How about that Sarma Melngailis, eh? Cracker influencer, restaurant mogul and raw vegan Qween of Alec Baldwin’s friendzone, that lady had it made. Hard to imagine then that she would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory so spectacularly and all over some dumb guy. Those are the bare bones of Netflix’s ‘Bad Vegan. Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.’ though as you can imagine there’s an awful lot of meat to be gnawed at around those bones and the devil is very much in the detail. Strap yourself in, this one is quite a ride.
It is worthwhile first of all placing Bad Vegan in its programming context. The all-consuming nothing that is Netflix’s original content strategy is a voracious beast indeed. It chews up subjects and pukes out content like MMA punchbag Greg Hardy chews up girlfriends and pukes out domestic violence warrants. The latest trope they have glommed onto is the charismatic conman pulling off the Long Grift. It is one we know well. The Puppet Master had Robert Hendy-Freegard chasing imbecile agriculture students up and down the UK, punching them in the mush, convincing them to cough up life-ending sums of cash to protect them from the IRA who were at that time on an 18-month ceasefire; Inventing Anna showed hobnobbing arse cakes taken in by sociopath social climber Anna Delvey and we swooned as hopeless romantic Simon Leviev constructed his devilish Ponzi scheme on unwitting low-key golddiggers on The Tinder Swindler. They all made for spectacular television. If Netflix were pulling a long con then we were and remain its willing rubes. And here comes another one just like the other one.
Strangis in the night
We meet the real hero of Bad Vegan, Anthony Strangis early on and he’s a real charmer. He is taped on a phone call to Sarma Melngailis after proverbial shit has hit rhetorical fan. Anthony is rather concerned about the documentary being made about them. He’s keen to let Sarma know that he’s “not someone to be fucked with” and that he would be very reluctant to deal with any journalist, particularly “that Vanity Fair cocksucker”. The Vanity Fair cocksucker in question (and hereafter referred to as VFC) is Allen Salkin. He has quite a few thoughts on Strangis and Melngailis which we will get to. For now though, our moment permits us but one question: what have we learned from any of this? Well, it’s funny you should ask.
LESSON 1: Idealism is okay, actually
One of the heartwarming things in the early skirmishes of Bad Vegan is that the employees of her New York spot Pure Food and Wine kind of liked the joint and kind of liked Sarma.
“Sarma was really genuine. We used to call her ‘the Sarmama.’” says Joey Repice, beverage director. “Overall, outside of what happened, it was such a great environment to work in.”
I realise that ‘outside of what happened’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting here but still, as designer of Sarma’s fast food concept One Lucky Duck Andrew Elliott says “If none of this had happened, we’d probably still be working there.”
LESSON 2: Celebrity endorsement ≠ safe bet
Look at the beautiful ones swarm around the honeypot of ethical food beautifully presented. Owen Wilson was a regular at Pure Food and Wine, walking barefoot through the kitchen like a little bitch as if he’d never heard of health and safety regulations. In between fending off attempts by Leonardo DiCapreteen to woo her back, bra-and-pants model Gisele was a regular attendee along with husbland Tom Brady who apparently is some kind of big deal over there. Even Slick Willie Clinton dropped by to kiss the ring and pledge fealty. None of these co-signs from the great and the good could save Sarma from herself and her shit brain.
LESSON 3: Chad don’t got no love
As a high-ranking Stacey, it was inevitable that Sarma would eventually meet her Chad. He manifested in the human form as Matthew Kenney, chiselled jaw raw vegan magnate, owner of 47 restaurants, one culinary school and one TEDx talk. Matthew could have his pick of the New York society hotties but he opted for Sarma, his simpatico plant-based cohort as his Queen. As the reigning vegan power couple, they spent their courtship catching blessings like Ricky Ponting catches sloppy hits from tailenders. As time went on though cracks began to show, spidery hairline cracks like those in a charity shop novelty mug. It became increasingly clear that Matthew was not the Prince Charming he first appeared.
Allen Salkin, VFC, says “Sarma was careful with money, Matthew much less so. 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.”
Oh Sarma! When will you realise that Chad is a scoundrel? When? WHEN??
