The demonization of Ruth Madoff continues apace in Vanity Fair’s latest installment of the Madoff Family Chronicles, which bolsters the image of Bernie Madoff’s wife as a hand puppet of her husband and a screaming demon in her own right by including a smattering of new anecdotes about the temper we saw on display in May, when she told ABC News to “fuck off,” and in June, when she told a Post photographer he was ruining her life. These were not just frustrated outbursts from a woman whose entire identity had been swept out from under her, writer Mark Seal tells us. Anger was just a part of her personality.
Chef Mark Strausman relates the following story of a time Ruth came to lunch at Fred’s, the restaurant he owns at Barneys.
“She’s walking out, and I say, ‘How are you?’ and she says, ‘Not happy!’ She points to the poor maître d’ and says, ‘He gave me a bad table!’” Strausman tried to smooth things over. “But Ruth was inconsolable — really, really nasty. I wanted to say to her, ‘How would you expect him to know who you are? And who are you anyway? You’re just another short Jewish lady on the Upper East Side, for God’s sake!’ But Ruth was nasty. Red. It was like an exorcism.”
Julia Fenwick, who’s been dining out on her job with Madoff’s London office since the scandal broke in December, tells a story about how an associate toasted Madoff at his birthday party last year, ending on a joking, “And, Bernie, you know you’re a complete shyster.”
“Everybody laughed,” Fenwick remembers. “But Ruth went nuts. She screamed at the guest, ‘You’re a complete shit! How dare you say that to Bernie? All the things he’s done for you, and you treat him like this? You’re out of order!’ And he said, ‘Ruth, I was just roasting him!’ But Ruth went absolutely crazy, at the table, in front of everybody, saying ‘fuck’ and ‘shit,’ and wouldn’t let the matter drop. The party was kind of over after that.”
These are sensational anecdotes, to be sure, but a bit unfair. Imagine if someone defined you based on a description given by your spouse’s employee and the customer-service representative at Citigroup that you freaked out at one time? This is not to say that casual and short-term acquaintances are the only people writer Mark Seal approached. Buried in the story is this quote, from her landscaper of 25 years:
“The only Ruth Madoff I know is so loving, so intelligent, so respectful of my work.”
Which, at this point, seems like a far more sensational thing to say.