Boston George’s Big Score
When asked about Jung’s potential involvement, however, Young Presidents’ CEO, Scott Mordell, dodged the question entirely, issuing a blanket statement: “Members lead thousands of events each year around the world that are independent of our international organization’s events. Guest speakers are often invited to speak at a YPO event to share information on the topic of becoming better leaders.”
Still, Jung is certain that the Young Presidents’ Organization will come to see what he has to offer: how a kid with a dream, however illegal, moved his life to the stratosphere, stashing millions in offshore bank accounts and living a life that few ever get to check out. That’s the definition of leadership in the “Boston George” world. “It’s ironic how you can be chastised your whole life and then be welcomed back into society,” he says, clearly unaware of the emerging resistance to his message.
“He thought he’d come out and people would throw money at him and he would be more of a celebrity,” says Tiderington, rightfully concerned for his renegade friend. “But it’s not happening.”
In fact, it was becoming clear to me that Jung was having trouble turning his celebrity into cash as easily as he’d hoped—and that his aspirations for the corporate speaking circuit were pure folly. His book Heavy failed to find a publisher and ended up as a self-published ebook, selling on Amazon for $5.99. A website, georgejung.com, peddles “Smuggler Wear” clothing, Jung-penned manuscripts, and comic books, all with the Boston George brand in mind—but he admitted, when asked, that hardly any of the goods have moved. The fame he’d been banking on was looking more like broke-ass infamy.
Coincidentally, that’s right about the time when Boston George stopped talking to me.
When Jung and I first spoke over the phone in September, he was looking to spread the gospel of his redemption and was excited to come back East—he just needed permission from the feds to leave the halfway house in California. Travel under supervised release requires the permission of a prisoner’s supervisor, and each case is weighed individually. As I waited for word from Jung to book the hotel and air reservations, I got a text from T. Rafael Cimino, who claimed to be “representing” Jung. The nephew of Hollywood director Michael Cimino, whose main claim to fame is the Oscar-winning Vietnam flick The Deer Hunter, Cimino had coauthored Heavy while Jung was still in prison. Cimino had since landed Jung several radio and television appearances.
All seemed to be moving ahead. Cimino even said he would be joining Jung in Boston—giving Boston George his first official hanger-on. “We only have four days” with Jung in Boston, Cimino texted me. And then, suddenly, nothing—texts, emails, and phone calls went unreturned. It was as if they’d dropped off the face of the planet.
After a few days of silence, I began calling Jung’s acquaintances and associates, trying to figure out what had happened. It turned out Tiderington hadn’t given up on George the Motivational Speaker, and he had recommended Jung for the Broward County Crime Commission conference in Florida. The idea was for Jung to tell audience members how he had eluded law enforcement during much of the 1970s. It wasn’t the same as booking a spot in front of a Nike or General Electric corporate soiree, but it would be a place to start.
As with the Young Presidents’, however, the reception was icy. Or, as they say in show business, it was a tough room. “Some people involved with the event said they would not participate in anything in which George was talking,” Tiderington told me. “There are still people who feel that George has received some celebrity status from committing crimes, and that doesn’t sit too well.” A member of the crime commission, speaking on background, went even further, saying the idea of putting Jung at the podium “would be an insult.”
Jung’s dream of inspiring millions as the next Zig Ziglar seemed to have died before it ever got started. But why wasn’t he talking? Wouldn’t he be even more desperate for publicity now that his plans were tanking?
Finally, after another round of calls and emails, I began to piece together the answer: The word from mutual acquaintances was that he got a better deal.
After agreeing to a story in Boston magazine, Jung and Cimino apparently started working with a television production company. I’d asked that Jung not speak to other print outlets until our interview was published, but now it appeared that the TV producers had trumped me with their own media blackout until their documentary—said to revolve around Jung’s 1985 cocaine bust in Fort Lauderdale—aired. At one point in November, Tiderington was in talks to be part of the production as well, but as of January, he hadn’t heard anything. He didn’t think Jung was going to be paid, but “if he were paid, it would not be millions of dollars.” (Boston did not offer Jung any compensation in exchange for an interview.)
It’s impossible to confirm exactly what deal was offered to Jung. But the production company’s blackout seemed to be working: When High Times magazine sent a reporter to California to talk to Jung, it promised to hold its profile on him until June, which presumably means the documentary will be out by then.
Shame on me, right? For all his Tinseltown aspirations, Jung has no representation save for Cimino, and it has to be hard to market a man who, in some eyes, is partly responsible for the cracked-out neighborhoods that plagued every urban area in the United States. Jung was a transport man who made his living on the backs of countless individuals who couldn’t stop the party. For the elite, there were Betty Ford and Hazelden, and Jung should be collecting some royalties from them. But for many, there was bottomless addiction, whoring, and any street crime imaginable, just to get a bindle of something white and powdery. Who would’ve thunk it: George Jung, an unreliable guy.
Turned out the unplanned blackout was no surprise to McGreal, the former under- cover agent for the Massachusetts State Police who busted Jung in Eastham. “If it doesn’t turn to shit,” he said, “then it wouldn’t be George.”