I Used My Stockmarket Millions to Throw Raves and Sell Drugs
Think of drug lords in America and it’s likely that you’ll think of emotionally erratic men with harems of coked-up mega babes on big yachts in Miami. Or, if you watch a lot of HBO box-sets, terminally ill chemistry teachers or Idris Elba. One cliche that probably won’t spring to mind is a polite, educated ex-stockbroker from the UK’s industrial Cheshire.
Shaun “English Shaun” Attwood is an incredibly unlikely ecstasy kingpin. Growing up in Widnes, just outside of Liverpool, Shaun invested in the US stock market when he was young, made his millions, moved to Phoenix, Arizona, started throwing raves, and became a major drug supplier. While he wasn’t planning parties in the deserts of Arizona, he was working in direct competition with the Italian mafia and alongside the New Mexican Mafia to supply millions of dollars worth of ecstasy to the ravers of mid-90s Phoenix.
His motivation for doing all this (besides the fact that partying for a living is a lot more fun than selling shares)? He wanted to introduce Americans to the British rave culture he’d grown up with. Unfortunately, as is often the way when you’re handling millions of dollars worth of narcotics, Shaun was caught and ended up being sent to Maricopa County Jail, widely regarded as America’s toughest prison. Shaun’s been out of jail for a few years, so I called him to see if he’s still so keen to spread the love to the Yanks.
Shaun after being released from prison. Photo by Libbi Pedder.
VICE: Hey Shaun. So you went from being a millionaire stockbroker to becoming a major drug dealer in Arizona. How did that happen?
Shaun Attwood: The Manchester rave scene made such a big impression on me that I decided to transfer that scene to Phoenix, Arizona after moving over there. After becoming a millionaire as a young person, I had more money than common sense, so I didn’t see the law as an obstacle to my partying or a barrier to bringing tens of thousands of hits of ecstasy into America from Holland.
That was for the mafia, right?
Yeah, I was supplying ecstasy to the New Mexican Mafia. In the beginning, I didn’t know who they were, but it came about because I was a friend of a gang member’s brother. Years later, they were all arrested and the news headlines reported that they were the most powerful and violent mafia in Arizona at that time, committing murder for hire and executing witnesses.
And you were in direct competition with the Italian mafia member Sammy “The Bull” Gravano—what’s the story with that?
Yeah. Years later in prison, his son, Gerard Gravano, told me that he’d been dispatched as the head of an armed crew to kidnap me from a nightclub and take me out to the desert. I’d avoided him that night because my best friend Wild Man had got in a fight and we’d had to leave the club in a hurry.
Give All the Drugs to the Gay Boys
Here’s something everybody should know about gay men: We like to disappear. We like to numb the feelings. We like to be anywhere that’s not here. We like to, quite simply, get fucked up.
And you know what? We’re damn good at it. We’re the best. It’s estimated that about 20 to 30 percent of the gay and transgender population abuse substances, compared with only 9 percent of the general population. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. A lot of the LGBT community may be out and proud, but most of us still got issues.
Last night, as I was drinking a Skinnygirl margarita in bed, I started to think about all the boys I’ve been friends with and/or dated who clearly had drug and alcohol problems. It might not have seemed like it at the time because we were all having so much fun getting lost in the haze of gay mistakes, but it’s obvious to me now what was really going on there. Some boys, even with their cheerful dances to Beyoncé songs and their vodka sodas, were quietly coming undone, while the rest of us were simply trying to come together.
I was a sophomore in college the first time I ever accompanied a gay friend to an NA meeting. My best friend at the time had just told me he had an addiction to cocaine, which was shocking because I didn’t even know he did coke.
“Are you on it all the time?” I asked him in his San Francisco apartment.
“What about last Sunday afternoon when we were just at my house watching TV? Were you on it then?”
We sat there and cried a little bit. Then we hugged each other and set off to an NA meeting. It would be my first but certainly not my last.
