‘Bag Lady’ Penney spins Madoff losses into gold

By Carol Eisenberg

February 12, 2009 at 12:40pm

The Bag Lady may get to keep her expensive jewelry and her West Palm Beach cottage after all.

Alexandra Penney, the former editor-in-chief of Self magazine who has written about her travails as a rich-girl victim of Bernard Madoff’s in a blog called The Bag Lady Papers may have found a path out of penury.

Penny will receive “a nice sum of money” from Hyperion Books to write about her experience being swindled of her life savings by Madoff.

While her first-hand account of her financial devastation on Tina Brown’s Daily Beast website (”yesterday, I took my first subway ride in 30 years” ) exasperated some readers, it struck a chord with editors at Hyperion who apparently share some of her fears (”How am I going to iron those shirts [without Yolanda the maid] so I can still feel like a poor civilized person?”).

Hyperion Publisher Ellen Archer acknowledges that Penney’s blog resonated deeply with her.

“There are a lot of us, even those of us with paychecks, who are worried that we can end up on the streets,” Archer said. “Even those of us who haven’t invested with Bernie Madoff have taken a lot of financial hits and watching her navigate these difficult waters provides a lot of people with reassurance.”

To be fair to Penney, she does not pull any punches. She writes of growing up privileged - her mother was Greek royalty, her father was a Harvard lawyer - in “a WASPy Connecticut suburb.” But after leaving her husband, she says she made her own way, primarily by writing bestsellers such as How to Make Love to a Man.

Despite that success, she was haunted by the fear she would end up a bag lady on the streets - and after confiding that to a friend, got turned onto Madoff as a sort of financial insurance policy. Until the devastasting news of Madoff’s arrest on Dec. 11, that had seemed to be working for her. She was living as an artist with her own New York studio, doing the work she loved and, yes, diniing at the Four Seasons whenever she felt like it.

Now, thanks to her old network in publishing - and her resolve to go back to writing for a living - she may get to keep Yolanda the maid to iron all those shirts.

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  • #1.   belles 02.12.2009

    There is a proverb in Japan that states “Nanakorobi Yaoki”.
    Nana = Seven
    Korubi = Fall Down
    Ya = Eight
    Oki = Stand Up
    The proverb translates to, “Seven times down, eight times up”. It derives its origins from okiagari dolls, paper-mache toys than when knocked down, always return to an upright position. The dolls have no arms or legs and are also known as Daruma dolls.
    Daruma (also known as Bodhidharma) was the first patriarch of Zen. He traveled from India to China in the sixth century. Legend has it that he sat in a cave meditating for nine years without moving, in order to obtain enlightenment. In the process, his legs withered to nothing and his hands shriveled away from lack of use. But he remained steadfast and seemed to get healthier with the passing years. Folklore suggests he finally died after vitally living eight hundred thirteen years.
    The armless, legless Daruma dolls are weighted so they always pop up after being pushed down. They represent the resiliency and perseverance of Daruma. They stand for success after misfortune. Daruma dolls inspire you to rise no matter how many times you stumble or fall down. “Nana” in Japanese has a double meaning. It means “seven” but is also used to denote “many”.
    So, “Nanakorobi Yaoki”, or “Seven times down, eight times up”, is a call to never give up. It is a celebration of your spirit, determination, and ability to not only land on your feet, but to also evolve, enjoy, and thrive.

  • #2.   TACOM 02.17.2009

    This is worthy material? Come back when this “bag” commits suicide! Gad what a disgusting article!

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