You're Wrong About

Amy Fisher

December 03, 2018 You're Wrong About
You're Wrong About
Amy Fisher
Show Notes Transcript

Sarah tells Mike about the sad reality — and the terrible man — behind the infamous Long Island Lolita. Digressions include software terms of service, the rise of beepers and Monica Lewinsky’s LinkedIn profile. Mike, a 36-year-old man, appears not to understand what pimps do. 

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Sarah: Like when was the last time Teddy Roosevelt tried to kill his married boyfriend’s wife? Like, who cares? What did he ever do?

Mike: Welcome to You're Wrong About, the podcast where we leave complicated history complicated.

Sarah: That's ironic that you said that because I was just thinking this morning as I was listening to the Ghostbusters theme that we are actually in a real sense Ghostbusters. 

Mike: Oh. 

Sarah: Because we're going around and finding these pieces of dangerous lore and superstition and neutralizing them. 

Mike: I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for the Huffington Post.

Sarah: I'm Sarah Marshall and I'm a writer in residence at the Black Mountain Institute. 

Mike: And today we're talking about Amy Fisher.

Sarah: Yes. Do you remember when you first heard of Amy Fisher? 

Mike: So we talked a couple episodes ago about how there's certain news stories that you just sort of decide to sit out, like, I'm going to let other people take this one.

Sarah: I do that with most stuff. 

Mike: I don't even remember what year Amy Fisher was, but I do remember deliberately just being like, you know what, this is happening around me, but I am going to sit here and I'm going to play Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island instead. 

So I have only the most rudimentary understanding of this case. But the one tiny thing that I remember was that she was known as the Long Island Lolita. She was dating a guy named Joey Buttafuoco, which the entire country loved laughing about. 

Sarah: And let me actually clarify something right now. We can spend this whole episode, and will, talking about all of Joey's poor choices, but his name is actually pronounced but-uh-fyoo-ko. 

Mike: What? 

Sarah: So we don't have to be guilty of anti-Italian sentiment in order to communicate the breadth and depth of Mr. Buttafuoco’s poor decision-making. 

Mike: So we already have a ‘You're Wrong About’. We can play the outro music now. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: My understanding is they were dating and then she killed or attempted to kill his wife, I think. 

Sarah: So like, check one on the straight nonsense bingo card. 

Mike: And that’s basically where my knowledge of the case falls away. That's all I know. The broadest of outlines. One weird thing that I do remember is that she was in the tabloids for like a long time after this.

Sarah: Yeah. Although interestingly enough, a Long Island newspaper in 2000 had a survey to try and find out who is the most known Long Islander. If you think about that, the options are like Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, and Amy Fisher was number one. She was ahead of Walt Whitman and Teddy Roosevelt. Yeah. 

Mike: I just remember her being a figure far longer than this case would justify.

Sarah: She was also a columnist for a newspaper on Long Island. 

Mike: No.

Sarah: Yeah. So I read a book that she wrote via that job because it was ghostwritten, co-written with, I think, her editor.

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: It's called If I Knew Then by Amy Fisher and Robbie Woliver. And it's interesting because in this book, which was published in 2004, she disavows her previous book. Which was extremely, almost entirely ghostwritten, which came out in 1994. It was written by Sheila Weller, was called My Story, although it wasn't really. 

And something interesting about Amy Fisher that is part of this whole story is that her life story was being told via multiple contradictory outlets the whole time this was happening. And the rights to her story and her life and crimes were a big part of the legal proceedings that occurred after the crime. So she “achieved” is the wrong word for it, but there was basically this Amy Fisher prime time sweep where there were three TV movies made about Amy Fisher that all came out at the same moment. Two of them aired simultaneously on the same night.

Mike: Nooo.

Sarah: And one of them aired the next night. 

Mike: Whoa. 

Sarah: Yeah. And they all achieved very good ratings and they were all on TV when Amy was in prison, and so the other inmates were all watching the movies and flipping between them on TV. 

Mike: Oh my God.

Sarah: And the guards were all watching them, and everyone was, every time they saw her, were like, “Amy, you're on TV”. And also less nice things. 

Mike: We made three movies about Amy Fisher?

Sarah: So far.

Mike: Maybe this is the main thing to explain to me but from what I know of the story, it's not that great of a story. We've only made one movie about, like, Margaret Thatcher. Why do we have three about Amy Fisher? It's so weird. 

Sarah: Yeah. And so one of the Amy Fisher movies I could only find online in French, although I have seen it in the past years ago because it used to be on Lifetime all the time. 

Mike: Oh yeah.

Sarah: So let's back up actually before we start talking about the movies. Let's start with actual facts because this is a cardinal error that the media makes by starting with myth and then going to facts. Amy Fisher was born on Long Island in the early seventies. She describes in her memoir, If I Knew Then, which is the one of hers that she has not disavowed yet. She talks about how her parents both worked extremely hard. Her mother had grown up poor. They ran an upholstery store and they worked six days a week and basically had this belief shared by a lot of American families at the time of, we're going to work really hard and make as much money as we possibly physically can and give our daughter everything that she could possibly want or need because that's success and that's happiness. And as a result, Amy Fisher grows up really lonely.

Mike: Oh. 

Sarah: Because her parents are never around and she doesn't have any siblings and she doesn't apparently have much community or extended family, it’s returning to one of our themes in the Jeffrey Dahmer episode. One of the great villains stalking many of our central figures is just American loneliness.

Mike: And where was this? This was a big city, small town? 

Sarah: This was on Long Island. And so she grew up in Wantagh. When she's 13, her family moves very suddenly from Wantagh to Merrick, which is a town three miles away. These are both on the south shore of Long Island, but Merrick is a lot richer, a lot fancier. And one of the things that she says in her book, let me find this quote. She says, “I believe that I never would have been like that if I hadn't moved from my sensible, middle-class neighborhood.”

Mike: Oh, wow. 

Sarah: What do you think of that? 

Mike: It’s so depressing when somebody starts a sentence with, “I never would have been like that.”

Sarah: Yeah. And she just, the way she describes it is as a place of kind of moral vacancy and everything is about status. Everything is about what you own. Also she talks in her memoir, and this is something that essentially did not come out at all in the media when all of this was America's obsession, that her dad used to hit her and verbally abuse her and basically was a terrifying figure in her life. 

Mike: Oh, wow. 

Sarah: He was also abusive to her mother. But her mother thought like, “Well, I'll keep quiet about that. We're just going to keep the family together because we need to keep the family together.” But if she'd known that he was abusing Amy, which she didn't know, she would have told him to fuck off and take Amy out of the home. The way Amy Fisher describes it, suffering in silence, basically each concealing their abuse from the other.

Mike: Oh. So each one of them thought that they were the only one being abused by the father. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: Oh, that's a huge bummer. 

Sarah: In this one little house. And because all of the traumas in this are so common. 

Mike: And also all the class anxiety too is very common, right? That everybody's wealth is relative to their immediate proximity, which is why everyone thinks that they're middle-class, right? If half of your friends are richer than you and half of your friends are poorer than you, it doesn't really matter which level you're at. You're going to consider yourself middle class and so if she's visibly at the bottom of this class pecking order, the fact that her family is relatively comfortable, relatively fine isn't going to register because all she knows is that she's poorer than the immediate ten kids that she hangs out with.  