LESSON 5: Alec Baldwin is worthless
It could have all been so very different. We all have those Sliding Doors moments in our lives. What if I never went to that party, say I didn’t attend that conference, how about if I never killed that hooker – what might the alternative timeline look like? What if Sarma had responded to Alec Baldwin’s overtures rather than waiting for the better bet she not unreasonably assumed was around the corner? VFC Salkin explains “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.”
The end zone was open for Sarma but she fumbled the ball, crashed onto the pitch and watched in tears as he met his fake Spanish wife right in front of her – IN HER FRIGGING RESTAURANT. Let’s put the blame where it needs to be, at the feet of Hollyweird incel Alec Baldwin and his hideous ineptitude at macking the dames. Sources suggest that problematic love skunk Louis C.K. got somewhat further with Ms Melngailis throwing Baldwin’s failure into even sharper focus.
LESSON 6: All women take the dog pill
Ladies – am I right? Ain’t a dog more reliable than a man? Who wouldn’t take a hound dog over a horndog? Can I get an amen? No? Well, screw you buddy because I’m quite confident I’ve already got one from Sarma. Her relationship with her rescue pitbull Leon is one of the truly inspiring in the history of human-dog relations. I’m talking Bernie Winters and Schnorbitz, Bob Carolgees and Spit, Hitler and Blondi. Bad Vegan features beaucoup photos of Sarma cuddling Leon in bed. Has she taken the dog pill?
VFC Allen confirms it: “This is probably the great romance of Sarma’s life, Leon.”
As Tim Nice-But-Dim said when he was introduced to a paediatrician, “can’t say I approve but I admire your honesty”.
LESSON 7: Big isn’t better
But what about her human dating choices? Sarma alludes to wanting a Big from Sex And The City type – an alpha male financier, rich as Croesus, virtuous as Jesus. We are talking about the kind of guy who would sweep her off her Manolos and into a world of private jets, St Tropez getaways and Saint Barthélemy better days. You could argue that Sarma got her wish with Anthony Strangis as TV’s Big is allegedly a psychopath in real life. Careful what you wish for, Carrie.
LESSON 8: NO ONE is in black ops
Black ops by their nature tend to be operated very much on the DL. As with your gomie boy mate who forwarded that text from the guy who handed a Muslamic the wallet he had dropped and got tipped off on the next 9/11, it seems unlikely that real-life black ops operatives open with it on a first date. Granted, this doesn’t even make the Top 10 of Spectacularly Dumb Shit that Sarma swallowed but it’s definitely something you want to take on board. People who are in black ops shut the fuck up about it unless they are called Andy McNab or Jack Reacher.
LESSON 9: The sleep of reason
How many times must The Savage say it? When will you people learn? Disgusting hippy communist new-age idiocy will always end in calamity. For those of us in the vegan community, this is an uncomfortable truth, one that VFC Allen mercilessly drills home “That world that she’s in, a vegan’s, is also a world full of people who believe in New Age mysticism, palm reading, crystals.”
You probably think your dabbling in cruddy mysticism is a bit of harmless fun. You are as woefully mistaken as Russell Brand when he thinks “this is a really good take” every time he makes a YouTube video. If Sarma had listened to The Savage then none of this would ever have happened. She’d be chillin’ like a villain on her private island today.
LESSON 10: What’s immortal in dog years?
The pet cemetery is filled with the bodies of arrogant dogs who thought they could live forever. How they mocked God with their hubris only to be brought low, extinguished from existence, their lives ended with a bout of distemper, respiratory disease or dog AIDS. Reckless mutts these, one by one they tried to tangle with the Fates and wound up with nothing but a bowlful of broken dreams, a cauliflower arse and a face full of cum.
So when Anthony Strangis approaches you, tells you that he is immortal and that he can make your dog Leon immortal do what any non-deranged narcissist would do and GTFO with the quickness.
LESSON 11: It’s not a family affair
You know how it is when you meet someone special and the big question comes up: ‘when do I introduce them to the family?’ Well imagine how much more taxing that question is when the family in question comprises an ethereal set of judges watching your every move, setting you a series of tasks to see if your soul is in alignment with theirs (tasks that invariably seem to involve wiring your husbland $100,000) so that they can pass you into a new state of being where you become the superpower. The answer is very mein freund but Sarma was ready to accept that responsibility like a boss. In her journal at the time, she writes “I do believe deep down and maybe I always have that (I) am meant to be a compassionate Queen.”
