King of Coke: Living the High Life


King of Coke: Living the High Life

Tuesday 14th May 10pm on National Geographic

This is the story of Larry Levin, a studious and charming young man with his sights set on the big time glamour of dentistry. On the way he uses his charisma and attention to detail to accidentally almost become one of the most significant coke dealers of the 80’s.

Born into a successful middle class family, Levin was used to having money and nice stuff but this all changed when his Dad’s business went kaput and suddenly his family were more or less ostracised from the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle they had become used to and Larry had to fend for himself.

Winning a scholarship to an Ivy League college, Levin had no more than a 100 bucks in his pocket when he first rocked up to the privileged institution. Desperate for cash, he soon turned to hustling weed to maintain his existence and much more importantly, to fit in amongst the moneyed set of his new environment. Fortunately for him, his looks, charm and what can only be described as ‘coolness’ made it easy for him to establish himself as ‘the man’.

Then as the 70’s moved into to the 80’s and as the show puts it “long hair gave way to big hairâ€? marijuana was no longer the drug of choice for the fashion conscious and the old Bolivian marching powder came back into vogue.

Levin shifted into this higher gear effortlessly and by seeking out money motivated and attractive slicksters like himself he was able to build and run his rapidly growing Chang Dynasty and still be a dentist.

His life soon became a cliché of 80’s glamour. Full of pastel coloured suits, fast cars and busty ten foot blondes you could shake a Duran Duran at. Of course as you know from the mere existence of this doc, it all went very wrong very quickly.

King of Coke is a pretty standard old school documentary. Lots of interviews with the people involved with just a wee bit of dramatic reconstruction to help highlight certain situations.

It is also an engrossing subject, nearly 30 years on, the now middle aged Levin, talks about his success and downfall with a casual, almost aristocratic air. He clearly loves what he did and is unable to hide the pride he has in almost getting away with it.

It is this appealing arrogance on display that no doubt enabled him to make so much money without intimidation or violence in business that is drenched in blood and guts. It is also very much part of the hubris that meant he was always going to get caught.