Writing for New York, Kevin Roose reports on the annual gathering of the secretive Wall Street fraternity Kappa Beta Phi at New York’s St. Regis Hotel, where members indulged in an evening of eating, drinking, cross-dressing, and telling homophobic and sexist jokes.
Hosted by billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, clad in a tuxedo and purple velvet moccasins embroidered with the fraternity’s Greek letters, members were welcomed at the 2012 gathering with, “Good evening, Exalted High Council, former Grand Swipes, Grand Swipes-in-waiting, fellow Wall Street Kappas, Kappas from the Spring Street and Montgomery Street chapters, and worthless neophytes!”
The evening’s festivities included the induction of 21 new members – ‘neophytes’ – each of whom was required during the evening to dress in leotards, gold-sequined skirts, and costume wigs in order to become members of the fraternity.
The current Kappas roster includes CEO’s, billionaires, and hedge fund managers from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, AIG, Morgan Stanley Chase, Home Depot, as well as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and ex-New Jersey governor Jon Corzine.
During his introductory remarks, Ross retold the history of Kappa Beta Phi – begun in 1929 by “four C+ William and Mary students” – and how its crest, depicting a “macho right hand in a proper Savile Row suit and a Turnbull and Asser shirtsleeve,” was superior to that of its namesake Phi Beta Kappa. Ross described Phi Beta Kappa’s ruffled-sleeve logo as “tacit confession of homosexuality.”
Ross then led the assembled throng in a cheer of the fraternity’s motto, “Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus,”; Latin for “While we live, we eat and drink.”
Afterwards, neophytes performed comedy skits including Welsh, Carson, Anderson, & Stowe private-equity executive Paul Queally sharing sexist and homophobic jokes with Ted Virtue from MidOcean Partners. Sample jokes: (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?” A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish”) and 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, appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to be Chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency, performed in a skit with former assistant Treasury secretary Emil Henry with, “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.)”
Later in the evening Roose was discovered to be a reporter (“You’re not supposed to be here!”) as he attempted to use his cell phone to record a group of the ‘neophyte’ executives who came out dressed as Mormon missionaries in order to perform a musical number.
Hustled to the lobby, Roose spoke with Wilbur Ross and bond investor Alexandra Lebenthal, both of whom attempted damage control (“…what I’d just seen wasn’t really a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense.”).
“I’ll pick up the phone anytime, get you any help you need,” Ross said.
“Yeah, the people in this group could be very helpful,” Lebenthal added. “If you could just keep their privacy in mind.”
Failing to agree, Roose was then escorted out of the St. Regis hotel and back onto the the streets of New York City.
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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