Long Island Lolita, all grown up

What was she thinking? It's one of those questions that comes to mind often with Amy Fisher. For the first time, Fisher says she has attempted to answer honestly. She's written a book called "If I Knew Then..." in which she says the combination of her own low self-esteem, a manipulative older man, an abusive father, an inattentive mother, an appalling lack of judgment and her fear of getting caught all came together, adding up to the biggest mistake she'll ever make. She hopes reading her book will help teenagers and their parents recognize trouble signs before it's too late. Read an excerpt from her book below:

I thought about writing a book for a while. At first I wanted to write one that would give advice to parents on how to spot trouble signs in their kids and advice to kids on how to stay away from the kind of trouble I got into. After all, how many people can speak from the experience I had? What better poster girl to keep kids away from guns and out of trouble? But I have received so much mail from people who want to know about my own life—what got me involved in this trouble in the first place, what the trouble was, what my time in prison was like, and how my life has been since prison—that I decided to do a little bit of both. Tell my story and, through my story, provide a life lesson or two.

Chapter One

The reality is that I don’t care much to rehash my life. But I need to get it out there so I can get the facts straight and address the fictions that have been swirling around me for over a decade—and most importantly, move on. So why get back into the public eye after years of much-appreciated privacy? My life is good. I have everything I need, although the things that are most important to me now are not really financial. What’s most important is my family—I have a great extended family, a wonderful mom, a terrific husband, an amazing child, and another baby on the way.

For the last twelve years, every time I saw myself on television, I got butterflies in my stomach. I’m forever “the Long Island Lolita,” and I don’t want to be the Long Island Lolita. I want the things I’ve accomplished since I became that notorious teenager to be known. I’m tired of hiding. When I hear someone utter the words “Amy Fisher” in public—in a store or deli—for any reason, even if they don’t know I’m standing there, it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach, and I want to run away and hide. Trust me, that’s a bad feeling. But my life has changed so much, and I am a much different person than I was when I first came into the public’s consciousness, and although I committed a horrific act when I was a kid, I should also be judged as the woman I am today.

I’m thirty now. Turning thirty is a big life change for anyone, but for me it was bigger than for most, because I have been frozen in time to many people as a sixteen year-old girl. When I was sixteen years old, thirty seemed like a lifetime away. I thought it would take forever to get that old. Now that I have just reached that milestone, I don’t feel old. In fact, I feel young. (I also lost seven years of my youth in prison.)

I’m now starting to believe I understand a little about life. I’m able to take a step back, and for the first time I’m able to really come to terms with my past choices and mistakes. I’m able to accept the harsh reality that I did certain things because I was selfish and lacked compassion for others. Today I’m able to admit this to myself. For the first time I am truly able to see that my mistakes were mine alone. Yes, there were negative influences that came my way, but I should have walked away, told my mom, asked for help. Throughout our lives we are all subject to negative influences; it is our responsibility not to fall prey to them.

I want people to see that I’ve turned my life around and that I’m a good person. It’s important to me. I don’t want to live my life always having to hide my Amy Fisher identity. Because even though I have a new name, a new appearance, and a new life, it still bothers me. I want people to accept me for who I am and who I’ve become, and I want them to see my accomplishments. But I don’t want to completely lose my past. I want to turn that terrible act that happened when I was a teenager into something that can help other kids who might be at risk.

The first thing I did upon being released from prison in 1999 was to change my name. I spent seven years being tortured by the media. I decided the only way to get rid of the Long Island Lolita moniker was to say good-bye to Amy Fisher. I changed my name as well as my social security number. Everything was sealed through the courts and became inaccessible to the public. As you will read later, I also changed my physical appearance. I turned down many lucrative offers from the media, opting for a more private existence.

Staying off television and out of the public eye for the past five years has gradually given me the privacy I yearned for. I finally had what I thought I wanted, only to slowly realize it wasn’t enough. I still had to deal with the Long Island Lolita legacy. I was the topic of the Biography Channel’s Lives of Crime, A&E’s Biography, E! True Hollywood Story, and Headliners and Legends, and through endless reruns I am constantly reminded of my past, as is the viewing public. My name and image are stuck in that time twelve years ago when the tabloids went crazy with my story, my image, and the facts. These shows just rehash distorted aspects of the tale, and only recently have they begun updating the successful and happy end of the story.

