Real Wolf of Wall Street is a showman

Real Wolf of Wall Street is a showman
Jordan Belfort, the financier convicted of fraud and the author of the book, The Wolf of Wall Street, speaking at A Day With The Wolf Of Wall Street Seminar to an almost full house at the Garnet Room in Singapore Expo on 8 June 2014.

It was one of the stranger episodes of life imitating art imitating life.

Jordan Belfort, the man whose life was depicted in the movie The Wolf Of Wall Street, was here on Sunday giving a success seminar when he reminded the audience of the film's final scene. It showed how he (as played by Leonardo DiCaprio) had rebounded from imprisonment, finding a new career as a seminar speaker.

To put it another way, he was using the 2013 Oscar-nominated film to validate his credentials as a speaker when it was trying to show how the disgraced trader had found a new calling as a motivational speaker. A more elegant circularity of proof would be hard to find.

In one of the many rhetorical questions he would ask that day, he said: "Do you know what that movie has done for my business? It's grown my business a hundredfold."

The 51-year-old described how an early mid-2000s draft of the script by Terence Winter, based on Belfort's memoir of the same name, had ended with him in prison. But as the film's development dragged on, the story was amended to accommodate Belfort's resurgence.

"They changed the movie to reflect my new life," he said. The final scene was not meant to be a completely flattering portrayal - it could be read that director Martin Scorsese and Winter wanted to show how everyone's weakness for quick wealth is a tide which floats the boats of men such as Belfort.

But Sunday's event was a success seminar, not a salon for film critics, and the mood in the 400-plus crowd was supportive. Belfort was there to share secrets of success "from both extremes - failure and success", said the promotional materials.

He fell from his position as one of the wealthiest men in Wall Street to a bunk in a prison cell after he was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering. He was jailed for 22 months in 2004.

The seminar was billed A Day With The Wolf Of Wall Street, taking advantage of the huge boost in fame given by the film.

While talking about the importance of marketing oneself and one's products, he said in an offhand way that he had a "$500-million movie to do all the marketing I need".

Several of the participants Life! spoke to said they had bought tickets, costing between $188 and $388, to get practical techniques in sales and persuasion. In the film, Belfort is shown turning a team of sluggish low achievers into aggressive sellers. The celebrity factor was also a draw, a few participants said.

In the end, the talk, given to an almost full house at the Garnet Room in Singapore Expo, focused mainly on the "inner game" - attitudes and motivations that propel a person to either success or failure.

Belfort mixed personal anecdote with practical advice in what he called his "straight line system" of success. He spoke about how he emerged from jail penniless to achieve what he said was $100,000 in pay for a day of work, making him "the highest paid speaker in the world, I really am", he said. "Maybe Bill Clinton gets more," he corrected after a pause.

Fuelled by what looked like several bottles of isotonic sports drink, Belfort showed he was an expert showman, a speaker who maintained a high-energy patter for three hours without a break or audible strain on his voice.

Medical researcher and part-time entrepreneur Nasirah Banu, 27, was impressed by his stamina. She paid $200 for a seat. Like many of the audience members - as proven by a show of hands asked for by Belfort - she is young and has a good job, but yearns to run her own business some day.

His ability to hold her attention for three hours might make him something of a rock star, she says, but she disagreed with the notion that his notoriety or celebrity status is an audience draw.

"People don't pay hundreds of dollars for that. They paid to see him because of his life story, how he was able to pick himself up after jail," she said.

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