Sarah: Yeah. And you're just sort of constantly dancing as fast as you can and so she has a mother who really loves her, but also who manifests that love by not being around. 

Mike: So her mom’s out of the home.

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: Her dad’s also out of the home. 

Sarah: Her dad's out of the home and abusive. So her parents buy her a car, a $20,000 car. 

Mike: Wow. 

Sarah: And he bangs it up, incurs enough damage that it's going to be probably a few hundred, couple of thousand dollars to fix. And it's like, “Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. I can't tell my dad”, because she’s, as she later says, scared of him. And so she remembers that her dad had taken it to this place and taken her along with him, this place called Complete Auto Body, and this guy named Joey Buttafuoco had taken care of them. 

Mike: Ooh.

Sarah: I'm not sure she knows this at the time, but Joey apparently when he first saw Amy turned to her dad, not knowing that it was her dad, and said, “What an ass on that girl.” And Amy's dad said, “That's my daughter and she's 15.” Although he continued to patronize that repair place, so maybe they just did really great work. I don’t know. 

Mike: That’s the kind of introducing detail of a character in a movie that you just, like, immediately hate that person.

Sarah: Right. 

Mike: It's just the perfect “fuck this dude” detail. 

Sarah: The way she describes it in her book is that she goes in and she's like, “I'll never forget how nice he was to me” and like, he wasn't that nice. He just was like, “Are you hungry? Are you okay? Like, have a seat.” He just, like, was professional. 

Mike: Just generally human. 

Sarah: Like, he wasn't mean to her. So Joey Buttafuoco is like thirty-five, thirty-six years old at this point. 

Mike: Oh, he's that old? He’s thirty-six?

Sarah: Yeah, he's a grownup. 

Mike: Oh my God. And she is how old at this point? 

Sarah: She’s sixteen. 

Mike: Ugghh, okay. 

Sarah: Yeah. What do you think of that?

Mike: I don't know how Joey was, but I just don't want to stay out past 9:00 PM. That'd be the hardest thing dating a sixteen year old.

Sarah:  Joey was a past and potentially, at this time, current user of cocaine. So…

Mike: Yeah, what do we know about Joey at this point?

Sarah: So Joey is the husband of Mary Jo Buttafuoco, father of two. They have two young kids at home. 

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: They live in Baldwin, Long Island. The French TV movie that I watched, the American title is Casualties of Love, but the French title is L'Affaire Amy Fisher, which I really like thinking about this whole thing as L’Affaire Amy Fisher.

Mike: Episode title. Yes. 

Sarah: He would sort of hint about knowing mobsters and he also does seem to have been the kind of guy who just felt like if he didn't have his fingers in a few little criminal pies, he was essentially being robbed.

Mike: So he's got side hustles.

Sarah: He is providing girls for an escort service on Long Island called Abba Escorts. 

Mike: Wait, what? This is his side hustle? He's finding girls and delivering them to escort services? 

Sarah: Yes. 

Mike: What?

Sarah: It's not like he was putting a lot of effort into it, but yeah. And so then he gets a commission from their work.

Mike: Ewww. It's like a finder's fee. 

Sarah: Yeah. That's how pimping works. And the girls at the escort service refer to him, perhaps affectionately it's hard to tell, as Joey Coco Pops. Because he also supplies them with cocaine. 

Mike: No way. 

Sarah: He's got a couple of thick fingers in a couple of pies.  

Mike: So him ogling a fifteen year old girl and commenting on her ass to her father is not the worst thing he's ever done.

Sarah: Not the worst thing he's done that morning, potentially.

Mike: Oh my God. I guess knowing what we know now, we can just see the Warner Brothers cartoon drooling mouth from Joey Buttafuoco, when this girl walks in that he immediately starts seeing as A) a sexual conquest, and B) an economic conquest, I guess. 

Sarah: Yeah. And she's such an easy mark. She comes and she's distraught. She's almost like a character in a porno. It's, like, so Dear Penthouse Forum. She's like, “Don't tell my dad.” And he's like, “We can work something out. Don't worry. I'm a former bodybuilder mechanic.” Joey Buttafuoco in the three TV movies made of this situation, which I've now seen all of, he’s played in each of them by a guy who could credibly be the protagonist of a Springsteen song. 

Mike: Oh yeah? 

Sarah: Each of them is dashing, good-looking, kind of distinguished gray, sort of, yeah coogeen, but like silver fox coogeen. I would just like you to real quick look up a picture of Joey Buttafuoco and report your impressions to me. 

Mike: Oh, wow. So I'm looking at his mugshot. He's got a mullet, but it's curly haired, long in the back, gray on the sides, and parted in the middle like the child actors on Home Improvement. He has a Steven Seagal kind of look to him.

Sarah: So imagine that you're a 5’1”, 100 pound, abused teenage girl from Long Island, and this goon has his big arms wrapped around you. 

Mike: So does he ask for her number? How does it actually happen?

Sarah: Oh, no. So here's what happens. She smashes up her car again. She takes it in for repairs.

Mike: Oh, again? The same thing happens again?

Sarah: Yeah. She says she has two accidents and takes it in both times. He maintains that she brings it in like a dozen times because she's so crazy about him and she's sexually obsessed with him, the most magnetic man in Baldwin. 

Mike: Yes.

Sarah: But anyway, she takes her car in, and he drives her home. Obviously, her parents aren't at home because they work like twenty-three hours a day. They got there and he's like, “Aren't you going to ask me in?” And she's like, “Okay”. And they go inside and she mentions, according to her book, that she has a fish tank in her room. And he's like, “I'd like to see your fish tank.” And what she says later is that she really believed that he wanted to see her fish tank. 

Mike: Oh, sweetie. 

Sarah: She's sixteen. 

Mike: I know. It's so sixteen. He doesn't want to see your fish tank, sweetie. 

Sarah: And then of course they get to her room, and in her words, he throws her on the bed and starts kissing her and telling her how attracted he is to her. And so she consents, but in that way of when you feel like the train’s already leaving the station. I feel like what people really don't realize in this country is how many women get murdered or raped or become involved in things that they would not choose for themselves because they're basically afraid of being rude or of saying no to a man and hurting his feelings.

Mike: Yeah. It’s like clicking “I agree” on the terms of service on some app that you just downloaded. You're like, “I came this far. It's gonna be a huge pain in the ass. I need this app. Like, whatever. I'm just going to click the thing and forget about it.”

Sarah: Yeah. Like, “I'm just going to lie back and think of England.” Yeah. And so this is one of the many cases where it's relevant that surprised consent is not the same thing as enthusiastic participation or instigation.

Mike: Surprised consent is such a dark phrase. Just like, I guess this is happening.

Sarah: And then she writes in her book, you know, they have sex. She goes home. He’s the best sex she's ever had.

Mike: Interesting. 

Sarah: Even by her accounts at the time. He tells guys at the garage that he's given her her first orgasm. 

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: Which, like, that makes sense. He's certainly had time to practice that. Honestly, I think Joey Buttafuoco being proud of giving a teenage girl her first orgasm is the thing I most like about him. So she writes later, she's like, “Well, we had sex. So like, you're my boyfriend. We're in a relationship now.”

Mike: Oh no. 

