Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. (2022) s01e01 Episode Script

Mr. & Mrs. Fox

1 [woman.]
Hello? Hello? [man.]
Have you gotten a call [man.]
About? [woman.]
from anybody? About, like, about a film that's being made, sounds like a documentary? [man.]
No? This can't be a thing.
You need to fight this as much as you can.
Don't give them interviews or agree to anything.
Don't talk.
Do anything to kill it, to make sure it doesn't fucking happen.
But it just sounds like it's a thing already.
Like it's already been made? Some fucking Netflix documentary now.
Jesus fucking Christ.
Why wouldn't I do it? [man.]
You're gonna cooperate with these people? I think you know two things about me.
One, that I love you.
And that you love me, loved me, whatever the fuck, and you don't wanna accept or deal with that.
Right now, it's not convenient, whatever the fuck.
Two, I'm not some fucking joker.
I'm not someone to be fucked with.
Listen, Sarma.
I'm sorry that it's been shitty.
I am.
But yeah, there can be a happily ever after.
- You destroyed my life and humiliated me.
- [man.]
But I - So now you say But you did.
- [man.]
But I didn't.
But I - How did you not? - [man.]
But I didn't.
I'm, I'm on the fucking edge with this shit.
It's been two and a half fucking years, and I'm still bound.
And if I get fucking dragged by these people again, it's gonna be fucking hellfire from the fucking sky.
I'm not deal especially that Vanity Fair cocksucker.
I'm not going through this again.
I'm fucking not.
I would feel ill recording anybody else but this motherfucker? Fuck him.
[ominous music playing.]
[man 1.]
I went to, uh, dinner last night.
"Pure Food and Wine.
" It's all raw food.
Nothing is cooked.
At the next table, there's this super hot blonde.
And she was the owner of the place.
I started nine years ago.
People didn't understand this whole vegan thing.
We've been growing steadily year after year.
Sarma was the raw vegan queen.
[man 2.]
People were coming from all over the word because of her.
It was a movement.
The logo from my company.
If I do something like this, then I have to make it work.
She had this power to her.
Like, she ran the show.
[man 3.]
By most people's standards, she doesn't seem like the kind of person that's gonna go on the lam and run from the cops for a year.
Raw food? [protesters.]
Raw deal! - What do we want? - Our wages! Owners of a popular Manhattan vegan restaurant are under arrest, accused of ripping off their workers and investors.
[reporter 1.]
She was accused of embezzling an extraordinary sum of money from her own employees.
So it really makes her look like the vegan Bernie Madoff.
[reporter 2.]
The two have been on the run with warrants out for their arrest.
[reporter 3.]
And police say junk food led them to the fugitives.
[reporter 2.]
They traced one of their credit cards to a Domino's in Tennessee for the couple that supposedly preached a healthy, vegan lifestyle ordered a pizza for delivery.
Sarma started telling me that she was a victim, there was gaslighting happening, and that she was terrified because he had a shadowy connection to the CIA.
So, what was he capable of? [man 4.]
It becomes this increasing confusion.
How does somebody believe that their dog is gonna be made immortal? It's a complete madness.
You start going, "What is real here? What is real?" And then you realize this is a story about what is real.
[dramatic music playing.]
[unsettling music playing.]
People ask me all the time, "Well, what happened?" You know, I've deliberately practiced at not thinking about him, not thinking about what happened.
Because if I do, that's a miserable existence, and I can't function that way.
How many people close to you know the extent of what happened? It feels like nobody knows the extent of it, except for him.
There's a lot of people that have written me off and walked away as if it's just too weird, because, you know, they see things from the outside, while I was good at running this business, and I had accomplished all these things, and I don't have any sort of There's no easy answer.
I think it's just some sort of like a perfect storm of conditions where everything seemed to be right for that to be able to happen.
[eerie music playing.]
My undergrad major was Economics, and I feel like I got there by process of elimination.
So I went to UPenn Wharton in Philadelphia.
I think what happened is, when I was there, it was like, "What is everybody else doing? Everybody is gunning to go work in investment banking.
" I got hired by Bear Stearns.
