Saturday, February 21, 2009

20/20 Does its Thing

Brian Ross is the best reporter in television. I already knew that even before I met the guy. He's a true reporter. He's not into glitz. He's into getting the story and he's fearless. He did his thing on Madoff and Palm Beach last night on 20/20 and it was by far the best thing that's been done. And I know lots more was there that didn't make the cut. The program was cut down from the hour it was supposed to be. Anna Schecter was the producer in Palm Beach. She's a killer. I don't want her on my trail. Don't be misled by her looks, she's a tiger as Robert Jaffe found out.

I've had experiences with reporters before where they suck you dry, ask for your sources, and then move on leaving with you nothing for your time. Brian and Anna made sure that I was amply quoted and the reaction is incredible. Nobody believes what this one segment has done to the sale of Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach. It was already a bestseller but it's now basically the number three nonfiction hardcover on Amazon, not bad for a book published a month ago.

Anyway, you might enjoy the program if you missed it. I'm in the second part. You can find it at:


D. said...


#1 re: "some WASPs take great pleasure in this (...) these Jews finally got what's coming to them."

This is something that would have been good to bring up and take a stand on in your Boston Magazine article. Because you didn't address it, some readers may have suspected you of being anti-semitic, especially given the title of the article:"reversal of fortune."


P.S. I think it would be very interesting if some of your friends that happen to be Jewish would post on this blog and give their take on the whole situation. D.

#2 I was surprised to hear you say that you may take some pleasure in some of these people's loses ("the show-offs")... I'm wondering if you feel that these sort of sentiments make it difficult for you to stay objective both now as well as when you researched and wrote your book. D.

#3 Also, it's surprising that Donald Trump declining being prominently featured in your book. He appears to love publicity ("there is no such thing as over exposure") ... So why not thought your book? I'm wondering if you have any idea or at least theory as to why he declined? D.


Good questions. First of all "Reversal of Fortune" was not my title. My title was "Bernard Madoff and the Jews of Boston." But magazine editors have a right to choose the titles and subtitles and edit the piece. In fact, it ended up about half of what I wrote, narrowly focused on Boston. Even thouh it's not my title, maybe I'm dense by why is the title "Reversal of Fortune" possibly anti-Semetic. It seems to me to be an accurate rendering of what happened to Madoff's victims. When I said I took a certain amusement when a billionaire loses a hundred million dollars, I was thinking of one specific Palm Beach man. He and his wife are obnoxious to the extreme. I have a story I did not use in my book about how his wife attempted to have her interior decorator falsely arrested for theft. I dont admire such behavior and I don't think I'm less objective because I refuse to condone it. The reason Donald Trump didn't talk to me is that my publisher said he was over exposed and didn't want him in the book. When I told him that he went up the wall. By the way he told my wife he likes Madness. He said he didn't like the way he was portrayed but he thought I did right by his club. As far as my Jewish friends commenting, they can if they want but I'm not going to ask anybody to make specific comments.

D. said...

#1 I don't think the title *itself* can be viewed as anti-Semitic but the combination of the title (which certainly brings to mind the idea that some people, namely anti-Semitic ones, would be happy about this turn of events) and not addressing such an obvious issue (by bringing it up and taking a stand on it) can easily give rise to suspicion as to where you really stand on this. But just that.

Also, mentioning "my Jewish friends" when none of them appear to be posting on this blog may make some people suspicious -- as I said, it would certainly make some of these entries very interesting and it appears to be a situation where you would expect a friend to help. Again, I don't think *the fact in itself* proves anything, it's just that it may give rise to suspicion for some people.

#2. re:
"When I said I took a certain amusement when a billionaire loses a hundred million dollars"

That seems (to me) to be very different from what you actually said. I see amusement and taking pleasure as very different things. You also did not look at all amused when you said it (around 5:00 time mark), you looked dead serious. You can be amused with something in all sort of situations if you simply find it funny but *taking pleasure* in somebody's problems is something entirely different... it goes far beyond just not condoning that person. At least that's the way I see it.


P.S. Anyways, I'll probably read your book (I could let you know what I think of it if you'd like that).

D. said...

see also my 3rd comment to your entry "Confrontation on the streets of Palm Beach" (didn't notice your answer to my first comment there before responding to this thread)


P.S. my comments were just an attempt to help you see what the problems may have been since you appeared to honestly not know why the article provoked such reactions but I can certainly keep my opinions to myself. D.


