The Ups and Downs of Rich Marin, the Ex-Banker Building the World’s Biggest Ferris Wheel

On Big Rich's Wild Ride, what comes around goes around

The mayor can’t wait to take a ride. (Irving Silverstein/SIA)

One of the things that rankles Mr. Marin so much about the incident in the Times is that among the blog posts the paper quoted was one from June 23, in which he jokingly suggested he and his team were “trying to defend Sparta against the Persian hordes of Wall Street. Nothing like a good dog fight 24X7 for a few weeks to remind you why you chose the life you chose,” he wrote. What the paper failed to mention or pick up on was that he was riffing on the recently released 300, in which the Greeks are routed in a hail of arrows.

“I would get all these comments on my blog, people were outraged I had compared myself to some Greek warrior, but, as is the average IQ of the typical blog commenter, they totally missed the point,” Mr. Marin said. “If you know the Battle of Thermopylae, you know the Greeks lose. We were fighting a war you cannot win, but you fight it anyway, because that is the right thing to do.”

Ms. Golub thought the whole thing was absurd. “Rich doesn’t drink, Rich doesn’t smoke, he goes to the movies, that’s his release,” she said. If he had gone to the club, bought some bottle service to unwind after back-to-back 16-hour weekend work days, as the caricature of a banker might have done, it probably never would have drawn any notice. Instead, he wrote a blog post. Mr. Marin is not shrinking from the whole affair, though, even invoking it in his bio on his new movie review website, (yep, he’s at it again, relaunching Sept. 16 2011). “When the crash hit in 2007 he got ‘deuced’ by the NY Times for going to see Evan Almighty and Mr. Brooks ‘while Rome burned,'” the bio proudly declares. Among his new reviews, he liked HBO’s To Big to Fail but wrote of Arbitrage that he foundthe finance, well…. purely simplistic.”

The blogging imbroglio was not the first time The Times has written about Mr. Marin’s flare for film, either. Before there was blogging, there was screenwriting. In 1996, Mr. Marin submitted a script to an HBO competition called Subway Stories. It was a project produced by Rosie Perez. Out of the thousands of submissions, only 10 were selected for production, and Mr. Marin’s was one of them. “It was the most highly reviewed by both The Times and the Daily News,” he said. He did not mention which of the 10 shorts was his, but it is almost certainly 5:24, which is about a banker’s reckoning with a wise old man as they ride the Lex downtown before dawn. The Times called it “the most successful example” of “eerie psychological confrontation” that suffuses many of the shorts, a “succinct study of the traps of financial ambition” starring Steve Zahn as the banker and Jerry Stiller as the wise guy.

Next year marks the 120th anniversary of the Ferris Wheel, the work of a Pittsburgh builder of the same name. His work opened to great acclaim at the Chicago’s World Columbian Exhibition, a rival to the Eiffel Tower. But the ride turned out to be a commercial disaster, as people began to copy it without compensating George Ferris. He became obsessed and died a penniless man.

The same hallmarks seem to haunt Rich Marin: the vision, the drive, the downfall. The difference is, more than anything, Mr. Marin has an uncanny ability to move on from his failures, no matter how grand.

Of course Mr. Marin, as he so often does, would reference a movie to make his case: “It’s like Alfred says in Batman Begins. Why do we fall? So we can just pick ourselves back up again.”

The Ups and Downs of Rich Marin, the Ex-Banker Building the World’s Biggest Ferris Wheel