“When it’s Cornelia’s turn she calls ‘Massapequa,’ the second-soprano showstopper from Amy & Joey, an Off-Broadway musical about Amy Fisher that’s been running since 1994 to packed houses.”
— Bleeding Edge, 150-51
Maxine joins Rocky and his companions at Lucky 18 in K-Town for karaoke. While the night proves revealing among her interactions with Lester and Felix, it is Cornelia, however, and her song choice, which lead to Pynchon’s leap into historical fiction. Cornelia sings ‘Massapequa,’ a fictional song from a fictional musical about a real town known for a very real crime.
On May 19th, 1992, Amy Fisher shot Mary Jo Buttafuoco in the back of the head on the doorstep of the Buttafuoco home in Massapequa. Mary Jo survived, but the right side of her face is paralyzed and she remains at risk of becoming fully paralyzed should the bullet move (Smith). Fisher, 17 years old at the time, claimed to have been having an affair with Mary Jo’s husband, Joey, then 36. Throughout Fisher’s trial, Joey and Mary Jo remained steadfast that the affair was a convolution of Amy’s obsession. Amy was dubbed the “Long Island Lolita” by the tabloids. She pleaded guilty and served seven years. Joey was later indicted and pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory rape after testimony and motel receipts provided evidence of the affair when Amy was just 16 (Smith).
The media, especially the tabloids, and technology played a major role in the popularity of the scandal. The tabloid television program A Current Affair purchased a secretly made tape in which Fisher was seen negotiating terms for sex in a motel. The tape aired nationally the night before her bail hearing (Smith). This prompted the ADA to ask for an unprecedented $2 million bail. In exchange for funding her bail payment, Amy signed a contract for film rights to her story (Smith). The Buttafuoco’s benefited in a similar fashion with numerous interviews and book deals. The affair prompted no less than three made-for-TV movies. The story fell into the archives for a time, but the new celebrities found new ways to make headlines. In 2008, Amy’s husband released a sex tape to a pornographic site, and instead of fighting to have it taken down, “Fisher agreed to an undisclosed sum of money and a promotional appearance at a New York City nightclub” (qtd. in Davis). The tape launched Amy’s pornographic career. Mary Jo blasted Amy for her involvement in porn, criticizing, “She’s no Jenna Jameson, she’s just a porn star … She tried to kill somebody, and now [she’s] making money off it” (qtd. in Fox News). Amy responded, “Mary Jo is a nonentity. People are angry at me because I’m a millionaire. But guess what? So is Mary Jo! She made more millions off of what I did than what I made” (qtd. in Fox News).
It was difficult to find primary sources or coverage of the crime as much of the modern newspaper archives require paid subscription for more recent years. The internet was not readily available for mass markets nor was it a primary outlet for news media in 1992. A fair amount of the hype was also developed in the tabloids, which are busy following and creating new scandals and have not maintained their archives online. Time allowing, I would have liked to have viewed at least one of the films produced for television. Amy Fisher also wrote a book to tell her story, which would have likely been entertaining and mildly informative (in the fashion of most tell-alls).
This reference, mentioned in a single sentence, is laden with relevance and implication. The epitome of ‘Amy & Joey’ is adultery. Bleeding Edge is laced with relationships straying from the confines of marriage: Tallis and Chazz, Vyrva and Gabriel, Maxine’s technical infidelities while separated from Horst, the weird trio of Vip, Shae, and Bruno, etc. Pynchon plays with the romantic, or maybe more accurately, promiscuous, lives of his characters, especially Maxine. He subtly suggests involvement with Rocky, though we never see anything come to fruition. He has Maxine almost pining in this warped state for Windust, all the while emphasizing the domesticity of Maxine and Horst home with the kids. As the plot builds and the underside of the characters becomes more exposed, the inappropriate relationships are brought to light, often aided by technology. Amy Fisher’s life is seriously altered by the release of tapes. First, before her bail is set and again when her husband releases a sex tape. The drama is encouraged when Joey calls into the Howard Stern Show to reiterate his love for his wife and deny any relations with Amy. The story is broadcast in print, on the radio, on the nightly news, through daytime movies, similar to the ones Maxine watches, reaching out all over the nation. Technology is allowing the network of information to expand, but instead of allowing the world to shame Amy and Joey for their acts, the world encourages it for entertainment. While not exactly adultery, Vip, Shae, and Bruno push another boundary of standard relationships. There is a disconnect here where inappropriate relationships are more vulnerable than ever of being exposed because of the growth of networks and yet Pynchon dissolves each of these relationships without any big storm. The way in which Pynchon consistently treats these relationships is concordant with the way in which the world treated Amy and Joey.
The other key aspect of the Amy and Joey reference is the newfound celebrity status and accompanying money. Mary Jo Buttafuoco condemns Amy Fisher for making so much money off of shooting someone in the head. The idea is absurd without the context of a mob or a hit man. Amy, Joey, and Mary Jo, two criminals and a victim, walk away from a potentially tragic scenario with millions of dollars and little time spent paying for their crimes. Gabriel Ice has earned similar notoriety for his net worth and his involvement in criminal activities. Hollywood and tabloids were not concerned with the actual crimes committed but rather the drama, just as the community is less concerned with the underbelly of Ice’s scheme so much as it is with his parties and power. Pynchon is less subtle with regard to his feelings toward wealth and greed; his entire novel revolves around a fraud investigator. Maxine, usually dependable for wit even when inappropriate, appears to be the most genuine when she sympathizes for those with good intentions finding themselves in too deep, like Lester. This is strikingly in contrast to how Maxine feels about Gabriel Ice, who is committing fraud for entirely evil purposes. Pynchon is making a point about the fate of the little man, just breaching the surface of crime, and the big guy, involved in international schemes, left untouchable.
“Amy Fisher: ‘I Feel No Sympathy’ for Mary Jo Buttafuoco.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 11 Feb. 2008. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
Davis, Richard. “Amy Fisher to Promote Sex Tape with Husband.” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 Feb. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.
Smith, Tom. “Amy Fisher Trial: 1992.” Great American Trials. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 23 Feb. 2015 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.