D., I've got no problems with you leaving comments. I think you're sincere and I think what we need is open dialogue. You're pointing out things that you think possibly might be offensive if they're taking in a certain way. I clearly didn't mean them to be offensive, and I don't think I have to defend myself. It's obvious to almost everyone what I'm writing. There are very few people who are upset but they are the ones with the loudest voices. You're not one of those. You're honestly asking questions. Larry

D. said...

OK; I'm curious what you think of the Jaffe developments -- I mean could she be right?

As far as I can tell, having stayed married for 40 years does cast serious doubt on the idea that she just married the guy for his looks (and he married her for her money).

This was information that appears to have been easily accessible to you (for how long have they been married and what does that mean, if anything... -- I mean if the marriage is a sham, the length may have little relevance but if Ellen Jaffe is not lying and they are still very much in love, it seems to me that that piece of information should have made it into your article in the interest of fairness; again, it does not appear that it would have been very difficult for you to find that out, one way or another).

If so, do you feel that your words were unfair to her (well, to both of them), that maybe you should have made sure there was some truth behind what those sources were telling you before committing it to print?

re: "Unlike his father-in-law, Robert Jaffe's not even getting the benefit of the doubt. It's with acid in their voices that his Palm Beach peers remind you how *the former Louis Boston salesman married into his status. "He was looking for a rich wife, and Ellen was the best he could do*" [my emphasis]

Again, I don't think there is something necessarily wrong with what you said per see -- you used it to make the point that Jaffe wasn't given the benefit of a doubt but the reader can't ignore the end of that paragraph and given that you did not disclose evidence to the contrary it appears to be allowed to stand.

Your description of Robert Jaffe also seems a bit unfair to me:

re: "He was Ellen's greatest treasure, a sixtysomething peacock in a black dinner jacket tailored to his tall, lean frame. He had an aging gigolo's looks, with sleek black hair and a face that if not lifted by plastic surgery nonetheless looked not youthful so much as the caricature of youth."

A black dinner jacket sounds pretty bland to me, nothing "peacocky" about it. Also, what are "gigolo's looks"? I don't think there is such a thing but the expression certainly has very bad connotations.


theduchessofH said...

Mr Leamer,

I just happened upon your blog while searching for information on the 20/20 show I missed.
I just ordered your book from Amazon,and I look forward to reading it

All The Best,


Anonymous said...

I think 20/20 did a beautiful job in reporting the Madoff nightmare. They presented the story without bias and without sensationalizing it.

After much bruhaha regarding your article in Boston Magazine, it was refreshing to see you interviewed on tv. To me, you came across as honest, sympathetic and sincerely touched by the enormity of the Madoff calamity.

Mr. Madoff did hurt the Jewish people of Palm Beach. I do not agree with those who believe it to be irrelevant that Mr. Madoff is Jewish, citing other historic white collar crimes that hurt thousands. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is almost unbelieveable that a person of great intelligence, enormous ability and a spectacular career would purpetrate a fraud of such enormity against his realitives, friends, neighbors, club members and fellow congregants. He willingly took money the super rich, average folk and from great humanitarians. He willingly and knowingly hurt and/or destroyed Jewish humanitarian enterprises world wide. He has hurt his people more than anyone since Hitler.

Palm Beach is a small community and when news of the fraud hit the town it was almost as if the community was split in two, the Jews who were devestated by the scam, many of whom whose lives were changed irrevocable, and the Wasps who were not.

Mr. Leamer, I see you as an honest and brave reporter of events. Brave in your earnest presentation of the facts whether or not hearing them or seeing them in print might appear to offend some. What has occurred is ofensive. But, it has not been your doing.

To those bloggers who believe you might have no Jewish friends in Palm Beach, they are wrong.


D. said...

Thanks for your perspective, TV!

It was good to see it... I do believe this blog could greatly benefit from opinions from people in the community.

Just to clarify, I do not believe that it was irrelevant that Madoff was Jewish, just that I could see why the Boston Magazine article left some people puzzled and Larry appeared to have not seen it coming... (so I basically helped out by pointing out things that made sense to me).

Same for the Jaffe developments, what I put down is just what makes sense to me... I'm wondering what you think of that particular issue. Thanks!


theduchessofH said...

Mr. Leamer,

I enjoyed your book tremendously. Your story telling style is as delightful as listening to a friend relaying a juicy tale.

I never realised such a cast of characters resided in Palm Beach.

I would have been chewed up, and spit out in a New York second. lol

I am glad we chose boring Marco Island.