Baum was subsequently introduced to Sylk, who embraced his future partner like a long-lost relative.
Baum had never met anyone remotely like Sylk before. With his unbridled enthusiasm, limitless supply
of raw energy, and penchant for dropping celebrity names, he came off like a cross between infomercial
pitchman Tony Little and Comedy Central talk show host Jimmy Glick. Baum thought he was obnoxious
as hell, possibly even a little crazy. But he was willing to make allowances because he was convinced that
Sylk was a computer savvy marketing genius who was going to make him absurdly wealthy. Baum was
so convinced of this that he immediately called his long-time friend and business partner Bruce Glasser
and proposed a three-way partnership. Glasser made a good living in textiles with a Hasbrock, New
Jersey-based, company he owned called Rio Vista Inc. Like Baum he was always receptive to interesting
investment opportunities that would provide an escape from his more mundane business activities. This
one certainly fit the bill. Moreover, the timing was right. He was close to signing a $1 million textile deal
with the N.F.L., which would supply him with more than enough cash to bankroll the deal. Several days
later, Glasser and Sylk met at TriBeCa Blues for drinks. After studying the prospectus, which was
scribbled in long hand on three sheets of folded typing paper, Glasser was ready to sign a check. Like
Baum he didn't know anything about the internet either -- but he agreed with his partner: sex sells.
Unlike his partner, Glasser was genuinely fond of the cocky kid from Miami. The things that Baum found
grating about Sylk's personality he found refreshing and entertaining. He also liked the fact that Sylk
partied. It provided a common bond that he never had with Fred. Fred didn't go out at night. Short, obese
and slovenly, his joys in life were eating, making money and hanging out at the Montammy Country Club.
As the alcohol flowed at TriBeCa Blues, Sylk and Glasser immediately struck up a friendship that would
transcend their business relationship. With a rapport established, they began discussing the project in
earnest. Inspired by the company, and emboldened by the alcohol, Sylk's frayed synapses began shooting
off sparks like a Gatling gun. Somewhere in the dark one of those sparks ignited his eureka moment. With
frenzied excitement, he blurted out an outrageous proposal: Since beautiful women draw more customers,
why not create a phony modeling agency and use it to attract a superior grade of perspective talent, who
could then be funneled into the sex business ? Glasser thought it was a joke. But Sylk was dead serious.
After choking on his vodka and slapping the bar with glee, Glasser pointed out one major flaw in the plan:
The models would flee for their lives once they discovered they were actually being hired to masturbate
in front of a web cam. "Not if we tell them they can make $5,000 a week," replied Sylk slyly. Glasser
paused to consider this. "Fred was right," he thought to himself.. This guy is "a marketing genius."
Baum knew nothing about computer technology. But he did know there were only two ways to make
money on the internet: gambling and pornography. And here was a fancy Lawyer with a Manhattan
practice offering him an opportunity to buy a piece of that action. Itzler explained that his stepson was
looking for investors to fund an internet sex service that would sell content (live images of naked women)
to domains that maintained one-on-one porn sites. Itzler assured Baum that Sylk who had recently moved
to New York from Miami, where he made a killing in the phone sex business, was the ideal candidate to
tap into the $1.8 billion cyber-porn pie. He said that in the 90s Sylk's Miami-based phone sex empire, M2
Communications, was the third-largest 900-number business in the country grossing $17 million in a single
year. Baum was impressed and more than slightly giddy at the prospect of diversifying his portfolio with
a XXX investment that could possibly land him on ... The Howard Stern Show. Building spec houses in
Middletown was an honest living but hardly the kind of thing to brag about among friends on the back nine
at Montammy. Setting the hook Itzler promised that if Baum came on board, he would kick in $15,000
himself as a gesture of good faith.
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written by Rene Chun


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