LEVENE: April, September 1981. It's me. It isn't fucking Moss. (1.1.59-60)
The competition is so brutal between these guys that Levene resorts to numbers from years before to show that he has what it takes to beat Moss. The competition for them is not just about the current sales contest—it's about their whole careers.
LEVENE: I don't get on the board the thirtieth, they're going to can my ass. (1.1.83-84)
That about it sums it up: If you don't get past the others, you get fired. That's a pretty solid foundation for competition, right. This need to be on top leads these guys to make some pretty questionable decisions, particularly Levene. Did he really think that was going to turn things around by robbing his own company?
LEVENE: I NEED A SHOT. (1.1.67)
You ever see an old banged-up quarterback limping out onto the field? Even when they can't do it physically or mentally anymore, they still can't give up that desire to compete, and they still believe they're the best man for the job. That's kind of where Levene is right now. He remembers how great he once was, but he's not quite willing to admit that he just doesn't have it anymore.
AARONOW: I had to […] To get on the… (1.2.16-18)
Poor Aaronow had to take a nothing lead to try to get on the board, and went out and tried to sell to people he knew would never buy. That's how desperate the competition has made him. Still, he's not willing to take the steps that some of the others are willing to take to win. Does this make him weak, or does this make him the last guy with any sense of humanity left in the office?
ROMA: Don't fuck with me, fella. I'm talking about a fuckin' Cadillac car that you owe me. (2.1.22-23)
Quick note: Roma says this to a cop. Yep, a cop. Do not get in the way of slick Rick when he has won.
ROMA: Lingk puts me over the top. (2.1.63)
People are nothing more than sales to Roma, and sales are just a means to beating everyone around him. Keep that in mind when Lingk comes back. Roma will do whatever he can to make a sale, including trying to talk a man out of doing what that man thinks is best for him and his wife.
AARONOW: I'm fine. You mean on the board? You mean on the board…?
There's a second there when Aaronow thinks he and Roma are talking about life, but he quickly realizes that they're just talking about the competition that dominates their lives. There are very few moments in this play that don't link directly back to the job, the competition, and the sale. This means that the relationship between these men is one based on proximity instead of on actual feelings of compassion or friendship toward each other.
ROMA: I find out whose fucking cousin you are, I'm going to go to him and figure out a way to have your ass… (2.1.237-238)
Here we can see that Williamson is part of the competition. Roma is battling him for power and the real top spot in the office. If Roma has the power to get rid of Williamson, then is Williamson really running the show?
LEVENE: Who wants to go to lunch? I'm buying. (2.1.249-250)
Who doesn't love free lunch? Levene's offer isn't just him being nice, though. He's made a big time sale, and he needs to show these other boys who's back and ready to compete.
MOSS: Hey, I don't want to hear your fucking war stories. (2.1.320-321)
No one wants to listen to the fact that they just got dropped in the rankings, and they're going to have to go out and compete even more now in order to stay alive (you know, from a business sense. These guys aren't going to kill each other or anything… yet.)
MOSS: Look at Jerry Graff. He's clean, he's doing business for himself. (1.2.111)
Watching Moss manipulate Aaronow is like watching a master play the violin or something. He's so good at creating images of success and happiness for Aaronow before he asks for what he wants. Despite his pitch though, Moss proves unsuccessful with Aaronow. Maybe it's because Aaronow, unlike the other guys, doesn't seem willing to cast his moral compass aside just to get ahead.
MOSS: You hear a lot of things. He's doing well. He's doing very well. (1.2.134-135)
Moss Manipulation Tip #1: If the other person says something that pokes holes in your argument, just brush it off and get back on message. This is a classic move for Mamet men—they have goals and they need to achieve them, and a lot of times they need to use words to achieve them. They cannot let things like the truth or reason throw them off track.
MOSS: What do you, George, let me tell you what you do: you find yourself in thrall to someone else. (1.2.163-164)
Along with being great at painting images of what's out there, Moss is also really good at making Aaronow's current situation seem like the worst possible situation in the world.
MOSS: Someone should stand up and strike back. (2.1.199)
Sure the robbery will be about revolution and fighting the man, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Moss wanting to pocket some cash and snag a new job. Oh wait—not. Moss is really good at making his selfish desires seem like something noble, right?
