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The Aftermath of Crazy Love

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Crazy Love is the 2007 movie (shown recently on the IFC cable network) about Burton and Linda Pugach. After Linda spurned him when she was 22, Burton hired thugs to throw lye in her face, blinding and scarring her for life. Burton continued to write Linda and send her money while he was incarcerated. When he was paroled, the couple dined together, and five months later -- 15 years after the attack, in 1974 -- they were married.

As the author of Love and Addiction -- about sick love attachments -- in 1975, I noted this case as it occurred. Even people who don't believe in addicted love saw this as the epitome of a sick relationship (hence the movie's title). But, you know, I view it with a certain tenderness now.

Both people were highly limited in life. Both, for example, were overly attached to their mothers. The fiancee who replaced Burton in Linda's life dropped her after she left the hospital. Linda's life was insular to start with, and became more so after the attack - but she did succeed in living on her own for the first time after being blinded. She had friends and worked at a low-level job, but was never intimate with a man.

An attractive petite woman, Linda was a self-confessed virgin in her mid-thirties. She had a subsequent suitor -- a Southerner, as she described him. They didn't have sex, and when Linda finally wore transparent glasses in place of her usual dark ones, he recoiled at her disfigurement. But Linda's sharp tongue, as revealed in the movie, might have made her a tough sell romantically under any circumstances. (Burton refers to her as "the goddess of breaking balls.")

Okay, that's not a nice thing to say about the love of his life. But there's worse. Burton, who is ten years older than Linda, was married when he met and "had to have" her. Worse still, he had a five-year liaison well into his marriage to Linda with a woman he dominated and whom he threatened to blind when she tried to break off the affair, creating a whole new set of headlines for the couple. Linda forgave Burton -- she's shown asking reporters how many of them hadn't cheated on their wives -- and testified for her husband in the subsequent trial.

And still the couple remains together 30 plus years later. Burton (a successful lawyer -- he made money in prison representing fellow inmates) provided for and catered to Linda, who seems to relish the attention -- including even the history of the attack and Burton's subsequent transgression.

If there's one stable, sane person in the film, it's the policewoman who was charged with guarding Linda (from Burton, mainly) after the attack. Margaret Powers is an independent, highly intelligent pioneer in the New York City police force. She and Linda struck up a lifetime friendship -- Powers admired that Linda never expressed self-pity -- and they exchanged weekly taped "letters" for decades.

On a visit after Burton was released, Powers observed a 70-year-old woman in Linda's apartment building returning from a shopping trip alone with some paltry provisions. Powers then encouraged Linda to meet with Burton. Speaking of the scene, Powers -- who herself has a long, successful marriage -- says in the film, "It reeked of loneliness. I could see the future for Linda in the woman trundling the shopping cart."

And who can say she was wrong?

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