Monday, March 24, 2008

Post# 7 - The Young Turks of The TSE

I classified the vetran floor traders as 'over thirty' but some I mentioned might not have actually been over thirty years old. This is because there is a line that is drawn that transcends real age and is superseded by attitude. Some people who were 'under thirty' acted like old men, and as such failed to make the grade as 'young turks'. In this post I will include several people that might have been 'over thirty' in years but nowhere near that age in their attitude and friends. These individuals are and always will be 'young turks' in spirit.

There are many reasons that make it nessecary for me to curb my enthusiasm in discussing ALL of the details that might normally be a part of the true story of the younger group of traders on the floor. There are people that might suffer in their jobs, still in the business, from full disclosure of the relevant details and others who might not like to have their family and friends exposed to the realities of this piece of history. There are also many darker things that went on in those days that everyone in the business was aware of but those things were never allowed the to be considered in the light of day. Such disclosures would have hurt the industry and many of the people who benefited from the industry. This is not an apology for anything or any lifestyle that I and many of my contempories may or may not have indulged in. It is just a qualifier for the missing ingredients that would be the icing on the cake of the whole story of our world at that time. Most of you know exactly what I am talking about because, like me, many of you lived in the grey areas associated with the lifestyle usually considered with the high life. Before I bury myself any deeper in this disclosure, I will go on to the matters at hand.

The Young Turks. This is the best way I can describe the group of younger, mostly male, hard working, harder partying floor traders from my early days on the floor of the TSE. The adrenelin and bravado and the money created many interresting moments both during work hours and most especially after hours.

This group was living the dream and hard drinking and indulging away the huge pressures of the job. These pressures often created intense adversarial moments between individuals. There were many huge conflicts on the floor as everyone fought hard for the best 'fill' on their orders and 'Pro' and 'Arb' traders, risking huge positions which fluctuated between enormus profits and career ending losses. The pressure was on every single day and when you consider that we were all under the same kind of gun, just with different bullets, every once in awhile the pressure cooker inevitably exploded.

Intimidation was a fact in almost every area of trading. It was just a fact. In my first months as a floor trader I was in several HUGE dust ups and none bigger than the one I had with Stevie Gilbert. Stevie and I got off to a shakey start from the beginning, I had the distinct feeling that he didn't like me. This was because my work mate, Chris Martin, who was Stevie's best friend, didn't think too much of me either. I didn't really give a shit what they thought of me because I just didn't care that much about the job, or so I thought. I was trading on the Greenshield's Arb, as a six week vetran trader, and went into the Bow Valley square with a large, 15,000 share buy order, to take out the offer and buy it up to a quarter of a point above the listed offering price. There were 5000 shares, or so, showing offered at the time. 3000 shares of that was offered by the client desk of a competing Arb, the dreaded Burns Arb. Kenny Wegg was watching Stevie's orders which included the 3000 shares of BVI stock. Kenny sold me the stock to fill the order and within seconds I was trying to buy another 10,000 shares of BVI a quarter of a point higher. This was of course a very nasty thing to do. For one thing the competition Arb was completely pissed because we beat them to the trade out of New York and Gary Eamon, the Burns Arb clerk on that side of the floor, was calling me a sucker of male organs. I was absolutely giggling because this was my first ever 'good' trade of that magnitude. When Stevie Gilbert got back from his coffee break, Gary called him up to the booth and absolutely reamed him out for not keeping him in on the order to begin with. Out on the floor Kenny Wegg was screaming at me for being an asshole and making him look bad and the Burns client who offered the stock was going nuts because he got a bad fill when I up-ticked the stock a quarter. Stevie stormed down into the square and he and I started what was one of the 'great' scream fights the floor had seen in a very long time. We were toe to toe and spit to spit calling each other everything disgusting and crude that we could muster. It went on for about 10 minutes until floor Govenor Tommy Milligan threatened to throw us off the floor and fine us. I was absolutely exhausted after the pissing match and Stevie and Gary Eamon muttered shit at me for the rest of the day. At the close of the day Steve Curry, my boss, insisted that I go to the Cork Room to have some drinks after what he called 'busting my cherry' on the floor against the Burns Arb. After i consumed a conservative 5 drinks over a couple of hours Gary Eamon came into the Cork Room with his girlfriend and they sat down with me and Steve Curry. Gary was absolutely hammered and it took him about 35 seconds to call me out by telling me he didn't like my face or my suit. Duh! He told me he wanted to punch my face in. He didn't scare me, but Steve kept one arm across my chest to let me know I better just suck it up and relax. There was no way I was going to get to fight with this guy because he could barely stand up and as Steve later told me, he couldn't fight worth a shit. He told me that the best thing I could have done was to just stand there and take the abuse. Gary's girlfriend was getting really pissed off with him and dragged him out, visably embarassed by his display. Oh well. When my heart rate finally came down to workable levels, Curry sent me out to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken for him. That was the life of a rookie. Take the shit, suck it up and get the chicken...and like it!