Sarah: Because she’s a sixteen year old girl. And so they start seeing each other. He takes her to a motel. She describes later that it was a relationship of fancy restaurants and cheap hotels. He takes her to a fancy restaurant. She's never been taken to a restaurant with cloth napkins on a date before. 

Mike: Oooooh. This is why sixteen year old’s shouldn't date thirty-six year old’s. 

Sarah: Yes.

Mike: It just speaks to the power balance, right? That she's just defenseless against his assault of patriarchal, masculine, dating stuff. 

Sarah: Yeah.

Mike: This is one of the things about how consent with younger people cannot be meaningful is that it's very easy to impress them with basic adult shit. It's like, if they come over to your house and they're like, “Oh wow, you have Wi-Fi.” It's like, “Yeah, I'm that good.” Like, it's really easy to make them feel really special because they don't have the context. 

Sarah: And they haven't been played before. It's like the sailors who arrived on the island where the dodos lived and the dodos just walk right up to them, you know, and look at them with these big trusting eyes and they’re like, “Hello. I don't know what people are like.” Then they killed them all. 

Mike: It sounds like she's having all these “I love you” type emotions, when obviously he is not feeling the same thing, I assume. 

Sarah: And also, like, you're lonely. You never see your parents. You don't really have close friends. And this guy who knows mobsters and has money and takes you to restaurants and tells you you're beautiful and is nice to you and you have actual pleasurable sex with him. It doesn't take that much. 

Mike: Yeah. That's like the run on Alderaan or something. It's like a full court press on a sixteen year old girl who doesn't have the emotional defenses.

Sarah: Yeah. And who’s just so hungry for love and for attention and affection and it's like Joey was this steak that got put in front of her when she was in a cage, you know, and she’s just been eating at little roots, and she got to have a few bites of it and then it got taken away from her and she just went nuts. 

Mike: Do her parents know about this at all at the time?

Sarah: No. Her parents have no idea what's going on. 

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: And so she and Joey are going out, and then after a fairly short amount of time he's like, “You know, you should work for this escort service because it's not the same thing as being a hooker. You have a nice date, and you go out and it's about conversation.” Actually, I want to read you a passage from Amy's book about one of the aspects of the story that actually is what propelled it. So Amy writes, “Can you imagine better fodder than a teenage seductress for a sensation hungry media? Added to everything else I was now a seventeen year old call girl. It was all me, of course. The media made it seem like someone could just live a lifestyle like that without the guidance of an adult, as if a girl could just walk into an escort service at sixteen on her own and get a job. It was absurd, but the distorted media version made a lot more money for the networks than the actual events. You have to know somebody to be in those circles, to get a job like an escort. It's not a job at McDonald's. They have to trust you to keep their sorted illegal secrets. And how do they trust you? You have to be recommended and brought in by someone they know. And who in the world do you think brought me into this nightmare world? Yep. You got it. Joey Buttafuoco.”

Mike: That's how he gets her to be an escort is he tells her it's not prostitution?  

Sarah: So many people believe that. 

Mike: Wow. I thought that was just something that they told the regulators. I didn't think that was something that they told actual escorts. That’s interesting.

Sarah: No, straight people are really stupid, you know? We believe what we want to believe. And so she's like, “Well, it's fancy. It's a different thing, whatever.” So she starts working twice a week as an escort and Joey's getting a cut. 

Mike: Oh my God.

Sarah: To me, the worst part about all this is that she's a sixteen, seventeen year old girl selling her pristine, white ass. Guess how much she's charging. Guess how much she's getting paid per sex event. 

Mike: Oh no. It’s going to bum me out, isn't it?

Sarah: A hundred, a hundred. 

Mike: Oh, that's a huge bummer.

Sarah: I just feel like if you're going to be coerced into prostitution by your adult boyfriend, you should at least be generating enough money as you can economically, which is a lot.

Mike: Yeah, to get a 401k and some compound interest, which is so important when you’re a teenager.

Sarah: Yeah. Get some tuition. She's a high schooler. Like, they should be commodifying that in some way, but she's just being sort of thrown out there, you know, into whatever motel room, just like another little profit generator.

Mike: This is so gross. The power differential is also in the money thing too, because when you're sixteen, a hundred dollars, triple digits, is like gold doubloons. That's a lot of money when you're that age and she doesn't realize how much money other people are making off of her. 

Sarah: Oh, no. She had no idea that Joey was making money off of her.

Mike: So he tells her, “You're just going out to dinner with these guys,” but then surely the guys themselves are expecting sex on those dates. So how does that work? 

Sarah: Surprise consent.

Mike: She ends up having sex with these guys basically because they just expect it? 

Sarah: Yeah. Well, she figures out pretty quickly what she's actually been hired to do. She knows what she's doing. So she's given a beeper to be in touch with clients. 

Mike: Okay.

Sarah: And this is a very big deal. Beepers were very high tech in 1982. I want all the children listening to know. 

Mike: Yeah, beepers didn’t go mainstream until 1996 or something.

Sarah: I'm so proud of you for specifically knowing that. Later on, her classmates would testify or tell the media that she had bragged about having this beeper to get in touch with her clients. This is one of the things I feel like we just so often have a hard time within these big stories. She was living a life in which she was being abused. She was being taken advantage of. She was being dehumanized. 

She later described this as Joey steals her youth from her. But she also did feel that she was getting power of some kind, because she had money for the first time that was her own and not bestowed on her by her parents. She described Joey as her father figure. She, as an adult, is self-aware about what that relationship was about and she had this powerful, seemingly good father figure or at least better than the one that she'd had before who was protecting her in some ways and helping her to make money and taking her to restaurants with cloth napkins. Like, she was going around bragging about the situation she was in not because it was great for her, but because she thought it was great. 

Mike: Yeah. And also for somebody who's been somewhat abandoned and abused by her parents just to be valued for anything. 

Sarah: By anyone.

Mike: Yeah. It’s probably a huge self-esteem boost. It's like, “Hey, I can do something. I am good at something.” Even if looking back we now know that she's totally being exploited, I can see how at the time it would have felt like, “Wow, I'm good at this. Somebody wants me. I'm getting paid to do something on my terms.” 

Sarah: Yeah. So this goes on. She starts seeing this other guy. She has, like, a teenage boyfriend for a while. She starts seeing later on this twenty-nine year old gym owner named Paul Makely. 

Mike: I want to read a memoir of her teenage lover at the time. Like, that kid is in so far over his head. Can you imagine the kinds of things that couples fight about when they're both sixteen? You know, you're going to prom an hour earlier than me. Your parents bought you a pager and I didn't get one. This one is like, “Oh, you're an escort a couple nights a week?”

Sarah: Yeah. The premise of L’Affaire Amy Fisher, because this is what Joey Buttafuoco maintains after all the chickens come home to roost, that Amy Fisher was a girl who had come into his auto body shop repeatedly in order to try and flirt with him and get him to jump into bed with her. But that he had valiantly resisted because he was a family man and he just wanted it to be faithful to his wife, Mary Jo, and that he was totally uninterested in Amy Fisher and as a result of that she became obsessed with him and decided to destroy his life. And so went to his home and shot his wife, Mary Jo, without ever having had a real relationship with Joey at all. This is what he claimed happened. This is a story that he sold to Hollywood and helped pay his legal fees with. 