The DOs & DON’Ts of Coachella
At 5:00 AM on Monday, I jerked myself awake and looked down at my body to find I’d fallen asleep nude in a large hotel bathtub under a steady stream of scalding hot water. My contacts were dried out and suctioned to my eyeballs, and a ring of black dirt outlined my frame. Half of my hair was knotted up into one massive dreadlock so gnarly it would’ve put the bass players in nü metal bands to shame. Yet despite my broken body and haggard appearance, I was overcome with pride: I’d successfully survived the first half of the two-weekend-long adult spring break known as the Coachella Music Festival. Coachella is the annual desert-music event held in Indio, California, which happens to be one of the most physically grueling places this side of the equator. This was my third time attending, so by now, I’ve seen it all: from Rave Dad to a technologicallyreincarnated Tupac Shakur. For those of you who are going for the first time next week, or are just insane and attending for a second time, here are some tips to making it out of Palm Desert in one piece.
DO BUY VIP
Music-festival passes are extremely overpriced. However, if you’re baller enough to blow half a month’s rent to see a bunch of bands you could watch live on a laptop from the comfort of your own home in the sweltering hot desert, it only makes sense to shell out a couple more duckets to obtain VIP status. There is little to no cell reception at Coachella, so your phone battery is guaranteed to die. But VIPs have multiple charging stations. It’s hot as Satan’s taint in the desert, but VIPs have shaded areas, misting fans, and an air-conditioned bar. When you’re in GA, you can’t drink alcohol on the fairground. But the VIPs have more than one bar spread out in a closed-off section where they can easily watch bands and get plastered. And let’s not forget that parking is a bitch, but VIPs get to park closer to the entrance, so you don’t have to walk a mile to your car in the dark and possibly get stalked by bros in tacky tie-dye T-shirts. Plus as a VIP, you have a better chance of conning your way backstage into the artist areas if you keep yourself from breaking character when lying to security guards about how you’re part of the Earl Sweatshirt entourage, when really you’re just trying to creep on guys with guitars and the topless girls who are having them sign their tits.
DON’T WEAR INAPPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR
Considering that everything is far away, and you’re constantly walking around in circles in a bunch of dirt, your footwear choices will really make or break your entire festival experience. Unless you’re there with the sole purpose of having a bunch of sleazy “blog photographers” snap photos of you for obscure fashion sites that no one has ever heard of, dressed in a bunch of weird outfits you’d never actually wear at home, don’t bother sporting high heels. It’s already bad enough having to trip over the blacked-out idiots laying on the ground in the middle of the crowds at the main stage, but it’s even worse when you sprain your ankle and have to sit in a hot medical tent with a bunch of kids who ate too many brownies and are screaming to EMS workers that they think they’re going to die. Even more retarded are the people who wear sandals or choose to walk around in bare feet, as there are no proper bathrooms; you have to pee in Porta Potties. Between that and all the cop-horse manure you have to walk through, you’re setting yourself up for a pretty shitty experience.
Facedown in Chitral: Where Pakistani Muslims Go to Secretly Party
Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” is a 19th-century tale of empire, madness, and idolatry centered around two roguish British soldiers who take a perilous journey into Kafiristan, a hostile mountain region populated by pagans who kill and rob anyone foolish enough to set foot in their domain. Kafiristan took its name from the Arabic word kafir, which translates as “nonbeliever” or “infidel.” The region stretches across portions of what is today Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s not a nice place to live, but, as I discovered, it is a great place to party.
For nearly 70 years, up until 1896, the emir of Afghanistan offered bribes to the people of Kafiristan to discourage them from robbing outsiders and slinging their bodies off of mountains. The Kafirs took the money but refused to give up their marauding ways. Abdur Rahman Khan, nicknamed “The Iron Emir,” grew so incensed by this flagrant disrespect of his power that he sent troops into the Afghan-controlled portion of Kafiristan to discipline the local population. Kafirs were rounded up and given a stark choice: Islam or death. Naturally, most chose Islam, and the Afghan side of Kafiristan was soon known by the euphemism Nuristan, or “land of light.” These forced conversions and the change of moniker, however, did little to alter the nature of its people. In his 1958 book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby cataloged some common phrases in the Nuristani language at that time: “I saw a corpse in a field this morning”; “I have nine fingers; you have ten”; and “I have an intention to kill you.”
In the end, the Iron Emir was only sucessful in converting the population on the Afghan side. Across the Hindu Kush mountains, in Pakistan, a raucous pagan animism persisted. Today the descendents of these pagans live in what are known as the Kalash valleys: Bumboret, Birir, and Rumbur. They are the last animist tribe of Central Asia—a nature-worshipping island in a sea of Islam spreading out in all directions.
The Kalash people spurn Islamic law by drinking, taking drugs, and partying. For decades, pleasure-seeking Muslims have ventured to these valleys to get drunk on Kalash wine (which tastes like sherry) and the local moonshine known as tara (which tastes like schnapps). The drug of choice is opium brought in from Afghanistan or, more commonly, nazar, an opiate-based chewing tobacco, which oftentimes makes users sick and dizzy. Just like American kids who travel to Florida or Vegas to blow off some steam, devout Pakistanis periodically head up into the mountains for a taste of the debauched pagan life.
Partying with the Secret Police in Communist Romania
Illustration by Michael Shaeffer
Vacation options in communist Romania were pretty limited. When Labor Day, the big party holiday of the year, rolled around on May 1, many Romanians traveled to Costinesti, the only seaside resort for young people in the country. To reach it, they had to take the train to the last stop and walk another two miles, or hitch a ride on a farmer’s cart. Most of the country was poor at the time, so many travelers slept on the roofs of rented huts; the only sources of heat were campfires people made on the beach.
There were just two discos in Costinesti, and for some archaic reason, dancing was only allowed in them from 1 to 3 PM and 6 to 10 PM. Romanian beer was sold exclusively; other kinds of booze were only available at a store that catered to foreigners. And, of course, everyone was being watched all the time by government minders.
Sorin Lupascu, who DJed in Costines‚ti at the time, recalls, “You could drink until you fell on your face. The regime never messed with the parties, but the resort was filled with secret police who were scouting for new employees.” Government restrictions caused other problems too, according to Natalia, a math teacher who took teens on field trips to the beach: “The whole class could end up pregnant because condoms were illegal. At night I had to poke through bushes with a broom to stop them from having sex.”
After the fall of the Iron Curtain and ensuing revolution in 1989, young people had more options for partying. Many of them started going to Neptun, a resort town about 50 miles down the coast. Mariana, a hotel receptionist there between 1987 and 1996, described the change: “After the Revolution, people saw the first of May as a day when you could do whatever you wanted. Also, booze was on the market.” Things started to get wild: One year, Neptun’s Hotel Romanta was gutted by a massive fight among a group of friends who had rented nearly 70 percent of the rooms. Teo, a gynecologist who saw that brawl, told me, “The cops didn’t have the guts to break them up. They watched while beds, closets, and tables flew out of the windows.” The next year a confrontation between the customers of two pubs across the road from each other resulted in a brutal fight in the middle of the street that ended only when ambulances arrived.
Other destinations have also become popular in recent years, like the village of Vama Veche— where hippies laze about, ransack tents, fuck on the beach, and hit one another in the face—and Mamaia, where club kids celebrate their holiday freedom by robbing people and committing random acts of vandalism. And while these might not sound like the greatest of times, at least the secret police are nowhere to be found.
Need more partying?
Never Party with the Brick Squad
A Party’s Not a Party If You Don’t Punch a Fish
Historical Party Fouls
How a Remote Laotian Village Became Asia’s Cancun
Vang Vieng is a small town of 25,000 nestled in the jungles of northwestern Laos, on the banks of the Nam Song River. It’s home to caves, lagoons, and lush green hills—a landscape that up until recently had me believing that Laos, my mother’s native land, was mostly free from crass Western concepts like “partying.”
