Jessica Pressler's long, gripping profile of con artist Anna Sorokin (AKA Anna Delvey) has all the making of a first-rate grifter novel, where the likable, unflappable rogue is revealed by inches to be a sociopath, a broken person who can't herself tell truth from fiction.
All the more remarkable is "Delvey"'s virtuosity at the con: she tricked the finest hoteliers, finance industry luminaries, restauranteurs, commercial landlords, and even Martin Fucking Shkreli into thinking that she was a German heiress about to inherit an uncountable fortune. She ran up bills good for tens of thousands of dollars at New York hotels, hired the world's leading consultants to help her plan to establish a Soho House-style members' club in a fashionable Manhattan building, even tricked private jet companies into chartering planes for her use. She went to every party and every scene, and flashed around cash she conned out of one mark to seduce the next.
Delvey was impersonating a trust-fund kid, a kind of limited Turing Test that is much easier to pass than a full-blown impersonation of someone with skills, perspective and native intelligence. Indeed, one of the early clues that her marks had that she was a scammer was that she was actually trying to do things, rather than just frittering away her unearned, bottomless Gilded Age inheritance.
Delvey's story is a kind of parable about the perils of Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking gospel, whose exponents (including Donald Trump and his father) are told to simply act as though their desires had already been realized, declaring victory even before the battle is joined. These people distinguish themselves from the boring farts in the "reality-based community" who insist that (for example) one's inauguration crowd does not grow larger than your predecessors' if you just claim loudly enough that it is so.
Anna was preparing to launch a business, a Soho House–ish type club, she told Neff, focused on art, with locations in L.A., London, Hong Kong, and Dubai, and Neff became her de facto secretary, organizing business lunches and dinners at restaurants like Seamore’s and the hotel’s own Le Coucou. (“That’s what they do in the rich culture, is meals,” said Neff.) On occasion, when Delvey showed up while the concierge desk was busy, she would stand at the counter, coolly counting out bills until she got Neff’s attention. “I’d be like, ‘Anna, there’s a line of eight people.’ But she’d keep putting money down.” And even though Neff had begun to think of Anna as not just a hotel guest but a friend, a real friend, she didn’t hesitate to take it. “A little selfish of me,” she admitted later. “But … yeah.”
Who can blame her? This was Manhattan in the 21st century, and money is more powerful than ever. Rare is the city dweller who, when presented with an opportunity for a sudden and unexpected influx of cash, doesn’t grasp for it. Of course, this money almost always comes with strings attached. Sometimes you can barely see them, like that vaudeville bit in which the pawn dives for a loose bill only to find it pulled just ahead. Still, everyone makes the reach. Because here, money is the one thing that no one can ever have enough of.
(via Naked Capitalism)