AARONOW: And you're saying a fella could take and sell those leads to Jerry Graff. (1.2.230)
Shhh—listen. That's the sound of a little bell going ding ding ding in Aaronow's brain. It took him some winding and weaving, but Moss has now led Aaronow to the place he wants him to be. There are just a couple of more steps to take.
MOSS: We're just speaking about it. (Pause.) As an idea. (1.2.242-243)
Moss Manipulation Tip #2: Sometimes, you just have to straight-up lie. Yep, when all else fails, sometimes you just have to bend the truth to your will. If he lets Aaronow in on his real plan too early, he'll lose him, and Moss knows he has to string Aaronow along for a while before he pounces.
MOSS: You have to go in. (Pause.) You have to get the leads. (Pause.) (1.2.302-303)
Boom—all the twists and half-truths and lies have led to this. Moss has planted seeds, and now it's time to harvest; finally, he lays his plan on the line for Aaronow to plainly see. He wants Aaronow to break in to the office and steal the leads because, though Moss devised the plan, he's not willing to get his hands dirty.
MOSS: In or out. You tell me, you're out you take the consequences. (1.2.385-386)
When all else fails, just threaten—that's Moss's final act in the manipulation game. Lying didn't work, painting pretty pictures of the future didn't work, so his only option in the end is to convince Aaronow that there's no longer a choice.
ROMA: What I'm saying, what is our life? (1.3.38-39)
Always be closing could translate to always be manipulating. At least it seems that way for Ricky Roma. Right here, with this line, he convinces Lingk that what they're about to talk about somehow has something to do with the meaning of life, instead of just being about some property in Florida.
ROMA: Ray is director of all European sales services. (2.1.608)
Roma Manipulation Tip #2: Sometimes, you just have to straight-up lie. Weird—that's one of Moss's pro tips, too. Like Moss, Roma believes that you do what you have to do make (or hold on to) the sale.
LEVENE: Then how do they come up above that mark? With dreck…? That's nonsense. Explain this to me. 'Cause it's a waste, and it's a stupid waste. (1.1.116-119)
It's not just the bad leads that Levene is dissatisfied with, it's the fact that the low guys get the bad leads, so they never have a chance to move up. He's dissatisfied with the catch-22 situation they have going on in the office.
LEVENE: I'll tell you why I'm out. I'm out, you're giving me toilet paper. (1.1.151)
Once again, Levene cannot handle the fact that there is no one giving him a shot. If he at least had a shot, he might be satisfied with the job… and his life. This is a recurring theme for Levene. What's important to realize is that Levene (like the others) connects his worth to the job. Sure, he probably needs the money, but it's more than that—he sees himself as his job, and if his job is a failure, then he's a failure too.
LEVENE: I can't close these leads, John. No one can. It's a joke. (1.1.191)
You ever do something stupid while playing a video game, and you look at the controller as though the controller is somehow to blame? Maybe Levene has a point about the leads, but maybe he's just blaming the equipment for his own shortcomings. Maybe he just can't admit that he doesn't have the skills to pay the bills anymore.
MOSS: The pressure's just too great. (1.2.48-49)
Nothing confusing about this statement: Moss is dissatisfied with the job because there is just too much pressure on them all of the time. Pressure leads them to take foolish risks, to sell each other out, and to flat out break the law.
MOSS: Some contest board… (1.2.73)
It's possible that all of the dissatisfaction in the office comes from that contest board. You might feel like you weren't in the best spot if every day you had to come in and fight for some spot on the board just in order to keep your job.
MOSS: "You lose, than we fire your…" It's medieval…it's wrong. (1.2.102-103)
Hyperbole is the friend of the dissatisfied. Moss has some legit points, but he's also good at making his (and the others's) situation seem like it is the most brutal, vicious situation ever. It's not just a bad job, after all—it's medieval.
MOSS: And it gets me depressed. (1.2.173-174)
Let's not beat around the bush: Moss's dissatisfaction with his situation is not a fly-by-night kind of thing. He is depressed, and he has had it. So much so, that he plots a robbery of the office.
MOSS: Look look look look, when they build your business, then you can't fucking turn around, enslave them, treat them like children (1.2.190-192)
Woo, boy—now Moss has gone from being dissatisfied with his medieval work situation to being dissatisfied with the fact that his work situation is on par with enslavement. Melodramatic much?
ROMA: It's a waste of time.
Moss isn't the only one who has problems with the way things are run. Roma sees those junk leads going out to the guys who are low on the board, and he knows there's nothing there worth spending any time or effort on.