Mike: So it's basically, she's crazy. This is always the thing that terrible men say when they get caught doing terrible shit to women. It's always like, “Well, she turned out to be crazy.” 

Sarah: And while this is in the media, people are comparing it to Fatal Attraction

Mike: I mean, that's kind of what I remember actually in my foggy, distant, Yoshi's Island memories of this. I do remember her being the aggressor. It was like this film noir thing. 

Sarah: Yeah. The narrative is that she's the one who's driving this whole series of events and it's like, what really seems to have happened is that she just sort of passively let all these things happen to her. As this relationship is going on Joey just starts casually saying she never argues that he made some kind of strategic, concerted attempt to manipulate her into killing his wife. She never claims that. What she says is that he just starts sort of casually conversationally being like, “Ah, that'd be nice if someone killed Mary Jo.”

Mike: Oh no. So he plants the idea? 

Sarah: Yes. They go out on his boat, which is called the Double Trouble and he's like, “Someday I'm going to come drive around on the ocean and dump Mary Jo into the water.” 

Mike: Oh my God. It's one of those, like, I'm half joking, but I'm not really joking. 

Sarah: Exactly. You just are like, “Ha ha. It's all a joke. Or is it?” 

Mike: Or like how your Uber driver is like, “Oh, sometimes some Uber drivers are out here selling cocaine. What a weird thing that happens.” So how long is this period between her beginning to escort and the murder, or attempted murder, I guess. How long is that period? 

Sarah: So Joey and Amy have sex for the first time on July 2nd, 1991.

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: And then Amy shoots Joey's wife, Mary Jo, on May 19th, 1992. So this is about over ten months. 

Mike: Oh my God. Wow.

Sarah: This is a long time in the life of a teenage girl also. 

Mike: Wow. So this whole affair goes on for almost a year.

Sarah: This is May of her senior year of high school. She's getting ready for her final exams as all of this is happening.

Mike: This would make a good movie. I don't know how the movies were. 

Sarah: Oh, they were all terrible. Yeah, the actual story would be a great movie. Someone should make that movie. No one's made that movie. 

Mike: Yeah. Imagine the psychological toll that it takes on you to be living these double lives as a sixteen year old girl when you have no preparation to deal with this. 

Sarah: She is Laura Palmer. She is having sex with every adult man in town, and she's a sixteen year old sex worker on top of all of that. 

Mike: And hiding it from her parents. Hiding it from her peers. 

Sarah: Yeah. And one of the snippy things that the press says about her, there's some accounts that are like, you know, “Amy was a below average student in high school” and it's like, Jesus fucking Christ. I think she was pretty busy. 

Mike: I don't know how soccer players can keep up decent grades. 

Sarah: Yeah, and she was in this completely adult world. 

Mike: So how does the murderer come about? Or the attempted murder. 

Sarah: Later on, a twenty-one year old guy will come forward and say that Amy tried to bribe him into killing Mary Jo Buttafuoco and paid him in all this sex. And then after she had sex with him a bunch of times he was like, “No, I'm actually not doing that.”

Mike: Oh my God. 

Sarah: This poor girl, man. 

Mike: Yeah, Jesus Christ. 

Sarah: She has already gone up and met Mary Jo and kind of cased the joint a little bit by going up to her doorstep and pretending to sell candy. 

Mike: No. 

Sarah: Which is like a standard girlfriend-of-your-husband thing to do.

Mike: Does Joey convince her that, like, “Once my wife is dead, we can finally be together.” Like, is that his pitch? 

Sarah: Not really.

Mike: What?!

Sarah: Because again, we always want the motive to be bigger than it actually is in real life. It's like, how could a girl be so corrupted? And it's like, cloth napkins. And it's like, why would she kill another human?! You know? And so here's what Amy says: “How could I have fallen so far? Simple. I was a selective people pleaser and Joey was the person I wanted to please. The one question people always ask me is why I shot Mary Jo. Was I crazed with jealousy? Did Joey forced me to do it? They would continue prodding, insisting on a clear cut answer. The truth was I didn't have a good answer. Imagine not having a good answer for shooting someone. The best I could come up with is that I wanted Joey Buttafuoco to think I was cool. I wanted his approval. It's frightening to do something like what I did and not have a concrete reason.”

Mike: Wow. 

Sarah: “For a long time, I couldn't figure out what the reason was, but after years of self-reflection and healing I came to the conclusion that it was because it was what Joey wanted me to do and I did what he wanted me to do. Joey had everything to gain. I had everything to lose. He was forever complaining about his wife. ‘I hate her,’ he would say. ‘I wish she was dead. I sit up at night thinking of ways to kill her and get away with it,’ he would tell me.” She also talks about him telling her he's like, “You know, if you were to kill Mary Jo, just hypothetically, you wouldn't have to go to jail because kids can't go to jail and you're a kid.” 

Mike: Oh no. I mean, this confirms so much of what you've said on the show before about how it's such a dumb motive. It really is. 

Sarah: Because you want Joey Buttafuoco to like you and that's it. She, like, thought of it as a nice thing to do for her boyfriend and also wanted more affection and approval from him and wasn't getting it from anywhere else. She says in this book too, like, “I didn't value human life. I didn't understand what I was doing.” And also, she believed him. She didn't think she was going to get in trouble. So she goes to Joey and Mary Jo's house. Mary Jo Buttafuoco is out in the backyard painting lawn furniture, which is a very wholesome thing to be interrupted by your murderer. So she goes to the front door and there's this teenage girl who looks super young to her standing there and the girl seems really nervous and is acting weird. She's like, “My name's Anne Marie and your husband's having an affair with my little sister”. And Mary Jo is like, “No he's not” and Amy is like, “Well, he gave her this shirt and I think it's disgusting for a grown man to be sleeping with a teenage girl. Don't you?” And Mary Jo’s like, “Whatever. He gives this shirt to a lot of people” because it's just a shirt from his autobody place.

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: And basically Mary Jo is just dismissive of her. It doesn't seem like Amy super has a plan. She has a gun in her pocket, but it doesn't seem as though she was totally sure whether she was going to use it. She sort of goes and tries to have this conversation and Mary Jo is a dismissive, grown ass lady to her and is just like, “Okay, whatever little girl.” 

Mike: Who’s like, “I'm busy painting chairs. Give me some peace here.”

Sarah: Exactly. And you know, she knows that Joey has been up to some shenanigans in the past. You know, it's not as if this is going to have the power to particularly shock her. Afterwards, she maintains until it becomes painfully clear that Joey had no relationship with Amy Fisher. Some of us believe women. She believed Joey. 

Mike: Oh wow. 

Sarah: She believed until it became obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that Amy was just this crazy person who had attached to him and that there had been no relationship between them. Probably, if you're married to Joey, you're just conditioned to ignore the accusations of random people.

Mike: If he's charming the pants literally off of a sixteen year old girl then you can imagine he can also talk his way with his wife into saying, “Oh, I made a mistake one time. I cheated on you,” like, admitting to the thing that he's already been caught for but keeping her from finding out the full extent of what he's doing.

Sarah: Yeah, totally. So, Mary was just like, “Yeah, whatever.” And so she's turning to go. She is pulling the door closed and as she is turning away and closing the door, Amy takes out the gun and starts hitting Mary Jo with it and starts beating her with it and as she's doing that, her finger was on the trigger. Amy says it accidentally goes off. 

