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Charity Caught Up in Wall Street Ponzi Scandal

Charity Caught Up In Wall Street Ponzi Scandal | 'Mad Men' Still In Limbo | Mystery Of A Broadway Opening

Charity Caught Up In Wall Street Ponzi Scandal

There was at least one warning sign everyone missed in the Bernard Madoff story. Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman who reportedly created the largest swindle in Wall Street history, liked to spread around the money he allegedly stole to make himself look good.

Madoff was arrested on one charge of securities fraud Thursday and released on $10 million bail. He faces up to 20 years in jail in what authorities say was "a giant Ponzi scheme." Such a scheme can involve taking investments from clients, spending the money on yourself and repay the clients out of other clients' accounts. Readers of this column may recall such a case with Hollywood money manager Dana Giacchetto back in 2001.

Madoff kept his story secret for years, and got away with it. "Everyone wanted him to manage their money. They would say, If only I get with Bernie Madoff," a very rich media person told me Thursday night.

There were some indications that Madoff might have been in trouble. The signs were there. Last year, his own Madoff Family Foundation gave only $95,000 to other charity groups.

This was a significant drop from 2006, and from every year since 2000. In 2006, Madoff (which is pronounced "made-off," as in, made off with all our money) gave away a total $1,277,600. It's surprising no one noticed the difference in 2007 since it affected a number of hospitals and other health organizations.

The Madoff family established its charity in 1998 and since then have given multimillion-dollar donations to New York's big-league charities.

These donations afforded the Madoff family — Bernard, his wife, Ruth, their two sons and the sons' wives — the chance to play with the rich and powerful in various New York society circles.

The charity started out slowly with the Madoffs putting in around $4 million for each of the first two years. But in 2000, they parked an astounding $25 million in their tax-free Madoff Family Foundation. It was then that they turned into big-time givers.

Madoff's knack for largesse also spread to members of his family. One son, Andrew, has a tax-free foundation that lists $5 million in assets. Another son, Mark, has one with $2 million in assets.

But it's Bernard and Ruth Madoff's foundation that might be interesting for investigators to look at. In 2007, though they claimed on their federal tax Form 990 total assets in the fund of $19.1 million, the Madoffs also noted a "gross sales price for all assets" — meaning stocks, bonds, and securities — of $182 million. However, the couple's annual charitable contributions have never exceeded $7 million and have dipped as low as $90,000.

Cancer, lymphoma especially, became a cause close to the Madoffs when son Andrew was diagnosed with it a few years ago. Ironically, according to reports, it was Andrew and his brother, Mark, who discovered their father's alleged pyramid scheme and may have alerted authorities.

In fact, the Madoffs have poured millions upon millions into lymphoma research — just under $6 million in just 2003, their peak year of total giving to charities.

In 2004, a year when their total donations came to almost $6 million, the Madoffs sent $2.5 million to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital and $1.7 million to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Some non-cancer charities made out pretty well in 2005. Girls Inc – a sort of "Big Sisters" group — got $25,000; Lincoln Center put $50,000 in its till; the Special Olympics had a gift of $25,000 and Robin Hood Foundation, $30,000.

Madoff wasn't stupid, either. In 2005, he donated $100,000 to the famous Manhattan private school for rich kids, Dalton; and $25,000 to Prep for Prep, which takes poor kids who are smart and sends them to boarding school on an Ivy League track.

In 2006, that huge total sum included one big winner: the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, which received $1 million. The contribution earned the couple the right to be chairmen of the charity's annual gala dinner. And son Andrew became chairman of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Meanwhile, New York's Lincoln Center — currently in a huge rebuilding phase — got a healthy additional $77,500; Jessica Seinfeld's Baby Buggy charity received $12,500; Madoff sent the Robin Hood Foundation another $30,000; and Girls Inc. $25,000 more. The latter two groups have received money from the Madoffs in most years.

Last year, things changed quite dramatically. Gone were the many millions for cancer research and other groups. Despite the $19.1 million in assets, the Madoffs gave away their least amount so far, divided among New York's Public Theater ($50,000), $25,000 to a Girls, Inc., $15,000 to a children's welfare group and $5,000 to The Door.

The significant drop from 2006 to 2007 should have been a signal to the Madoff's regular recipients that something bad was about to happen. And it did.

'Mad Men' Still In Limbo

The hit TV show “Mad Men” is still in limbo.

Yesterday those creaky Golden Globers gave the AMC drama nominations for Best Drama and Best Actor—Jon Hamm, as Don Draper. So that’s the good news. The bad news is that AMC still has no deal with show creator Matthew Weiner to make more episodes.

We know this because Hamm, looking like the movie star he’s about to be, turned up with gorgeous girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt at the premiere of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” on Tuesday night. Forget Brangelina, this is the glam couple of the moment. Hamm is in “Earth” playing a cheesy kind of scientist who rounds up more cheesy scientists to figure out who’s invading our little planet. He plays it tongue in cheek, just like the great Hugh Marlowe did in the original.

But what about “Mad Men”? While he waits to begin new episodes, Hamm has just signed to play Tina Fey’s boyfriend on “30 Rock.” Frankly, by the time AMC and LionsGate cut a new deal with Weiner and get started, Hamm will be even a bigger star. And even with his own contract, I smell renegotiations coming—especially if he gets another Globe come January 11th.

“We can’t do the show without Matthew,” Hamm told me. “Of course, you ‘can’ do it, but you know you can’t.” And I know what he means. It would be like "The Sopranos" without David Chase, or "Brothers and Sisters" without Jon Robin Baitz. Oh wait: that’s what happened in the latter case. But you know what I mean.

