Paramus, New Jersey (PIX11) Burt Pugach, a former lawyer who’s now nearly 85 years old, wept outside a funeral chapel in Paramus, New Jersey, as he got set to bury the woman who agreed to marry him –despite his 1960 conviction for ordering thugs to throw lye in her face. Pugach said he never meant for anyone to harm her—or blind her—with lye. But the former Linda Riss was blinded in her right eye, with little vision remaining in her left eye.
“I wanted to scare her, and I did ask people to frighten her,” Pugach said of the 1959 attack, which took place the night of her engagement celebration with another man. When PIX 11 asked how he intended to scare her, Pugach replied, “Throw a brick through her window. Yeah, crazy things! I didn’t know what lye was,” he said.
Linda Pugach’s long-time friend, Rusty Goldberg, recalled hearing about the attack from Linda’s grandmother. “Somebody had knocked on the door. ‘We have a present for Linda’. She thought it was an engagement present,” said Goldberg.
Linda Riss was just about 22 years old, when the incident happened. She had dated Pugach, a flirty Queens, New York lawyer, but broke off the relationship when she heard he was married.
Pugach was quoted saying that if he couldn’t have her, no other man would.
Pugach spent 14 years in prison, after being convicted in the plot, and in 1974, he proposed to Linda on film, during a post-jail interview with PIX 11’s Marvin Scott. Linda Riss saw the interview and accepted the proposal. The couple married the same year.
They were married for 39 years and lived in Rego Park, Queens–until Linda Pugach’s death from heart failure Tuesday night, at the age of 75.
Their tempestuous love story was the focus of a 2007 documentary called “Crazy Love.”
Pugach acknowledged having one affair during the marriage and got into legal trouble–amid allegations he stalked the other woman. When asked Thursday about that chapter in their marriage, he called his actions “stupid” and added “I never did it afterwards.”
Pugach called his marriage to Linda a “fairytale” and talked of their travels to Europe and cruises in the Caribbean. Friends described them as true soul mates.
Pugach said Linda didn’t lose full vision in her left eye until 1990, due to glaucoma, and before that, he said, she created multiple paintings, which are hung on the wall of their Rego Park apartment.
When Linda Pugach was interviewed at the 2007 premiere of “Crazy Love”, the couple was married 33 years at the time, and she noted, “We’re still sticking it out, and I think that’s pretty damn good in today’s market.”
At her funeral Thursday, Burt Pugach wept as he talked about friends who were grateful that Linda had gone first, so she’d never have to worry about being cared for. Burt Pugach said he responded to them, “You expect me to live without her?” When PIX 11 asked if he could, he shook his head and sobbed, “No, because I loved her so much. I miss her so much.”