Whenever Joey Buttafuoco made a B-rated movie, appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show, duked it out with a woman on Celebrity Boxing, or got arrested and wound up back in jail, the Long Island Lolita—and my sixteen-year-old face—suddenly made news again. There seemed to be no escape. I decided to face my fears; I decided to face myself, Amy Fisher.

I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I want to turn my life around.” I just grew through the stages of life from being a teenager to a young adult to where I am now. We all go through life progressions, and somehow, no matter who we are or what we’ve done, we mature and realize we want different things in life. It wasn’t a thunderbolt of an idea to say, “Okay, I’m going to be a writer and get married and have children.” You hope for good things in your life, you work toward them, but you can’t take them as a given. Especially when you screw things up as badly as I did.

But soon things start falling into place, and then it’s all about how you live your life. After what I went through—and put other people through—I realized the importance of thinking about other people, having a positive outlook, and treating people well. And when you do that, people treat you well and the whole cycle begins again in a positive manner.

People always ask me if I changed as a person, if I became a more caring person. More caring than when I was a teenager? Absolutely. I think it’s the rare, special teen who lives outside his or her own ego. While there are exceptions, most teenagers are spoiled and self-centered. They can be nice, bubbly, outgoing kids, but usually it’s all about “me.” It’s “my clothes” and “my phone” and “take me here” and “I want a car” and “what else can you do for me?” and very rarely do they see anything outside of their immediate world. In that respect, I was a typical teen. But as you get older you start to realize that there are people around you and you start to develop compassion.

Remarkably, even with everything I went through, it wasn’t until my father passed away in 2000 that I began to think about life and death. I started questioning my own mortality, and it made me realize … I actually once thought about shooting somebody, and my God, I could have killed somebody, and that really meant that they would not be on this Earth anymore. As crazy as it sounds, when I committed the act, I wasn’t thinking, This person will not be on this Earth anymore. All I thought was, This is no big deal, and I never insightfully thought about anything from beginning to end.

I didn’t think about repercussions. That’s how come I got in so much trouble. I never thought about what it meant to hurt a person in that way. I never thought that the end result would mean going to prison. I never even knew what a prison was really like. I was just so out of touch with reality. To me, prison was like the old Charlie’s Angels episode when the three Angels are on a chain gang. I was just a kid who didn’t know anything. If kids were aware of the repercussions of shooting someone…well, I wasn’t one of those kids. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I wanna shoot somebody today.” It was Joey Buttafuoco, a then-thirty-five-year-old idiot, who put it into my head and told the naive teenage fool that I was that there would be no repercussions if I shot Mary Jo. He kept putting it into my head every day and glorifying criminal activity, glorifying things that were negative. And he got me to do a lot of terrible things, which I did because I was under his spell.

When I was young—I was fifteen when I first met Joey, who is eighteen years older than me—I knew adults who would buy us kids beer and cigarettes. (I have never had a beer, and I didn’t smoke a cigarette until I was twenty-two.) So even though I didn’t like beer, to me it was cool because the older people were cool, fun, and “with it,” and they were encouraging us to partake. And then there was my mother, who was always saying, “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, do your schoolwork”—well, she was no fun. She was just a boring wet blanket to me. But when you’re a mixed-up kid with no self-esteem, like I was, and you’re encouraged to act recklessly by an adult who says he loves you, you think it’s okay. An adult who glorifies negative behavior and takes a disturbed child under his wing is a recipe for disaster. And then, before you know it, you become an adult and look back at it and realize what a fool you were and how horrible the situation really was.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I did. I think about Mary Jo and wish her peace and the best life can offer her. And now that she is divorced from Joey, her life has to be improved. I think about their kids and wish them peace and happiness as well. As a mother now myself, I can’t imagine what they went through.

All Rights Reserved (c) 2004 by Amy Fisher and Robbie Woliver. No parts of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by an information storage retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher. Published by iUniverse, Inc.