The Dallas duo launched the film's Web site, 30kMillionaires.com, on February 1, 2006. By the end of the month, their site had garnered nearly 40,000 hits and e-mails were pouring in from around the country and across the globe. Alongside woeful confessional letters from self-professed $30,000 millionaires, Gormley found e-mails of interest or Web hits from Warner Bros. and Fox's comedy development department. Investors were wrangled. Money was promised. And then, nothing. Bigger projects came up, and $30,000 Millionaires was pushed to the backburner.
Today, the film is in limbo. But passion for the $30,000 millionaire remains strong, evidenced by the continuing popularity of Gormley and Venable's Web site and the e-mails they still receive. If anyone can take credit for popularizing, if not originating, the term "$30,000 millionaire," it's these two.
"After I wrote that script and launched that Web site two years ago, it took off," Gormley says. His knowledge and understanding of these financially challenged creatures is unparalleled. He owns what is probably the world's largest archive of writings collected directly from Homo sapiens douchebagus, amassed in an e-mail folder on his personal computer.
Their words are heartbreaking: "Credit is my middle name," one laments, and "the only girls I can't get are the good ones that see through my façade." Another describes "meeting friends for drinks and watching half of them bail for the bathroom or taking a call when the check comes to the table."
With my notebook poised, I become his dutiful student, drinking in years of close study and accumulated knowledge.
"Dallas is the Los Angeles of the South," Gormley lectures, the kind of place where "we drive everywhere to get anywhere." Unlike Los Angeles, however, "there are only two things to do: dine out and shop." With little local history other than the dubious honor of being the site of the Kennedy assassination, Dallas doesn't have the cultural draw of cities such as Chicago or New York or the geographical features that make Miami and Denver destinations. "There's not a family somewhere sitting around a table, holding hands, saying, 'Honey, it's Dallas or San Francisco for vacation this year, where do you want to go?'" Gormley says. (Naysayers who cite Dallas' art museum and gallery culture in order to contradict Gormley are addressed in $30,000 Millionaires directly: In the deserted arts district, a character says, "you could shoot someone in broad daylight and never spend a day in jail.")
The result is a city full of wannabes. There are enough real moneyed folk—North ranks sixth in the nation in number of millionaires—tooling around in Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to drive the image-obsessed to financial extremes to fit in. The recent openings of luxury hotels such as the W and the Ritz-Carlton only further Dallasites' reputation as connoisseurs of pre-fabricated symbols of wealth. Our culture is no culture, or, our culture is shiny objects.
The No. 1 thing to look out for, Gormley tells me, is the car. "A BMW 3 series." The cheapest luxury lease you could get. "It's always a 3 series."
As I prepare to enter the field, however, Gormley gives me a dark bit of advice: "The guys who are $30,000 millionaires," he warns, "don't know that they're $30,000 millionaires."
I am intrigued and undeterred. Bigfoot may not know he is Bigfoot, but that doesn't mean he won't leave tracks in the woods.
Time: 1:15 a.m. Friday
Location: The W Hotel's Living Room Bar
Research team members: Jay Gormley, John Venable, self
Target: Gormley spots four potential Homo sapiens douchebagus drinking vodka tonics in button-down shirts and whisker-washed jeans
Suspicious behavior: Unnecessary amounts of hair gel.
I approach confidently, unknowingly exuding threatening levels of sass. I peek my head into their circle and muster up all the sugary-sweetness I have. "Hey, guys, can I ask you a question?"
The alpha male, sunglasses perched on his forehead, sizes me up. "What's up, babe?"
"Have you guys ever heard the term '$30,000 millionaire'?"
I watch as the guys catch each others' eyes.
"Yeah, man, they're all over this place!" the one in the striped shirt says.
"This place is packed with them," another assures me, leaning in and assaulting my olfactory nerves with cologne.
"Do you guys know any?" I ask, looking from the loafers to button-down to hair gel on each one.
The alpha male simply shakes his head.
Results: Inconclusive. Subjects familiar with species. Possible specimens based on attire, over-application of artificial scent and use of term "babe" for an unfamiliar female. Reluctance to continue conversation could be construed as an admission of guilt or merely as plain dislike for this researcher. Does Homo sapiens douchebagus fear sass?