ROMA: How am I going to make a living […]Where did you get this, from the morgue?
Blaming the leads is what a lot of these guys do throughout the play. However, Williamson is the one who handles the leads, so it might be safe to say that a lot of the dissatisfaction in the office really stems from their undying dissatisfaction with Williamson.
LEVENE: I got to get on the fucking board. (1.1.168)
It's always nice when a character just comes out and states their desire. This ambition—the ambition to get back on the board—motivates Levene throughout the play. It's what drives him, and it's what brings him down in the end.
MOSS: Now, he's got the leads, he goes into business for himself. (1.2.121-122)
You think when Moss looks in the mirror he sees a cowboy staring back at him? There's something about this guy that says he fancies himself a modern day gunslinger. His ambition is to be out there on his own, though he's not particularly willing to work for it or put his own neck on the line. In order to follow his ambition, he manipulates others.
MOSS: take the fuckin' leads out of the files… go to Jerry Graff. (1.2.218-219)
Once you get past Moss's desire to go work for himself, you get a glimpse at another ambition of his: revenge. Of all of the characters, he's the one who wants to do something to get back at the people he believes have ruled over him for too long.
MOSS: One night's work, and the job with Graff. Working the premium leads. (1.2.279-280)
There's no question that Moss is an ambitious man, however this is just further proof that he's not willing to work to reach his ultimate goals—or he's come to believe that hard work doesn't get you what you want. Moss looks for the easy fix. "One night's work" is how he wants to play it.
ROMA: There is no measure. Only greed. (1.3.50)
Hey—you can't fault a guy for being honest. Greed and ambition drive Roma. Does that make him a good person? Not so much. Is it what makes him the office hotshot? Probably.
LEVENE: 'This is now. This is that thing that you've been dreaming of.' (2.1.410-411)
Selling property is a hard slog. Selling dreams and ambition—well, that's something else entirely, and that's what these guys specialize in. Like Roma, Levene's pitch doesn't focus on the property, but instead focuses on what people want in life. Levene appeals to their dreams, and lays his pitch out in a way that makes a potential buyer imagine that real estate can change everything about their lives. Is this deceitful? Maybe. Does it work? Well, it did in the past anyway.
LEVENE: Leads! Leads! Williamson! […] Send me out! (2.1.492)
The robbery and the sale reinvigorate Levene, and the sad sack from Act 1 is gone. Ambition returns, and "The Machine" just wants to keep on moving forward. The truth about the robbery stops him, though.
LEVENE: And I want three worthwhile leads today (2.1.564-565).
This little quote links ambition back to another big theme of the play—respect. Levene wants to get out and keep selling, but he also wants the respect of being given the best leads.
ROMA: 'The Machine, there's a man I would work with.' (2.1.1186)
Oh, Roma—you tricky little so-and-so. On the surface, this looks like a nice moment between two guys who share a mutual respect for the business and each other. But this is just pure ambition talking, and we're about to discover what Roma's really after in just a second.
ROMA: My stuff is mine, his stuff is ours. (2.1.1238-1239)
Roma talking about how he wants to work with Levene is just a ploy to get in on half of Levene's sales. That's pretty cold blooded, right? All that stuff that Roma said about wanting to work with Levene had nothing to do with respect or the good old days or anything like that, and instead Roma just saw a way to make more money for himself at the expense of Shelly "the Machine" Levene.
LEVENE: You're sending Roma out. Fine. He's a good man. (1.1.3-4)
If a man is good at his job, he's a good man. This is a theme we keep coming back to in the play. A man's deeds and actions are irrelevant, and the only thing that makes him a man is his ability to make things happen in business.
LEVENE: Put a proven man out (1.1.15)
Okay, so Roma is good at his job and he's a good man, but he's not as much of a man as Levene because Levene has been doing it longer. Manhood gets tied into age here, and it makes for an interesting conflict. You have a guy on the tail end of his career watching a younger man rise up the ranks. Levene isn't willing to let go of the man he was though, and he wears his past like a badge of honor.
LEVENE: Where did you learn that? In school? (1.1.95)
Ouch—low blow. The world of Glengarry Glen Ross is a world where college boy is a big time insult. Levene never respects Williamson as a man because he didn't earn his manhood out on the streets, and instead just picked up some tricks from books and school. That's not what a man does—a man works.
