It happened on May 19, 1992, in the Long Island suburb of Massapequa, New York. Seventeen-year-old Amy Fisher rang the front doorbell of the home belonging to Joey Buttafuoco, the married, 35-year-old auto body shop owner with whom she had become sexually involved.
Mary Jo Buttafuoco, Joey’s wife, opened the door, whereupon Fisher spilled the beans about the affair, tossing forward a T-shirt from the car repair shop as “proof.” As Mary Jo turned away, Fisher whipped out a .25-caliber handgun blasted the mother of two in the face.
Miraculously, Mary Jo survived and was able to pinpoint her assailant.
From there, the sordid saga engulfed popular culture by way of newspaper stories, magazine profiles, nightly tabloid TV reports, talk show appearances, and late-night comedy programs.
Before long, Amy Fisher became forever after known as the “Long Island Lolita,” and the surname “Butafuocco” got permanently installed in society’s canon of instant, one-word punchlines.
A quarter-century later, the story continues to captivate, with all three figures semi-regularly popping up in the collective consciousness. Here are six key pop-culture outbursts.
AMY FISHER: MY STORY (1992)
Director: Bradford May
Cast: Noelle Parker, Ed Marinaro, Kathleen Laskey
Virtually before Mary Jo Buttafuoco got out of surgery, it seemed like the three major TV networks rushed tele-movies on the scandal into production. NBC got there first, with the pointedly titled Amy Fisher: My Story.
Noelle Parker, an up-and-comer who sort of came-and-went, stars in the title role. As the film depicts Amy’s point-of-view, she comes off as a rather innocent waif driven to madness by Ed Marinaro (best known for Hill Street Blues) as Joey. He really creeps it up.
THE AMY FISHER STORY (1993)
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Anthony John Denison, Harley Jane Kozak
In relative terms, ABC’s The Amy Fisher Story is the most “highly regarded” of the network’s trashy TV movie trilogy on the topic. Rather than pick a protagonists’ side, TAFS instead covers the case through the eyes of New York Post reporter Amy Pagnozzi (Harley Jane Kozak).
Drew Barrymore, who herself was just 17 at the time, exudes overwhelming star power as Amy. She plays off her own real-life “bad girl” reputation and portrays Fisher as a wild child turned psycho seductress.
As Joey, Tony Dennison, who’d go on to the popular TNT series Major Crimes, seems to sweat pizza grease and motor oil. TAFS also gets extra points for being the only one of these flicks to accurately depict Buttafuoco’s signature multi-color parachute pants.
HE SAID/SHE SAID COMICS: THE AMY FISHER STORY/THE JOEY BUTTAFUOCO STORY (1993)
In the early 1990s, a spate of unauthorized comic books appeared that challenged normal conventions regarding copyright and intellectual-property issues. Most notable among them were Revolutionary Comics’ line of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics,” which dedicated issues to bands and musicians (Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, etc.) without their subjects’ permission. Occasionally this stirred up legal trouble, but also sometimes affection (KISS, for one, endorsed the series).
In that vein, a company called He Said/She Said Comics appeared suddenly to put a true-crime spin on the concept by way of a “flip book” titled The Amy Fisher Story/The Joey Buttafuoco Story.
The one-and-only issue featured each version of the events according to the title figures, in stories that appeared alongside each other under two “front covers.” So you could read Amy’s story and get to the middle of the comic, then flip it upside-down and get Joey’s take. Separating the two sides in the book’s middle was a full-color “Amy Fisher pin-up.” It’s tough to imagine it ever got pinned up anywhere.
CELEBRITY BOXING: Joey Buttafuoco vs. Joanie “Chyna” Laurer (2002)
Throughout the early 2000s, TV’s FOX network grabbed ratings with a multitude of campy “stunt” broadcasts such as Man vs. Beast (in which 100 little people battled an elephant to see who could pull an airplane faster) and Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire (which was essentially a beauty pageant wherein the winner wed a rich guy at the end of the live show).
In 2002, FOX aired two Celebrity Boxing specials. The first featured match-ups such as The Partridge Family’s Danny Bonaduce vs. Barry Williams (easy win for Danny) and Bill Clinton accuser Paula Jones fighting scandalous figure skater Tonya Harding (Jones threw in the towel).
The second edition of Celebrity Boxing proved to be the one that permanently k.o.’d the concept.
First, in a seeming display of the behavior that would later keep him in the tabloids, 22-year-old Dustin Diamond, aka “Screech” from Saved by the Bell, sadistically wailed on 43-year-old Ron Palillo, aka “Horshack” from Welcome Back, Kotter.
Then came the headline bout: pro wrestler Joanie “Chyna” Laurer vs. Joey Buttafuoco (originally, Joey was supposed to take on de-penising victim John Wayne Bobbit).
Throughout the fight, Joey threw one dirty punch after another, quickly turning the crowd against him. In one blatant foul shot, Chyna’s headgear slipped down over her eyes and Joey even clocked her in the skull … from behind.
Regardless, the judges decided the fight for Butafuocco, even as the audience booed and jeered. So much of Joey’s life has probably felt like that moment.
AMY FISHER: CAUGHT ON TAPE (2007) / JOEY BUTAFUOCCO CAUGHT ON TAPE (2007)
When pop-culture history properly assesses the 2000s, it may be impossible to underestimate the impact of Pam and Tommy Lee: Stolen Honeymoon — the first blockbuster “celebrity sex tape.”
Following star-making, multimillion-selling X-rated videos featuring Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian in the first half of the decade, the celebrity sex-tape craze continued to ooze downward.
In 2007, Amy Fisher’s then-husband Lou Bellera pushed their bedroom recordings onto the public by way of Amy Fisher: Caught on Tape. Shortly thereafter, the phenomenon dripped south however many more levels were necessary to result in Joey Buttafuoco: Caught on Tape.
Amy’s video sold well enough to launch her professional adult film career for the next several years before she cried about it all in on the 2011 edition of Celebrity Rehab. Joey’s tape did not.GETTING IT THROUGH MY THICK SKULL by Mary Jo Buttafuoco (2009)
The main title of Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s 2009 memoir makes a witty double reference to both Amy Fisher’s head-shot that left her face partially paralyzed and the fact that many thought it took her far too long to dump Joey. For years following the shooting, Joey denied ever being involved with Fisher and claimed she merely stalked him, imagining they’d had some kind of grand affair. And for a long time, Mary Jo stuck by her husband and his excuses, even as they continually piled up, such as when Joey claimed innocence after getting arrested in a Los Angeles street-prostitution sting.
Joey has since confessed to all manner of his wrongdoings. In 2003, Mary Jo divorced him.
The book also opens with a definitive broadside, as Mary Jo writes: “Joey Buttafuoco is a sociopath. There, I said it.” Her tale of medical and emotional survival, followed by personal reinvention, takes over from there.
To learn more about the case, watch Investigation Discovery’s “Mr. Good Times” episode of Who the (BEEP) Did I Marry? on ID Go.
Main photos: Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco [WikiMedia Commons]