*The Yiddish word for “crazy” is “meshugeneh.”
“Crazy Eddie” Antar, the infamous retailer, died at age 68.
Securities litigator, Howard Sirota, described Eddie as a “larger than life Brooklyn Fonz type figure.”
Shown below is a Yiddish guide from A - Z for Eddie Antar.
Eddie Antar was a Brooklyn-born businessman who in 1971 started the electronic retail store, “Crazy Eddie.”
He was a true genius (“goen”). At a time when most electronics stores were small (“kleyn”) storefronts, Antar created electronics SUPERSTORES that sold the new gadgets consumers were clamoring for in the 1970s and 1980s—telephone answering machines, car stereos, VCRs, and microwaves.
Antar took the chain from one store (1969) in Brooklyn to 43 stores in four states.
“antloyfn” (to flee)
To avoid prosecution for securities fraud and insider trading charges, Antar fled to Israel in 1990, using a fake passport. He changed his name to David Jacob Levi Cohen. He fled with some $50 million of funds that prosecutors suspected were embezzled from his company and laundered through Israeli and Panamanian banks before he left the U. S. He was arrested in Yavne and returned to the U. S. in 1993. The same day, FBI agents arrested Mitchell and Allen Antar.
“arbeter” der (the worker)
The Antars paid some employees off the books, and regularly skimmed thousands of dollars (in cash) earned at the shops. For every $5 Crazy Eddie reported as income, $1 was taken by the Antars. They began depositing much of the money in Israeli bank accounts.
If a customer paid in cash (“mezumen”), Crazy Eddie stole the sales tax and the company made a gross profit of about 8%, even if it sold merchandise to customers at cost.
Crazy Eddie salespersons used “bait and switch” high pressure sales to “steer” customers to higher profit margin merchandise. Note: “SW” means “switch the customer.”
The “NAD” (nail at door) person made the final (“letst”) effort to convince the customer to purchase higher margin products and services. (Source: “The Crazy Eddie Fraud” by Sam E. Antar)
It was not uncommon for Eddie to follow customers out of the store in order to talk them into buying merchandise.
In the early 1990s Antar filed for bankruptcy and the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U. S. Attorney’s office opened probes. A conviction of stock fraud was overturned, but both Antar and his brother, Mitchell, pleaded guilty. Instead of facing retrial, Antar went to jail.
Antar’s Brooklyn office sported a bar, leather (“leder”) couch, and a gym. He pumped iron while haggling with vendors.
COD (cause of death)
The cause of death of Mr. Antar was not disclosed.
“durkhfaln” (to fail/not succeed)
In 1998, relatives of Antar tried to revive the Crazy Eddie name with a new store opening in Wayne, N. J. It closed the next year.
“eydes zogn” (to testify)
Sam Antar testified against his cousin and boss, Eddie Antar, and other family members. Sam was sentenced to 6 months of house arrest and 1,200 hours of community service. He paid $30,000 in fines, and a court fee of $100.
Antar was the grandson of Syrian Jewish immigrants, Murad and Tera Antar. They relocated to Brooklyn from Aleppo, Syria. Eddie’s father, Sam, was a retailer.
Michael Chertoff called the Antars’ efforts to create false (“falsh”) inventory reports and inflate the company’s stock prices staggering.”
“frage” di (the question)
Ralph Gardner Jr. (WSJ, 9/14/16) asked a “vunderlekh” question: “Were Crazy Eddie, who spent about seven years in prison for racketeering, to run his ads these days, would they have the same impact when the presidential race seems like one continuous Crazy Eddie ad?”
“gesheft” dos (the business)
Alan Wolfe said, “You’d go into the store and they’d immediately size you up and push you toward their own private-label products. It was almost an oppressive sales experience.
Crazy Eddie routinely underrated his income to avoid taxes. In 1987, Crazy Eddie did a record of $352 million in sales, according to a 2009 Crains New York report.
Eddie Antar kept big aggressive dogs around to intimidate suppliers stopping by to see why he was selling their merchandise for less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
Larry Weiss, who helped create the chain’s commercials, remembered Mr. Antar as a complex man.
