Longform

Scott Storch raked in hip-hop millions and then snorted his way to ruin

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"I think that maybe you should make sure your mother has her retirement taken care of before you buy another $2 million necklace for some hotel heiress."

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Born in Long Island but raised in South Florida, Scott Storch has music in his blood. His great-great-grandfather was Lithuanian immigrant Meyer Machtenberg, a seminal Jewish composer in the early 1900s. In the '60s, Mom was a Queens-born pinup-caliber beauty who was signed to Philadelphia's Cameo-Parkway Records under the stage name Joyce Carol, and his father, Phil Storch, sang street-corner doo-wop in his native Bronx.

Phil's brother Jeremy was a founder of soul-rock band the Vagrants and a songwriter who once penned an Eddie Money hit. "There's always been music in Scott's life," says Jeremy, who bottomed out on drugs in the '70s, cleaned up his life, and became a rabbi. "He was literally surrounded by it."

Scott's brother Matthew, who is older by 22 months, is his musical opposite: an alt-rocker who has supported his music by delivering pizzas.

So it was no surprise that Scott "took to music like a duck to water," as Yolanda puts it, playing Rod Stewart piano renditions at Davie's Nova Eisenhower Elementary talent shows, nailing John Travolta's role in a school rendition of Grease, and sharing the big stage with singer Matthew at the Sunrise Musical Theatre as "The Storch Brothers."

For Scott's first paying gig at age 12, he filled in for an adult piano player at a birthday party. "He had a natural talent, and he practiced hard," Uncle Jeremy says. "He was very devoted to the piano."

Scott spent hours on the keyboard in the bedroom he shared with Matthew in their small Sunrise apartment. His parents had divorced when he was 10, and Yolanda made ends meet as a caregiver for the elderly. His father Phil lived in Miami with a new wife, his third.

Clearly, Scott did not dodge his father's genes. Dad was a gambler with a special affinity for the harness races at Pompano Park, according to Yolanda. He sifted through vehicles based on his luck: From Porsches to Lincolns to Jensen Healeys, he bought "30 cars in the 13 years we were married," she says.

Phil liked to bring Scott with him to the dealerships, and the fascination with flash and automobiles rubbed off. The kid spent his time in class drafting ornate sketches of Cadillacs. At age 13, he wore a red bomber jacket, Porsche Carrera sunglasses, and a $75 Rolex knockoff — bar mitzvah gifts from Mom, all of which he quickly lost.

Says Yolanda: "Phil wasn't there for Scott through most of his childhood, and I think Scott really wanted to follow in his footsteps and impress him."

Phil eventually filed for bankruptcy twice, in 1997 and 2008. Among the jilted creditors were credit card companies and the Mercedes-Benz and Toyota financing wings. Reached at his home in Springfield, Missouri, Phil told New Times he was "not interested in talking to newspapers."

In 1988, Dad moved to Philadelphia. Scott, in his freshman year of high school, decided to go with him. Yolanda had a new boyfriend, and Scott wasn't looking for a stepfather. "I could have legally stopped him from going, but I didn't," Yolanda says, sounding regretful. "Much later, Scott told me: 'Ma, the only reason I left is that I hated your boyfriend.'"

"Scott felt like his mom had chosen a man over him," says Vanessa Bedillo, who had a son with Scott in Philadelphia. "That's something that really hurt him and probably still does."

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One morning in the middle of the '88 school year at southeast Pennsylvania's Bensalem High, freshman Vanessa Bedillo watched a new boy pull his father's Porsche up to the brown-brick school building. The Florida kid dressed like a miniature Don Johnson and wore a preppy mop of reddish-brown hair over thin, bird-boned features. "All the girls were like, Who is this guy?" recalls Bedillo, who was the pretty, strait-laced daughter of strict Peruvian parents. "He seemed beyond his years."

Scott Storch was her first boyfriend. He spent the rest of that school year drawing her sketches of cars and gazing out the window, daydreaming about music. After school, he would play her Tears for Fears songs on his piano, which his mom had shipped from Florida.

"Scott was pretty much on his own," Bedillo says. His dad's parenting consisted mostly of a wad of bills left on the kitchen counter. Eventually, Phil Storch left his son altogether, moving to New York City.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts