Back to the Main Page

C A L I G U L A

Penthouse
Energy and
Technology
Systems




One of Bob Guccione’s numerous failed ventures was his quest to rescue humanity and civilization — through reinvested Caligula profits.

With no interest whatsoever in science, he founded a pop-science magazine called Omni for his girlfriend (later wife) Kathy Keeton, a sci-fi fan who also had some vague amateur interest in the sciences, though she seldom if ever kept up with the latest research. It is probable that she was unfamiliar with thermonuclear fusion until a chance meeting.

Thermonuclear fusion is what makes the stars burn. If we could replicate this process on earth, we would have, effectively, infinite fuel — infinite fuel, moreoever, that would be relatively clean and relatively safe. Of course, as you correctly imagine, the fusing atoms in the stars are held in place by gravity. In order to hold this unstable gaseous plasma in place we would need a machine as large as Jupiter. Yet in the wake of WWII there were experiments around the world by various physicists and labs to hold plasma in place by electromagnetism. To date not a single experiment has been a success. There is a momentary flash, but then it’s all over. While the various fusion reactors have revealed a great deal of interesting physics, they have not succeeded at the goal of releasing excess amounts of untapped energy. For the briefest introduction to the topic, please watch the video below.




How It Works: Fusion Power

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJZvFlo0iNs
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.
Yes, I know. This 16mm educational film is a bit on the old side, but it’s a good introduction nonetheless.


The governments of the world have been spending the past 70 years or so building larger and larger reactors, in the hope of achieving breakeven, at least. Here we can see two videos showing such machines.




The Tokamak — How the Universe Works

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlC1kHfODyk
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.





ITER — Tokamak: Fusion History in a Nutshell

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvISgdwMGRs
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.




Plasma physicist Robert William Bussard and his colleague Bruno Coppi had a different idea. Perhaps large was the wrong way to go, they thought. What if the needed ingredient was small? They wrote their papers and proposals, but governments had already committed their funds to the larger machines. Since the smaller Demountable Tokamak Fusion Core (DTFC), better known as the mini-tokamak or compact tokamak, would not require cash infusions of countless billions of dollars, perhaps, they thought, they could raise funds from private investors. Thus did they establish INESCO, the International Nuclear Energy Systems Company, an independent company.

Bussard had heard vaguely of Omni in passing but knew nothing about it until February 1980 when a friend introduced him to Kathy. She invited him to the office and then to the house, where Bob instantly said he’d like to invest in the company. Kathy and Bob soon enough commissioned K.C. Cole to interview Bussard for the January 1981 issue of Omni. This only increased the excitement. Though there were many bugs to iron out, Bussard was fairly confident that he would have a usable machine within a decade. Other physicists, including those at the DOE, were not convinced.



THIS WAS NOT COLD FUSION! Go to Google and type in “Guccione” along with the term “cold fusion” and you’ll get too many hits. Thermonuclear fusion requires temperatures in excess of 100,000,000° Centigrade, and that, by my definition, is not “cold.” “Cold Fusion,” a misnomer, actually, was the baby of Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann. Before they had a chance to get their paper peer reviewed, they were publicly attacked (by my least-favorite physicist in the world). If you’re interested in seeing a video about the quarrels, check out the “Nuclear Fusion Energy” episode on the Discovery Channel’s Phenomenon: The Lost Archives series, available here. (When it disappears from YouTube, download it.) The program is fascinating, but I don’t find it convincing. It comes across as slick propaganda and pandering rather than as a documentary about science. On the other hand, Arthur C. Clarke was interviewed on camera, and, as we see, he was cautiously positive about Pons/Fleischmann’s work. I would never dare naysay Arthur’s opinions. He was infinitely smarter than I am, and he was on nobody’s payroll. Anyway, I’m no expert. To prevent making an idiot of myself, I shan’t say more about the topic.

The mystery, of course, is how much Bob invested in Coppi/Bussard’s INESCO, Inc. (11077 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla CA 92037). We have little more than Bob’s press statements, in which he cited his favorite make-believe figure of $17,000,000. The best piece about this bizarre investment is “The Entrepreneurs: How Robert Bussard and Bruno Coppi founded INESCO to develop the RIGGATRON.” We know that the Riggs National Bank in Washington, DC, offered a line of credit and had a piece of the action. That’s why INESCO bestowed the name “RIGGATRON” upon the mini-tokamak. Who else was investing money? Was anybody else investing? I don’t know. Does anybody know the answers to these questions? If you know the answers, please contact me. Thanks!

