We have no qualms about being total Carmen Dell’Orefice fangirls — the 80-year-old supermodel is stunning, glamorous, and her wit is even sharper than her acute sense of style. But instead of settling into a life of lush retirement, Dell’Orefice is fighting off creditors and banks who want her money, and it has a lot to do with infamous Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.
Dell’Orefice let it slip in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that she might be evicted from her home in New York City. “Even with a computer, I can’t get rid of all the papers in my life. The banks always want something. They’re deciding even now whether to shovel me out of my little apartment…”
While we hope it doesn’t come to that, it certainly explains why she’s been doing so many jobs here lately. Dell’Orefice is one of the more prominent fashion-industry personalities who lost a ton of money in Madoff’s investment scheme. In fact, the vast majority of her fortune disappeared. The supermodel started investing with Madoff in the early 1990s after meeting Norman Levy, a real-estate tycoon who was himself pretty tied up in Madoff’s fund.
Dell’Orefice told her story to Vanity Fair in 2009, explaining how she got into the fund in the first place:
On Valentine’s Day 1994, after four months of dating, Levy made what Carmen called his “grandstand play” for her affection. He instructed her to meet him at the office of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, in the Lipstick Building, the oval red-granite monolith at 53rd Street and Third Avenue designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. “Bring your checkbook,” he said.
Carmen arrived early, she remembered. “And there was a little man sitting behind a very big desk. ‘Are you Mr. Madoff?,’ I asked.”
“Yes, and I’m expecting you,” he said, his mouth pursed in what she would soon discover was his trademark smirk.
“In back of me, I hear this booming voice: ‘Did you bring your checkbook?’ I turned around and there was
Norman, all six-foot-three, two-hundred-and-something pounds of him.
‘Yes, Norman, I did.”‘
“Then write one out for $100,000,” Levy told her. Carmen couldn’t write a check for anywhere near that amount; she was still in arbitration after having lost most of her money in the stock market and having been forced to auction off her early modeling photographs at Sotheby’s the year before.
“Bernie Madoff chuckled and said, ‘Don’t worry, the money is there.’ He added, ‘Mr. Levy put it in your account.”‘
Little did either of them know that the investment would cause them — or the world — so much trouble. And while we’re glad to see Dell’Orefice getting photographed again, we’re also sad to know that it’s because she’s fallen on hard times, just like the rest of us.
You can read more about what she’s up to — and where you can see an upcoming exhibit of her photographs — here.