Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Over the Rainbow

Hanging hydrangea on the Upper East Side. 1:45 PM. Photo: JH.
June 30, 2009. A warm and sunny day was yesterday in New York. And no rain. Fireworks – real ones – going off somewhere in my neighborhood, getting ready for the big day on Saturday.
Fireworks going off downtown, getting ready for July 4th.
Last days of Bernie and Ruth. I remember when JH took them from the balcony of a friend’s apartment in the neighborhood. Boy, those were still palmy days for the Madoffs even though the end was nigh. It looked for a moment like he was getting away with it; sitting there having a drink watching the telly, she with the feet up, chilling.

I remember JH was going to take some more pictures the following evening when there were a bunch of suits sitting around their dining room table having a meal discussing who knows what (the weather?). But JH got there too late – someone had pulled the curtains, so we’ll never know who their dinner guests were.

But then again, we never found out “who” or “what” anything was in this case. And no one seemed to wonder that much. At least no one in position of authority. There was no trial, no questions, no answers, no jury. Just guilty guilty guilty -- which may be true but is also convenient when it comes to revelation. We learned later that a man named Harry Markopolos took the matter of Bernie to the SEC years ago, presenting a very clear and concise warning about the man and his “investment” activities years and NO ONE at the SEC seemed think it was even worth looking into. It just got overlooked. Like “mistakes were made” – just like the politicians say. Like you calling the cops and getting a big “who cares” from them. Frankly it seems that even now, no cares about the “who” or “what” when it comes to the matter of Bernie Madoff and the money.
Bernie Madoff in his penthouse apartment, back in January, 2009.
Now all we seem care about is that he’s going to jail for 150 years. If he should live so long. Which we all know he won’t.

Mrs. Madoff, of course, now has become a pariah. Even her colorist won’t do her roots. She musta known; that’s the official media opinion. After all she was the “bookkeeper,” or so they tell us. Now she can’t go into the street without someone leering at her or following her into the subway for a picture (which they can sell for a tidy sum to any number of media outlets).

When it happened it was reported that he’d bilked his investors of about $65 billion. (Actually, they weren’t investors, they were suckers. And as P.T. Barnum once said, “there’s sucker born every minute.”) Yesterday on CNN they said it was $13 billion that Bernie took. 13 or 65, either way it was billions. Although back in those palmy days, everybody, even the shoe shine guy was talking millions and billions as if they were just so many dimes in your pocket. It was only a couple of years ago that the top Wall Street firms gave their biggest boys (and girls) bonuses totaling about $60 billion -- in just one year. Everyone thought that was fabulous. No one considered it bilking or swindling or anything. Just good ole American know-how. In fact now it’s being reported that this year’s Wall Street bonuses may top any number of Bernie’s; billions made off the trillions provided by the US Taxpayer’s Big Day, the Fed. Good ole American know-how returns to the center stage. Bernie-less.
Ruth Madoff in the same penthouse apartment.
Well, it’s over. He’s in jail for rotting and she can’t even ride the subway. The papers said she’s gonna lose that penthouse, the house in France, the one in Montauk, the one in Palm Beach and the boat, and her streaks. She’s not allowed to speak to her children or vice versa and so that’s the ballgame. She may be free, per se, but only freedom from the jailhouse, not much else.

So that’s what became of the storybook romance of Bernie and Ruthie, the childhood sweetheart who became the wife, mother and alleged bookkeeper. None of those high powered investment advisers who gave all their clients’ billions to Bernie in exchange for the “vig” (pardon my French) seemed to know anything. Or so they claim. Maybe so, maybe no; maybe they were just blinded by the green. And we know the SEC never knew. The government agency created to protect the American public. In fact, we even know they didn’t want to know. And evidently still don’t. What you don’t know won’t hurtcha. Remember that one? There are a lotta people who still swear by it. Life goes on, oobla-dee-oobla-dah.

Actually I kinda feel for Ruth Madoff, in a way, as one human being to another. She’s got the toughest sentence of all of them to live out. I don’t know her, never met her, but I’m not convinced she knew much of anything. A lot of wives – maybe most wives -- never do when it comes to their husbands’ private affairs, business, or monkey-wise. My mother didn’t. And yes there are quite a few husbands in that same boat when it comes to their wives’ private affairs. Nothing unusual there.

Ruth Madoff might not be going to jail but now she’s gonna have to live with us. Her only hope is that like a lot of other things that happen in society today, people will turn their attentions to other circuses.

Of course it may be that she did know, maybe knew everything. But if she did, I will say one thing, she wasn’t the only one. There were lots money men balling that jack, as they say. I’m inclined to think that there are others who “knew” who are still out there, although, as the great Paul Simon once wrote (and I quote for the umpteenth time) “a man believes what he wants to believe and disregards the rest.” That goes for the girls too; not just the guys.
In case you missed Saturday's rainbow over Central Park after the storm. Photo: Wendy Lerman.
Brooklyn's version of the rainbow. Photo: Chris Prendergast.
Meanwhile back on the bright side of things: last night in New York there was a book party for Jodi Della Femina and her new book “By Invitation Only” at the Vera Wang boutique in the Hotel Carlyle building on Madison Avenue and 77th Street. Invitation to what, you might ask? Well, the party was at the Vera Wang boutique.

I got there in the second hour when a lot of the early birds had left but there was still a big gang in attendance including a lot of Della Femina – Jerry and Judy (Licht), sister Jessie and brother, JT, baby daughter Maggie Kim, husband John Kim as well as their older little ones, Annabel and Charlie, and lots of friends, including: Betsey Johnson, Rachel Roy, Kelly Bensimon, Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl, Fern Mallis, James and Kedakai Lipton, ABC News’ Diana Williams, Hamish Bowles, Alexandra Kotur (who is expecting in October; doesn’t know if it’s a boy or a girl and will wait and see), Euan Rellie, Bettina Zilkha, Daniel Benedict, Andrew Saffir, Nina Griscom, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Gigi Stone, Tim Morehouse and Jason Rogers (Olympics medalists), Caroline Hirsch, Ashley McDermott, Luke Parker-Bowles. Waiters were passing the champagne and little “wedding cakes.” Even the goodie bag had a chocolate piece from Godiva shaped like a wedding cake (which I ate as soon as I got home).
Jodi Della Femina and Maggie Kim. Daniel Benedict and Barbara Della Femina.
The wedding cake hors d'oeuvres.
Violinists from Elan, Sarah Charles, Isabel Fairbanks, and Hilary Castle.
The Della Feminas would never regard themselves as socialites but nevertheless they are a very social family, social as in throwing big and wonderful poolside and oceanside (same place) parties at their East Hampton weekend house (they always have a big buffet for the fireworks on the beach every Fourth).

And when they’re not hosting parties, they’re busy working, in all kinds of areas related to the public – broadcasting, restaurateuring, newspaper publishing, book publishing and the like. It’s all intended for a good time to be had by all, and it is.

The tone of last night’s party was set by the trio of violinists who are part of Elan Artists – musicians, bands, DJs, photographers, videographers who keep the parties going – weddings or otherwise (www.elanartists.com)
Judy Licht and JT Della Femina. JT Della Femina and Andrew Saffir.
Fern Mallis and Euan Rellie. 'Oh ewww Euan...!'
Kate Williamson, Daniel Benedict, Ashley McDermott, and Hilary Williamson. JT and Jessie Della Femina.
The book and the bookseller (reading Nick Hornby).
Gillian and Sylvester Miniter with Alexandra Kotur. Rachel Roy and Ann Caruso.
Vera's bridal creations abounding.
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