ROMA: You're a, hey, you had a bad month. You're a good man, George. (2.1.108-110)
You can have a bad month and still be a good man because you've proved yourself before—Aaronow has hit a wall, but he's a true salesman. He still goes out and tries to make it happen day after day, and even good men hit a streak of bad luck. However, if your bad luck goes on for too long, it's safe to say that your status as a man will diminish in these guys's eyes after a while.
LEVENE: Big fucking deal. Broke a bad streak. (2.1.266)
See? Levene is a good man who hit a bad streak of luck, but breaking that bad luck isn't anything. A man sticks with it and pulls himself out of the rut. That's what men do. Hearing this line, you might think that Levene saw this coming all along, but if you remember Act 1, you'll recall that Levene comes off as a pretty desperate dude then. He plays this sale off like it's no surprise, but just a day earlier he seemed like a guy who thought he might never make a sale again.
MOSS: You're hot, so you think you're the ruler of this place? (2.1.382-383)
You know what, Moss? Roma does get to the rule this place. He's top man on the board, so he's the best man around. Well, that's kind of how it seems in Mamet land, at least.
LEVENE: You have no idea of your job. A man's his job and you're fucked at yours. (2.1.519-520)
That's it. Point blank. A man is his job. Levene thinks Williamson fails at his job, so therefore Williamson fails as a man.
LEVENE: You can't run an office […] you don't have the balls. (2.1.522-524)
Only a man can run an office, and Williamson isn't a man. The hits just keep on coming for that guy. Levene (and the other salesmen) don't look at Williamson as a proper man. His education is all from school, he's never gone out and hit the pavement—in other words, he has no street smarts, and as far as they're concerned, he's never done real work. This makes him, in their eyes, less than they are. Even though he dictates who gets which leads, they don't acknowledge or accept any authority that he might have.
AARONOW: I meet gestapo tactics […] No man has the right to… (2.1.804-806)
When all else fails, call out a man for not treating you like his equal. The cops really put a dent into Aaronow and Moss, and as we see here, the experience emasculates them. When they come out from the back office, they don't feel like the men they believe themselves to be.
ROMA: Whoever told you you could work with men? (2.1.956-957)
Poor little Williamson—no one thinks he's a man, and he's not worthy of working with actual men because he can't do his job like he should. The beauty of this Roma quip is that it sums up how these guys view manhood, but it also shows how deluded they can be. This sparks the argument that leads to Levene incriminating himself and Williamson beating Levene once and for all. The college boy—the company man—is at least man enough to end Levene's career, though, so maybe they should have cut him slack. Things might have turned out differently.
MOSS: He made up those rules, and we're working for him. (1.2.170-171)
The rules of the game are in place to keep people like Moss down. He's busting his butt out there every day, but he can't do what he wants because someone else is calling the shots.
MOSS: That's right. It's a crime. It is a crime. It's also very safe. (1.2.267-268)
Who cares about the rules if you don't get caught, right? This gives good insight into Moss's character—this is not a guy who sees right and wrong as black and white. Sure, it's a crime, but that's not the important thing. The important thing is it can be pulled off, it can benefit him, and he can get away with it.
ROMA: You've got a fuckin', you've… a… who is this...? (2.1.43-44)
You know a good way to show total disrespect for someone? Refuse to even acknowledge their position in society. Roma knows the guy is a cop, and he knows what that means, but he will not admit that this guy has any power over him. "Who is this?" he asks, like the cop is a nobody.
ROMA: Why? Because they're stupid. (2.1.180)
Roma couldn't care less about the perceived authority of the police. He's in the office and he's doing business, which means he has no time for the law.
AARONOW: When I talk to the police, I get nervous
ROMA: Yeah. You know who doesn't? […] Thieves. (2.1.194-195)
As much as Roma mocks the cops, he knows the score: they run the show while they're there, and there is a reason to get nervous. Cops make everyone nervous. But, if you haven't broken their rules, you have nothing to worry about. It's actually a pretty simple view of the way the world works, and far less cynical than you might expect from a man like Roma.
MOSS: Cops got no right to talk to me that way. I didn't rob the place. (2.1.302)
Wethinks the Moss doth protest too much. Okay, so he didn't literally rob the place, but he set the whole plan in motion, and he got a big old cut from it. To show his innocence though, he's going to take a shot at the cops and their rules.