Since the early 2000s, however, the bucolic hamlet has become a destination for drunk Europeans backpacking through Southeast Asia. And today Vang Vieng is near the top of the list of tourist destinations in Laos. It has provided a much-needed boost to the nation’s tourism industry, but in the process altered itself to cater to out-of-towners.
The town’s main street, for instance, is full of bars screening reruns of Friends and Family Guy. Bars offer whiskey-taurine cocktails served in beach buckets. It’s also easy to score opium, magic mushrooms, methamphetamines, and other substances that could get you thrown into a Laotian prison. There are also a handful of underground clubs run by Vietnamese gangs. Curiously, when my sister Florence went to visit Vang Vieng for the first time in 2005, after she returned she told me there were no police in sight. “At any time,” she said, “tourists can buy hard drugs freely, although it’s recommended to avoid heroin or cocaine.” The restaurants sell cannabis and opium at 80,000 kip per gram (about $10), as well as tourist-oriented foods like pasta or pancakes “even if Laotians don’t know how to cook them.”
I Partied with Young Republicans at CPAC
The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual event where prominent right-wingers get together and plot ways to start new wars and keep your wieners out of other dudes’ buttholes. It’s a fantastic time, especially during the after-hours because there is often free booze and all the Republicans are looking to let loose.
This year’s CPAC was at the Gaylord, which is a Convention Center that sits right on the Potomac River in Maryland and has a hotel and restaurants and a park inside of it. The Gaylord is a strange place. It is kind of like Disneyland or one of those fake model neighborhoods that are built for nuclear test sites.
Hanging out at CPAC for the past three days made me realize the GOP is in a weird place right now with a bunch of different factions going at each other’s throats. I’m not so into the old school Willie Horton dog whistling side or the hyper religious Bible thumpers. I do, however, find the Libertarian movement that is happening among the younger Republicans pretty compelling, if only because they are into legalizing dope. Considering that, I figured they were the best crowd to hang with on a night out. So on Friday—after a long day of hearing about God, guns, and gays—I followed a few of the cool young liberty dudes into this big ass dancehall inside the convention center.
The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the spot was that the people had shit allover their faces. It was pretty peculiar, but at least it wasn’t blackface. I stopped this guy to figure out what the hell was going on. But he was pretty short on words because he was playing like a zombie, which is mad annoying when you are trying to ask a question. Then he started waving his weird black clicker thing in my face. I guess it’s some kind of speed networking device. He wanted his thing to touch mine, but I didn’t have one. Sorry dude.
These people were jumping up and down in front of a TV screen. You could tell that a lot of couples were hooking up, so I just figured this was some kind of peculiar conservative mating dance.
HOW TO KEEP IT CHILLIN’ WHEN VISITIN’ A PIECE-OF-GARBAGE PAL IN THE HOSPITAL - by @DadBoner
’Sup. Name’s Karl Welzein, comin’ atcha live and direct from Grand Blanc, MI. Caught some pretty nasty D from a *Totino’s Party Pizza that may or may not have gone bad. Fell out of my grocery bag from Kroger and sat in my backseat for a week or so. Could be longer? Or less longer? Hard to tell. Time just flies when you’re livin’ the all-freedom lifestyle, 24/7, 365, open on Sundays, you guys.
Was kinda questionable ’cause it’s been real cold and crap so anytime the heat wasn’t on in ’Bring, the Tino’s was probably in a safe situaish. But I like to cruise for various purposes including business ventures as well as peepin’ babes on the regular, so in those times the ’Tino’s coulda thawed out and then got refroze several times. No way to be 100 percent. Anyway, pretty sure it gave me ’rrhea, so I gotta write this from the john. Heard a lot of the greats like Hemmingway wrote crap on the toilet for peace and sanctuary. Kinda cool?
