4 Rags to Riches Stories You Don’t Want to Emulate
Being rich generally seems like a pretty good deal: fancy clothes, big house, getting to hit people with your car and not having to worry about it. If you didn’t grow up rich, it seems all the more incredible. Of course, even if you hit it big, the type of generational wealth some people are playing with is on an entire different level, one that is almost unattainable in the modern era. Still, at least you can stock your bathroom with egregiously high-ply toilet paper, the kind that no one will see and ask, “What’s with this weird giant roll that looks like it was stolen from an office bathroom?”
Of course, there are also plenty of cautionary tales about getting rich, and how money doesn’t make you truly happy. Most of them can fuck off. Wow, people can still have depression next to a big pool attached to a house they own? Go to therapy, you can afford it. There are some cases, though, where someone’s particular path to wealth involves too big of a deal with the devil than the cash it yields.
Along those lines, here are four people whose rags-to-riches story you probably don’t want to emulate…
Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner
The journey of an ex-convict from a hot-dog seller to a convenience store and restaurant mogul is the kind of thing you’d expect to pop up on Apple TV starring Matt Damon in a weird wig. If it had ended there, maybe it would have been more palatable, even if it’s in Putin’s Russia, where anyone who’s successful and not poisoned probably has a couple skeletons in their closet. Prigozhin, in a somewhat strange lateral move, instead decided to display his skeletons internationally as the head of the Wagner Group, a private military contractor.
Private military contractors, or PMCs, already have a pretty unsavory reputation. That’s gonna happen when you keep doing war crimes that are infamously hard to prosecute. Are there some good, simple, patriotic apples in the bunch? Maybe, but the other apples keep doing Abu Ghraibs. Couple that with working for Russia, a country not exactly known for staying in the United Nations’ good graces, and you can imagine the sort of stuff you’re overseeing.
Does Prigozhin care? Probably not, as it’s not a business people with proper frontal-lobe function generally get into in the first place. It might not matter anyway, as he hasn’t been seen since leading a rebellion against Moscow, and some U.S. military officials think he’s dead already.
Mike Lindell, MyPillow
Next is the story of Mike Lindell, the creator of MyPillow, a pillow that is reportedly fine. It’s another one, that, had the curtains closed a little earlier on the saga, it would have undoubtedly been fast-tracked straight to a feel-good documentary. Lindell was, both financially and chemically, in a pretty horrible place earlier in his life. He had a horrible addiction to crack cocaine, that at one point led to two consecutive weeks awake and getting 86’d by his own drug dealer.
He credits God with saving him from addiction and making MyPillow a massive success, which, sure, I guess. It’s not his past of substance abuse or the quality of the pillow that’s turned him into a pretty despicable figure though; it’s his headfirst dive into full right-wing conspiracy chud territory. I’m not naive enough to think that CEOs aren’t generally right-leaning, and with those sorts of tax breaks and wanton deregulation, why wouldn’t they be? That said, once you go full election denier, you can’t even lie about being “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.”
Speaking of the financial effects of political beliefs, it’s looking like Lindell’s might have sunk his entire sleep empire, as he’s dumped an incredible amount of money into proving election fraud, and has received in return some pricey lawsuits. None of which has been good for MyPillow’s bottom line.
Grigori Rasputin, born a Siberian peasant, had one of the world’s greatest glow-ups in the financial, political and supernatural senses. He branded himself a mystic, and bolstered by an early 1900s belief in all sorts of hocus-pocus and heebie-jeebies, people believed him. His rep for successful spellcraft preceded him, and eventually brought him to the court of Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra. Their son suffered from hemophilia, and when Rasputin appeared to cure him, he was immediately brought deep into the fold. It probably had to do with Rasputin banning the boy from taking the blood-thinning medication aspirin for religious reasons more than any sort of mystical medical intervention, but nobody would know that for decades, so: magic.
He quickly became one of Russia’s most powerful men, and a close adviser to the Tsarina. By all accounts, his days were filled with heavy drinking and enough hardcore sex for people to label him a deviant. Not a particularly unpleasant lifestyle if you leave out the hangovers. The part that most people wouldn’t be too keen to repeat was the fact that he had plenty of enemies, who had no qualms about trying to off him. This all eventually shook out with one of the most definitive assassinations of all time, where he was, in order, poisoned, shot multiple times and drowned.
A picture of his body post-murking is readily available on the internet. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say it doesn’t encourage an open casket.
Lots of Lottery Winners
Ah, the Powerball, that great government-funded form of copium that convinces low-income Americans that the dream of wealth is still alive. Right off the bat, it’s already a predatory fake promise. Time has shown, though, that even people who beat the odds and end up winning a jackpot have a highly unpleasant road ahead. Plenty of lotto winners’ tales end with homicide, hitmen, bankruptcy or early deaths due to substance abuse.
If you get somehow struck by the lottery’s financial lightning, I’d give the same advice every NFL draft pick could use: Hire a good accountant, and try to stay out of the news.