Coppi and Bussard and their staff and did not look their gift horse in the mouth for the simple reason that there was no possibility of doing so, and no reason to suspect anything was wrong. It was not until years later that little bits and pieces of this story began to leak to the press. Had the INESCO folks known the details, they would surely have turned down the funds.

Bob had an evolving plan, you see. It was a wonderful, ingenious, foolproof plan:

(1)
Make enough money from Penthouse magazine to invest other people’s money in a movie via hiding profits in foreign accounts and claiming tax losses. (That much was already done. Yay.)

(2)
Make $100,000,000 clear profit on the movie, which will be enough to fund a casino in Atlantic City independently of organized crime (a first!).

(3)
Make enough money from the casino in Atlantic City to complete the investment in Coppi/Bussard’s INESCO laboratory.

(4)
When INESCO renders all other energy companies obsolete, become the most important and powerful person who ever lived.

Perfect plan. Foolproof. Failsafe. Flawless. Utterly ingenious. It couldn’t possibly go wrong.... Could it???

Well, there are over two years’s worth of delays in getting the movie released, and so before it can be shown to the public, construction on the casino grinds to a halt in late 1979. No matter, though. The movie will eventually be released, somewhere, somehow — and it is released, to a single screen, on Friday, 1 February 1980. Hooray! First problem: What if the Christian fundies make it impossible for the movie to get shown too much more widely than that? Impossible, you surely think, for the fundies are no match for Bob, right? Well, it happened! The movie played in a goodly number of specialty houses, but it never went into general release in the US, and it barely touched the Bible Belt. Worse, a number of cinemas that played it were forced to stop, which served to caution other cinema programmers against the film. That had been a distinct possibility that immediately became a reality.

The delays and release problems, though, hardly matter a whit, for Bob has a backup plan! He’s really been hedging his bets, you see. He would have Sheikh Kabir Abdul Rahman and Emir Yassir Habib invest their endless oil millions in the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel & Casino in return for part of the action. After all, they came to him; he didn’t go to them. So somebody’s interested, unquestionably. But wait! To get plans approved for an Atlantic City casino, one needs to cozy up to the New Jersey Democrats, who are all Mafia puppets happily on the take. No prob, because the Mafia-controlled Democrats in NJ are all protected by Mafia-controlled Jimmy Carter. See? Like we said: No prob, right? Perfectly safe. All it takes to make the necessary connections is a little help from a friend. In this case the friend is Vegas casino graduate Tony Torcasio, who it turns out accepted Bob’s job offer only so that he could skim off the top:

Torcasio... described various ways he could skim huge sums of money off the casino without Guccione being aware of it. Earlier, Errichetti had told Weinberg and Amoroso that if Abdul financed the Guccione casino, Torcasio had promised to skim the weekly profit and split it with the three of them. Torcasio now added some substance to the promise. He said, “I never lie to my friends. When we break bread, hear, you guys will never have to work... if you come up to me and say... we gotta have $80,000 taken off... it’ll be there. You know what that is? Eighty thousand without any taxes!” [Green, The Sting Man, p. 152]

Second problem: What if the bribes that Rahman and Yassir demand are not forthcoming because Bob doesn’t want to get busted for paying bribes? Well, simple: Con-artist-turned-FBI-operative Melvin Weinberg tells Bob that Rahman and Yassir said “No,” they won’t invest in the Penthouse casino after all — not safe enough, they say. And what if Sheikh Kabir Abdul Rahman is really FBI agent Mike Denehy, and what if Emir Yassir Habib is really FBI agent Richard Farhardt? Well, so much for that idea.