Somebody that I'd worked with said to me, "Do you really like this work? Is this what you want to do?" And my first thought was, "Do you like it? Do people like it?" He sort of confronted me on that.
Nobody else had really done that.
He said, "You seem to be interested in food.
" People that I'd worked with had subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, and I had a subscription to Gourmet magazine and Food and Wine.
That might have been a clue that I wasn't going into the right field.
I left after a year and a half.
At that time, I wasn't under any pressure to get a job financially.
So I went to culinary school.
I finished at the French Culinary Institute in '99, and then focused on working in food.
Today, we are getting a head start on our Labor Day barbecue with Chef Matthew Kenney of Matthew's restaurant in Manhattan.
- Good morning.
- Good morning.
Nice to be here.
I had been a fan of Matthew's before I'd ever met him.
Matthew Kenny was a star chef in New York City.
He owned a renowned restaurant.
He was super, super talented.
I found out that he was writing a book.
So I went and met him to interview about working on that cookbook.
By the end of the meeting, I had the gig.
Matthew and I became a couple pretty quickly.
Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis.
We wanted to open a restaurant together.
And we had started to work with a restaurateur named Jeffrey Chodorow.
Jeffrey was gonna back us.
He was well-known for having opened a lot of flashy restaurants in the city.
The concept was a vegan, raw-food restaurant, which, of course, I had no idea what that was.
I'm really attracted by new food ideas and new ways of doing things.
Frankly, it was quite impressive.
And so I said, "Okay, let's do it.
" [Sarma.]
From the very beginning, the restaurant itself had a purpose, which was to make vegan raw food not something weird but to make it more mainstream.
I'm Nikki King Bennett, and I'm the executive chef here.
Fire tamale, lasagna, Pad Thai.
I think it was ahead of its time, and it was, uh, a high-end, fine dining vegan experience, which didn't exist.
It made kind of eating a vegan diet sexy as opposed to hippie.
It was a hot spot.
Owen Wilson used to post up in the back and walk through the kitchen.
He was just walking barefoot through the restaurant, and ordered a juice and walked out the front door.
Gisele walks up to Sarma, and then, like, Tom Brady walks up.
And I'm like, "What is this place? [laughs.]
This is so crazy.
" This is Bonnie.
Bonnie's been here for six years.
We won't let her leave.
- I don't wanna go.
- It's not an option.
There was something special about it, and especially as it got busier.
It's just this beautiful, very inviting restaurant kind of down these steps, so people just want to come in.
My name is Jim.
I'm the manager at Pure Food and Wine.
What was really a tiny little room felt enormous, and it felt like a party.
This is Joey.
Joey has been here for almost seven years.
We were definitely bonded together, and we felt like there was purpose behind us.
And Sarma was really genuine.
We used to call her "the Sarmama.
" I remember thinking, "This is the rest of my life.
" "This is it.
This is what my life is gonna revolve around.
" [man.]
Overall, outside of what happened, it was such a great environment to work in.
If none of this had happened, we'd probably still be working there.
[somber music playing.]
When I saw the news come through that Sarma had been arrested, I knew that there had to be more to that story than just Sarma was, like, on the lam from authorities, and had ordered a pizza, and then the cops came down.
I figured, well, if I can get in touch with her We always had a pretty good relationship.
She trusted me as a reporter.
Maybe I would be the one she would tell that story to.
This is my Sarma file.
Yeah, here's her Here, look.
Here's her marriage license.
Here's some paperwork I stuck in here.
So, here is Oh, inmate lookup.
These are some of the, like, you know, crazy notebooks of when I was doing my interviews.
When you go to Rikers, you can't even bring this stuff with you.
I think people make the same mistake as, like, the tabloids and just see this image of this beautiful woman who's living this healthy life.
This is not actually the complete story of Sarma.
It's not like Sarma was absolutely perfect and had made all the best choices in her life leading up to this moment.
The year that we opened the restaurant, my publisher was in the garden having dinner, and she said, "I wanna publish your book.
" [Allen.]
Him and Sarma together on the cover of that cookbook were part of the brand.
That's what they're selling.
You can look like these wonderful people.
Of course, like a lot of images, you know, there's rot on the inside.
