I was raised in Stockton, CA, by a shy, schoolteacher mother and an extremely colorful, Argentinean father. When I was eight, we moved to the suburbs of New York, where I spent the next ten years trying rather unsuccessfully to fit in. I went to college at the University of Madison-Wisconsin and worked as a waitress at Casa de Lara, where I spent many stolen hours in the walk-in cooler with the bartender.
After college, I traveled around the world for four years. I spent two of those in Jerusalem, where I worked as a waitress and learned Hebrew. Then I moved to Tokyo for six months, working as a “hostess”—a sort of modern-day geisha. I traveled five or six times to Egypt and swam in the Nile; hitchhiked through Jordan; backpacked all over Europe; and spent 10 lonely days in Buenos Aires, trying to find a restaurant that served food before 11:00 P.M.
When I returned to the States, I got a job as a secretary on the trading floor of an investment bank, where I watched grown men do one-handed pushups for cheeseburgers. A childhood friend who worked as an editor at the now-defunct Biography magazine gave me my first writing assignment, a review of a coffee table book entitled, Barbie: 4 Decades of Fashion and Fun. My observations about her “endless good-hair days and enviable 2 cm waist” led to a full-time freelance writing career.
Two years later I woke up having heart palpitations because I couldn’t pay rent. So I took a part-time writing job at Us Weekly. There, I broke the “Ben Affleck Marries J. Lo—and We Have All the Wedding Details!” story. Think I might be able to sell a signed copy of that on eBay?
A few months later, I landed a full-time job at Glamour, and after four years as a staffer, they offered me a writing contract. I held that for three years, then decided to go freelance full-time.
Somewhere along the way, an editor friend suggested I write a personal essay about my father, which turned into the Esquire piece, “My Father, the Fraud.” That, in turn, became the book.
In 2009, while reading from The Impostor’s Daughter in New York City, Catherine Hooper, fiancee of Andrew Madoff, approached me backstage and suggested that we might have, er, a few things in common. On October 31, 2011, I published my second book, an authorized biography of Bernie Madoff’s family called Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family. For that project, I was granted unfettered access to Ruth Madoff, Andrew Madoff, Catherine Hooper, Susan Elkin (Mark Madoff’s first wife) and Joan Roman (Ruth’s sister). The book was featured on 60 Minutes, the front page of The New York Times, The Today Show, and numerous other outlets. Surreal does not begin to describe the experience.
Now I live in Los Angeles with my dog, Violet, a large book collection, and a flat-screen TV, where I watch The Real Housewives of fill-in-the-blank, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and The Biggest Loser. (For research, in case I ever write a book on reality television.)
Official bio: Laurie Sandell has written for The New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Marie Claire, Glamour, New York, Real Simple and InStyle, among other publications. Her cartoons have appeared in Redbook, Glamour, New York and The Wall Street Journal. Her graphic memoir, The Impostor’s Daughter, was published by Little, Brown in July 2009 and nominated for a 2010 Eisner Award in the “Best Reality-Based Work” category. Her second book, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, was published by Little, Brown in October 2011. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.