High life | 13 December 2008

Friends in high places

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New York

A Brooklyn-born rapper by the name of John Forte had a business idea of sorts about eight years ago. It was one of those get-rich-quickly schemes that, alas, work most of the time, hence the reason so many people are out of it most of the time. He flew to South America, bought a large amount of a liquid substance, stuffed it into an expensive briefcase, and flew into Newark airport with $1.4 million worth of liquid cocaine. He was obviously hoping to make 10 or 20 times the amount once the haul was hardened by experts, cut up by more experts, and then sold to the small-time dealers who would cut it up some more, mix it with laxatives, and eventually sell it to the suckers who buy the stuff in order to clear out their nasal passages.

Unfortunately for the rapper, a hawk-eyed officer spotted the briefcase, siezed it and had it examined. It was coke all right, but not the legal kind that only rots one’s teeth. Once in the jug, Forte’s bail was set at 250,000 greenbacks, which was immediately put up by the singer Carly Simon, allowing the smuggler with intent to distribute to enjoy his free time before the upcoming trial. He received the minimum, mandatory 14 years and began his sentence at the Fort Dix, New Jersey, federal prison.

Now for the bad news. Carly Simon then began a campaign to free the drug-dealer-smuggler using the usual methods. Forte was black and the system was stacked against him. Forte was young — he was 27 at the time — and was misled by bad people. Forte had an underprivileged childhood. You get my drift. As it turns out, however, Forte had anything but an underprivileged upbringing. On the contrary. He attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, arguably the best prep school in America, certainly the hardest to get into along with Groton. Because it was Forte’s first offence, Carly Simon made the rounds of Washington politicos making it sound as if an innocent man had been railroaded by Ku Klux Klan justice. Simon’s son, Ben Taylor, with the singer James Taylor, was Forte’s roommate at Exeter, and Forte had once been a back-up singer to Carly. Which I suppose in today’s celebrity-obsessed world makes one immune to the laws of the land, in fact any land.