The Madoff Auction: Everything But Bernie’s Underwear

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A representative of Gaston & Sheehan shows off some of Ruth Madoff's gently used purses.

Over at the Sheraton Towers in midtown today, assorted tourists and gawkers were checking out a preview of the auction of belongings the U.S. Marshals had seized from the estate of Bernard Madoff, which will be officially for sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow. The bulk of the things on offer is jewelry belonging to Ruth Madoff, and the Ponzi schemer's famed Rolex collection, which was laid out in well-lit cases alongside the various other trinkets Feds have seized in recent years, including a "grill" mouthpiece studded with rhinestones and tiny rose-gold crosses and a fourteen-karat, diamond-studded pendant reading "4 Life or Death." "How would you like that?" a stubby gentleman asked the woman with him, a tall, Louis Vuitton–toting blonde. They both laughed.

The Madoff cache was the main attraction. The rest of the family's belongings were set up off to the side, in little vignettes, like displays in a Museum of Once-Happy Families. Art, sculptures, and assorted wooden furniture were grouped together in a homey way, while the more outdoorsy things — a boogie board with "Madoff" scrawled on it in Sharpie, a life preserver from one of the family yachts, golf tees, a couple of polo shirts embroidered with the BLMIS logo — were arranged jauntily together. And then there were the personal effects, which mostly belonged to Ruth: handbags, belts, a couple of pairs of boots, a row of fur coats in plastic bags. Looking at them felt strange, like rifling through someone's closet without their permission. Which, in a way, we were. "It looks like it's never been used," one of the women working the show marveled to a potential buyer of a Chanel handbag. "Can you imagine?" She shook her head. "I'm a very private person," she said. "Even if I did something really wrong, I wouldn't think it was right for people to go through all my things, judging me." At least they weren't selling off the contents of the Madoffs underwear drawer, we joked. Her eyes widened. "No, they are," she said. "We aren't selling it here, but they have all of it. They have everything."