Monday, June 1, 2009

A Stroll Down The Crime Aisle

by Diane Dimond

Scene: Book Expo, New York City, May 30, 2009 – Inside the mammoth Javitz Center

Players: Tens of thousands of publishers, book dealers, authors and fans

What I’ll remember most: I finally got to meet Mary Jo Buttafuoco, the ultimate crime survivor! (Pictured right, photo courtesy of WCI Contributor Stacy Dittrich)

Back in 1992, I was just one in the horde of reporters to
descend on a sleepy waterfront neighborhood in Massapequa, New York. We came, like moths to a flame, because the sensational news story of that time revolved around a cad of a married man, his teenage Lolita, and his long suffering wife who had simply opened the front door of her home one day and was shot in the head.

As we were introduced Mary Jo said, “I remember you. You were with Hard Copy!

I immediately ‘fessed up. “Yes. I was one of those reporters camping out in your front yard back then. I apologize.” And I braced myself for criticism. After all we had further and completely disrupted her life at the worst possible time in her life – as she came home from the hospital (weighing just 89 pounds) to recover from what could have been life-ending injuries inflicted by her cheating husband’s 17-year-old lover, Amy Fisher.

But Mary Jo Buttafuoco was sweet as could be. She waved off any awkwardness and smiled brightly as she signed my copy of her soon to be released book,GETTING IT THROUGH MY THICK SKULL - Why I Stayed, What I Learned, And What Millions Of People Involved With Sociopaths Need To Know.” We spoke briefly about how wonderful her life is now, with a new man, upcoming wedding and their blended family of children. We spoke about the “train wreck” that her shooter, Amy Fisher’s, life had become, but Mary Jo didn’t dwell on it. She didn't have much to say about her sociopathic ex-husband Joey either.

After all she’d been through I got a lump in my throat at her graciousness and near complete recovery. Only the slightest droop in an eyelid and on one side of her mouth gives a hint at how grievously she was wounded.

Earlier, at that very same table I’d stopped by to see my friend, TV journalist Jane Velez Mitchell (pictured right with me, photo courtesy of Diane Cohen). She signed a copy of her new book, “I Want” for me. It is also about surviving what life deals you. My courageous friend lays bare her once crippling addiction to alcohol and other bad habits and holds out her hand to help others walk a path to recovery. On air for her nightly HLN Network show, “Issuesshe may seem like a tough, aggressive person. Off air she is a darling with a soft side who spends much of her time on causes like animal rights and the environment. I appear on her program once in a while as a guest commentator and I appreciate the fact that Jane allows her guests to actually finish a sentence and put the subject-at-hand into perspective.

Then, while sitting in the Justice Interrupted booth with my friends Stacy Dittrich and Susan Murphy Milano (Robin Sax had taken a quick break to go shopping on 5th Avenue!) I ran into author Julie Spira (below) whose book The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online,outlines the do’s and don’ts of internet dating from a safety standpoint. She knows of what she speaks! This veteran of the digital-age-date lays out her first hand experiences with many of the losers who troll the internet superhighway just looking for vulnerable women. As smart as she is Julie was duped into loving and marrying a criminal liar she met on the net. He wasn’t really an architect. He wasn’t really self sufficient. And he really took her for a ride that, in the end, cost her about 100 thousand dollars as well as her dignity. If you’re considering internet dating do yourself a favor and read this book FIRST.

Three women, three very different and inspirational stories of survival in this world where criminals often seem to have the upper hand.

I experienced lots more at Book Expo. Wandering the never ending aisles hung with huge signs over head - Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin, Prometheus – I stocked up on brand new give-away books. Naturally, I went for those with a crime and justice angle. Although not new this season I was riveted by two books at the Good Books booth by Howard Zehr. Transcending: Reflections of Crime Victims” and “Doing Life: Reflections of Men and women Serving Life Sentences.Both books are exactly what their titles imply. And they both offer stunning, haunting photographic portraits of the subjects – those who’ve miraculously survived violent crimes only to feel victimized in a different way by the court system that doesn’t really account for their participation and those men and women who are serving the rest of their lives in prison with no possibility of ever being released.

I saw my old pal Mark Klass and we were both delighted when Dr. Ruth walked by and stopped to chat with Mark. (We giggled later at how Mark was able to stay seated while he spoke with her and at the same time look right into her eyes - Yes! She's that short!) I think I spotted singer Paul Simon wandering around but I was too shy to run after him to see if it was really him. There were women wearing skimpy hot pink bathing suits touting the “perfect diet” books and Tibetan-looking monks strolling the aisles in saffron colored robes. The Justice Interrupted ladies were approached by the Tyra Banks producers who were enthusiastic about booking them for her show. Hero Pilot Sully Sullenberg charmed folks in the Borders Books Booth.

As Stacy Dittrich (pictured below with me in the Justice Interrupted booth), Susan Murphy Milano and I left for the day Susan and I marveled at the quality and number of books in the booths around us. We wondered how much longer books as we know them will exist. Will the internet, the kindle and devices we can’t even imagine replace these lovely companions one day? Will libraries become museums in the future? Maybe.

But for now I’ve got a bag full of books to keep me company! And, I got to shake hands with Mary Jo Buttafuoco, a woman I’d done so many stories about but never met.


Levi said...

Sounds like you had a hell of a time Diane! I love your writing style. You make all of us feel like we were right there with you.

I love to read, I always got a stack of books piled up on my night stand.

LadySheila said...

Levi, I second that. This was a refreshing it when something good comes out of crime. I have my own story with what I believe to be a sociopath, so I am anxious to get a copy of Mary Jo's book (see, you make me think I know her too!)

Diane Dimond said...

If you all like the way I cover crime you might want to check out my daily posts at sign up to "follow me"...and the next time you sign on it'll automatically direct you to my latest posts.
Diane Dimond