With "The Lash of Success," Grey Villet brought what he called his "psychegraphs" to full effect in images etched with the dark intensity of a man possessed by a private hunger. Victor Sabatino was 33 when he launched his drive to build a national furniture chain called Foam Rubber City. "What I want" he once said, "is to be a winner. People remember winners." A cold eyed autocrat in his dealings with his employees, Sabatino could accept only one way in running his business--his way. He was often found manipulating and intimidating his employees to get what he wanted from them.
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Bottom: The LIFE Magazine* opening spread of the 1961 essay featured a shot that captured Sabatino's dark hunger to suceed mirrored in his eyes.
Top: The impact of that hunger was evident in the fearful expression of a store manager whom he berated for straying from his rules in Chicago
In photographing the story, Grey Villet came to see him as "a puppet master in his own very small theatre." But when it became evident that the price of Sabatino's ambition was paid not only by those who worked for him, but at home, Grey's sensitive images evoked the pain and loneliness of separation his obsession with success had inflicted on his wife , his daughter and himself. In the end, Victor lost it all--his company, his family and his dreams.
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"The Lash of Success," was regarded by many as a modern parable. And as its photographer, Grey Villet believed it to be his finest essay . He was not alone in this regard. "The Lash of Success" was recognized as a benchmark achievement in the volume "Great Essays from LIFE."* It remains as powerful an expression of the art of photojournalism today as it did in l962 when it was first published in LIFE.*Sabatino says good-bye to family
Right: 1961, After saying another sad goodbye to his wife Lillian and daughter, Sabatino confessed a truth about his obsession. "I tell myself sometimes that I was doing this for Lilliian and Donna, but I knew it wasnt so." The marriage ultimately failed.
Left: Businessmen Victor Sabatino takes a lonely moment to enjoy his success.
*LIFE is a registered trademark of TIME Inc. Essay spreads are copyright to LIFE magazine/TIME Inc./Getty Images.
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