Linda Stirling Unmasked: The Black Whip

: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.



Crazy Love: Doc Obsesses About Romance

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By Prairie Miller

Is obsessive love, adulterous or otherwise, an emotional psychosis that should necessitate a psychiatric category of its own for further investigation, or just an irresistible biological throwback to the human survival instinct when it comes to tossing a little healthy variety into the gene pool? In any case, way before the recently reunited womanizer pubophile Joey Buttafuoco and teen spouse-shooter Amy Fisher, both of whom walked out on their marriages to get it on all over again, there was Burton Pugach and Linda Riss. Don't ask.

Dan Klores' documentary Crazy Love, tracks the fifty year exceedingly dysfunctional on and off again romance between the Bronx born lovebirds that included fake divorce decrees, a disabling lye attack and blindness, hard prison time, reconciliation and marriage, and further ensuing infidelity and extra-marital stalking. The pair's bizarre half century relationship, all of it true, plays out like the stuff of far fetched fantasy in a pre-reality show era. And Klores has the easy task of just passively sitting back and taking it all in with his camera, which is what he pretty much does.

As recalled by the couple, whose separately recorded stories in the film don't contradict one another too often, Pugach was a thirty year old hotshot attorney in 1957, who got rich quick off fraudulently fixing injury cases, for which he was later disbarred. Married with a wife and severely disabled daughter safely tucked away up in Westchester, Burt spotted the quite glamorous 20 year old Linda on a park bench in the Bronx, while driving by one day. Burt decided on the spot that he couldn't live without this young woman, and proceeded to alternately woo and stalk her while shamelessly lying about not being married.

Linda was seduced less by Burt's somewhat woefully lacking looks or charm, than his money and willingness to lavishly wine and dine her every night. But when she figured out that he was indeed married and the divorce papers he produced for her were fake, Linda, still very much a virgin and on the hunt for an eligible mate, ended their relationship.

When Burt learned of her engagement to another man, he stalked and hounded her, hoping with a truly twisted logic that he could frighten her enough so she would long for his protection from further harm. When all else failed, he hired some thugs to toss lye in her face. Burt ended up in the slammer at Attica for fourteen years, and Linda was permanently disfigured and blinded.

There's more. During the 1971 Attica Uprising, Burt befriended famed fellow attorney William Kuntsler whom he convinced to play matchmaker, I kid you not. With Linda persuaded to reconcile with Burt and unbelievably advocate for his release, the two were soon finally wed. Though, not exactly living happily ever after, as the now elderly but apparently still quite feisty Burt continued with his womanizing and stalking ways. A final scene catches the pair off guard in an oddly normal moment, at least for them, with Linda doing the nagging housewife thing to Burt's surprisingly passive henpecked hubby persona.

While surely raising more provocative questions than resolving any of the gnawing dilemmas surrounding the mysteries of extreme romantic obsession, Crazy Love is an invigorating work for that reason alone. In terms of the personal agendas of each of these kooky players in the dangerous game of love, one could surmise that both suffered from severe abandonment issues, each having been subjected to the emotional trauma of a parent walking out on them when they were children. And in speculating which one can more convincingly claim the title of trophy spouse, in the case of Linda, her fate as a blind and disfigured lonely middle aged single woman certainly explains her neediness, however warped. As for fathoming Burt, well, we may just have to be satisfied that we'll never quite know.

Prairie Miller


  1. Crazy Love
    is a delightful film that brings out the craziness in all of us, with an exaggeration. of course, or it wouldn't be a gripping,tantalizing film.

    What is better than a devoted man, who embraces our physical deformities as if they are of his own making(which in fact in this case, they are) and with whom we have fun.
    He is enjoyable and crazy and so is she.
    Be horrified, be entertained, be amazed.
    See this film and relive the highlights of these old people who understand that true love doesn't make any sense at all.


  2. Linda:
    I cannot agree with you at all. It would be one thing if this were fiction, but this monster of a man completely destroyed this woman's life. And then he continued to be unfaithful to her even after they were together again. Where's the fun?