With every business, there's usually a story behind it.
And I think, you know, from the outside, people see, "You have a restaurant.
It's busy.
There's tons of people in there.
" "It must be successful.
You must be making lots of money.
" "I see your picture in a magazine or here and there.
" And they assume that everything is great, and you must be rolling in money, and everything's fine.
But they don't see the behind-the-scenes, which can very often be very different.
Um So, you know, there is a backstory.
Things have been challenging over the years.
I was always the really careful one with money, and he was much less careful.
Matthew Kenney was not a well-respected businessman.
There was a lot of word around New York that Matthew was a guy who didn't pay his bills, who stiffed a lot of investors and was trouble.
I began sort of feeling resentful more and more, and we weren't getting along.
Sarma had a pair of sneakers, and on the back of the sneaker, it said, "I love Matthew.
" She wore them every time she came to my office.
I noticed that she wasn't wearing the sneakers.
So I said to her one time, you know, "How are things?" She said, "Well, there is some tension.
" "We're in a little bit of a rough patch.
" [Sarma.]
Our split became a very public thing.
During that time, people would come to the restaurant and sort of looking around hoping to see some sort of like reality TV-type fight because we were both there.
It was like, I wasn't leaving, he wasn't leaving, and we were both there.
I got a phone call from Matthew, and he said to me, "I can't continue to work with Sarma.
" "So I need you to expel her from the restaurant.
" Then I got a call from Sarma who said, "This is what happened," you know, "You have to figure out what to do.
" When I thought about it, then I said, "Okay, my options are, I have Matthew Kenney, a very talented chef, who had a bad financial history.
" "And on the other hand, I had Sarma.
" "She was a very accomplished person in her own right.
" Sarma had gone to Wharton, which is the school that I went to.
So I assumed she had a very good business head on her shoulders.
And so I picked Sarma.
And I told Matthew to go, which, frankly, I think shocked him.
Jeffrey agreed to just effectively sell me the restaurant for about two million dollars of debt.
So I took on two million dollars of debt, but then I owned the restaurant outright.
[uneasy music playing.]
After Matthew left, it was a scary time for me because I hadn't run a restaurant before on my own.
And it was kind of overwhelming.
Sarma was dealing with a mountain of problems.
She was so proud of this life that I think she was willing to take on incredible challenges, especially in regards to her business.
Like, she loved that place.
And she was there all the time.
She was there leading, like, Facebook blowing up at the time and just having a presence there.
She knew what it would take to become successful.
She had vision, drive.
[Twitter chimes.]
I met Alec Baldwin at the restaurant.
We talked a lot on the phone and via email.
Sometimes you meet somebody and feel like you already knew them.
It kind of felt like that with him.
My understanding of her relationship with Alec Baldwin was that he was a regular customer at the restaurant, and that, like a lot of the gentlemen who went there, he had a bit of a crush on Sarma.
When Alec was talking to her about wanting to have somebody important in his life, she would, instead of offering herself as that potential person, um, suggest that maybe he should adopt a dog.
You know, I was sending him emails of links to dogs.
And he wasn't really interested in getting a dog.
But I stumbled across a particular dog's photo.
I was just incredibly drawn to it for some reason I couldn't explain.
I just felt like I had to get him.
And around the time I got Leon, I had split with my boyfriend at the time.
It was the first time in my life that I'd felt heartbroken.
I'd never felt that way before.
So I just was sort of feeling sad and insecure, and I'm getting older, and sort of a little bit of I don't know.
It's sort of I don't know if I Let's just say that it's a little bit of regret that I never, um I had never gone any further with Alec because I was in a relationship.
And then it was like a few months later, we split up anyway, and then Alec ends up with somebody.
I had always kind of felt like, you know, he's a lot older than I am.
But then he ends up with somebody who's like way younger than me.
Alec was at the restaurant one night, and Hilaria was at another table.
He didn't know her.
He went over and introduced himself.
And so, actually because of Sarma, Alec did meet his wife.
It's just that his wife wasn't actually Sarma.
So even as Pure Food and Wine is doing really well financially, Sarma is not doing well.
While she has this fabulous image, she's actually broke, alone.
