Dana Giacchetto, the man convicted of fraud and misappropriating up to $10 million from celebrity clients in 2000, is back in the news. Once dubbed as "Investment Adviser to the Stars" he was a fixture in the schmoozy, '90s New York nightlife scene and best buds with Leonardo DiCaprio and other Hollywood hotshots like Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz, Ben Affleck, and Michael Stipe. Giacchetto served three years in prison after it was discovered his firm Cassandra was using client money to replenish other clients' accounts and to cover company and personal expenses.
Recently I received a call from an "unknown number" as I was about to go into a meeting. It was Dana, who I hadn't spoken to in years, though I knew that he was quietly rebuilding his life since his release in 2003. Barred from trading, he remains active with several business ventures and has two young children. Dana never did me wrong and we tried to reconnect when he was released from prison, but a sketchiness that was always there that I self-servingly overlooked, got in the way. I asked him to call back. He never did.
I knew Dana when he was Master of the Universe, went to parties at his Soho loft and hobnobbed with his A-list connections. I valued his advice, was in awe of his contacts, drank fine champagne at his parties and couldn't help being drawn into his orbit even as my journalist's mind kept sweeping the room for something that would help me understand how he did it. Think Nick Carroway to Giacchetto's Gatsby..
We met at an annual Christmas party thrown by an elite downtown couple, a head turning affair full of bold-face names hobnobbing in every direction you looked. Giacchetto exclaimed his admiration for PAPER and proceeded to tell me about himself and his business model, an investment firm focusing on the creative community, helping people who weren't traditionally good with money to grow their wealth. He was believable and I believed him, watching his client list grow, his indulgences escalate, his bubble burst.
Hours after I received a phone call from him, the New York Post's Page Six reported that Giacchetto was in trouble again, accused this time of identity theft and wire fraud, under the alias Stanulis. According to the Post: "Stanulis -- a former NYPD officer turned stripper who left the force in 2001, went on to appear in the off-Broadway show 'Stripped the Play' and just wrapped the movie 'Sam' by Mel Brooks' son Nicholas Brooks -- said he has known Giacchetto since 1999, when the former money manager spotted him performing at Chippendales and hired him to run security for DiCaprio."
And then again Giacchetto popped up, this time in my inbox a week ago. As I could see, he CC'd more than 300 other people with a link to an article from The Hollywood Reporter with the headline: "From Mike Ovitz to Leonardo DiCaprio: A Wall Street Criminal Recalls His Hollywood Heyday." The subhead was similarly alluring: "The real Wolf of Wall Street? Nah. Dana Giacchetto, now under investigation again, calls himself the 'Lamb of Wall Street' as he breaks his long-held silence about BFF DiCaprio, shares details of his intimate relationship with Ovitz, and asserts he had nothing to do with the suicide of CAA superstar Jay Moloney."
Obviously proud to be back in the spotlight, Giacchetto blasted the story to his contact list, making his already sad tale all the sadder. To quote: "As he consumes a prodigious amount of alcohol, he rages, sobs, brags, cackles hysterically, confesses then denies guilt for the events that sent him to prison and otherwise exudes the exuberant charm that persuaded hundreds of intelligent, worldly people to trust him with their money."
No Wolf of Wall Street or anywhere in between. Cassandra was a boutique firm with no more than a dozen people working there at its peak. I imagine there was sex, there was drugs and there was rock 'n' roll -- or as Giacchetto prefers, punk rock, a nod to his college years and later as a financial adviser who brokered the sale of Sub Pop (Nirvana's label) to Warner Brothers. But Cassandra was never a den of iniquity, though it's likely that Giacchetto himself overindulged on substances legal, illicit and pharmaceutical.
So here we were again, reliving the heady days of yesteryear, only now Giacchetto's holding on to what once was, dead to his rolodex of friends who refuse to have anything to do with him -- at least in public. A few continue to malign him, others try to forget and refuse to talk about him at all, scarred by the experience that still blisters.
I'm still somewhat on the fence, believing that Giacchetto's intentions were good and unlike Bernie Madoff, for example, he had never set out to intentionally defraud his friends who were also his investors. For a time it worked. Giacchetto's charisma, social charms and free spending ways attracting a devoted staff and a growing list of clients who were eager for him to take their money, not only to make a profit, but to be part of the moveable feast with guests that included John F. Kennedy, Jr. as well as Kate Moss, Chris Cuomo and Paul Sevigny before he had a career as a DJ.
One of my favorite memories of those days is recounted in the Hollywood Reporter story. "The night Titanic won 11 Oscars in 1998, DiCaprio skipped the ceremony; instead he and Giacchetto threw a party at the loft. 'I was king of the world,' says Giacchetto. 'We projected the Academy Awards on the wall and had every star come to New York to give the middle finger because we felt the Academy Awards were a complete f---ing sellout and anti-punk rock.'"
What the story doesn't mention is that it was a particularly difficult time for DiCaprio who had yet to emerge from his cute boy phase into an adult. And though Titanic was nominated for 11 Oscars and was then the top-grossing movie of all time, its star DiCaprio was not nominated for any award, an oversight that accounts for Giacchetto's belligerence.
Nevertheless, the party went on and there I was watching with the rest of them, chatting with Kate Moss who passed me the champagne bottle she was chugging.