Mike: Oh, interesting. Okay.

Sarah: If a gun, you know, accidentally goes off while you're sort of hitting someone with it in your hand, your fingers on the trigger of it, it's like you've contributed factors that allowed that to happen, but it's a diminished form of intent.

Mike: Yeah. It’s almost like manslaughter-y. 

Sarah: Yeah, and what she's ultimately charged with is assault. 

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: Which is scaled down. Initially they're going to charge her with attempted murder. They scale it down to assault. 

Mike: This also fits very Sarah-ishly that it's premeditated, but it's also sort of not premeditated. So, she shows up at Mary Jo's house with a gun with her. Which is in a way premeditation, but then it sounds like she didn't go there with the intention of shooting her, because then why would she do this whole conversation and faking a name? 

Sarah: I think she just went there with no plan. I think Mary Jo opened the door and she just started busking. I think she was like, “Oh wow. I have no plan.” 

Mike: Does Mary Jo confirm this account by the way? 

Sarah: Yeah. So the way that this is told in the media later on inevitably, then, now, forever, is Amy Fisher goes to Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s front door and shoots her in the head.

Mike: Oh, wow. 

Sarah: Which, what does that make you think of?

Mike: Goodfellas or something. Like, execution style.

Sarah: Yeah. It's like a gangland execution. It's one of the most cold-blooded forms of murder you can imagine because your mental image immediately is like, you're standing in front of someone looking them in the eye, point blank, close range, you shoot them in the head. So the bullet actually goes into the neck. 

Mike: Oh.

Sarah: Below the ear and it travels downward. It severs her carotid artery. It lodges next to her spinal cord and so Mary Jo Buttafuoco still has a bullet next to her spinal cord because it was too chancy to remove it. She will probably end up paralyzed.

Mike: Noooo. They left it in?!

Sarah: Yeah. So she's still carrying this bullet around that she's had in her body since 1992. 

Mike: Fuck. Is she okay? Is she paralyzed? Can she walk? Does she have brain damage and stuff? 

Sarah: She has permanent paralysis on one side of her face. She has no hearing in her right ear, but she's doing well now. The main issue is that she stayed married to Joey for another seven years.

Mike: Whoa. 

Sarah: Some people when they say the vows, they really, really mean it. Or they really, really try to mean it, even if they married Joey.

Mike: That's such a sad situation. She's a victim of her and of him. Right? Mary Jo.

Sarah: All the women in this story are behaving as if men are something special.

Mike: And especially this extremely unspecial Steven Seagal, mullet guy with a beeper. 

Sarah: And this guy who everything will always work out for, because in that John Wayne Bobbitt way, he just has no concept of shame or self-insight. I watched an interview with him from this Australian TV show from three years ago called Crime Watch and I was like, wow, they've heard of Amy and it was an interview with Joey now. He's remarried to a lady who's eerily named Ivanka, and he is doing auto body repair work in Southern California. And in the interview, there was a moment where he sort of meditatively is like, “Would Mary Jo and I still be together if Amy had never shot her? I don't know. I don't know.” And it's like, really? You think that that was the only real problem with that marriage? That your girlfriend shot your wife and that was an isolated incident unrelated to your attributes as a life partner? 

Mike: If this harpy hadn't destroyed my marriage for no reason and through no fault of my own.

Sarah: Yeah. And so I was thinking about this, and I was watching L’Affaire Amy Fisher, and just how you look at the story that Joey Buttafuoco is telling and how many people believe it? Like, Mary Jo believes it. Many Americans believed it. The people who bought their life rights and made this movie and the actors who acted in it and the best boys who best boy-d in it, you know, all apparently believed in it enough to make it some form of reality. And the premise of that story is like, Joey Buttafuoco was just a regular old mechanic trying to have it all. Trying to be a family man and a husband, and then a hot, nympho, teenage girl, hooker, who was already involved in prostitution well before she met him - because this is the kind of thing that sixteen year old’s started doing extracurricularly if French club is full - starts harassing him. And when he valiantly refuses to have sex with her, she decides to murder his wife. And I just imagine, did the citizens of America in 1992, they looked at that story and then they looked at the story that Amy's lawyers were telling them and even the more balanced commentators in media were telling and be like, “Well, they're equally probable.”

Mike: Right. Both sides.

Sarah: Yeah. Like, God knows the world is full of hot, violent, sixteen year old, nymphomaniac, hookers who go around trying to destroy everyday men's lives for no apparent reason. 

Mike: So, did she just drive home after this happens? Like, what happens after she shoots Mary Jo?

Sarah: So she got a ride there from her friend, this teenage boy. 

Mike: She got a ride?!

Sarah: Why are we surprised that no single element of this crime is planned well or strategically? So the kid drives her home. 

Mike: Wait. So this kid drives her to the house, drops her off, she shoots Mary Jo, and then she calls this kid again to come pick her up at the murder house? 

Sarah: No, he's sitting there in a car on the street waiting.

Mike: There’s a boy in a car waiting outside while she shoots someone? 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: What?!

Sarah: It's funny. To me that is not a surprising detail in the midst of all these other surprising details. Tell me, what do you think about that? 

Mike: Well, doesn't he hear the gunshot? Doesn't he get concerned? 

Sarah: No, he knows what she's doing. He's just like, “Oh yeah, cool. I’ll help.” 

Mike: Wait, so this kid knows that she's going there with a gun to confront the wife of her lover? 

Sarah: Do you know how when you're a teenager, like, especially in a group of teenagers, you can all be talking about doing something and you don't really know if anyone believes you're going to do it. You just kind of talk about it.

Mike: Like, we're going to go to this music festival this summer. 

Sarah: Right. And you just talk about it and it becomes this kind of real thing and maybe you're kind of like, I don't think we're going to do that, but do you think we're going to? Right?

Mike: Unbelievable.

Sarah: I imagine that could have been the dynamic here. For whatever reason, he knew what she was planning, and he was okay with it, and I believe it was his gun that they use. 

Mike: Oh my God. So he’s just sitting in the car listening to Groove Is In the Heart waiting for the gunshot and for her to run out of the house.

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: So she gets a ride home and then I guess the cops come to her door pretty quickly? Is that how it all comes to a denouement?

Sarah: Funnily enough, if Mary Jo had not survived, they might never have found her. 

Mike: Yeah?

Sarah: But what happens is that Mary Jo, fairly quickly they ask her who shot her, and she says nineteen year old girl, because Amy had told her she was nineteen. Brown hair, violet streaks, and then lapsed into a coma again. She was in and out of consciousness for three days and Joey was like, “Oh, that sounds like my girlfriend, Amy Fisher.” Like, Joey immediately, immediately rats her.

Mike: Joey snitched?!

Sarah: Immediately. 

Mike: Unbelievable. I mean, not remotely unbelievable. 

Sarah: I don't even think they needed to take him to the station. I think, like, in the hospital room he ratted her out. 

Mike: They’re like, “How do you spell your last name?” and he's like, “Amy Fisher did it.” So then what happens? I'm on the edge of my seat right now. 

Sarah: And actually he did not just rat out Amy. He also ratted out Paul Makely, Amy's boyfriend, who he had set her up with. He was like, “Oh yeah, his girlfriend might have it out for my wife.” So he actually needlessly implicated a whole other person 

Mike: Singing like a canary over here. 

