Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Other Bernie

I watched the two-night TV series, each instalment two hours in length, on Bernie Madoff this week and found Richard Dreyfuss's portrayal to be superb. In fact, the whole cast and the writing were good and the story bears re-telling. ABC for once did a good job especially in following the second instalment with an hour spent speaking to those in the case who are still around to talk.

It confirmed to me my original feelings about how Bernie Madoff was so successful in inveigling people into investing with him. He understood the secret of never asking directly for money but making his funds hard to gain entry so that people craved to be let in on what they clearly regarded as a gold mine.

I think of the Sunday morning testimonial breakfasts that my dad would now and then feel compelled to attend and recall the kind of men who populated those occasions. I can just see him sidling up to someone who had been seeking him out and saying, with some reluctance, "Look, it's all taken for this year but next year I'll somehow get you in for a small amount."

The whole thing is a testament to human nature. It was both sad in its impact on many, many people who trusted him and were wiped out and even his family. Of course, they were living high on the hog while the fraud ran wild, but his sons resented him most in the years before the scandal broke for his refusing to let them in on "that part of the business." I don't think they ever realized that he was a total crook.

Also amusing was the high regard in which he seems to be held by his fellow inmates at Butner federal prison in North Carolina, likely because he stole so much more than any of them had. That made him someone they could respect: a guy who had taken a cool fifty billion.

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