If you were pressed to describe, in detail, how a typical Wall Street executive and exalted member of the infamous One Percent spent his Saturday night, what would you imagine?
If you imagined that he was sitting in a high back chair like the Iron Throne with swivel capabilities and running his fingers through the hair of a small pet like a Bond villain, you'd be incorrect (this time).
If you imagined that he got 100-some of his fellow Wall Street elite together for a night of raucous skits and lavish meals, explicitly mocking the financial crisis, cracking gay jokes, and dressing the newbies in drag, then you can pat yourself on the back, because that is a thing that actually happens.
There's a secret Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi. Every year they hold a black-tie initiation ceremony where the Grand Swipe (the real term they use for their leader) and the rest of the members laugh at your expense and embarrass the neophytes (new members).
Kevin Roose, a longtime financial reporter, rented a tux and crashed the fancy soireé to see what exactly goes on at these things and it was everything you'd expect from the type of fiscal titans that run America's essentially untouchable financial institutions. The only thing that was missing was a two-story beer bong they could run up the flagpole.
After cocktail hour, the new inductees – all of whom were required to dress in leotards and gold-sequined skirts, with costume wigs – began their variety-show acts. Among the night’s lowlights:
• Paul Queally, a private-equity executive with Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowe, told off-color jokes to Ted Virtue, another private-equity bigwig with MidOcean Partners. The jokes ranged from unfunny and sexist (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?” A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish”) to unfunny and homophobic (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Barney Frank and a Fenway Frank?” A: “Barney Frank comes in different-size buns”).
• Bill Mulrow, a top executive at the Blackstone Group (who was later appointedchairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency), and Emil Henry, a hedge fund manager with Tiger Infrastructure Partners and former assistant secretary of the Treasury, performed a bizarre two-man comedy skit. Mulrow was dressed in raggedy, tie-dye clothes to play the part of a liberal radical, and Henry was playing the part of a wealthy baron. They exchanged lines as if staging a debate between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. (“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Henry shouted. “My God, you callow, insensitive Republican! Don’t you know what we need to do? We need to create jobs,” Mulrow shot back.)
• David Moore, Marc Lasry, and Keith Meister — respectively, a holding company CEO, a billionaire hedge-fund manager, and an activist investor — sang a few seconds of a finance-themed parody of “YMCA” before getting the hook.
• Warren Stephens, an investment banking CEO, took the stage in a Confederate flag hat and sang a song about the financial crisis, set to the tune of “Dixie.” (“In Wall Street land we’ll take our stand, said Morgan and Goldman. But first we better get some loans, so quick, get to the Fed, man.”)
Eventually, Roose got tossed for trying to record some of the action on his phone. His new book Young Money takes a look at the bottom of the Wall Street food chain. Roose immersed himself in the world of the young 20-somethings primed to become the next wave of Grand Swipes and neophytes. You can check out an excerpt over at NPR. And be sure to read up on his full experience crashing the Kappa Beta Phi ceremony (which will single-handedly reinforce every stereotype you might have about the One Percent) over at New York magazine.