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Only a couple of years ago, plenty of kids like Justin-Sean-and-Richie were what this magazine called prep-school gangsters: private-school students living a wannabe gangster’s life. Credit-card scams, shoplifting, and drug dealing were important ways of getting money and status in the scene. It didn’t seem any worse to them than what some of their own parents or people in the news were doing with great success. One boy, whose father was a well-known real-estate developer in the eighties, once told me, “My dad’s a gangster. He sits at the dinner table laughing about all the people he’s screwing over.” “Ivan Boesky made $200 million in a year off a scam,” says Kim Bailey — who at 18 has left crew life behind and is also working with friends as a party promoter — with measured admiration. “Anybody who can make that kind of money off of a scam — what can you say? But then he got caught.”

No one seems more surprised by the way he’s turned things around than Justin. “Omigod, I was a hoodlum, a little piece of shit,” he says. “Doing graffiti, robbing stores, terrorizing people — I don’t care if you say it, whatever, it’s true. I was such a little crazer.” He was kicked out of Xavier High School and St. Peter’s Prep, a school in New Jersey, before landing at the High School for the Humanities. And that was Davide Sorrenti’s school.

When Davide (pronounced “David”) Sorrenti died in February 1997, it was an A1 story in the New York Times. The 20-year-old photographer — son and brother of two other prominent fashion photographers, Francesca and Mario — had come to symbolize the dangers of “heroin chic.” (Davide’s death was actually the result of a painful blood condition, Cooley’s anemia, complicated by heroin use. His mother is now leading a celebrated campaign against the use of underage fashion models, who are arguably more vulnerable to the lure of drugs.)

"Basically, Dave dying taught us that you can’t fuck around in life," says Justin. "You can’t do something for so long and think you’re gonna get away with it. Like with this new thing, kids on some positive shit … for me, I think it’s Davide looking over us."

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- Caution: These Kids Are About to Blow Up, NY Magazine (1996) 

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