"THE PRICE OF EXPERIENCE: Power, Money, Image and Murder in Los Angeles" by Randall Sullivan
Kirkus Star

"THE PRICE OF EXPERIENCE: Power, Money, Image and Murder in Los Angeles"

Email this review


This exceptionally captivating narrative, tracing the glittering rise and bloody fall of the Billionaire Boys Club, lives up to its subtitle's lofty, lurid promise. Joe Gamsky, a latter-day Jay Gatsby, grew up poor but smart enough to win a scholarship to L.A.'s posh Harvard School. Joe became friendly with schoolmate Dean Karny, and the two remained close after Joe (who changed his last name to Hunt) began a stint as a trader in Chicago. After losing millions on speculative trades and being expelled from the Mercantile Exchange, he rebounded, starting a new venture in Los Angeles, the Billionaire Boys Club, with Karny. The two attracted their richest friends from the Harvard School, and soon money was pouring into the BBC coffers for the stated purposes of technological research and investment. Sullivan (whose 1986 Esquire article on Hunt was the origin of this book) expertly details the grand ambitions of the BBC, which seemed achievable for a time. But the boys were greedy, as they candidly admitted to Sullivan; and Hunt's ability to manipulate their parents, along with his Ponzi and pyramid schemes, relied on a constant influx of cash. When Hunt matched wits with Ron Levin, a far superior con artist, the BBC was doomed. Karny provides fascinating details about the BBC's slide into a total amorality, rooted in avarice and almost cultlike devotion to the emotionally contained but charismatic Hunt. The result was the murder of Levin and two others. This archetypal L.A. story, set against the waning '80s, takes a further twist when Karny enters the Witness Protection Program, sending Hunt and other BBC members to jail for life. But Hunt has already gained what amounts to an acquittal on one murder charge, and he is fighting for a new trial on his outstanding convictions. Thoroughly researched and compulsively readable, an essential entry in the true-crime canon.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Grove