The “Earth” party was at Compass restaurant, and it made more sense than the movie. It also tasted better. Nevertheless, star Keanu Reeves was incredibly pleasant and accessible, talking to everyone and being a sport. Oscar winner Kathy Bates, who plays the Secretary of Defense, didn’t seem to mind the payday. We chatted about her famous scene from “Fried Green Tomatoes” where she smashes her car around in a parking lot and announces, “I’m older than you, and I have more insurance than you!”

Meanwhile, who skipped the party: little Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. But Jennifer Connelly was there, in a sparkly silver kind of New Years’ Eve dress, very thin and much recovered from having fought off aliens all night. Her next big role is playing Emma Darwin, wife of Charles—who’s played by her own husband, Paul Bettany. It’s called “Creation.” She did it just to show how evolved she is!

Mystery Of A Broadway Opening

Last night seemed so much like the opening of “Pal Joey” on Broadway.

The revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical sure had the elements of an opening night. A lot of stars showed up, like Chita Rivera, Patricia Clarkson, Margaret Colin, Cherry Jones, Nathan Lane, Andrea Martin, Debra Monk, Walter Bobbie, Jane Alexander, Mario Cantone, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Roberts, and Keith Carradine—who’s also the father of the show’s scene stealer, Martha Plimpton. In the theater I sat next to William Ivey Long, the great costume designer who outfitted all the actors on stage. I chatted with Graciele Daniele, the choreographer.

Jerry Stiller told me a joke, and explained that wife Ann Meara was at the memorial service for the great “Another World” actress Irene Dailey. I asked Jerry if he’d heard that his son, Ben, had just agreed to fill in for actor Mark Ruffalo on a new movie because the tragic death of Mark’s brother had knocked the actor out of commission. He said, wryly, “This is how I hear about these things!”

Then, of course, there was a big, catered after party at the Marriott Marquis, where the cast arrived. There was lots of applause, toasts, flashbulbs going off and that sort of thing. I met Mary Rodgers, the live wire daughter of composer Richard Rodgers, and Larenz Tate, nephew of the late, celebrated lyricist. The mother of the lighting director came all the way from Brighton Beach. Stockard Channing, the show’s star, made a dramatic entrance.

So I came home, ready to write all this up, and maybe a few thoughts about the lousy sound system at Studio 54—the theater where "Pal Joey" is being produced by the Roundabout Theater. I was going to say that Stockard Channing is a mesmerizing actress but cannot sing, so that “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is kind of lost on the audience, and that still Channing comes out a winner. I was going to write that I have rarely seen a human being sweat as much as Matthew Risch, the understudy who took over for Christian Hoff a few weeks ago, and that maybe he should have Gatorade on stage so he doesn’t pass out while dancing Gene Kelly’s intricate, athletic numbers. I wanted to tell you that every time Jenny Fellner sang anything, it was like a breath of cool, refreshing H20. And that Martha Plimpton, who’s 37, and has been acting for twenty years, is reborn a musical comedy star.

Alas, I also looked around to see what Ben Brantley wrote in the Times, if there was criticism of the updating and editing of the book, etcetera. And there was: nothing. Yes, it was late. I checked the date: December 11th. And then I saw that the opening was listed as: December 18th. But wait? Didn’t all that stuff happen? Didn’t all those people show up? Didn’t Matthew Risch perspire in synch with the torrential rains outside? Where were the reviews?

Well, it turns out that the critics – the “theat-ah” critics—were embargoed back to December 18th. That’s the “real” opening night! Wow! Are they going to do it all again? Did I just dream this event? Is the lighting director’s mother coming all the way back from Brighton Beach? Will the canapés hold up?

I have no idea. It seems that the change to Risch from Hoff is the reason for the extra week. So Risch will be tortured a second time, and maybe lost five more pounds of flop sweat wondering who’s in the audience and what they will say either among themselves or in print. I can tell you now, not a lot will change. Risch will probably grow into the role more, but you can see now that he’s up to the challenge. Nightclub owner Joey Evans is a demanding, unsympathetic role for musical comedy. He’s a louse who has to dance like he’s an American in Paris, even though he’s in Chicago. Risch will be fine, especially if he watches “Broadcast News” to see Albert Brooks. Now, that was flop sweat!

Maybe the sound at Studio 54 will improve; it can’t get worse. The other actors, I think they’re in place. Channing is not going to become a great singer, but as someone pointed out last night, Rex Harrison wasn’t either and he made “My Fair Lady” his own. No one does rich and haughty like Channing, so her turn as Joey’s wealthy benefactor and illicit lover, Vera Simpson, is otherwise spot on. Plimpton is only going to get more and more standing ovations for playing nightclub performer Gladys Bumps, and her “Zip” number should only get her a Tony Award next June. Jenny Fellner is destined to become the next Sutton Foster.

So there it is: the show that didn’t open, but it did open, and everyone lived, but boy, if they have to do it all over again, I don’t know. That chicken at the Marriott Marquis was pretty rubbery to begin with. I don’t know if it can last another seven days!

PS to Madonna, of all people: the “Zip” song was written in 1940, when the musical debuted. Lorenz Hart name checked a bunch of celebs of the day like Leslie Howard, Noel Coward, and Stravinsky. The character, Gladys, who sings it, is a fancy stripper. So the last verse is of the most interest: “I have read the great Kabala/And I simply worship Allah/Zip! I am such a mystic.” You see, dear, this was done a long, long time ago. See how Rita Hayworth did it in the 1957 movie, lipsynching to JoAnn Greer.