LESSON 12: If he fat, don’t hit that
It’s definitely true that at this stage we’ve already seen more red flags than a matador convention but let’s add one more to the pile. Strangis turned himself into a fat tub of blubber and shit by consuming industrial quantities of tuna mayonnaise sandwiches. Was that perhaps because he is a greedy fraud, a grifting slob, a swindling draggletail? Not even a bit of it. This, he told Sarma, was a test set by the Family because she would so be disgusted by him it would be difficult for her to continue. Much like Francis Ford Coppola facepalming when Marlon Brando showed up to the Apocalypse Now shoot 7000 lbs overweight, Sarma had to make the best of a bad hand although tragically she didn’t have the option of filming him mostly in shadows from flattering angles and then decapitating Dennis Hopper.
LESSON 13: Sunk cost fallacy: hell of a drug
We’ve been here before but I’ma break it down like this. Throwing good money after bad is a natural human instinct. The sunk cost fallacy is a cognitive bias common to us all. Sarma sums it up quite succinctly. “Because he’d already gotten so much money out of me that to decide suddenly that he’s completely full of shit… would be to accept the loss and kind of give up on this happily-ever-after fantasy that he was still selling me.”
Let’s hope this is the lesson that someone out there learns before it’s too late because between 2012 and 2014 Sarma sent $1.7 million to her shithead partner. Que vida.
LESSON 14: When it stops being fun, stop
So what was Strangis doing with all these millions sent to him by Sarma? Stacking mad paper for a rainy day? Investing in real estate? Pumping capital back into the con, Tinder Swindler-style? None of the above. He was in fact pissing it up a rope at a succession of high-end tables and slot machines in casinos dotted around America.
“Sometimes, he played with three slot machines and roulette at the same time,” his assistant Nazim says. If you know anything about gambling then you will know that slot machines and roulette have a house edge meaning that the longer you play more certain it is that you will lose and Strangis played for an awfully long time. Yes, he could con a pretty millionaire but he ran the biggest self-cuck in town ensuring that he could never benefit from any of it. What a doughnut.
LESSON 15: You can kill a baby with salt
You really can! It won’t even show up in the autopsy. Talk about a life hack. We learn this remarkable fact from Stacey Strangis, Anthony’s ex-wife who learned it from Anthony himself. She had a baby with Anthony at the time making this the kind of statement that would make you move all condiments out of reach of even the most determined fat lad. Yeah, killing babies sounds bad but meat-eaters do it all the time and apparently they’re all great so yeah.
LESSON 16: It’s all about the money
It’s reasonable enough when watching Bad Vegan to feel some sympathy for Sarma. Much like Brett in Pulp Fiction, she started out with the best of intentions and things just got out of control. But let us never forget that con men can’t exist without greedy idiots and that as VFC Allen points out “unlimited riches, immortality and power” was the ultimate endgame for Sarma. The weird psychic Ponzi scheme that Strangis dreamed up appealed to her for a reason. As associates and family members have suggested, the marriage was more a financial arrangement than anything else. VFC wonders out loud about her hoping Strangis would pay off all her debts “What if, in fact, Sarma thought she was running a scam on him originally?”
LESSON 17: Stay off the Gram
While her workers were doing 29-hour shifts, eating from dumpsters and washing in discarded spaghetti water, Sarma was keen to keep her immaculate image on-brand on social media. An in-on-the-ground-floor employee recalls “all you get are glimpses of their lives on Instagram. Sarma starts posting all these photos in Europe and travelling all around.”
If you’re going to shtup your employees over maybe don’t post your jet-set lifestyle on Instagram at the same time.
LESSON 18: Don’t give out passwords
Another way Anthony was able to control Sarma so effectively was because he posed as his own Internet security guy in about 70,000 online conversations with her. He was able to do this because she gave him all her passwords. Anything that went through her email account, Strangis had access to, giving him a vital heads-up on any thoughts, doubts and misgivings she may have had. Increasingly, the definitive lesson on how to be a master con man seems to be “get you a girl who approaches critical thinking the way Ryan Giggs approaches fidelity”.