ROMA: It's not me that ripped the joint off, I'm doing business. I'll be with you in a while. (2.1.850-851)
Gotta love this quote. Business trumps the law, folks, and there is no question in Roma's mind about that. We hinted at it earlier, but this is Roma just saying it straight out. Some people put God first, others keep their country on top, and some hold law and order in high esteem, but all of that takes a back seat to business for Roma. Say what you will, but this take on the world has worked out for Roma. After all, he's top man on the board.
ROMA: I'm talking to Mr. Lingk. If you please, I'll be back in. (Checks his watch.) I'll be back in a while. (2.1.917-918)
Wow—this just keeps getting better. Now Roma isn't just snubbing his nose at the rules (of the police, mind you), he's just going to take off for a bit to keep trying to save his sale. The only rules that matter right now are the rules of business.
WILLIAMSON: You've got a big mouth, and now I'm going to show you an even bigger one. (Starts toward the Detective's door). (2.1.1111-1115)
It takes a guy who loves order like Williamson to respect order. It also takes a guy who doesn't spend his time mocking the law to know that the law can bring Levene down. These guys can talk and talk and talk about business, but all the talking in the world won't get Levene out of this one.
BAYLEN: 'Ricky' can't help you, pal. (2.1.1220)
The cop, Baylen, doesn't talk much, but in this moment he makes things all too clear—the business world has no real say when it comes to the law. In the end, this guy doesn't care who the leader on the board is because the leader on the board can't do anything to stop the Rule of Law.
MOSS: Are you going to turn me in? (Pause.) George? Are you going to turn me in? (1.2.332-333)
That's it right there: Aaronow has a choice to make. He could stop the whole thing from going down, and in doing so could spare Levene from going down for the robbery. But Aaronow's a "good man," and he's not going to sell out one of his own.
MOSS: Well, to the law, you're an accessory. Before the fact.
AARONOW: I didn't ask to be. (1.2.360-362)
Sometimes it doesn't matter what you choose—you're in for it either way. All Aaronow chose to do was listen to Moss jabber on for a while, but unfortunately he's in it now whether he wanted to be or not. Ultimately, he doesn't cave, though. We don't see Aaronow's decision not to rob the place, but we know he's not the one who did it.
ROMA: Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. If you think that, act that way. (1.3.16-17)
Nothing gets people excited like a little talk about absolute morality, right? Basically, Roma believes (or at the very least he wants Lingk to believe) that men should make choices based on their own beliefs, not some cosmic version of what's right and wrong.
ROMA: The truth, George. Always tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember. (2.1.204-205)
This is a pretty great statement coming from a guy who is about to drop lies on Lingk like they're going out of style. At its core though, Roma's just telling George the simplest and best choice to make when dealing with a power that's bigger than you. Luckily for Roma, he's often that power.
MOSS: Anyone talks to this guy is an asshole. (2.1.292)
Guess who Moss is talking about? Yep, the cop. Man, Moss hates that cop. The beauty of this little gem is that Moss makes it seem like anyone who goes in to talk to that guy is making a conscious choice, and if he makes that choice he just isn't a man. What we'll find out, of course, is that Moss is just trying to cover himself. He knows he's guilty.
LEVENE: 'You have to believe in yourself.' (2.1.323)
Remember when we talked about how these guys are really good at selling ambition and dreams? Of course you do, you have a fantastic memory. Well, they're also pretty solid at selling choice. This was a sales pitch of Levene's. Basically, you have the choice to believe in yourself, or you can choose not to. It's pretty clear which way most people will go when presented with those options.
LEVENE: 'What we have to do is admit to ourself that we see that opportunity… and take it.' (2.1.428-429)
Just another little gem from the 'Selling Choices' section of Levene's Life Lessons. Just like Roma, Levene plays on the idea of opportunity. He's not selling a piece of property—he's selling these people a chance to change their lives. If we believe Levene was on top back in the day, we have to believe that this sales method has worked.
LINGK: I don't have the power. (2.1.872)
Poor Lingk. His wife makes all the decisions, and he doesn't have the power to choose for himself. This scene paints Lingk as somehow weaker than men like Roma, a sentiment that Lingk himself seems to buy into as he apologizes for the decision his wife told him to make. It might be worth looking at things from a different angle, though. Lingk stands up to Roma here, and he seems to spot the scam that Roma, Levene, and Williamson are working. He accomplishes what he came in to do, so Lingk just might not be as weak as he seems at first glance.