So, sometime around when I first purchased the ’Tino’s ’a, we were rockin’ it with the heat of a thousand suns to show respect for my main man Guy Fieri’s b-day. Everything was on point. Then my pal Crazy Cooter came by with two fifths of Beam. Said he “brought one for the slizz and one for the dampness!” Guess he wasn’t informed that no babes were at the celebraish. Cooter got kinda steamed and pounded a fifth himself. Then pulled a copy of the XXX guy mag, Cheri—pretty raunchy… I’m more of a Penthouse man. Always have been, since way back—out of his waistband and said, “If you don’t got no slampigs comin’ by, then I’m just gonna rock it,” and went in the john for solo carnal passions.
Cooter was in there for a while. Figured he was havin’ guy troubles with his peener & veggies so I just made myself a tall Beam & ice and hit the sack. Smooth sippin’ with Jim + a soft pillow = dreams of majesty. Do the math, your highness.
NEVER PARTY WITH THE BRICK SQUAD…
OR YOU MIGHT END UP DRINKING AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF HENNESSY AND ALMOST DYING
Illustration by Meaghan Garvey
As the host of Noisey Raps, the new hip-hop show on VICE’s music site, I’ve been spending a ton of time with famous rappers who like to get loco and do things poor degenerates only dream of. Getting fucked up is a time-honored tradition for musicians of all genres, but rappers, as with everything else they do, take inebriation to absurd new levels. They even invent weird new drugs and give them cute nicknames like “hokey-pokey” and “pterodactyl.” You might think, I love the hokey-pokey. This must be harmless. Then, the next thing you know, you’re being arrested for wiggling your genitals at an old lady, while the famous rapper you just made “friends” with is riding away in his Maybach, sandwiched between two gorgeous models, laughing his ass off. The thing to remember is that these guys are professionals at getting wasted. They rage day in and day out, one dust-laced blunt after another, and then they get paid exorbitant sums of cash to write songs about it. Trying to keep up with them is stupid and dangerous. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way from members of the 1017 Brick Squad.
It was a chilly night in October, and I had been invited to shoot Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane backstage at their show at New York’s Irving Plaza. Unless you’re a geriatric or in jail, you should know that Waka and Gucci are two Atlanta MCs who make unrepentant Southern gangster rap known as trap music.
When we arrived, it looked like your typical rapper green-room scene. There were a whole lot of dudes, because—despite all their lyrics about sexual conquests—rappers love sausage fests. As per usual, a thick cloud of smoke was hovering in the air, and all you could hear was the clash of liquor bottles and the chatter of country drawls.
I’m usually disappointed when I meet rappers in person because they’re often short, meek versions of what you see in their videos. Waka and Gucci, however, look like a couple of linebackers. Their presence is super-imposing, and this was only the second on-camera work I’d done in my life. In hindsight, I should’ve taken some more time thinking about my appearance before the interview: I was wearing pop-bottle glasses and a Cosby-like Pendleton sweater. They immediately started clowning me.
The instructions my producer Andy Capper gave me were to “hang out and get some natural footage.” But Waka and Gucci took one look at me, and it became awkwardly obvious that they weren’t trying to hang with me at all. After a pretty terse greeting that resulted in Waka practically breaking my hand when he shook it, the rappers formed a smokers’ huddle on the other side of the room that I couldn’t breach. Precious time was being wasted. I had to do something quick to get in good with these guys or else I wouldn’t be asked to host anything ever again.
Like everyone backstage, Waka, Gucci, and a couple of their lackeys were passing fat blunts back and forth to one another. To break the ice, I thought it’d be a good idea to ask them what kind of weed they were burning. Gucci just looked down at me like I was a narc, handed over the blunt, and said, “You tell me.”
Now, I’ve been smoking blunts since I was 11 years old. And I grew up in the suburbs, so I’m no stranger to bongs, bowls, and weird white-people shit like vaporizers. But nothing prepared me for how high I was about to become after hitting Gucci’s burner. The closest thing I can compare it to is being pushed headfirst down a K-hole. The second after the smoke left my lungs, I couldn’t even form a complete sentence. Andy was whispering in my ear, trying to tell me what questions to ask because I was just standing there like a zombie with the microphone limp in my hand. And then everything just went black.