Meet the Mezrichs
With the movie version of his book The Accidental Billionaires opening this month, Ben Mezrich — along with his wife, Tonya — is taking time to do what anyone with a newborn would: Hole up at home.
LIKE ALMOST ALL OF BEN MEZRICH’S nonfiction (Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, and his latest, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding Of Facebook — A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal), the story you’re about to read is a tad, well, embellished. It’s not that we weren’t able to tell it like it is; it’s just that we thought you’d prefer a few bells and whistles. What follows is 99 percent true.
It’s 9:35 a.m. on a Friday morning, and Ben’s wife, Tonya, is ready for her close-up. She’s wearing voluminous false lashes and perfectly applied makeup. Once she changes out of her bathrobe, she’ll look like a movie star.
But first, there’s the problem of the living room: No one’s bothered to clean it up for the photographer, and this is supposed to be a home design shoot. Bugsy, the couple’s six-year-old pug, has doggie accoutrements scattered around the peach-hued sectional; there’s a mound of bedding stuffed between the sofa and window; and the huge TV altar overflows with video games. When asked if a few things can be removed for the shoot, Tonya asks, “Like what?”
Ben strolls in 20 minutes later, picks up his acoustic guitar, and gets comfy in a big easy chair; with his feet on the ottoman, he strokes the strings. “My mom’s all into nothing,” he says, surveying his just-emptied living room. “Her apartment looks like P. Diddy’s — all white and chrome, you know, the whole modern thing. But Tonya’s from Louisiana. So she has a southern pack-rat mentality.”
“What?” Tonya shrieks from somewhere down the hall. The footsteps are getting louder. “I’m the problem? When I first met Ben, I thought it sounded pretty cool to hang with an author. Then I saw his man cave, and I was like, uh uh. Forget about it. He had a lava lamp, a black leather couch, and his magic radio.”
Ah, yes: the radio. “I bought that 1936 console at a garage sale. It has magical powers,” says Ben. “When you wish for something in front of that radio, it comes true within three days. You have to play the Doors’ ‘Crystal Ship’ and it has to be dark, but it works.” The radio gave him Tonya, he explains. “I was single and I told it what I was looking for, and I met her the next night. My friend Scott Stossel — he’s deputy editor at the Atlantic — has told me, ‘She’s not real. The radio invented her.’”
The radio remains where Ben first put it — in the one-bedroom apartment that he landed in after graduating from Harvard in 1991. “When I first started writing, I had a decision to make: New York or Boston. In New York, you struggle to live, or get caught up in the nightlife. Whereas here, every night at 2 in the morning, you can write; the city shuts down.”