Loss and found

(FORTUNE Magazine) – What a difference time makes. When we last left Al Frank (''Mid-Life Success for a Laid-Back Stock Picker,'' FORTUNE, March 3, 1986), the guileless, overweight editor and publisher of the top-performing stock market newsletter, the Prudent Speculator, was soaking in his California hot tub, reflecting on his improbable beginnings as the adopted son of Jewish tailors and his rise to prominence as Wall Street's No. 1 prophet of profits. During the past year, however, Frank found his family, shed his fat, and lost a ton of money. After the FORTUNE profile appeared, a woman named Norma wrote to Frank, saying he fit the description of the illegitimate son her late aunt, Sara Fingert, had given up for adoption in 1930. Sure enough, Al and Norma turned out to be cousins. But the discovery of the identity of his natural mother did not affect him. He told his cousin: ''All I feel is guilty that I don't feel more.'' Frank, 57, who has lost 60 pounds in four months on a diet of lo-cal chocolate milkshakes, feels even guiltier about ignoring recent market sell signals. He had been planning to hedge his portfolio with stock index puts at the first sign the market might plunge. His failure to do so cost him $700,000. Laments the usually sanguine speculator: ''When one thinks what a hero I would have been if I'd had the puts in place, and what a goat I am, I can see how people jump out of windows.''