Boston George’s Big Score
He was never the smartest crook. Even his rap sheet scans stupid: Busted in Mexico, Chicago, Cape Cod, Fort Lauderdale, 1970, 1972, 1980, 1985. Varying sentences never served in full, thanks in part to turning state’s evidence against cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder in exchange for leniency. That probably should’ve been his cue that he wasn’t cut out for the life. Then the kicker: a 1994 pop in the Boston area for moving some pot.
What Boston George had, back in the day, was his looks—but he doesn’t have those anymore. “It’s something you have to adjust to when you become old,” he acknowledges. “You’re nondescript.” The problem is, now he’s trying to live his life between the ears. “I have wisdom now,” he says. “Maybe I’ve got 10 more years to live and I want to live it. I saw a lot of kids in prison for drugs, and as far as being a pioneer in the drug business, it wasn’t my intention to destroy society by bringing drugs in. It was obvious that no one forced them to do them; it was a consensual business. If some kids can listen to what I have to say, that’s gratification. I still want to give back.”
The question is: Would anyone be crazy enough to listen?
Although he was still wearing an ankle bracelet, Jung was already dreaming of coming back East—when we spoke by phone in September, he was looking forward to meeting up with high school friends to reminisce. We even discussed putting together a face-to-face lunch with Bill McGreal, a former Massachusetts state trooper who went undercover to bust Jung in Eastham in 1980. “He’s been in the joint 20 years now and he’s like his own PR department,” McGreal told me, eager to see his old foe.
There were other plans, too. The Johnny Depp movie was based on a book —also called Blow—written by Bruce Porter in 1993. In prison, Jung had cowritten a novel about smuggling called Heavy—touted as the sequel to Blow—and it was finally ready for the public. All it needed was a publisher and the thing was sure to be another hit.
In addition to hawking his book to the highest bidder, Jung was already fielding requests for TV, radio, and podcast appearances—and, of course, chatting with fawning Hollywood buddy Depp. But quietly, George had also set his sights on the unlikeliest of goals: a career as a motivational speaker for corporate audiences. Get this: Boston George—the new Tony Robbins. Why not? He already had a pitch rooted in bootstrapping entrepreneurship. “What the corporate level would be interested in,” Jung told me in September, “is this kid from Weymouth with a few hundred dollars building an empire.”
Like many a corporate raider or angel investor, Jung had made and lost multiple fortunes. The key was to learn from failure. “I’ve had a lot of good times and a lot of agonizing times, and I’m willing to relate that to people who are interested in hearing me,” Jung said. “I’m 72 years old and it’s not a bad living. It beats collecting Social Security.”
Things were going to be just fine.
Years of drug smuggling, prison, and celebrity haven’t eroded the fondness for Jung back home, where his old pals remember their friend with a grin. He wasn’t much of a schemer in high school, says Malcolm MacGregor, who graduated from Weymouth High School alongside Jung in 1961. “We were very good friends, and we’d drive around town listening to Nancy Wilson. We’d hop trains into Boston. George was easy to get along with, and very much a ladies’ man.”
Words used to describe Jung during the early 1960s include “laid-back,” “good-looking,” even “smart”—the kind of guy you could trust. “My mother often said, ‘You were a good boy until you went to California,’” Jung told me. “I was a businessman, though, I wasn’t a hippie, and my whole objective was to make money. The thought of making hundreds of thousands of dollars was incredible to me. I was going to get a motorcycle and travel the world and drown in adventure. But when I got the money, it turned out it wasn’t about that—it was [really] about the thrill of smuggling.”
During his heyday, when he wasn’t serving time or moonshining loads of cocaine, Jung regularly flew home from California to see friends and hold court at the local Weymouth joints, cashed up and always ready to party. He’d hit the Great Escape, a townie bar, and run into old pals who were pretty sure they knew his line of work but didn’t ask, says former classmate Buddy Cheverie. “We didn’t really want to know.” Classmate Bob Stella, who by 1980 was already a prosperous businessman, will never forget Jung coming up to him and saying, “Give me 10 grand and I’ll bring you back $100,000.” Stella wasn’t interested in the shady proposition. For one reason, he says, Jung was attracting the FBI, who would “hang there and take pictures of license plates. They were looking for any string to get George with.”
The feds would also drive past Jung’s parents’ house on Abigail Adams Circle, the one where his mother famously called the FBI on him in 1973—depicted in the movie Blow—when Jung was visiting while hiding from the law. Strangers still cruise by the house, but these days it’s mostly teens getting their kicks over seeing the childhood home of a drug titan. “Kids from Weymouth have written me letters over the years and said, ‘I know you buried treasures around the house, I’ve seen the movie,’” Jung says. “Some inmates at Fort Dix said they had taken metal detectors over the area. There’s nothing out there.”
So far, the current homeowners agree. “My son was on my case for a long time about ripping out some floorboards,” says Brian Kerrigan, the second post-Jung owner, who bought the house in 1987.
Today, there’s little of George left in Weymouth except some memories of a Happy Days childhood. “Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again,” George says, “but I can go home again if I want.”
Some people I spoke with for the article, such as former classmates, asked not to be mentioned by name. One had a son who is up for an award in a strait-laced industry and feared the family name connected with Jung might hurt his chances of winning. So Jung can go home again, but it may not be anything like he remembers it.
“I expect him to show up on my doorstep and try to borrow some money,” says Rick Mycock, a Barnstable attorney who represented Jung for a time in the late 1970s, when Jung was living in his beachfront Cape Cod home, flush with drug money and legal woes. “He’ll come to me for some free drinks and he’s bound to find trouble again. He has no ability to prevent himself from being a jerk.”
When Los Angeles drug kingpin Ricky Ross emerged from prison in 2009, filmmakers were champing at the bit—a movie about Ross’s life, Freeway: Crack in the System, was finally released in October. When Mike Tyson was freed from prison in 1995 after serving three years on a rape conviction, boxing promoters and casting agents dangled huge sums of money to lure him back into the limelight. And when actor Robert Downey Jr. left the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000 after spending a year there for violating his probation, he walked onto the hit TV show Ally McBeal and smack into a Golden Globe award.
So maybe Jung’s not crazy: What’s America, after all, without second chances? His master plan was to make big bucks speaking to corporate groups and entrepreneurs. With few connections to that world, however, Jung needed some help, and it came from the most improbable source: Tiderington, the cop who busted Jung in Florida back in the 1980s. Tiderington reconnected with Jung nearly 10 years ago, when the lawman’s son sent Jung a letter after seeing the movie Blow. Jung, a faithful correspondent when he was in the clink, kindly replied, and it triggered enough sympathy in Tiderington to compel him to reach out on Jung’s behalf to the Young Presidents’ Organization, an international business group of corporate chiefs with 400 chapters around the world. Alumni include one-time MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth and former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner. If Tiderington and Jung could book the Young Presidents’ event and give a talk about the nation’s drug problem, “that would lead to the introduction of the notorious George Jung,” Tiderington says. “Then there would be a Q & A with George. I don’t think he could carry the day as a speaker, [but] he could answer a lot of questions.”