Class warriors need to hurry up and exploit the queasy charisma of allegedly murderous millionaire Robert Durst.
Weeks after the bombshell ending of The Jinx, Durst is still in the news thanks to his odd behavior and knack for getting implicated in the disappearances of women. But police aren’t going to connect him to cold cases forever. It’s important to act fast and make Durst the icon of unfairly apportioned wealth.
Durst is the best villain the left wing has been served since Mitt Romney. And while old Mitt was merely an out of touch billionaire, Bob Durst is an out of touch billionaire psychopath. Lefties get energized when facing a bad guy. Durst personifies the monstrous potential of resource inequality; he’s the perfect class war bad guy. Yet that’s somehow gone strangely unnoticed and unexploited.
As the story of a man who has enough money to literally get away with murder, the Jinx is an unintentional indictment of the one percent. All of the purportedly admirable traits and habits of the rich are absent. Durst didn’t work hard or invest wisely or benefit anyone but himself with his money. His life is a riches to riches tale, lacking rags, bootstrap pulling or triumphing over adversity other than suspicion of murder.
A third generation member of a Manhattan real estate baron family, Durst didn’t use his effortlessly acquired riches to create jobs. Durst stopped showing up for work and instead collected a $2 million salary while living on the road until he swapped that annual payout for a $65 million settlement.
Durst is not a wealthy man who just so happens to be homicidal. The money and the madness are inextricably linked. The money lets him kill an irksome neighbor and walk after a $1.8 million legal defense. To paraphrase Chris Rock, if Durst drove a bus, he’d be Bob, the murderer bus driver who’s been in jail since his wife disappeared.
McCormack, his first wife, came from a family far closer to the bus driver side of the money spectrum. And he almost certainly killed her. It’s both a tragedy and rich metaphor for the antagonism between the striving middle class and the elite rich.
Born into a sprawling Irish Catholic family from Long Island, McCormack was studying to become a pediatrician. In The Jinx, her brother is interviewed on the job wearing his work uniform a Home Depot apron. It seems a fair assumption that Kathie was the most upwardly mobile member of the family. In the wake of her death, grief and wealth were split between the haves and have-nots, with all of the grief on one side and all the money on the other. The McCormack family was devastated and the Dursts broke ties, kept quiet and held onto their money. It’s a grotesque parallel to the Wall Street CEO keeping his bonus despite wiping out the equity of his middle class clients.
Keeping the family’s secrets and fearing becoming one of Bob’s victims surely takes an emotional toll on the Durst clan. But otherwise, the Durst family hasn’t suffered much. Bob Durst has been a tabloid fixture since his 2001 arrest for the killing of Morris Black. But the decade of bad publicity didn’t stop the Dursts from becoming managers of the Freedom Tower, the decade’s highest profile Manhattan development.
Despite his estrangement from his family, Bob Durst still made a (metaphorical) killing in the family business.While the Freedom Tower was built, Bob Durst and his second wife quietly collected $12 million speculating on the Brooklyn housing market through a practice called “predatory equity.” Their company, BCB Property Management, coerced rent controlled apartment tenants to leave their homes in exchange for low-ball offers. The ones that refused reportedly faced utilities shutoffs and deteriorating conditions.
With the old tenants out, BCB would reportedly modify the vacant apartments, exploiting a legal loophole and allowing the rent to jump to three or four times the regulated rate.
The practice helped transform places former working class Brooklyn enclaves Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens into elite neighborhoods.
Clearly, concentrating wealth with Bob Durst has had a corrosive effect. Instead of investing his money in to a constructive end, he uses it to drain money from the lower class. That trickle up effect would be cause for concern even if it hadn’t created and enabled a monster.
So tales of Durst’s odd behavior are likely to crop up for weeks because the media won’t let us forget Durst is a bizarre monster. It’s important to remember that he’s a rich one, too.