“He was a character. He was very charming, charismatic, very powerful, very decisive He was an incredible leader. Really, everyone in the company idolized him. He was a very cool guy. And then there was the dark side that got him into trouble.” (Source: “Eddie Antar, Retailer and Felon Who Created Crazy Eddie, Dies at 68,” by Niraj Chokshi, Sept. 11, 2016, nytimes.com)
“khasene gehat” (married)
Antar was married twice: Debbie Rosen Antar was Debbie #1; Deborah Ehrlich was Debbie #2.
“White collar crime is just like magic. It’s all about attracting attention away to get what you want done.”
Sam E. Antar quote
“klayder” di (clothing)
Antar was known for wearing a Spartan blue sweat suit as he traveled from store to store.
Eddie recruited his cousin, Sam E. Antar, to assist the company with its fraud. Sammy was an accountant (“khezhbn-firer”), who earned his degree during 1980.
One of Sammy’s major schemes was a money laundering operation known as The Panama Pump. Money that the Antars had deposited in Israeli banks was transferred to bank accounts in Panama. The accounts were opened using false names, then drafted payments to Crazy Eddie.
Michael Chertoff called Antar “The Darth Vader of Retail.”
Antar was branded as the poster boy for white-collar crime in the United States.
Crazy Eddie had his annual (“yerlekh”) “Christmas in August” sale. Carroll would dress in a Santa suit and do the commercial while stagehands threw fake snowballs at him.
Shop around. Get the best prices you can find. Then go to Crazy Eddie and he’ll beat it!
Antar was not the pitchman who appeared in its commercials. For more than 13 years, Jerry Carroll, a radio DJ, was the man who starred in the radio and TV ads. The ads always ended the same way, with Crazy Eddie prices being touted as “in-SAAAANE!” Carroll waved his hands on camera looking like a madman— talking a mile-a-minute, sometimes in a Santa suit. Carroll put on a beard and a stovepipe hat, and a moment later, a white wig (“paruk”) to “honor” three great Americans— Lincoln, Washington and Crazy Eddie.
At the height of the company’s success, Jerry Carroll had a higher recognition rate among those surveyed in New York than Mayor Ed Koch.
“radyo tsayt” (radio time)
Crazy Eddie was for many years the largest buyer of New York market radio time, according to Larry Weiss.
Crazy Eddie’s ads have appeared in many movies such as “Splash!” “Komiker,” Dan Aykroyd lampooned the ads on SNL.
Judge Harold A. Ackerman sentenced Mr. Anhar to prison.
After the Christmas holiday season ended, Eddie Antar routinely doled out large cash bonuses to key employees.
“shenken” (to donate)
Back in 1986, Antar donated $6 million to an Israeli hospital in return for a $5.4 million cash kickback
Pre con artist, Bernie Madoff, Crazy Eddie was considered one of the largest frauds uncovered. Properties owned by Sam Antar and others were ordered sold and the receiver, in court papers, said nearly $12 million was distributed back to Crazy Eddie stockholders and bondholders. Some of those people owed money were found to be deceased, others couldn’t be located, and tens of thousands of dollars in unclaimed checks were never cashed.
Shares of the company sold initially for $8. By early 1986, Crazy Eddie stock was trading at more than $75 per share (split adjusted).
Crazy Eddie’s tagline: “Our price are insane.”
Antar served seven years in prison.
“Oi, a shkandal!” (Oh, what a scandal!)
The scandal of Antar being convicted on racketeering and stock-fraud charges was a scandal that rocked the close- knit Syrian Jewish Community of Brooklyn and Ocean County, New Jersey. Who would believe that he was skimming profits, cheating the IRS and scamming customers. He added imaginary stock and falsified accounts to make it look like sales were surging.
After an inside investor group gained control of Crazy Eddie in late 1987, it all began to fall apart, as auditors started going through the books.
In 2009, a Brooklyn-based businessman, Jack Gemal, bought the rights to the Crazy Eddie name and began an online Crazy Eddie venture at pricesareinsane.com. During 2012, the online business ceased to exist.
Crazy Eddie was primarily responsible for the demise of Blue Laws (that prevented retailers from opening on Sunday). They were one of the first major retailers to open on Sundays, Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving. (Source: “The Crazy Eddie Fraud” by Sam E. Antar)
Antar is survived by daughters Simone, Nicole, Noelle,
and Gabrielle; a son, Sammy E. Antar; brothers, Mitchell
and Allen; and a sister, Ellen Kuszer.
MARJORIE WOLFE remembers when Antar opened his second Crazy Eddie store in Syosset, New York.
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