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Linda Pugach, who married the man convicted in attack that blinded her, dies in NYC

Magnolia Pictures via AP

Linda and Burt Pugach in 1974. She died this week at age 75, still married to the man convicted of hiring hit men to throw lye in her face.

Linda Pugach, the real-life co-star of one of New York City's craziest love stories, died this week -- still married to the man who was convicted of hiring goons to blind her with lye. She was 75.

Then known as Linda Riss, she became a household name in 1959 when she was attacked on the street and her married ex-lover, lawyer Burt Pugach, was accused of orchestrating the ambush.

Linda, blinded in one eye and scarred, became a fixture on the front page of the city papers, her pretty face always obscured by dark sunglasses.

Burt was convicted of masterminding the attack and spent 14 years in prison, where he indulged his obsession with Linda by writing her love letters.

After his release, he divorced his first wife, began wooing Linda, and proposed to her on live television.


“It was a fairytale romance,” Burt Pugach, 85, said Thursday after Linda was laid to rest in a crypt where he will one day be entombed next to her. “We loved each other so much.”

Like any marriage, it had its bumps, though.

The couple had been married for more than 20 years when Burt was in trouble again, charged with threatening a mistress who jilted him by warning he would make it "1959 all over again."

He beat the rap with a little help from ever-loyal Linda, who took the stand and explained that heart surgery she had in 1990 -- which left her blind in her other eye -- led him to cheat.

"I was not able to have sex with my husband. I was so terribly weakened I was at death's door," she told the court.

Their bizarre romance later became the basis for a well-received documentary, "Crazy Love."

“Did they love each other?” said Dan Klores, who directed “Crazy Love.”

“I think they needed each other. Some definition of love, maybe, but certainly not the traditional view," he said.

"Each of them fulfilled a big need in the other: She had to be cared for and he tried to rationalize what he did. She needed to be viewed as the beautiful little teenage girl that she was … and he represented the one man that still wanted her.”

Driving back from the cemetery, Pugach said in a phone interview that he had nothing to do with the lye attack and said Linda never believed he did.

“I doubt she would have married me if she did,” he said.

Headlines aside, he said they were a match made in heaven.

“She was so beautiful, so kind; she had such a marvelous spirit. She was a double of Elizabeth Taylor,” he said. “And if you take a look at the pictures of me, I don’t look like Boris Karloff.”

He said his wife suffered childhood rheumatic fever that damaged her heart. She began to ail a couple of months ago and was in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation centers. Burt last saw her a few hours before she died.

“Before I went she said to me, ‘Burt, take me home with you.’ And I said, ‘I would love to,’” he said

“There’s nothing in my life any more. I’m an old man and I don’t know how I can go on without her.”