A few hours before tonight's 20/20 segment on Bernard Madoff was to air, I received a call from the producer and was told that my interview had been cut for time reasons, although they do plan to use it in a future broadcast. (Apparently there's a whole section they had to cut out, plus Diane Sawyer was given more time for an update on another story.) I'll hear more from the producer next week. So stay tuned -- I'll post an update here when I know with greater certainty when the interview might be aired.
As to the segment itself: It was predictably heavy on the sexy (as they say in the news biz) Palm Beach rich-who-got-burned angle and the celebrities-who-lost-a-lot (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kevin Bacon) angle. And let's face it, Donald Trump is always going to get more air time than me.
My family's connection goes back to Madoff's early years and 20/20 didn't have time to get into how he got his start, how his father-in-law Sol Alpern (our hotel guest) got us involved in it, and so on. That really is another story for another time.
But part of that story is that many Madoff investors were not rich or famous. My father is a retired high school teacher, for example. My stepmom made money in the real estate boom in her neighborhood during the 1980s, buying and selling a couple of properties. Our family and the guests at the hotel who had Madoff accounts were, by and large, middle class to upper middle class people. Most people I know who lost money lost in the tens or hundreds of thousands, not in the millions. That element of the story deserves to be told, including, I hope, the way it impacts the life of your average chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient who doesn't have a Picasso to sell to make ends meet.
The report featured footage of Bernie sitting at his computer in his penthouse, presumably whiling away his hours of house arrest on the internet. One wonders if he is trying to scam those infamous Nigerian scammers.
I do appreciate the fact that 20/20 was willing to raise direct questions about who else might have been involved, who might have known that this was all a Ponzi scheme. Madoff's wife Ruth (my stepmom's classmate) and his sons and brother all received a mention. As someone who has been part of running a family business, it always made me feel more secure that Madoff had brought his family into the operation. But then again, come to think of it, people in the Mafia have families, too.
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