Palm Beach Ponzi Pique: Why Did Madoff Bilk Own Mishpocheh?

doonan 10 Palm Beach Ponzi Pique: Why Did Madoff Bilk Own Mishpocheh?To say that Bernie Madoff has performed a rectal electrocution on Palm Beach would not be an exaggeration.

My Jonny and I have always relied heavily on the serenity and sensory deprivation of our annual Palm Beach winter vacation to help us repair our post-holiday jangled nerves. This foofy enclave of nothing-much-to-do is the perfect place for two exhausted retail hags. But now Uncle Bernie has succeeded in transforming our peaceful, pleasantly boring retreat into a veritable Falluja of writhing agony, pawnbroker tickets, regret, nouveau poverty and WASP-y schadenfreude.

Momentous questions hang in the air like the flocks of buzzards that whirl over the stinky intercoastal waters. Are the gentiles sympathetic or are they gloating? Why did malevolent Madoff target his own mishpocheh, the nice Jews of the Palm Beach Country Club? And the charities? Why the Jew-on-Jew crime?  Why not focus his dastardly schemes on the supercilious WASPs over at the snooty Bath and Tennis Club or the Everglades Club?

The tension in PB is palpable. Everywhere you go you hear people saying things like, “Two o’clock. The old broad with the blond wig. One hundred and eighty million.” The town that brought you the effervescent fashions of Lilly Pulitzer is looking positively funereal.

One bright spot: Mod queen Lisa Perry has opened a groovy swinging boutique off Worth Avenue—a microcosm of the ones she has in Soho and Sag Harbor—purveying her futuristic 1960s go-go aesthetic. The relentlessly upbeat vision of La Perry seems right for the times. I can guarantee you that the can-do gal in the graphic fuchsia Perry shift and the Lucite kitten heels will fare better in 2009 than the disheveled neo-hippie of the last few seasons. Simply put: When the axe falls at your place of employ this month, you will be less likely to get a pink slip if you are wearing one of La Perry’s optimistic creations.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, I am hoping Lisa will make resort attire for men. I am starting to think I need a new look for my Florida sojourns. Currently, I sport furiously patterned Vilebrequin swim trunks randomly teamed with wildly patterned Liberty shirts. This über-resorty ensemble is topped off with a Jimmy Buffett–esque straw hat that I purchased at the pro shop at Bernie’s old stomping ground, the Palm Beach Country Club.

Not everyone is as fond of my playful prints and lurid colors as I am. On a day trip to Miami at New Year’s, my vibrant combinations were subjected to the ultimate litmus test: I ran into Calvin Klein, the king of fashion minimalism. Looking stupendously fit and handsome, Mr. Klein gave me the once-over and winced as if encountering a Duane Hanson sculpture come to life. While greeting us in a friendly manner, he was visibly shaken by my lack of solids. “What a shonda!” his expression seemed to say.

Our Lincoln Road promenade turned into an orgy of celeb spotting. We saw Michael Caine looking nautical and spiffy in a navy and white Ralph Lauren–ish ensemble. Restraining myself from shouting “Splice the mainbrace!” or “Avast behind!” was far from easy.

“Look, there’s Heather Mills!” I shrieked, upon spotting the former Mrs. Paul McCartney, liberally sprinkling salt all over her linguine at Quattro. “Only one ankle will swell,” I mused to my Jonny, “but that’s still one swollen ankle too many!” I was about to caution her when she got up and strode in our direction, revealing herself not to be La Mills, but just a look-alike blonde with ironed hair.

Just another case of celebrity misidentification! Little did I know, as I chuckled inside my jaunty prints, that the same thing was about to happen to me, albeit on a more F-list level.

“Mimi! Mimi!” screamed two children, and began chasing me in the direction of the beach. In a flash, our leisurely stroll morphed into a Suddenly, Last Summer/Lord of the Flies kind of scenario, starring me as Sebastian Venable/Piggy. Cornered at the entrance to the frozen yogurt shop, I turned to confront my tormentors.

“You’re not our Mimi!” screamed one petulant child reproachfully. Just in the nick of time, the real Mimi, wearing jauntily patterned separates and a large straw hat, materialized to scoop up her charges.

For those of you who have been living on Mars, “Mimi” is the new “grandma.” The words “granny” or “grandma” have lost their original meaning and become adjectives used solely by acid-tongued queens on make-over shows to identify styles that are antiquated, frowzy and not hot.

Seated at the airport for our return flight amongst a gaggle of Botoxed and bleached Mimis, I mused upon this etymological evolution and realized that I am anti-Mimi. I infinitely prefer the hilarious perversity of hearing little kids yelling, “Hey, Grandma!” at a surgically enhanced blonde of indeterminate age in a pink velour Juicy Couture ensemble.

Meanwhile, a fervent wish for 2009: Bernie in stripes!

sdoonan@observer.com