Yet, while all that is going on, Bob proves that he’s really clever, because he has yet another contingency plan: Carl Rizzo is eager to invest his $$$$$$$. Yippeeeeee! What Bob doesn’t seem to understand is that Carl Rizzo is part of Buffalo’s Maggadino crime family, and that he works closely with New Jersey’s DeCavalcante crime family, which controls all the proposed casinos for Meyer Lansky. Anyway, great! Carl wants to invest in the Penthouse casino. Easy money. Simple, yes? Oh, and don’t forget Bob’s old buddy Chuck Anderson, Jr. Hold on, though. Does Bob know that Chuck’s cousin is Nino Gaggi, a caporegime of the Gambino crime family? Oh well, doesn’t matter, does it? Chuck can help, yes? Of course! After all, he’s on staff as Bob’s right-hand man, negotiating real-estate deals for the casino. Third problem: Uh-oh, Chuck’s presence just makes the FBI even more suspicious, and it doesn’t help that the FBI knows full well that Chuck is pimping the Penthouse Pets to high-class clients. Worse, the FBI has now discovered that Gaggi ordered Chuck to offer his help only in order to get the Penthouse casino limousine contract. Then wait, what’s this? Fourth problem: Carl Rizzo, siphoning startup funds through convicted heroin dealer John “Curly” Montana and New York Yankees tax lawyer Daniel R. McCarthy in Ohio, suddenly vanishes. What happened? We all wonder, and then a month later his decomposed corpse is discovered in the trunk of a car. He had been garrotted, which is a pretty miserable way to go. Ooooooooo. There goes that funding.

Well, there’s still Chuck to help out in a pinch. Fifth problem: Uh-oh, cousin Nino is tired of Chuck chatting with the FBI and commissions his buddies carefully to place a bullet inside Chuck’s chest. This is 1983. Times are desperate. INESCO attempts to go public. Sixth problem: Nobody’s interested in buying shares. Bob discovers he can no longer afford to fund INESCO.

Is there still hope? Yes, just a rapidly fading glimmer, but then the unthinkable happens. Seventh problem: The Christian fundies, who backed Wasserman/Mafia choice Ronald Reagan under pain of eternal hellfire, in return for their loyalty insist that skin mags including Penthouse be pulled from corner stores and newsstands. (Omni was pulled too — guilt by association, you see.) So late in the summer of 1986 gross income “declined” from over $150,000,000/year to something close to zero. Overnight. Well, that’s the end of the RIGGATRON, huh?


Would it ever have occurred to you that this monstrous unfinished steel skeleton
and the two gutted hotels are possibly the reason we now have an oil crisis?
Funny how the world works, isn’t it?


You don’t believe this story, do you? Here are some citations:

MuckRock FOIA Files.
Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci, Murder Machine: A True Story of Murder, Madness, and the Mafia (NY: Onyx, 1993).
Jack O’Brian, “ Voice of Broadway,” Monroe [Louisiana] News-Star, Wednesday, 26 October 1977, p. 3-C.
Jonathan Marshall, Parapolitics/USA, no. 6, 31 March 1982.
Robert W. Green, The Sting Man: Inside ABSCAM (NY: E.P. Dutton, 1981).
97th Congress, 2d Session, Report No. 97—682, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Undercover Activities of Components of the Department of Justice to the U.S. Senate, December 15 (legislative day November 30), 1982 — Ordered to be printed (DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983). DO NOT OPEN ONLINE! If you have a Mac, hold down CONTROL while clicking on the link, and then save to your desktop. If you have Windows, RIGHT-CLICK on the link and save to your desktop. The file is HUGE, 800 scanned pages. It’s too big to browse online. Once you save it, open it and click the page counter down to 132 (the page number at the top will read “122”), and then go down again to 139 (the page number at the top will read “129”), then 187 (the page number at the top will read “177”), and then 316 (the page number at the top will read “306”) and then keep reading to the end of the section. There’s more. Click the page counter to 420 (410) and read down through 432 (422).
Michael F. Rizzo, Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo: History, Hits and Headquarters (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012).
Robin Herman, Fusion: The Search for Endless Energy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), esp. pp. 193–196.
Greg B. Smith, Made Men: The True Rise-and-Fall Story of a New Jersey Mob Family (NY: Berkley Books, 2003), pp. 63–65, 111–113; 118, 200, 215. I reference this to show that it was the mobsters who found Guccione fascinating, not the other way around. They were impressed by his success and wanted to invest in whatever he was doing. They would meet with him, but oft-times he had not the foggiest notion that they were mobsters.


