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Is he the next Joe Granville? Is he the next Dan Dorfman? In the last 48 hours, I have been compared with both gentlemen, and I think it's about time I weighed in on who the heck I am and what I am doing on both my
radio shows as well as in my writings.
First, the comparison to Dan Dorfman came from an unflattering bit of research from the shop of Laszlo Birinyi. It's always disappointing when you read something under the name of someone you respect that links you with someone who was dismissed for ethical violations. For those of you not familiar with Dorfman's work, he used to come on
and dazzle us with takeover stories that might or might not be true. I always found him entertaining, but he was, I felt, a negative force, not a positive one, because his splashiest stuff was about who would buy whom and that's unknowable, at least legally.
Granville analogy comes closer to home, and appears closer, too, being from none other than our own Doug Kass. Having traded aggressively during the period that Joe Granville moved markets, I find myself momentarily flattered by the comparison -- except Joe turned out to be more one-trick than I thought. He couldn't reinvent himself, despite the pyrotechnics.
OK, now let's talk about me. First, I was a professional money manager, something that Dorfman wasn't. Did Granville run money? I don't even know.
Second, I made a ton of money, enough to be able to burn through piles of it to start this enterprise and still feed and house my family, which, believe me, is saying something.
I point these two out because Wednesday, Don Imus, a man I respect tremendously, said that what distinguished me from many of the pontificators out there is that I actually
it and I made a lot of money, which puts me in a different camp from many others who write and talk about the market.
But there are others who have made a lot of money who don't make the splash that I do and don't put on "the show," if you want to call it that.
To that, I plead absolutely and unequivocally guilty. A long time ago I decided that conventional reportage on business was just plain boring. I came from a sports and homicide reporting background -- inherently exciting, if not, alas, grim at times -- and I was taught that it was a cardinal sin to bore people. So, my credentials started in journalism, not money management. My formative and least tabloid portion of my journalism career came when I helped start
, a magazine dedicated to revealing the business behind the business of law. The success of that magazine, where I worked for three years, is what gave me a lot of the ideas I have now about writing and talking about the market. If you reveal the inner workings -- or if you are a traitor, to put it the way a lot of people did when I started -- then you have a rapt audience, one that seeks the real man behind the curtain.
For me, the need to entertain and the need to tell what really happens melded first into
and then "Mad Money," the television show.
I make no bones about the notion that I have become a televangelist for money. I believe it was needed, frankly. The fact that I am rigorous, Harvard-trained, whatever, just makes it a tad more novel than if a pure showman bit the heads off of toy bulls or hit the
sell sell sell
button or a button with a baby crying or a man falling out a window.
That's why, when anyone asks, I say that my shows are about educating, making money and entertaining. I believe that if you did any one of those three, you might have a moderately successful enterprise. For example, if you can help people make money instead of telling them how they
made money, which is what conventional business news is about, you'd probably do fine. If you could add education to it, success would pretty much be a given. But if you added entertainment, you might actually be able to reach people you wouldn't otherwise reach and have a following that goes beyond those who are hard-core.
That's where I believe I am right now. Do people get excited and whipped up at these things, like the live audience last night? Yes. But what you don't see is what happens after the show. I spend time with
person who attends, plenty of time, signing books, getting pictures taken and, most important, asking people what they like about the show.
In almost every case, the answer is the same: "You have helped me make money," or, "You have helped me take control of my money and make it grow."
Now, is it possible that these people are lying? I don't believe that you would come all the way out to the middle of nowhere -- which is where the studio is, in Englewood, N.J. -- if I lost you money. Is the audience self-selective, in that only the people who made money come? Sure, but then again, the truth is that you could fill the audience 10 times over every night for one of these gigs.
And is it true that we have had a great market? Aha, I've got you. We haven't. We have had, until 2006, nothing but fairly crummy markets from the time that I started on radio in 2001 to now. We have had only limited ways to make money, and we have had nothing but abstruse, hard-to-locate bull markets.
Again, I have made plenty of mistakes, but I admit them when I make them, which people like because they, too, make mistakes. Again, I get carried away at times, but I don't hide that, either.
The bottom line is that something is working, something people feel good about more than they do for others who are trying to do to programming. So, if you don't mind, I am just going to keep doing it and hope that I don't become Joe Granville, in that I stop making people money, or Dan Dorfman, who became so pressed for stories that I believe he had to compromise his own standards.
In the meantime, I love the repartee and discussion about the phenomenon that is "Mad Money." But I know that it is all very fragile at all times, and that if I stop picking good stocks and start picking bad ones, I will be consigned rather quickly to the dustbin
I educate and entertain.
James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for
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