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Another ‘Crazy’ Story

Some stories, and stores, never die. In the consumer electronics industry, the departed New York metro area chain Crazy Eddie is one of those.

TWICE’s founding editor Bob Gerson got an email from a TWICE alum George Mannes who saw a column in the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column by Richard Johnson with the blaring headline “H’wood Hot For Crazy Eddie.”

According to the story, Danny DeVito and his production company Jersey Films, along with a few other producers, are “hot” for the story after seeing founder Eddie Antar be confronted by his cousin, Sam Antar, on CNBC recently.

Here’s a quick quote attributed to Sam Antar in the Page Six piece that comes from CNBC but sounds like something out of “The Sopranos.”

“You brought us up to be crooks, Eddie. Everything I became came from you, Eddie,” Sam — the company’s chief financial officer, who hadn’t spoken to Eddie in 20 years — told his cousin.

“Now I don’t blame myself, but everything I became I learned from you,” Sam said. “Don’t try to control the topic of conversation. You’re not a big [bleep] anymore, Eddie. You’re a two-bit thug just like I am. So stop playing games.”

The last time I wrote anything about the man and the Crazy Eddie name was in 2001 when Eddie was involved with a Web site of the same name, which seems to have disappeared from the Web. Five years later we reported that the Crazy Eddie trademark was sold on eBay.

Crazy Eddie seemed to dominate the New York metro area market with 43 stores and $350 million in annual sales at its peak in the 1980s. The chain gained recognition thanks to a collection of grating TV and radio ads with the tagline “His prices are insaaaaaane!” which achieved cult status.

In TWICE’s first Consumer Electronics Retailer Top 100, in March 1987, Crazy Eddie ranked 14th nationwide, with 42 stores. Ranked at 13 was Federated Group and Macy’s was number 15.

Eddie Antar was charged with fraud and embezzlement in 1990 after stockholders lost $200 million. He became a fugitive for two years, but returned to custody and was convicted of stock fraud in 1993. The conviction was overturned in 1995, but he pleaded guilty rather than face another trial. Authorities found some $120 million held by Antar in foreign bank accounts, and he served six years in prison.

And I’m already prepared to get hit with plenty of negative e-mails on the blog because recently we covered the naming of a former top CE retail executive with a now-departed local chain who has become an “industry consultant” with a small manufacturer.

While this individual did not go to jail and was not charged with any crimes like Antar, the bridges he burned in leaving the business made one industry veteran email me complaining, “Why are you giving publicity to the likes of him! It’s like publicizing Crazy Eddie Antar!”

As I said, some stories never die.