Sarah: And so Amy also says in her memoir that she had no concept of being punishable by the police. She was afraid that her parents were going to find out. 

Mike: No way.

Sarah: And that they were going to ground her and take her car away.

Mike: What? That’s what she thought the consequences would be?

Sarah: She had literally no concept of jail or prison as a consequence for her attempting to kill another human being. 

Mike: I blame the education system. 

Sarah: Let's go to Amy's arrest. So she gets arrested two days later and describes her attitude toward the police as, you know, I’ll just sign whatever you want as long as you let me go home. Where have we heard that before? 

Mike: Oh no. That's every ill thought through confession in history, is “just let me go home.”

Sarah: Mmhm. She signs a confession and she's like, “Okay, can I go home now?” and they're like, “No, you just confessed to attempted murder. We're going to put you in jail now.” So they put her in Nassau County Jail. She’s given the highest bail in Nassau County history. It is $2 million. 

Mike: No way. What? 

Sarah: Yes.

Mike: Why? 

Sarah: Because she's famous!

Mike: Oh, is she already famous by that point?

Sarah: So, this is from a People Magazine article called “Treachery in the Suburbs.” It comes out at the end of June 1992, so the month after. “When police announced on May 21st that they had arrested Fisher on charges of attempted murder, media interest was tepid. It was reported as a botched fatal attraction shooting, teenage style, but in crime saturated New York city the story was hardly front page news. The television program, A Current Affair, broadcast a fourteen minute thirty-six second video allegedly showing Amy Fisher engaging in sex as a prostitute.” 

Mike: There was a sex tape?

Sarah: “The TV show bought the tape for $8,000 from one of Fisher's customers, Peter DeRosa, 28, who had secretly recorded the second of their three paid sexual encounters. The video shot in his home opens with Fisher sitting on the edge of a bed. ‘Let's take care of business. Then we don't worry about this when we take care of pleasure,’ she tells DeRosa. ‘I don't like to think of business and pleasure at the same time.’ ‘I think I know what you're saying,’ DeRosa replies. On the tape, he pays her $100. The press went wild. ‘Long Island Lolita’ proclaimed more than one tabloid. ‘The Lolita Tapes’ screamed the New York Daily News. ‘High School Student by Day, Call Girl by Night’ trumpeted the New York Post. ‘Oh, Amy. Oh, Amy. Oh, Amy’, oohed New York Newsday. 

Mike: And then it blows up and becomes a tabloid thing.

Sarah: And then it blows up. So, you know, after she becomes a celebrity, all the headlines are appearing, Amy calls her mom from jail and says, “What's a Lolita?”

Mike: Aww. 

Sarah: So here's what happens. The district attorney demands a $2 million bail and when Amy was sixteen, she attempted to run away from home. Her father reported her missing and the police recorded a call where he basically furiously ranted about how terrible she was, how she was out of control and, you know, couldn't be trusted and all of this because he's an abusive dad and he's ranting about someone who got away from him. 

Mike: That's so heartbreaking.

Sarah: So the district attorney finds this report and is like, “Obviously she's a flight risk. Her own father said this about her.” So bail is $2 million. Her family gets a lawyer, this guy Naiburg, who's like, “All right, here's what let's do. You guys have put up your house and you've raised about 1.2 million by leveraging every asset that you have. You know, all of this stuff you've been furiously accumulating for Amy your whole lives, now you get to really use it for Amy.”

Mike: Oh, man. 

Sarah: And you're going to get the remaining $800,000 by… we're going to sell Amy's life rights and we're going to release this book and we're going to make this movie.” So this is the movie. One of the movies is Joey’s, Joey sells the rights to. One of the movies Amy sells the rights to. One is in the middle. That's the Drew Barrymore one. 

Mike: Oh, this was like such a fun story before this and now it's so sad. 

Sarah: That can also be our tagline. 

Mike: It's just awful all the way down. Oh my God!

Sarah: He’s saying to her and saying to her family, like, “We will get you out on bail. Like, we're getting you out for the rest of your life. You're not serving time for this. Like, this is what we need to do to get you out of jail” and in the end she's only out for like a couple months. Also her lawyer doing all this is like, “Don't talk to the press. Don't talk to the press. Don't talk to the press. Like, they're gonna take whatever you say out of context. It's not going to help.” And what she says later on in her book is like, “I should have just talked to them because everyone was saying everything they wanted to about me and I was the only person who didn't get to say who Amy Fisher was.”

Mike: Right. At the end of the day, she acquiesced to all this terrible stuff, and she keeps acquiescing to all this terrible stuff. 

Sarah: It gets worse. 

Mike: Ohhh, no.

Sarah: Do you want to hear it get worse?

Mike: Ehhh. 

Sarah: So she decides to plead guilty. Joey of course is still maintaining that nothing happened between them. So the night before she pleads guilty, she has a date set up with her boyfriend, Paul Makely, who she's described as like, “Joey was my father figure. Paul was my boyfriend.” He's the guy who Joey also implicates and at the time she is just thinking, like, “Paul's acting really weird. Like, he's being really insistent about asking me all these questions and getting me to talk about stuff that I don't really want to talk about and like, this is just weird, but I don't know, whatever.” And then it turns out that Paul has struck a deal with Hard Copy, which is another tabloid news TV show that is currently making a lot of money in prime time, and they have set up a camera in his shop that's filming him and Amy and then they take the footage that they get and edit it so that they have things such as Amy saying, “For all my pain and suffering, I want a Ferrari.” They have Paul get her to talk about, “You should marry me so we can have conjugal visits when I'm in prison,” and like, some of it clearly has been misleadingly edited. 

Mike: Oh, you're kidding. This is awful.

Sarah: And there's this inside-edition interview where the host, she's like, “It seems in that tape like you're someone who just doesn't even care what she's done,” and Amy's like, “I never even discussed what I had done on that tape.”

Mike: It goes back to the thing we always say of, like, we expect people to act a certain way during big, traumatic, important, whatever events and when they don't act in the way that we expect them to based on no evidence, we think, oh, they must be guilty. Right? It must be a sign that she's this morally vacuous monster because I wouldn't behave that way if I had just killed somebody, whereas I have no idea how I would act. 

Sarah: And it was also Paul being like, “For all your pain and suffering, like, what kind of car do you want? If you could have any kind of car. Like, say this car line” and so she said it because he fed it to her. It's like, I think the L’Affaire Amy Fisher is the moment when reality TV bursts through John Hurt’s chest, you know, just *hisses* and then scurries away and then it goes to another part of the spaceship and matures and then it comes back, you know, as the real world.

Mike: There's also the whole thing, I spend so much of my time thinking about journalistic ethics and how to be transparent with my sources and then Hard Copy’s just like “Let's fucking film people and not tell them and edit it down to make them look bad.” Like, what am I doing?

Sarah: So, the Hard Copy episode airs. They're like, “Amy Fisher penitently pled guilty to assault, but look at this bitch saying unrelated things about cars.” Amy Fisher sees it, is devastated. You know, she felt like she couldn't trust anyone, but she could still trust Paul and then it turns out that this guy who she still trusted and felt like cared about her had betrayed her and sold this video to TV.

