Eddie Antar, the man at the heart of the Crazy Eddie fraud scandal, has never really told his side of the story. He appeared briefly on a cable talk show with his cousin, Sam, a couple of years ago, but said little other than tacitly forgiving his former CFO for turning government witness in the case that sent Eddie and some other relatives to jail.
Eddie might have been looking forward to having his story told in a big-screen biopic directed by Danny DeVito, the actor that rose to fame by playing a shady, greedy dispatcher on the late-70s sitcom taxi. DeVito evidently purchased the rights to Eddie Antar’s story, which opens a legal Pandora’s box. Howard Sirota, a lawyer representing bilked investors who took a bath when the Crazy Eddie chain was found to have inflated inventory to boost its initial public offering, declared that he would pursue any profits from such a film to compensate his clients, since it was legally tied to Antar.
That puts DeVito and his studio partners in a bind, His options: dissolve all ties to Antar and do the film based on speculation, court documents and press reports; do the film with Antar and risk forking over the profits if a court sides with Sirota, or drop the project altogether. The self-flagellating Sam Antar has declared he’ll have no part in such a film.
"Apparently, Danny DeVito wanted to do a story that glamorized Eddie Antar and portray[ed] him as some sort of misguided hero," Sam Antar, who is now a crusader against white collar crime, on his blog." As the other ‘main character’ in our frauds, I will have no part of any production that is sympathetic to any character, including myself, for our heinous cold-blooded crimes."
DeVito, who hails from New Jersey (home to the Deal Syrian Jews), seemed to be fixated on the story but has now reportedly put the project on ice. That leaves Antar, the man once called Kelso by his employees, after a racehorse that beat the odds, back to battling obscurity, even as a group of investors try to resurrect the brand name without him.
Having worked at two Crazy Eddie outlets in the 80s, I was curious to see how the movie would turn out. But to be commercially viable, the film would have to depict a criminal who harmed thousands financially and embarassed his community as a kind of fast-living, limo-riding Robin Hood (played by an A List actor) who broke a few rules, harmed a few millionaires and was the victim of overzealous prosecutors.
"When Eddie Antar was captured in Israel, he took the low road by still trying to escape responsibility for his crimes," writes Sam. "Eddie tried to avoid extradition by citing Israel’s law of return which is meant help Jews immigrate to Israel as a result of oppression and anti-Semitism in their native home countries and not to protect criminals like him. Ultimately, Eddie Antar was brought back to justice to face trial in the United States, kicking and scheming, as he was handcuffed and accompanied by US Marshals." That’s the part of the story likely to be told only in footnotes before the end credits roll.
Rather than have his star turn in Hollywood, Eddie Antar should take a page from his cousin’s book and speak out publicly on his less than glamorous life since his public fall, as a warning to anyone who might be tempted to head down a similar road.