TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: We’ve heard a lot about bailouts over the last year. And one question just about everyone has asked is, “Where’s mine?” Well it may be closer than you think.
Our New York Editor Paddy Hirsch joins me now. Paddy, I hear you attended a personal bailout this week.
Paddy Hirsch: I did, L.A. style.
Vigeland: L.A. style. So it would be a party then.
Hirsch: Oh absolutely. A friend of mine, Christine Schoenwald, has defaulted on her mortgage and she is in loan modification right now. She’s in danger of foreclosing, so she did what ever good Angeleno does, which is to gather some of her friends in the entertainment industry and have a concert.
Vigeland: All right, so you attended this concert?
Hirsch: I did. I attended the benefit.
Vigeland: And like any good reporter, you brought your recorder
Hirsch: Of course
Vigeland: And asked a few uncomfortable questions of your friends
Hirsch: I certainly did Tess. And I started with Christine.
Hirsch: What about your cash cushion that you had?
Christine Schoenwald: (Laughs) I don’t really have a cash cushion.
Hirsch: Why no cash cushion?
Schoenwald: I don’t make very much money. And I didn’t save any and the money that I had inherited many years ago is gone.
Hirsch: I want to ask you a couple of questions that might be a little difficult to answer. So first thing I understand is that you may have taken some equity out of your house along the way.
Schoenwald: Yes, we refinanced a number of times.
Hirsch: How many times?
Schoenwald: I’ve lost count many times.
Hirsch: And what do you think now when you look back at that activity?
Schoenwald: I know definitely we shouldn’t have done it the last time.
Hirsch: Just the last time.
Schoenwald: Just the last time, because that really had made it sky rocket up.
Hirsch: Tell me about that process, was it easy to get those refinancings?
Schoenwald: Oh yeah, because I had a lot of equity in my house. This was before, you know, the financial crisis. So they’re always happy to refinance me, even though I didn’t make that much money, I didn’t have very much in savings, but they were always happy to refinance.
Hirsch: A lot of people would call that “using your house as an ATM.”
Schoenwald: Totally. Guilty as charged.
Vigeland: Paddy, you’ve been watching as I’ve been shaking my head, listening to this. This is quite the sticky wicket she’s got herself in. And I do have to ask you, there’s been so much anger out there, not only at Wall Street, but at people like this who did things that they really shouldn’t have. But her friends are just going to overlook her mistakes.
Hirsch: Well, I think in many cases, most people aren’t concerned about the details. Everybody knows that during the boom, people made mistakes and they were suckered in and they did crazy things. And they’re not judging Christine based on that, they just want to be there to support her and that’s what they showed up for.
For example, one of the cast of characters, Alex Borstein from “Family Guy,” she showed up. And I asked her if she knew about the background of Christine’s problems.
Alex Borstein: I don’t actually know the background. I’m that dumb of a friend, that I just believe her. But I haven’t actually heard the details. I know that this is hoping to be a stop-gap measure, so she’s not going to lose her house.
Vigeland: So what else did people have to say?
Hirsch: A lot of people said, “This has changed us.” You know, seriously. They look at her situation, they look at the economic situation and say, “You know, our life has changed to some extent, because of this. We’ve learned some lessons.”
Vigeland: From Christine?
Hirsch: From Christine, yeah, because you know, they see that she’s in a tough situation they don’t want to be in that situation themselves. They’re watching their money very carefully. One of the guys I spoke to is a working actor called Taylor Negron and he said that his life has changed considerably.
Taylor Negron: So I couldn’t be living more modestly. But I had the help of former Depression people, my parents, alert me a year ago this was going to happen. But everybody’s going to make a bit. We have to help each other now. I really like this recession. I just want to find another word for it, because recession and depression are very sad words.
“The cozy time.” That’s the recession, the cozy time. I love it, I’m cooking more, I’m staying home more and I’m being kinder. Because right now it’s a very exciting time to be real, not real like in a “Balloon Boy” way, but real kind of in a “John Travolta, I think I’m dying” way.
I’m an actor and I’m a comedian. So I’ve been out of work since 1977. So this is just like everybody else can taste my pudding. They can know what it’s like. “Did we hear back from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?” “No.” “OK.”
I think it’s a great equalizing time, because we are really literally on our own right now, until we ask for help. So if somebody like Christine can ask for help, we can all ask for help.
Vigeland: “Cozy time.” I like that, I’m going to start using that. Do you think Christine has learned from this if everybody else did too?
Hirsch: You know, I think she has. She’s putting a bit of a smile on things, she’s a comic actress after all. But I think she realizes she’s got herself into a really sticky position, and I think that she will not want to repeat this. I think she’ll even become a saver in the future.
Vigeland: All right. Thanks Paddy.
Hirsch: My pleasure.
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