There's this sort of dichotomy of who she is publicly and privately.
I'd say that there was a restaurant version of Sarma, where she'd go to the restaurant, and she'd be happy and personable.
And then in the office, she was very reserved.
There was sort of this wall, to have defenses that she was sort of putting up to pretty much everyone.
Being a successful businesswoman came naturally, being a social person didn't.
Sarma would sit at the end of the bar.
It was painful for her to have a lot of the small-talk conversations, and then would go home at night and basically cuddle with her dog.
She thrived on being alone, and always had this sense of she was different from other people.
Sarma was telling me about a guy that she had been talking to online that she was pretty excited about.
He was somebody that was corresponding with Alec on Twitter.
He was funny, and he and Alec had all this back and forth.
It just seemed like he and Alec knew each other somehow.
Sarma sees this, and how clever he is, because he is quite clever online and, you know, little quips, and he does little stick figure drawings, and it's a little silly online cleverness.
It sort of seemed like this, "Okay, well, I got Leon because of Alec.
" "And then Alec met Hilaria at my restaurant.
" And now it just it's fitting that I now meet this guy via Alec.
It sort of seemed like it all made sense.
His name was Shane Fox, and he lived in Massachusetts, which is where I'm from originally.
Words With Friends was kind of a thing.
We would play against each other and have these little chats on the side.
It was a few months of texting back and forth.
And eventually, we spoke on the phone.
He could always make me laugh.
He was very goofy and funny.
He presented himself as kind of this big, strong guy.
I remember him saying he could pick me up under one arm and Leon under the other arm, and something about that was, like, was appealing.
You know, I felt like I had fallen in love with him before meeting him.
I remember her telling me that she had met a guy on Words With Friends.
She told me that, "He says he's been in love with me for a thousand years.
" So this was my only impression of their whole thing, her telling me that she found the love of her life.
So it took a while, but eventually, we sort of decided he would come to the city.
So I met him finally in person at the very end of 2011.
He didn't quite look like the pictures that he had sent me.
He was a bit heavier.
He looked like one of those defensive football players that they're really strong and muscular, but also there's extra weight there.
So it'd seem shallow of me to be judgmental for that.
Because I wanted him to be this big, strong guy that was gonna come in my life, this guy who understood me, who seemed to understand me really well, who seemed to understand my, you know, my goals and motivations and fears and frustrations.
And Leon really liked him.
I think somehow because Leon really liked him, I thought, "Okay, well, he must be okay.
This must be for real.
" [unsettling music playing.]
I believe I was here the first night that she brought him to the restaurant.
And I remember her kind of giving him a tour of the place.
It seemed like they were having a really fun night.
He was very nice, and I assumed that they had, like, a real connection.
He was kind of like jolly and, you know, he'd give me bear hugs, you know.
And he was a big guy.
Like, he was mammoth, you know? He kind of flung me around like I was like a rag doll.
When I first met Shane, I thought that he was a friend of Sarma's from school because that's how he was introduced to me.
She came to me and told me her cousin was going to come and visit.
And the person who showed up was Shane.
Somehow they did not seem like cousins.
Their relationship was awkward.
It was hard to pin down.
He didn't seem like he fit in, at least not, like, first impressions, no.
But then, it was that weird thing of like We found his Twitter and he had 50,000 followers, and Alec Baldwin's tweeting at him.
And you're like, "Okay, maybe they are in the same world.
" [Bonnie.]
All of us at the restaurant were asking these questions, like, "Okay, who is he?" And at the same time, I was being friendly with him because he was funny, and I just thought, "Okay.
This is a unique pairing, fine.
So" [chuckles.]
Who am I to judge? But it was just all very mysterious.
And Sarma didn't really tell us either what was going on.
So the mystery just It was all just mystery, that we're like, "Okay, we'll just go with this.
It's super weird.
" He was always very mysterious about who he was, what his occupation was.
He was involved in some sort of like black ops.
Stuff that's under the radar that nobody writes about that's kind of unofficial.
And he would never answer anything directly and made me almost feel like for my own protection, I shouldn't ask.
His computer was very password protected.
I would walk in, and he would hide something.
