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A story steeped in sleaze

Published Oct. 9, 2005

AMY FISHER

My Story

By Amy Fisher with Sheila Weller

Pocket Books, $22

Reviewed by Helen A. S. Popkin

Only those few Americans who honestly shun yellow journalism or are without access to a TV set could have missed the story of the "Long Island Lolita" last summer.

On May 19, 1992, 17-year-old Amy Fisher went to the home of Mary Jo Buttafuoco and shot her in the face. What happened after that exploded from the mysterious attempted murder of a Long Island housewife to the salacious tale ripe for media exploitation.

Allegedly, Amy was having an affair with Mary Jo's 37-year old husband and father of her children, Joey Buttafuoco. Amy claimed Joey endorsed the attempted murder. Video tapes of Amy's extracurricular activity as a prostitute began to emerge on prime-time television. It was Joey, Amy said, that introduced her to that line of work. Despite evidence that some or all of Amy's allegations were true, Joey denied everything. Mary Jo stood behind her husband.

Here was a story so steeped in sleaze, it claimed the majority of air time on tabloid news shows A Current Affair, Hard Copy and Inside Edition and was the inspiration for three made-for-TV movies, one for each major network. Natural progression demanded Amy Fisher: My Story.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as Fisher's dubious opportunity to exploit herself as she has been exploited by the media, her supposed friends, former prostitution clients and Joey Buttafuoco.

It doesn't take a great wit to find humor in the passages in which Amy describes her more intimate moments with Joey.

"He traced my body with his hands, trying to make his fingers meet around my waist. Thank God, the Acu-Trim is paying off, I thought."

One might be compelled to laugh it off, like the recently published Amy Fisher comic book that portrays this story as the cartoon it's become. But while Amy's dialogue is edited to titillate the reader's desire for sexual details, what emerges is the voice of a naive girl whispering secrets over the telephone. This is a girl who dreams of Cher as her avenging angel to the supposed friend, Paul Makely, who lured Amy into the hidden video trap in which she discusses conjugal visits and a Ferrari for her troubles, that he later sold to Hard Copy.

Sheila Weller (author of Marrying the Hangman: A True Story of Privilege, Marriage and Murder) transcribed Amy's dialogue, between which she relates the story's aspects outside of Amy's experience. Weller also attempts to explain the sociological factors intertwined with Amy's crime _ a history of child abuse and neglect combined with MTV sexuality and shopping mall materialism.

Though somewhat flighty in her text, Weller touches on some comparatively ignored factors of this case. Amy Fisher was charged with attempted murder and bail was set at an impossible $2-million. Only "one columnist defended Amy from a feminist perspective, accused the D.A.'s office of sexism and eschewed the sleaze-shows throwing money at the sex-with-Amy bandwagon," Weller states, refering to New York Post's Amy Pagnozzi. Other media critics and feminist pundits, even those who empathized with other women caught up in love affairs that landed them in jail, such as Jean Harris and Hedda Nussbaum, ignored the case of the attractive, sexually active teenage girl.

Meanwhile, evidence such as hotel receipts and phone records, which could prove Joey Buttafuoco guilty of statutory rape, went ignored. Amy stood trial alone. But as the circus sideshow glitter wears off this story, Joey is being reinvestigated.

Amy is serving five to 15 years in jail, a fate she earned with her undeniably horrible crime. But you don't have to be a social worker or even read this book to realize that upper-middle-class teenagers don't become prostitutes on a whim, that even the most spoiled brat doesn't become a murderer on her own.

Helen A. S. Popkin is a frequent newsfeatures contributor at the Times.

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