Read ’em all. Piece the puzzle together yourselves. Then, for good measure:

Deyan Ranko Brashich, “Opinion: The Good Pornographers, a Tale of the Mob, Lutèce, Bob Guccione, the Kennedys and High Standards,” The Litchfield [Connecticut] County Times, Friday, 12 April 2013. (N.B. — Boško Radonjić was filling in for jailed Jimmy Coonan of the so-called “Westies” Irish mob. Radonjić and Coonan were at the time both affiliated with John Gotti of the Gambino family. You might as well read this too, to get a better handle on things: “Radovan Karadžić: A Deeply Misunderstood Mass Murderer,” Esquire, 1 August 2008.)


So there. The simple lesson that Bob never learned was: “Don’t deal with criminals. Just don’t. It’s better to live in a cardboard box under a bridge than to deal with criminals.” Of course, there’s no avoiding criminals. Every time you rent or purchase real estate, every time you have any dealings with politicians, every time you open an account at a bank, or even when you shop for groceries, you’re dealing in some fashion with mobsters. They own us. They own all of us. Still, though, as much as possible, avoid those creeps. I don’t even know if Bob was aware of the criminality of some of the people he was working with. He knew that some of them were in the underworld, and he admitted as much, but many times I think he was totally clueless. Despite his conviction that he was some sort of superhuman genius, he was really naïve and not all that bright, to say nothing of hopelessly gullible. I mean, he believed office gossip, whispering campaigns, and nasty rumors, which he was always eager to hear. He would demand that his employees tell him all the latest juicy stories heard through the grapevine. That’s why he turned on his colleagues, friends, and family. Sad, really. It never occurred to him that the ones who were feeding him all the gossip were manipulating him — and robbing him, too.

The punch line, of course, is that the RIGGATRON just may have worked — eventually. We’ll never know. Once it was dead, though, Bussard came up with a more sophisticated design, the Polywell, but he died before it could get off the ground.

BASICS OF PLASMA PHYSICS


Nuclear Fusion within Reach

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-LCfx9v4YQ
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.





Taylor Wilson —
14-Year-Old Builds Working Nuclear Fusion Reactor

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvXFrbvnpZE
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.

This is inspirational. The folks in this video call Taylor Wilson a genius. He is not a genius. There is no such thing as a genius. “Genius” is a word that people use as an excuse. Taylor is what almost any child can be, given the incentive. Parents, elders, teachers (generally very boring people devoid of interests) are forever providing disincentives to their children, punishing them for speaking out of turn, rolling eyes whenever they get excited about a new field of discovery, and dragging them off to the confessional or marching them off to the principal’s office. (Schools offer the worst way to learn: Students sit at awkward desks, furiously scribble down teachers’ half-baked conclusions, read incoherent text books, memorize it all as best they can, and then regurgitate the rubbish for term papers and exams. That’s the worst way to learn. The worst! And then the kids are punished for being bored.... It’s more than enough to put any sensible person off of education forever.) Here’s a kid whose curiosity was never pounded out of him, who was not sedated with television and SmartPhones. I’m actually somewhat surprised that he wasn’t pumped full of Ritalin, as most curious and energetic kids are, wrongly diagnosed as suffering from that trendy newfangled nonexistent disease called ADHD. (Medicos insist that ADHD is real because it is chemically provable that not everybody has it. True. Not everybody has ADHD. Only the most gifted people have it, because they’re bored out of their bleeding minds by our stupidity. It’s the most natural thing in the world for active and creative people to need to be active and creative. Stifle them and they become destructive. Suppress natural activity and it bursts through in other ways. There’s no preventing it. Doctors have the audacity to call that a disease? If kids have ants in their pants, let ’em burn themselves out with the sports they enjoy. If kids can’t concentrate on dull material that’s leagues beneath their intellectual demands, direct them to things they find challenging and absorbing. What’s wrong with that? Disease my foot....) Taylor is realizing human potential, folks. This is what almost all of us can be, given the opportunity. Of course a youngster would come along with fresh ideas. Inevitable. Okay everybody, let’s all listen to him. He’s going to do wondrous things.




Scientists Announce Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-6orcSQsTY
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.





Thermonuclear Fusion versus Murphy’s Law

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRtMayvnLoI
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.





Should Google Go Nuclear?

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk6z1vP4Eo8
When YouTube deletes it, download it.
If you’re on Windows, Right-Click and Save As.
If you’re on a Mac, Control+Click and Save As.

This was Bob’s buddy. Not a bad buddy to have. Brilliant guy.


Fun stuff, isn’t it?