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Eye on the Island: July 31, 2009

Mary Jo’s ‘Thick Skull’

Mary Jo Connery fell in love with a young man while attending Massapequa High School in the 1970s. She married him in 1977. More than two decades later, they divorced.

This storyline wouldn’t sound like a promising book proposal. But if your ex-husband is Joey Buttafuoco, there’s amazing material on which to draw and that’s what makes Mary Jo Buttafuoco’s just-published Getting It Through My Thick Skull (HCI Books) such a surprisingly enjoyable read. Buttafuoco’s tell-all, built around her conclusion that she was married to a sociopath, is aimed at helping readers determine if they know one, too.

To promote her book, written with Julie McCarron, Mary Jo Buttafuoco is appearing on Friday, July 31 at the Barnes & Noble, 91 Old Country Road, Carle Place, at 7 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 1 at Costco, 1250 Old Country Road, Westbury, at 12:30 p.m.

More than 17 years ago, the-then 37-year-old Buttafuoco was almost killed when a teenaged Amy Fisher shot her in the head after showing up unannounced at the Buttafuocos’ front door in Massapequa. The reason for Amy’s visit: she wanted to tell Mrs. Buttafuoco that Fisher’s “younger sister” was having an affair with her husband.

The media coverage after the May 1992 attempted murder, which left Buttafuoco deaf in one ear, and her face and throat partially paralyzed, focused on the relationship between Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco. Do I even need to elaborate on what happened afterwards? Fisher went to prison for seven years, and Joey became a guest of the state, albeit for a few months, for an offense involving what constitutes the age of consent.

Mrs. Buttafuoco stood publicly behind her husband for eight years after being shot, believing it was essential to keep their family together. They are the parents of a son, Paul, who is now 29, and a daughter, Jessica, 26.

The Buttafuoco children were entering eleventh grade and eighth grade, respectively, when their parents relocated to southern California in the late 1990s, not long after Joey Buttafuoco’s 1995 arrest for soliciting a prostitute. Mary Jo acknowledges in her memoir that her then-husband’s endless brushes with the law prompted the move but a change of scenery rarely alters someone’s behavior, as she quickly learned.

Indeed, history would repeat itself as Joey, an auto body repair shop owner, was arrested again in 2003 and eventually pled guilty to insurance fraud. By that time, he and Mary Jo had divorced and she was in another relationship.

Still, as Mary Jo finds happiness in her personal life, the book runs out of steam. There are passages about her Oprah appearances in 2005 and 2006, and how Entertainment Tonight’s producers had Mary Jo on speed dial around that time, too. Yet the text at that point desperately needed a guy who could drive the narrative with some crazy antics so I found myself missing that little scamp.

Her ex-husband’s legacy can perhaps best be captured by paraphrasing an observation made near the end of National Lampoon’s Animal House; “when the situation absolutely required a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part,” Joey Buttafuoco was just the guy to do it.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.