Synopsis

As the political revolt, consciousness expansion, and calls for racial equality that dominated the late '60s gave way to the apathy, drug abuse, and materialism that would define much of the 1970s, Nicky Barnes was a man who seemed to symbolize this time all too well. Born and raised in a troubled household, Barnes grew up with few desires other than getting rich, and he did just that. Barnes was a drug dealer who promoted himself as the man with the best heroin and cocaine in New York City, and between 1970 and 1975 he became the wealthiest and most powerful illegal drug dealer in America. Heading an underground organization known as "The Council," Barnes had a handful of top drug peddlers working under him, and shrewdly aligned himself with Mafia-connected drug importers, cutting out middlemen and offering himself a measure of protection at the same time. The booming market for heroin and cocaine (drugs Barnes himself used with enthusiasm) made Barnes a multi-millionaire, but as pride comes before a fall, Barnes' certainty that the police could not catch up with him led to his downfall, as one of his underlings unwittingly gave him up to authorities. In time, Barnes went into the FBI's Witness Protection Program and obtained his freedom by informing on the associates who helped make him a success. Barnes co-authored an autobiography in 2007, and filmmaker Marc Levin persuaded Barnes to tell his story on camera (though without revealing his face); Levin's interviews formed the basis of Mr. Untouchable, a documentary on Barnes' rise, fall, and disappearance into Middle America. Barnes' story was also featured in another 2007 release, American Gangster, a fact-based drama which portrays both Barnes and another powerful drug kingpin, Frank Lucas. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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