LESSON 19: There are no angels in hell
When dealing with the thorny issue of how culpable he (and by extension Sarma) might be in the whole charade Brother Nazim tells us “there are no angels in hell”. We’ll have to take his word on that but the general point is well made. It’s all well and good setting fire to other people’s money to get your dog eternal life but ultimately there is going to be a reckoning. VFC plays hardball on this one: “It’s hard to square that last sort of round of calls and meetings with investors and the sort of final extraction of money with the idea that Sarma was innocent, you know.”
He stops short of calling her a lying sack of shit but not by a large distance.
LESSON 20: Everyone loves a vegan downfall
The glee expressed around the world when this story broke was of a kind usually reserved for the safe return of cosmonauts, the end of a World War or Mandela being freed. “HA! I knew it!” the cry went up “They’re all like this. I can go back to killing and eating babies with a clear conscience.” Because when it comes to accountability when one of our team fuck up they’re punished twice: once for the crime, once for being vegan. You do you my cucknivore friends, but just be aware: we see you.
LESSON 21: Don’t date on Twitter
It isn’t anything like having a smitten Hollywood friend is a bad idea or that well-connected folk can’t introduce you to some interesting people – never that. It’s just that Alec Baldwin’s judgement is so fundamentally flawed in so many ways on so many issues that using his casual adoption of a Twitter account as social proof of a good dude to throw your millions at must be ultimately seen what it is: the Garden of Eden original sin that started this whole train wreck in motion. At its absolute best, Twitter is a cesspool and if that’s where you’re doing your fishing then those waters are brackish indeed.
LESSON 22: Raw’s a bore
I’ll tell you this much, brethren. Whenever something shady is going on in the vegan sphere, five’ll get you ten it originated among raw vegans. Because for whatever reason those mother grabbers attract cranks like Leonardo DiCapreteen attracts girls unable to legally drink. Cast iron wackjobs, punks and skunks Virpi Mikkonen, Raw Alignment, Rawvana, Stella Ray, Freelee The Banana Girl, Fully Raw Kristina, Tim Shieff, KasumiKriss, Moon and Rock, all came from raw veganism. A training ground for the worst people on the planet? You said that, not me.
LESSON 23: That said, the menu was fire
It really is. Check out this 2014 offer.
“Your $65 Prix-Fixe Lunch Or Brunch For Two (a $110 Value) includes:
First Course: Caesar Salad, Mediterranean Salad OR Tuscan Kale & Radicchio Salad (one per person).
Second Course: Brazil Nut Sea Vegetable Croquettes, Tortilla Wraps OR Zucchini & Tomato Lasagna (one per person).
Third Course: Tiramisu Triangle, Lemon Bar OR Mallomar (one per person).
Drinks: Four glasses of Prosecco, Mimosas, Mojitos OR one pitcher of Sangria (to share).”
Like I don’t know from fine dining but I’d let a broad take me out to that. WHAT?
LESSON 24: Fat Tony has no chill
I’m not gonna lie guys, I was a big fan of Sarma’s homeless friend Fat Tony. He spoke from the heart, called a spade a spade and was arguably her staunchest defender. When asked what he would have done differently having known the truth about Strangis he responds “I would have stuffed that fat bastard in a garbage bag. Put him in a river.”
I’m not saying that’s right but I refuse to be drawn on exactly how wrong it is. Know what I’m saying?
LESSON 25: Prison activism is legit
After a bit of time on remand in Rikers Island, Sarma arrives at her release date. Right before she leaves she convinces the guard to eat less meat. After everything she’d been through, she still had her eyes on the prize. This is where she became a True Qween. Finally.
Look mates, it’s a queer old world we live in but it’s the only one we’ve got to be going on with so let’s try and wrap this up with a forward-looking positive message. I don’t know from personal growth, I just know that when your borefriend gives you a fake name and a Google of their real name shows a mugshot of a con artist, you get to scarpering faster than Boris Johnson when one of his side chicks emails him an ultrasound.
And I don’t know from heeding sound counsel but when all around you are telling you to ditch the turd, you cock a deaf ‘un at your peril.
And I can’t tell you a goddamn thing about metaphysics but when that weird Game of Thrones House of the Undying club you’re trying to get access to keeps demanding you purchase $20 chips from the Foxwoods Casino in bulk sent directly to your fat banger of a husbland, it’s time to stick a fork in that scrote because he’s done.
Take it easy. 🙏🏻