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Astor, Madoff, Spitzer, Weiner

The last four years brought four first-class New York scandals, each epic, tragic, difficult to forget. But which will we still be talking about 100 years from now? We asked around.


“You mean nobody cares about the fine I got for the Yankees tickets? The Spitzer thing was shocking because of the contrast. There’s nothing like when somebody gets caught breaking their own rules. But the long-lasting is easily going to be Madoff. The weekend it broke, I was the keynote speaker for Yeshiva graduation—and Bernie Madoff was the treasurer—and I felt like I was at a state funeral. At one point, I said that the Jewish community is maybe the most resilient community in history, given all the different times over the centuries that the Jews have bounced back from disaster. I’d seen other people do this—you’d say this after, say, a terrible tragedy in Israel. Every single time I saw other speakers do this, there’s been resounding applause. But this time, everybody looked at me. Nobody clapped. And I said, ‘Maybe this disaster is so great, that right now we can’t even think about resilience.’ And then I got this collective sigh. I sat down next to Speaker Sheldon Silver, and he said, ‘Not that time.’ Not that time. It was just too personal.” —David Paterson, former governor

Madoff, because people love to gossip about sex and family scandals for a few weeks, but they never forget the guy who picks their pockets. —Laura Miller, writer

Madoff. Money matters over sex at all times.” —Gay Talese, writer

Spitzer. He proved to be a man of action. Madoff and Weiner were phonies. One big, one little.” —Col Allan, editor-in-chief, New York Post

Easy: Madoff, because of the scheme’s scale, longevity, megacriminality, and embodiment of an era—although the Weiner episode gets honorable mention for its highly 2011-ish peculiarity.” —Kurt Andersen, writer

“In the future, everyone will have a dirty digital past, so Weiner and Spitzer will be minor footnotes. Ms. Astor’s story will endure as yet another example of what befalls the rich.” —Mike Albo, writer

Weiner. Years from now, New Yorkers will think to themselves: a sex scandal, both tragic and comedic, and without sex.” —Ed Koch, former mayor

No question: Bernie Madoff. He fucked over so many people that the Ponzi scheme will forever be linked with his white-collar black magic.” —David Chang, restaurateur “

Weiner, because the confluence of his name and his offense is so risible (which, if you mispronounce it, makes the whole event even more preposterous).” —Daniel Okrent, writer

Madoff. So many powerful people and institutions affected (if not ruined). And as hilariously appropriate as Weiner’s last name is, Madoff’s is even better.” —Tod Lippy, editor, Esopus

“Spitzer’s story will be forgotten first because it’s basically just a man lying to his wife about sex. Same with Brooke Astor, because it’s axiomatic: Where there’s a will, there’s a war. Madoff’s story will have long legs because swindlers tend to be immortalized. But the Weiner scandal may go down in the books because it’s the only postmodern one. In olden days, he would have been arrested for being a public nuisance and that would have been that.” —David Patrick Columbia, editor/co-founder, New York Social Diary

Spitzer, Madoff, Weiner, Astor. Hookers > Fraud > Sexting > Family Fight.” —Scco_k, nymag.com commenter

Hands down, Bernie Madoff. New details emerge every few months. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Like herpes.” —Simon Doonan, creative ambassador, Barneys New York

1. Madoff. 2. Spitzer. The other two not—Astor is too great, and will-pilfering by a son is too common. And the Weiner scandal will be as forgotten as a discarded Casio cell phone.” —Peter Kaplan, editorial director, Fairchild Fashion Media

“Emerson once said that history can be resolved in the biographies of a few stout and earnest people. There was nothing earnest about Madoff, of course, but he will be the figurehead of our era of greed.” —Colum McCann, writer

"My money’s on Madoff. There’s little chance of the others being remembered by anyone other than antiquarians. —Luc Sante, writer

Spitzer and Weiner. New Yorkers have a love affair with sordid politicians, and you can’t get more sordid than those two.” —Maureen Bray, director, Sean Kelly Gallery

Brooke Astor—if you’re gay. The straights don’t really get into the whole Ancient Socialite thing.” —Kafkask, nymag.com commenter

Weiner, because, unlike the others, it could never have happened at any other moment—he owns the early teens 4EVA.” —Lorin Stein, editor, The Paris Review

“Spitzer, for all his drama and its fallout, ended up just a tinpot Clinton, but Madoff—in his Jewish George Washington looks (the hair sort of long but not unkempt and just flaring at the ears, also the melancholy nose and p.o.’d mouth), the way he so plainly resembled a caricature straight out of the Protocols of Zion—Madoff not only forever changed how the world looks at Wall Street, he also personified Jewish fears about our worst enemies’ view of us. If there is an increased anti-Semitism in this country, if people fall back to the old, poison canards about Jewish bankers, it will be Bernie Madoff’s fault.” —Darin Strauss, writer

No question, Madoff. He came to represent a terrible rot that was rampant in our financial system.” —Richard Peña, program director, Film Society of Lincoln Center

Madoff, because the others have no real larger ramifications; they are mere personal and private dramas.” —Jon Robin Baitz, playwright

“Madoff. It’s one thing to bilk pension funds, but it takes a real sadist to go after the Mets.” —Nathaniel Rich, writer

Madoff. He managed to derail the Mets even worse than they could by themselves!”—Susan Yung, BAM Publications Director

“I would be very surprised if anyone remembered any of those scandals a month from now much less a century. I already get Brooke Astor mixed up with Brooke Burke.” —Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter


See the Complete History of Scandals [PDF]


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