Barbash’s character is called Ramona in the Hustlers movie, which comes out October 10, and she’s played by Jennifer Lopez. Constance Wu plays Keo’s character, Destiny.
Describing Barbash, Pressler said: “A single mother from the Bronx, she’d started dancing at 19, and, like an ornamental plant purposefully stunted to conform to a certain ideal, she’d been shaped by the industry in which she grew up. Her body was Jessica Rabbit curvy, her lips Angelina Jolie puffy; her hair, which concealed tattoos of a cascade of stars running down her neck, was Cleopatra black. Buried within this ultrafeminine package was a mercenary streak worthy of Gordon Gekko.”
Barbash was the ringleader of the whole con. “I would like to think Samantha was the CEO and I was the CFO,” Keo said to Pressler. The ruse involved a group of strip club workers luring Fortune 500 company owners, rappers and the like out for drinks, then slipping MDMA or ketamine into their cocktails. Once they were passed out, they’d steal their credit cards and max them out.
“What’s an extra $20,000 to them?” Keo said. “It wasn’t like we pulled them off the street…. They’d been to Hustler, they’d been to Rick’s, they’d been to Scores. They all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra one that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand—sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You know?”
Barbash tells another story, however.
She claims the men came to her because they wanted to get “f**ked up” on drugs and most would gladly hand over thousands for a wild night of partying.
“He spent $272,000 on the first day and about $130,000 on the second,” she revealed in an exclusive interview with Fabulous Digital about one particular client.
“He would pay the club and then they would split it up between us. So probably I think in two days, just from the club money, I made around $80,000.”
“But we would also get cash from him outside too – he would give us tips and also take us shopping.”
She claims she never touched anyone’s credit cards.
In the movie, the men they targeted were married guys who would be too scared of their wives finding out to ever query the bill, and Wall Street bankers who were capitalising on the financial crisis of the early 2000s, which is when it all went down.
“Robbing bankers because they robbed Wall Street or whatever—that never crossed my mind,” Barbash told The Sun UK. “What crossed my mind is I’m a single mom and I need to support my son.”
Again, Keo paints a different picture. “We’re just like, you know what, these people are fucking pissing me off. Just for that, I’m going to max out his credit card, like a penalty. You’re going to be left with a zero balance. Zero credit line. Just for being annoying. We needed to make it worth it,” she told Pressler.
Keo is supportive of the movie; she even went along to its Toronto International Film Festival premiere and posed alongside JLo, Pressler and the movie’s writer-director Lorene Scafaria.
Her only issue? How timid her character comes across. “That’s not me,” she told Oprah Magazine. “Sure, maybe the first day I was shy…you’re the new girl, but eventually you learn to at least pretend to be tough, because in there you’re going to get eaten alive if you don’t. I learned that works with the guys, but that doesn’t work in the dressing room.”
Barbash, who is not endorsing the film, plans to sue Hustlers production company, STX Entertainment. “It’s my story she’s making money off of,” Barbash told the New York Post. Talking about JLo, she said, “If she wants to play me, then she should have gotten the real story…. They’re going off a false story…. I was not a stripper. Everything—where [Lopez] is going on poles and stuff—that’s not me…. It’s defamation of character.”
Both Barbash and Keo have tell-all books coming out soon.
Barbash’s book, Underscore, tells of her biggest scores, such as the time she entertained a rapper, a $115,000 evening with a Wall Street client, and a late-night Christian Louboutin shopping spree.
Keo says of her book, The Sophisticated Hustler, “You’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cry, you’re gonna say, ‘Oh, sh-t,’”.