Mike: Yeah. 

Sarah: Amy sees it and she has two attempted overdoses, two suicide attempts. 

Mike: Oh, no way. Really?

Sarah: Yeah. But it's only of like, I think, fifteen Valiums or something, maybe ten Valiums. So her mom likes to walk her around all night, keeps her awake. Then she makes another overdose attempt and then she's taken to the hospital. And in the media this was reported as “Amy Fisher says she twice tried to commit suicide, but is this just a bid for our sympathy?”

Mike: Oh my God, really?

Sarah: It's like, “What if this is just another step in her master plan?” And it's like, yes, the Long Island teenager who had a master plan to become sexually exploited by her older boyfriend and then to freely confess to a terribly planned, attempted murder.

Mike: Unbelievable. So she tries to kill herself… 

Sarah: And the media is like, “Nice try, Amy.” 

Mike: Fuck. You said this was right before her plea deal. So this is around the time when she's being sentenced?

Sarah: She's pled guilty. She's serving a five to fifteen year term and she's ultimately paroled after seven years partly because Mary Jo Buttafuoco testifies on her behalf at her parole hearing.

Mike: Oh my God. 

Sarah: Actually the one person for you to hold on to in this might be Mary Jo Buttafuoco who also, and I think you're going to like this, a few years ago published a memoir based on her whole experience with this nightmare and then ultimately realizing that Joey is not a good person to be married to, and the book is called Getting It Through My Thick Skull.

Mike: We have a hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Sarah: Yeah. One of the contentions of her book is that Joey is a sociopath. 

Mike: Okay. I'm sure you love that term and all the baggage that comes with it.

Sarah: We will get into in due time my very complicated feelings about that as a diagnostic term. However, I think that as a Long Island housewife trying to live your best life, sometimes you can't just realize that your husband of many years was a complicated person who had interestingly callous disregard for human life.

Mike: Yeah.

Sarah: Like, if you need to just tell yourself that he's a monster to validate the fact that your life sucked and you deserve to not be married to him anymore than like, that's great.

Mike: I always love it in these stories where there's a terrible man at the center of them and eventually all of the women realize what's really going on and they start to help each other. Like, when one man is dating three or four women at a time and the women find out about it and instead of being like “You homewrecker” or whatever, they're like, “Emma, I'm so sorry the same thing happened to you that happened to me. Let's be friends.” Like, to a certain extent, they've been through the same thing, Amy Fisher and Mary Jo. They both got taken in by this terrible dude and so there's no reason for them, I guess at some level, not to be allies.

Sarah: And, you know, it's a complicated allyship because, you know, Mary Jo testifies on Amy's behalf, she gets paroled. She has a few years of respectable public image where she's hounded by the media, of course, but she marries an older guy. She always had a thing for older guys. She has, I think, three kids. She's a columnist for the Long Island newspaper, which is how her book comes about and then things start to go a little bit flaky. She and Joey have this highly publicized thing where they “reunite.”

Mike: Oh no. 

Sarah: Yeah, I think in 2008, because they're attempting to sell a reality show.

Mike: Oh.

Sarah: I don't know what exactly went on, but like, you look at footage of them as they're trying to sell this, you know, and the interviewer is like, “You're like a surprising couple to get back together and Amy's like, “What? What's surprising about us?” You know, just like, know that we have great chemistry. You can kind of tell that they're not so crazy about, you know, they have to touch each other. They have to be kissing each other. It's like, they both have this look of like the kid sitting on Santa's lap. Like, “I really want my presents. If this is the only way to get them I’ll do it, but…” 

Mike: That sucks. And also the desperation behind it too. That, yeah, it seems like maybe both of them had fallen on hard times and they were like, “Well, what can I do? What can I cash in?”

Sarah: And again, it's like the tragedy is not even that someone is selling themselves but that they're selling themselves for so little. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Sarah: The crime happens in May 1992 so this is pre a lot of stuff. Pre-Tonya Harding, pre-OJ Simpson, pre-the court TV revolution of the nineties. So this is really one of the early ones that we're looking at and I feel as if looking at the way that the media is responding to what it becomes around the story or just the way that people respond to Amy being famous and this idea that, like, if she's famous she must be powerful or she must be spoiled and when she talks about suffering abuse in prison, which is of course unsurprising because that's what we all know prison is for, it's a place where you go and they abuse you, but being subject to abuse was based on people seeing her as someone who needed to be brought down a peg because if she was so famous she must think that she was special. 

I feel as if one of the things that you can see America grappling with as it looks at Amy and how famous she got and how she has these three TV movies made about her and all this attention that Americans are looking at her and were like, “Okay, so Amy's famous and fame means power that you can use and utilize and you're the one who's winning. You're the one who's pulling one over the rest of us” and really it's like, no, like, Amy's not powerful. Amy is the product. Amy's the thing being sold. Joey sold her. Abba Escort services sold her. Inside Edition sold her. Hard Copy sold her. The Nassau County district attorney sold her ultimately and then so did her lawyer. Everyone sells Amy and that's what the story is about and she's not active in this. She's a passive participant in her own life and it feels like this is the most where we started getting something really wrong that would come up again and again and again as this kind of media industry grew stronger and stronger, of getting confused and thinking that the person who is the focal point of all the attention is somehow reaping some kind of power or benefit from it as opposed to just being traumatized by it. 

Mike: Right. We think of them as orchestrating it in some way, when really, it's like these winds that are swirling around them that they're not controlling at all. Like, she's not controlling that she's on Hard Copy. She's not controlling that she's on the cover of People. 

Sarah: Yeah. It's like looking at Dorothy and her house getting lifted up by the tornado and being like, “Dorothy and her big tornado!” Dorothy never wanted to go to Oz. Dorothy just wanted to graduate from high school and maybe go to college. 

Mike: So what are the movies like? You said one is based on Buttafuoco, one is based on her, and one is in between. 

Sarah:  Yeah. So, you know, the Buttafuoco one is like… you watch it and it really makes you realize how cartoonishly bad Amy has to be for Joey to be good. Like, for Joey to be the blameless protagonist in all this Amy has to be Alyssa Milano playing Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

Mike: Is it him being like, “I'm really tired of you hitting on me, Amy. We better not. I love my wife.” And then Amy's like, “Wah. Kill your wife. Wah.”

Sarah: Basically.

Mike: What's the Amy Fisher life rights one like? 

Sarah: So they sold the life rights for this book that was ghostwritten by Sheila Weller and the problem is Amy would not talk to Sheila when it was time for Sheila to be researching and writing the book. They had a couple of short conversations.

Mike: What? Her lawyer wouldn't even let her talk to her own ghost writer? 

Sarah: No, her lawyer would let her, but she just clammed up because she just had been manhandled by everyone so much at this point that she just wouldn't open up to her basically. 

Mike: Oh my God

Sarah: It contains more of the truth than any other version, but it's not her and it's someone purporting to be her or at least more influenced by her voice than Sheila Weller actually was.

Mike: Oooh, that sucks because if she had told the full story, there would have been some Sarah Marshall journalist at the time who would have been like, “No, the real story of Amy Fisher is…” 

Sarah: And then forty people would have been like, “Yeah!” So another thing that happens after Amy pleads guilty is that the legal forces that be are initially looking at Joey as someone who they might be interested in charging with statutory rape because Amy– he had sex with her when she was sixteen. You know, but they’re kind of lukewarm about it and are like, “Oh, you know, whatever. It's not really a priority for us.” 

