In the low-lit elegance of the bar at Irvine's Chanteclair, one of the pricey restaurants near the airport financial district, all eyes were on the TV.
In this bar, the typical patron might well be expected to play the stock market, and on Monday, there was a hunger for news. And the market reports that flowed from the TV were all bad--the worst day on Wall Street since 1914.
William Mayer, 34, who was visiting the area from Greenwich, Conn., was drinking white wine in a suit that might have paid for a small vineyard. He is a "self-employed professional investor," he said. A very angry self-employed professional investor.
He makes money for a living and only dabbles in stock, he said. He dabbles in a lot of them, mostly small.
As he talked, Mayer's face began to redden. Monday morning, when one of his stocks began slipping with the rest of the market, he called his broker and accepted what he was sure was the broker's offer to buy at 7 1/8. But when he called back two hours later, the broker said no deal had been made and offered to buy at 6 3/8.
"This is an outrage!" Mayer said, remembering. "Either the broker is a moron or the firm is in financial trouble."
A friend, sitting beside him at the bar, tried to quiet him. The friend, a 50-ish Newport Beach mortgage banker in regulation business suit, spoke softly about his 67-year-old mother, who had telephoned him that morning when the market was down 200 points or so and was continuing to "head south."
She called, he said, "because she'd lived through the '29 crash, and she was terrified that today was a complete reoccurance." Her life's savings are in mutual funds, he said.
"I told her not to look at (TV) for a while. I told her, 'You weren't complaining when it was going up.' "
What he did not tell her, he admitted, was that she probably has lost everything. He gave a "that's life" shrug.
About a third of the $50,000 he was setting aside for retirement was in mutual funds or blue-chip stocks, he said. "It's going to put a dent in what I'm trying to do. I thought I was fairly diversified, but I'm not. When it comes to investments, I'm the man on the street."
Timing 'Is All Bad'
At a nearby bar table, Joanne Wells of Los Angeles was snacking and drinking with her lawyer, Cindy Briggs of Irvine. Wells, in her 40s, had come down for the day to talk over her will.
As the news of the market's plunge continued, Wells conceded that "my timing in life is all bad."
She had been a Los Angeles County probation officer and recently was granted medical retirement. "For the first time in my life, I had a little money I could dabble with," she said, so two or three months ago she dabbled in stocks.
She spent $4,000 on airline and department store issues and followed their progress in the newspaper until last week. She stopped watching, she said, "because it's too painful."
However, she said: "I am not getting all that excited about it. I think people are being very emotional."
Briggs interjected: "It's called greed."
Wells said her broker told her that when prices are down, that's the time to buy.
She is not going to sell, she said, but she's not going to buy, either.
Standing beneath the wall-mounted TV and watching the gloomy news with less than the usual anguish was a man with shoulder-length blond hair and a beige silk suit with flared jacket and a loosened red tie. In the otherwise sedate atmosphere, he bordered on flashy.
Sure, the market news is going to affect him, he said. He runs a sports book in Los Angeles, and many of his clients make their livings from the market.
"People who owe me money won't be able to pay up," he mused.