Stevie Gilbert came up to me about an hour after the opening the next day and took me aside. He told me it was a really good fight we had the day before and that he knew I was just doing my job. I kept waiting for him to sly poke me in the eye when no one was looking. It never happened. Stevie and I went on to become very good friends and I love him (man love guys) to this day. One of the darkest days in my life was the day Stevie died.

The point of this story about fighting on the floor is to demonstrate that no matter how hard you had to work to keep your job and no matter who you had to hurt along the way, it was rarely personal. Although, Gary Eamon hated me forever. Even when I worked with him on the Burns Arb. Oh well. Life went on!

I will attempt to give you a glimpse of some of the great individuals and personalities I had the pleasure and the pain of working with as a floor trader at the TSE. In no partictular order...

STEVE GILBERT

I have already told you how I felt about this guy. Now I will tell you why almost everyone else felt the same way. He was a great example of a 'young turk'!

Stevie was perhaps the funniest guy I have ever known. Every day he found new ways to amuse and entertain his friends. Stevie was friends with everyone, well almost everyone. He was a man's man. He was fiercely loyal. He would go to the wall for his friends without a thought for his own concerns. He was a hockey player. He was a hockey fan. He loved sports. He was filled with passion. He loved women and he really loved his wife Kelly and his son Jessee. He was a leader. He was a party animal. He had a HUGE heart with a soft spot for every sad story. He had very little patience, which was a blessing and a curse, both for him and his friends. Steve was a unique individual. There was only one and will never be another. Anyone that had the pleasure of knowing Steve was better off for the experience. If you took Steve into your confidence on any matter, you knew that your words were safe with him. Steve did not suffer fools lightly. He chewed them up and spit them out.

Steve had a really special friendship with my friend Chris Martin. He always spoke so highly of Chris that you knew that what they had was special. I have to admit that when I was good friends with both Stevie and Chris, I was a little envious of the great friendship they shared with each other. Chris was one of the few people that could be critical of Steve when it was called for and Steve knew that if Chris was speaking the words, they must be true. He accepted them...always!

Stevie Gilbert had skin cancer when he was in his late teens and recovered. This was from way too many sun burns as a kid growing up in Toronto's Beaches along the shores of Lake Ontario. He had that pale white bread complection that burned at the mere thought of sun. When Steve was way too young and full of life, he died from a cancerous tumor which started in his back, the area of his previous melanoma, and spread through his body before it could be treated. The day he died was one of the most painful days of my life. Believing in God became very difficult after that day. Knowing how much Stevie loved his life, his friends, his family, his wife and his much beloved son is something that haunts me to this day. If ever there was a person that shouldn't have gone that way, it was Stevie. Like most of Stevie's friends, and especially his very good friends and family, I miss Stevie almost every day.

MARK GRIMES

Mark was bigger than life figure, and a bit of a legend on the trading floor. He was an ultimate prankster and a party animal of great renown. Mark was, enevitably, the life of every party. He knew how to enjoy himself and how to bring enjoyment to everyone around him. There were so many great things that happened on the floor that eminated from Mark's leadership. The kinds of things that we always needed to break the strangle hold of pressure every day would bring. Mark was the creator of the 3:33:33 phenomenon. This was the celebration of the digital clock on the 'new' floor hitting the 3:33:33 mark every day. At a minimum it would bring on a unanimous, simultaneous cheer from every trader on the floor. On the odd occasion it would bring a huge floor stopping celebration with special celebrity guests and fanfare. It was the wierdest thing ever and we all loved it.

There was a trader on the floor that Mark had a special relationship with. This trader was Eddie Lewer. Eddie was a very special guy. He had been on the floor forever. He was probably in his late fifties in this era and he looked like he was in his late seventies. Eddie usually made it to about 11:00am before he disappeared. The Cork Room and a Marta's opened around that time. I am not telling tales out of school, this was just the way Eddie liked to do things. Mark was forever playing tricks and pranking Eddie. Mark would regularly run up to Eddie when he came back from the land of liquid lunches and have one of his surprises ready for him. The funniest of the surprises was the roll of packing tape, one of many, that Mark kept for special occasions like Eddie's return. He would run up behind an unsuspecting, half in the bag Eddie and start to wrap him up. Not just a turn or two. Mark would spin Eddie one way and roll the tape around him till me was completely 'mummy' wrapped. I mean COMPLETELY!

