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$5.2 Million : Winners Try to Take It in Stride as Hitting Lottery Jackpot Hits Home

February 13, 1986|PAT BRENNAN | Times Staff Writer

The soft-spoken antique dealer was trying desperately to conduct business as usual. But the incessant phone calls--from investment firms, strangers asking for money and television reporters requesting on-camera interviews--were making business all but impossible.

All day long, Bruce Graney, whose wife, Laura, won the $5.2-million state lottery jackpot Saturday, was hammered with good-natured well-wishing and offers; it seemed that everyone wanted to congratulate him, give him advice on how to spend his millions or just catch up on how his life had been lately.

"Everybody wants a piece of the action," Bruce Graney said Monday as he watched his wife tape a TV interview in their living room, her third in three days. "People don't understand that we don't have $5 million. It's spread out over 20 years. We don't have anything yet."

The Graneys said they will avoid making major changes in their lives; they are planning no large purchases or trips. They said they are unlikely to give money to strangers, but might be inclined to help friends in need and contribute to charities that don't "bug" them by asking for money.

But they both said they have almost never fantasized about what they would do with large sums of money because they already have enough to keep them happy.

"We're not going to move, we're not going to buy a car, we're not going to do anything," Laura Graney said. "I don't even like Mercedeses."

Neither of the Graneys would disclose their income, but the family home is in an affluent section of west Pasadena and Bruce Graney said his company, Graney & Co. Antiques, grosses well over $1 million a year.

For Laura Graney, winning means that their children can continue to attend private schools and that braces for their 6-year-old daughter, Gwen, will not be the overwhelming expense the family had anticipated. They also don't have to worry about getting in a financial pinch in order to finish building a swimming pool in their backyard.

In a word, the new money means security. The state will

provide them with $260,500 annually for the next 20 years, 20% of which will be withheld by the federal government. Bruce Graney said that because their lottery income will push them into a higher tax bracket, they will probably have to pay more than the 20% automatically withheld. But rather than a sudden $5.2 million, Graney estimates that the family income will be bolstered by $130,000 a year.

Still, he said, "it sure beats a poke in the eye."

Although he welcomes the money, Graney said he was slightly put out by the attendant fanfare. He said he preferred to remain in the background and watch his wife become a celebrity.

"I've tried not to get in the middle of it," he said. "It's Laura's heyday."

Shop Full of People

Nevertheless, when he tried to get some work done at the antique shop, he found it full of people on a normally quiet Monday. Back at home, where he sometimes works, camera crews tromped happily through the house; his wife chatted on the phone with reporters who asked the inevitable questions: Will you buy new clothes? A house? A car? How have your winnings affected your life? Said one television newscaster on her way out the door: "Don't let it make you miserable."

Overall, the Graneys and their four children seemed to be taking their good fortune in stride. The children giggled and squirmed when the television lights came on while Laura Graney thoughtfully answered questions.

Meanwhile, her husband stayed out of the harsh glare of the lights, screening messages left on the answering machine. The Graneys had stopped answering the phone themselves, a decision inspired partly by the 29 messages left for them the day Laura Graney won and partly by lottery publicists, who told them they would be flooded with calls.

"Can you help me change the tape?" Graney asked his wife in the midst of an interview Monday. "We're full."

They agreed that they would soon switch to an unpublished phone number.

Some Want Money

One woman, a stranger, called repeatedly but left only her name and number. Others were more direct--a woman who wanted a new wardrobe, another who wanted a $12,000 loan.

"Only a few people so far have been real pushy," Laura Graney said. But while the attention was fatiguing, she accepted it as part of the cost of winning $5.2 million, and said it hadn't altered her life drastically.

"I don't feel any change," she said. "I got up and yelled at the kids this morning."

Some changes, however, had begun to work themselves into the family even as she spoke.

"I'm going to ask for a raise in my allowance," said 10-year-old son Michael.

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