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.