ROMA: I want to tell you something. Your life is your own. (2.1.898-899)
Lingk tells Roma he doesn't have the power, and Roma responds with "your life is your own." You do have a choice, Lingk, he seems to say. Of course, this all totally falls apart when Linkg realizes Roma is a big old liar who's basically trying to bilk him out of a whole lot of cash.
WILLIAMSON: If you tell me where the leads are, I won't turn you in. (2.1.1056-1057)
Ooh—that's a tough choice, and Levene makes what he thinks is the right one. Not only does he tell Williamson where the leads are, he sells out Moss in the process… only to have Williamson back out of the deal. Perhaps, sometimes there is no right choice. What do you think?
LEVENE: Things get set, I know they do, you get a certain mindset. A guy gets a reputation. (1.1.10-12)
You know how people will say that if you do certain things they'll stick with you forever? People say stuff like that a lot, and here we see that Levene believes it. He knows that people get ideas in their heads about other people, and those ideas just don't go away. He's been down for a while, and he knows if he stays down much longer, that reputation will stick.
LEVENE: The Seville…? He came in, 'you bought that for me Shelly.' (1.1.68-69)
This is the reputation Levene used to have—people used to think of him as a closer who made other people's fortunes. Not so anymore, but he desperately wants to be remembered for it.
LEVENE: I'm older than you. A man acquires a reputation. On the street. What he does when he's up, what he does otherwise. (1.1.216-217)
You know what Levene loves talking about? Yep—reputation. This is an important moment in the play because he's dropping some wisdom on the hated Williamson, and trying to show him that a man makes a name for himself by acting with honor whether he's on top or not. Notice that Levene says otherwise instead of being down or on the bottom. He just can't bring himself to say those words about himself.
LEVENE: Wasn't long I could pick up the phone, call Murray and I'd have your job. (1.1.262-264)
Reputation is like nostalgia for Levene, and he loves recounting how big time he used to be. What he seems to miss is that Williamson doesn't care what Levene did in the past—he's not closing now, so it just doesn't matter.
MOSS: We have to go to them to get them. Huh. Ninety percent our sale, we're paying to the office for the leads. (1.2.143-145)
At his core, Moss cannot stand what he sees as the utter disrespect the head office shows him and the others who are out on the street trying to make sales happen. In his mind, if they're grinding it out every day, they should be the ones getting paid for it. This mentality is what leads Moss to plot the robbery. There's some hypocrisy to this though, right? He plots it, but doesn't want to actually do it… and yet he still wants the pay off. Sound like the head office to you?
LEVENE: You ask them. When we were at Rio Rancho, who was top man? (2.1.541-542)
Even if his name wasn't right there, you would know who said this, because you've caught on to what Levene is all about. Levene is all about the reputation he used to have in the past.
LEVENE: I'm selling something they don't even want. (2.1.551-552)
This quote is gold because it covers respect and reputation. Once again, Levene is talking about how great he was in the past and how he gained the incredible rep he had. At the same time, he's showing how little respect these salesmen have for their clients. They don't care what they; they're just going to sell them whatever it is they have to sell. There's nothing quite like taking advantage of people to get yourself a great reputation.
LEVENE: You don't know. You never heard of a streak. (2.1.558-559)
Quick—guess who Levene is talking to. Yeah, you know it: he's talking to Williamson, and showing him some of that sweet disrespect that's going to come back to bite him in the end.
AARONOW: No one should talk to a man that way. How are you talking to me that… (2.1.776-777)
Man, Aaronow just cannot catch a break. He's getting killed on the board, he hates his job, he got pushed around by Moss, and now the cop doesn't even show him any respect. If you read the play quickly, you might find a connection between Aaronow and Levene. They're both older guys and they're both down on their luck as far as work goes.
Take a closer look though, and you'll see some real differences between the two. Aaronow craves respect just like Levene, but Aaronow doesn't seem to have the past to fall back on like Levene. Aaronow doesn't spend time talking about how great he used to be, and one gets the sense that Aaronow might never have been the #1 guy in the room. He comes in and works, but he doesn't quite seem to have that killer instinct that the other guys have.
ROMA: Hey, hey, hey, easy friend, That's the "Machine." That is Shelly "The Machine" Lev… (2.1.1213-1214)
In the end, Levene's old reputation doesn't matter at all. It doesn't save him from the cops, and Roma can't even get the full nickname out there before the cop shouts him down and sends Levene to the back room. This is it—Levene's journey has come to an end.