aviation, business jet rentals, and recourse to fine-ass automobiles, in any event–who have never high-hatted me and probably have never high-hatted anyone else for not being of sufficient station to partake of the lifestyle on their own dime. Part of it is that rich-acting rich people on the East Coast are fucking assholes and rich-acting rich people on the West Coast are not. This excludes Hollywood, I guess, and Las Vegas, if it’s west and coastal enough. I know some preppy-ass sons and daughters of Huntington Beach, but it isn’t the preppy set in HB that goes around uprooting stop signs and overturning portapotties because #SURFING.
Good breeding can work wonders on a person’s character, and my people in the OC are damn well bred. A big part of good breeding is not gaslighting everyone about one’s socioeconomic background and circumstances. This is nigh impossible for the Insurance Schmuck in a way that isn’t such a problem for his parents, so maybe something went not quite right in his upbringing.
Something went spectacularly wrong in the breeding of the white riot flatbillers who trashed Huntington Beach. Contrary to their style of dress, these were not just a bunch of street urchins. Many who don the flat bill are said to have been raised in comfort and affluence. They must be ashamed of their background or something, since they look like they’ve retained the tailoring services of Oscar the Grouch. Or maybe dressing like a dirtbag straight out of a Hemet trailer park and trashing a business district is a good way to offer the grand fuck-you to dear mother and father. By some accounts the flat bill and the seedy skater clothes are preconditions to getting laid. It’s certainly a good marketing strategy for disreputable clothiers to suggest such a thing. It’s an excellent way to dress while demolishing an OC Weekly newspaper display box: Hey, bruh, this paper is free, so let’s tear this shit up! Let’s stick it to the man! Sure, dude. If you fast-forward to 11:34 in the last video, you’ll see an asshole run across Main Street brandishing a cafe chair and start bashing it against one of the newspaper boxes. Glory be, it’s a UFC LARP meetup two blocks from the beach: nothing less for a generation brought up by War Machine and company.
This, God help us, is American manhood.
There’s another explanation for this bullshit, one that is paradoxical but cruelly logical. This wilding could be a sort of status signaling by reverse psychology. These are obviously young gentlemen who see no need to show the faintest glimmer of bourgeois virtue, say, by not running around downtown Huntington Beach aggressively breaking shit. Maybe showing the restraint not to uproot stop signs and let piles of shit leak out of portapotties onto crowded public streets during a major sporting event would indicate that one has something to prove, say, to prospective employers who don’t want to hire a bunch of rampaging cretins. Chicks dig the honey badger bad boy, no? Manifest hostility to public health, order, and infrastructure is a good start.
Failing that, one can always kick a woman in the face at a nightclub or hurl her off a balcony into a swimming pool. Get rich and hotties be stacked, dawg. Yeah, it comes at a cost, but people will love you. And resent you and hate you and want to jack your shit and put your ass in a prison cell.
I like to imagine that Canada will be able to save our sorry asses from our own belligerent degradation when the time comes, but looking at some of this stuff, I’m thinking it’ll take nothing less than space aliens to save us.