Or upon his laptop, it was like a seal that looked like it was a seal of the CIA or something, and he had to put in a passcode.
I walked in one time, and there was some drone footage that he had to review.
We referenced traveling, and being in various places, and he referred to having an assistant and a driver.
He would wear a Rolex.
I saw him in a Bentley at one point.
One time, we drove into Midtown, and he had me sit in the car.
He went into some building and then came out a while later, and he had like a little one of those tiny manila envelopes full of loose diamonds.
It was sort of implied that it came from some evidence locker.
I got the impression he was very wealthy.
I didn't ask him, "So, how much money do you have?" I tiptoed around the question to asking sort of what his career was, what did he do for a living, and then that's how I got the answer.
It was black ops.
And I tried to probe a little bit.
Uh, I said, "Do you mean like Blackwater?" And he said, "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's It's like that.
" [Bonnie.]
I kind of thought, like, "I don't wanna know too, too much about whatever they've got going on or him.
" But that was fine 'cause he didn't want to reveal too much, it seemed like, anyway.
One night at the bar, though, he said to me, "Bonnie, I just want to get out of the mud and blood.
" [Sarma.]
There was something he said once about, "I do what I do so people like you can sleep at night.
" Like in an almost superhero-ish, like, out in the middle of the night he'd go conquer the evil forces.
It was this underworld that he was connected to, and super elusive and, like, vague and, like, you know, confusing.
This idea that he had this background in the spy agencies or in the military, in and of itself is impossible to disprove, right? You can look up if he was in the army or something, but there's no, like, database where you can look up secret agents.
I did feel like I was in a relationship with him.
But he lived in Massachusetts.
He was sort of in and out.
I wouldn't hear from him for a couple of days.
And then he'd be back, and I'd be relieved to hear from him again.
But I was always confused and sort of trying to figure things out.
I don't remember the first time he asked me to give him cash, but at some point, he did.
He suddenly needed whatever it was, six thousand, ten thousand dollars.
Right away, he just needed it.
It was like life or death.
He had to have it.
I was It's my nature to be like, "Oh, yes.
Please, let me help.
" [laughs.]
I don't know.
So, um So, whatever it was, I gave him what he asked for.
Sarma is unbelievably generous.
When I was in university, Sarma was 14, so she came up to visit.
And in Montreal, there were a lot of young people who were quasi-homeless and on the street, and she was just giving money to everybody.
She was walking down the sidewalk, and she was so sort of taken by all these people in need.
And I had to say, "Sarma, you can't give money to every person.
" "We're out on Saturday night.
Give money to a few people.
" She was just really touched, I guess, by what she saw.
[somber music playing.]
I've known Sarma for about nine years because Leon's nine.
I watch everybody goes by.
I try to make eye contact with everybody.
One day, she went by and, like, our eyes connected and she smiled.
And I just did that, you know what I mean? And we started talking.
So she told me, you know, some things about herself, and I told her the reason why I was homeless.
From there, it just became a really good friendship.
Sarma started bringing around this man that she said she had met on the street, who kind of took a liking to Leon, her dog.
And so Anthony just kind of He would come by and hang out with Sarma in the garden.
They'd have lunch.
He ended up coming to one of our staff Thanksgivings.
I respect Sarma because she gets along with everybody.
She would put my stuff in her apartment.
Yeah, she would store my winter clothes, so I didn't have to have it all summer.
She put something into my heart that nobody else ever did.
- Yeah.
- [interviewer.]
What is that? I can't explain.
- [interviewer.]
- I just can't explain it.
Nobody can make me do that.
Don't ask me to try.
Some things got to be secret, right? The first time I saw Shane, he was slumped in a chair in her apartment.
I said my usual, "If you need me, don't hesitate to call me.
" And he stuck his fat head out and said, "She's got me.
That's why I'm here," and smiled at me.
Didn't introduce himself.
I left the apartment with, like, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, saying, "Who the fuck was that?" Nothing nice about him.
And that's where the red flag started popping up.
Friends of mine that worked over at the corporate office, he was over there more often, and they were so wary of him.
One time he called, and it was him, but the caller ID said, "Anthony Strangis.