Mike: Yeah. He only, like, convinced her to be an escort. 

Sarah: He only destroyed her life because she happened to walk into his auto body shop. But Joey unfortunately goes around bragging so much about how he doesn't even know Amy and how no one has anything on him that some people at the time speculate that he just annoys the district attorney's office and they're like, “Fine, fuck it. We will prosecute you. We don't like you,” and so they do, and they actually do find him guilty of statutory rape and he serves 119 days in Nassau County Jail. Amy goes to prison for seven years. He goes to jail for 119 days. 

Mike: It's not much, but at least there's some tiny nugget of consequences for him. I mean, jeez.

Sarah: It doesn't seem to have pierced his emotional rhino hide, but… Then there's this really interesting thing where he went on Judge Jeanine Pirro a few years ago. Do you know that show?

Mike: Isn’t she, like, the insane right wing Fox news person? 

Sarah: One of them, yeah. 

Mike: Oh, for fucks sake. 

Sarah: Of everything I've read I think Judge Jeanine Pirro, our Trump supporter and fan of locking people up, said what seems to me like the most intelligent thing I've encountered in my research, which is that Joey Buttafuoco is coming on as a celebrity claimant on the Judge Jeanine Pirro show and he's suing a woman who, according to him, brought in a car for repairs and offered to pay him with sex instead of money, because goodness knows this is a problem that Joey Buttafuoco has constantly. 

Mike: Yes, just women wanting to have sex with 54 year old Steven Seagal.

Sarah: So he’s on Judge Jeanine Pirro and he's just a charming guy. He's like, “Hello! I'm Joey Buttafuoco. I'm on Judge Jeanine Pirro. This is another exciting…” you know, whatever. He's just living his life and Judge Jeanine Pirro kind of playfully but in her, you know, “I'm a tough lady judge” kind of way is like, “You know, you're lucky that this all happened before the sexual predator laws that we passed” and he's like, “Yeah, 119 days” and you know, “It was just to get me out of the spotlight. That's what my lawyer said. They just wanted to get me out of the thick of things.” You know, like it was a favor to him and Judge Jeanine Pirro is like, “Now with the sex offender statutes that we have, you would have gone to prison for years maybe. There are mandatory minimums,” and Joey Buttafuoco to his immense credit just has this attitude, you know, he's like, “yeah, what are you going to do? That's true. I would have gone to prison for years. That's– anyway.”

Mike: *sings circus music*

Sarah: Yeah. And, you know, it's true because he's a sexual predator. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Sarah: He's the definition. He's it. He's the kind of person you don't want living near schools. 

Mike: I also think Jeanine Pirro is the perfect metaphor for what the entire media apparatus did in that she brings on somebody who she knows is going to boost her ratings because like, “Oh Joey Buttafuoco, what's he up to these days?” But then she deliberately goes out of her way to scold him.

Sarah: Yeah. She's distancing herself. She's like, “I'm not morally complicit in the kind of person you are.” Yeah.

Mike: Right. But you're still making money off of him and you're still getting the ratings boost. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: So it's like, instead of bringing someone on benefiting from how terrible of a person they are and then telling them they're a terrible person, why not just not bring them on in the first place?

Sarah: That’s really America in a nutshell, isn't it? Profiting off of people and then distancing yourself from the act of profiting off of them.

Mike: Yeah. Also epilogue wise, I did read Amy Fisher's Wikipedia page and it mentioned she's a porn actress as well.

Sarah: So she was married. She had kids. She and her husband got divorced. They sold a sex tape to some adult media concern. She maintains it was his idea and he forced her to do it. He maintains it was her idea and she forced him to do it. They got divorced. She has released more adult movies and she's worked as a stripper a lot in the last few years. I don't know if she's still doing that, but you just look at what her life became and are like, this is an incredible amount of trauma to be subjected to and we tend to believe that we are the kind of people that we were told we are. All anyone wants is to just feel loved and be left alone by people who want to hurt them, but if you feel like that's impossible for you, then you do other stuff.

Mike: There’s also a thing that I think that we discount too, that it was probably really hard for her to get a normal job. One of the things that I carry with me from reading all that Monica Lewinsky stuff, nobody wanted to hire her because any, whatever, law firm or HR or, you know, normal job that she could get if she could re-enter normal life, that's going to be in the newspaper. “Monica Lewinsky gets a job with some random insurance company.” Whatever normal job she gets, that's going to be news. So what, you know, middle manager at an insurance company looks at two resumes, one of a famous person that's going to get you in the newspapers and one of some random person and goes, “I'm going to take a chance on this woman who's going to get us in the papers.” And I imagine it's exactly the same thing with Amy Fisher, that even if she had wanted to just go to college and get a normal office job, she probably would really struggle to do that.

Sarah: Yeah. She lived in Florida for a while and ended up being stalked by a guy who hopped a fence and got into the gated community where she and her kids lived. She ultimately moved back. Yeah. It's funny in these stories how little people travel. Like, she's still on Long Island. 

Mike: Yeah. You need your networks. She's not going to get a job through Craigslist, probably. She's going to have to use her networks because who else is going to take a chance on her for a normal job? I don’t know. It feels like one of these examples where it's like we create a monster and then we blame them for being a monster. It's like, we're going to create a situation where somebody can't do anything normal and then we’ll be like, why is she in porn? Like, why is she trying to sell her name to reality shows? It's like, well, because she can't be a dental hygienist now. 

Sarah: Yeah. 

Mike: Especially with cases like this too, where she also has a criminal record.

Sarah: I feel like what this made me think of too is that this happened at exactly the wrong time. I'm going to continue with my festival of nineties women. We're going to talk about Pam Smart. We're going to talk about Mary Kay LeTourneau. We're going to talk about other luminaries and as we get into that, I feel like we're going to also keep talking about, like, what was it about the nineties media landscape that is particularly cruel? And it feels like if this had happened 20 years previously, if it had happened in the early seventies, there wouldn't have been the kind of media apparatus to just feverishly report on this and make it a national obsession the way that it became. It wouldn't have been such big news. She wouldn't have been such a fixation for so long. Like, there just wasn't that kind of infrastructure yet.

Mike: Yeah.

Sarah: If it had happened twenty years later, it wouldn't have been such big news because media has diversified enough that there would be so many more stories popping up across the nation and media is more driven by consumer demand and by internet traffic and people could have migrated over to other stuff and she might've dropped out of headlines fairly quickly. 

So this happened at exactly the wrong moment and one of the things she also talks about in her book is if this had happened later then we would have lived in a culture that took the way that Joey victimized me more seriously and I wouldn't have been painted as a monster and I feel like I just want to, as we continue with this journey, keep looking at what are the things that allow people to be, you know, abused not just by the people in their immediate lives, but then by the media the way that these people are and what are the factors that can maybe create a world where they're treated decently and actually maybe given the chance to tell their story and be believed. 

Mike: And we wouldn't need podcasts twenty-five years later to circle back to them and be like, “Hey, wait, this was complex.”

Sarah: Yeah. I would just like to create a world where we don't need to be doing this, but which is fine because I like… I like doing it.