It was the funniest thing I ever saw. Eddie would curse and sware at Mark and everyone else around him till he could sware no more. Then Mark would carry him over to his square and sit him down at the post and just leave him there...until whenever. Usually someone would feel sorry for Eddie and cut him loose, but not usually right away. Everybody just cracked up seeing Eddie like this. This might sound kind of mean, but it really wasn't. Eddie really liked the attention he received from the boys and he took the pranks in stride with a great sense of humor. At other times when Eddie came back hammered, Mark and associates would get a pad full of post-its and write all kinds of hilarious things on each note and then stick them all over the unsuspecting Eddie. Sometimes he would be wearing like 100 post-its and not even be aware at all. It was absolutely juvenile....and hilarious.

Mark also loved to play fight. If you know Mark, that can be a life threatening event. He was, and probably still is, as solid as a rock and as strong as a hangover shot of tequilla. When we used to share booth space, both on the old and new floors, there were the enevitable tussles. The only way I could avoid being obliterated was to grab his fingers and bend them back to the point of breaking. If I didn't get the fingers, I was dead! The only chink in his seemingly inpenetrable armor was the fingers. On the occasions when I did get the fingers and bend them back I would do it until I had him bent on his knees on the floor. Then I would run for my life. Not a quiet little trot but a life preserving, screaming dash right out of the building. I would be laughing so hard it hurt. Both from glee and fear. When Mark finally did get me I knew I wasn't walking away without my just desserts. OUCH! I think I still have the bruises.

Mark was and is one of the best guys I have ever known. Most of the best guys I have ever known came from my time on the floor of the TSE. I used to worry about Mark because he lived life so fully and I hoped that he would calm down to a dull roar when he got married. He did. His beautiful wife Ann and his five beautiful children seem to have done the trick.

I guess life as a floor trader wasn't quite exciting enough for Mark as he has now gone on to a successful career as a City of Toronto Councellor. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire...Whoa!


John 'Mad Dog' Bickerton


John was a very imposing figure on the trading floor. When I mentioned how important a factor intimidation was on the trading floor, John might have been the king. He didn't have to do much to intimidate. His well earned reputation as a hard ass preceeded him. He did very little to dispell the myth of the 'Mad Dog'. This gave him a great deal of leverage and advantage in his dealings with other traders on the floor. John was an ultimate warrior on and off the floor. He never saw a confrontation he didn't like, once again, on and off the floor. When I first met John I was with Steve Curry in the Cork Room. Are you beginning to see a trend here? That night we all got hammered and sat and talked trading all night. Steve told me that I didn't have to worry about John. He said he was areally a pussy cat. Well, I thought to myself, maybe a lion! He did roar after all. As I got to know John more intimately and we socialized a few times, I came to really enjoy him and his ways. John wasn't everybody's cup of meat, but in my books, he was a great guy. John never gave me a reason to dislike him. Although many people would speak ill of John from time to time, I always thought it was more from envy of his success and attitude that anything else.

MAN, this guy could party. He never seemed to get too anything, no matter how much of anything he did. Never too drunk, even though he might have or should have been. Never too buzzed. Maybe too angry once in awhile but, hey, that's what reputations are built on and John had a reputation as large as his physical presence. We did a lot of Leafs and Marlies games at the old Gardens back in the day. There was never a dull outing. As an example, one time at a Marlies game, the whole Markham Waxers team wanted to kill John and I because they thought we wern't respectful enough of the horrible Marlies team. John was absolutle ready and willing to go at it with every last one of them. When I told him I didn't think it was a very good idea to take on the whole team of 17 year olds, he told me to sit down because he would take care of them. Seriously! Calmer heads prevailed and the Waxers coach told the little asswipes to go sit down and shut up. Probably a good idea which undoubtedly saved at least a few sets of teeth. John was great in those days. Like so many other friends of mine from that time, I didn't keep in touch with John. John is fighting some serious battles these days and I am sure he brings the same will, determination and guts to the table that he always did. I am equally sure he will prevail in these battles as he always did on and off the floor.



Stay Tuned for the Continuation of 'The Young Turks of The TSE'

2 comments:

Jay said...

hahahahaha... I can still remember sitting in my trade booth, next to Mark and Peter's, and seeing poor old Eddie coming back from 'lunch'. It was almost creepy how Mark and Chris, without saying a word or even exchanging glances, would simultaneously sneak up on Eddie to give him the muumy treatment or paper ball him to death. One of many of the little moments that I consider to be along the lines of seeing behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz's chamber... Keep the accounts of Floor coming! Every name brings back more memories of a place I was lucky enought to experience for a few years before it disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Thank You for your kind words about my Uncle. I've forwarded this to his son John Jr.

Harmony Bickerton