" We had never heard that name before.
So we were kind of curious as to what it was.
Um, and we googled Anthony Strangis.
First thing that shows up is his mug shot.
So we learned that Shane Fox was not Shane Fox, and he was Anthony Strangis.
Other employees were talking about, you know, "He's shady.
He's been in jail.
" People were like looking into him.
They feared him.
They brought that information up to Sarma, and she just either didn't want to hear it or dismissed it.
I didn't really understand.
And Sarma kind of gives us like a nothing story of, you know, "It's fine.
It's something that was in the past.
" There is a part of you that's like, "Okay, you know, people make mistakes.
" "I don't really know the story.
I don't know what happened.
" Maybe this is why he came to New York, to help, you know, move past whatever had taken place before.
There was some arrest record with his real name and a mug shot that somebody sent to me.
I think I was alarmed at first, and then he explained to me that he had had various identities, and had multiple identities based on whatever he did.
He had some situation that had happened in Florida that he was trying to get sorted out.
Did you, from then on, did you call him Anthony or Shane? Or how did things change? You know, originally, I knew him as Shane.
So I kind of thought of him as that that way, more often.
Jim and myself were, you know, trying to allude that, you know, you have support.
Like, you know, if you need us to come and talk to us, we can help you in any way, shape, or form.
But, um, we were kind of in the dark about what was going on with them too.
I think after a few months, I got frustrated and angry and felt like I was no longer in a relationship with him, or at least from my perspective.
I don't know whether I was confused or angry or what, but I was just sort of fed up with all the confusion.
I said to myself, like, "Ugh, that's it.
" You know, "I'm not letting him come back.
I'm not gonna see him again.
" I had gone to my mother's in New Hampshire for a while.
I wasn't feeling well, and she had to go somewhere, and I was going to be alone there.
I'm fine walking down a city street at night by myself, but in the country when there's nobody around, I'm absolutely terrified.
He was offering to come and stay with me, and get me and Leon, and bring us back to New York.
And so, I was like [sighs.]
I don't wanna, you know, restart this thing, but, like [groans.]
it'd be great to have somebody offering to drive me back.
So, like, "Fine, okay.
" Um, and his father drove us back from New Hampshire to New York.
I met his father who backed up everything that he said about himself, which was reassuring.
And then he sort of was able to kind of pull me back in again.
I just remember feeling like he understood me, which meant a lot.
I feel like he understood I was trying to grow this business and this brand that I believed in with all my heart, and this meant everything to me, and I had to overcome all of these things.
And so, it was hard to push that away.
[ominous music playing.]
I feel like there were a few times here and there where I would get a feeling like this is what was meant to be happening.
He wanted me to come meet him at Tiffany's one day.
And it was like the very exclusive floor where they bring you champagne.
He had me try on a couple of rings.
He had me try on a ring that cost 800,000 dollars.
This salesperson is treating us like royalty and taking us around.
And like, "What do you like here?" And I'm like, "Why are we here?" And he's like, "Tell me what you like in here.
" Tiffany's is not that far away from the St.
I just knew the King Cole Bar to be a nice place.
So we went there to have a drink.
Suddenly, it was like I felt something in my heart.
So I had this sort of moment of feeling like I loved him.
So I said that.
He'd always want me to remember that feeling going forward.
So that's why subsequently he would always say to me, "Remember how you felt at the King Cole Bar.
" And then he started having us look at houses to buy.
He has me looking at entire townhouses, and in particular, there was one on 15th Street, just two blocks south of the restaurant.
The completely gut renovation townhouse, I think it was listed at 15 million dollars.
Just so happened the broker was the same one who had sold Alec his apartment on 10th Street, which was like, "Oh, here we go again, another odd connection.
" He showed something or assured the broker that, you know, he had all the funds.
He told me that he had money in various countries stashed away.
his biggest client ever, and that we were gonna be buying buildings and, like, a property upstate.
He said, "Let's make an offer.
" And then he set us up with some private bankers at Barclays.
We show up.
There's this big fancy conference room.
They're offering us all kinds of things.
He's some high-roller client that they're just dying to get.
