Friday, February 20, 2009

20/20 interview delayed

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.


Pat said...

I was disappointed to see the singular focus on glitz and glam and multi-millionaires. Of course every loss is significant to the loser but my empathy for people who now must hawk their jewelry and art to make up for their losses is low -- to non-existent.

You betcha this story will have 'legs' for quite a long while; I look forward to the time they focus on the other victims of Madoff's greed and crime.

Anonymous said...

My wife watched the whole program but did not see any leukemia patient. As I indicated, you might end up on the cutting room floor. I guess Tom Cruise now has nothing to worry about.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed that they re-told the Madoff story that we all know already-- The Palm Beachers might have to sell their Bentleys or penthouses, etc.. I think your story has so much more depth and it is imperative that they show how this scam affects another side too. But sadly, glitz and glam sells ratings.

I also didn't like the bit about how the "wasps" were a little jubilant that the Jews got what they deserved...
That bit should have been on the cutting room floor!

Shari said...

I will be waiting to hear when your story is set to air. I would much rather hear your story than the Palm Beachers and Zsa Zsa's any day. I agree; the story they told has already been told. But hopefully delaying yours will mean more depth and time devoted to telling yours!