So we had a contract that we were going back and forth with the real estate attorney on, you know, contract points.
But then, after a while, the funds never materialized.
He said that there's some issues, and for him to get that money, it was gonna take longer than he thought, so we didn't get that townhouse.
At that point, I was kind of generally exhausted from years of feeling like I was going through all kinds of struggles on my own.
And I didn't have a business partner.
I was in this position of having an enormous amount of debt.
I just wanted kind of out from under all of that.
I completely fallen off of any regular payment schedule with Jeffrey.
So I was like, every once in a while, bringing him a check for, like, ten grand, you know, when I could.
Jeffrey was supportive of whatever I was doing, and what I wanted to do, and I just always wanted him to be proud of me.
I didn't ever want to disappoint him in any way.
If she said to me, "I don't have the money because of x, y, z," and it made sense, I believed her, and I trusted her.
Anthony would tell me that that two-million-dollar debt that I'd taken on to buy the restaurant, that's nothing.
He'd just take care of that, make that go away.
So he would be there with me and help, you know, support me to do all the things I wanted to do.
You know, I would be protected, at least in one significant way, financially.
And I remember thinking that would be like some sort of dream come true.
I remember asking the accountant, "Would he be able to just give me that money?" "Or would that be taxable, and how could we do that?" And, um, he sort of jokingly but half-seriously said, "You should just marry him.
" "And then he can give you the money without it being taxable situation.
" Very quickly, in the next day, we went and got the license.
You have to wait 24 hours.
Like, boom, twenty-four hours, we did it and got married.
We got married in November of 2012.
So it was close to a year that I had known him.
There was a little not a ceremony, but we had to hire somebody to do it, and it was in Tompkins Square Park.
It was a rainy day, and we were under our umbrellas.
That felt a bit romantic getting married because it just I don't know.
It's hard not to.
And the woman who married us, her little talk that she gave was incredibly sweet and romantic.
And so I sort of felt in the moment.
Sarma chitchated me.
She was like, "Hey, I'm coming to LA.
" I picked her up from the airport.
She gets in.
We're laughing.
And on the way home, she, like, shows me her wedding ring.
She's like, "I got married.
" And I was like, "Oh my God.
" I, I mean, I had no idea.
And then she goes on to say how she met this guy, and he's very cool.
Um And then she says, "I haven't told anyone at the restaurant yet.
" And it makes me go like, "What? Why?" Like, wha If you're with someone, and you agree to get married to them, don't you want essentially the people that care about you to know? It was very specific.
She never told me she was getting married.
It was like a non-event.
It was kind of You might think it's peculiar, but, you know, it's like Yeah, there's no celebration.
I thought, "Damn, you could do better than that, you know.
" One night, I was at the restaurant, and Shane texted me that they had gotten married.
And it sounded romantic.
And on one level, I'm like, "Well, he sounds excited.
" [sighs.]
And I want to be.
But all along, it had been like, "Sarma, what's You're not What is happening?" So I think I texted her because I wanted to confirm this, and she confirmed it with zero excitement.
She had this awesome ring.
I think it's on her book cover, this ring that I loved that had all these dangling things.
It was Latvian.
She's Latvian.
And I always complimented her on it.
And then one day, I noticed she had it on her ring finger at the restaurant, and I sort of kiddingly I was hoping I was kidding, but kind of knew that I wasn't, and I said, "Oh, did you put that ring there to distract from your wedding ring?" And she was like, "Yes.
" As a couple, they weren't really like a couple, you know? Like they never, like, held hands.
They weren't really affectionate.
What? Like, you guys got married? Like, it was like a big, like, surprise for everybody.
It didn't feel like a love story.
It was just, you know, kind of weird.
There were tons of conspiracy theories about why she married him, was there some sort of blackmail involved, or what it could possibly be.
He told me that he had some sort of like underground government official military affiliation.
So that now, I would be, like, protected as his wife.
So at some point, he, via email, introduced me to somebody named Will Richards, some sort of computer techie expert that works in the government somewhere in Europe.
Shane and I were working together for years.
There's a lot that I can't divulge.
I was involved in making sure that Sarma didn't go off the rails.
[theme music playing.]

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