Blind to His Faults

"We're married 33 years and we're still together, and still kind of love each other," says Linda Pugach of Burt, who went to jail after a hired thug blinded her. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

NEW YORK The limo is on the way and 80-year-old Burton Pugach is crawling on the living room floor, searching for his cellphone.

"Burt! You have to dress! Now do it!" his wife, Linda, 70, shouts from the hall.

"Whaddya mean?!" Pugach roars back.

She groans.

He finds the phone beneath a chair, then disappears into the bedroom. She complains about what a slob he is. He has turned the kitchen into his personal filing cabinet, stuffing his legal files into the cupboards above and below the sink.

"El Creepo," she calls him with the slightest trace of affection.

Linda and Burt Pugach, just another bickering couple from Queens. Except for these unavoidable facts: Nearly 50 years ago, after Linda spurned him and became engaged to another man, a jury convicted Burt, a lawyer, of hiring a thug to throw lye in her face.

The attack blinded her and sent him to jail. When he got out 14 years later, Burt proposed again. Linda accepted.

On this night, they're going to the premiere of a new documentary about their journey, as remarkable as it is incomprehensible.

"You look like movie stars," a neighbor says as they ride the elevator to the lobby. Linda is wearing oversize black sunglasses. She smiles. She is dressed in what a gossip columnist will later describe as a "virginal" white pantsuit. Her diamond ring looks like a glittering disco ball.

"We're just like anyone else," Burt replies, taking his wife's hand and leading her to the limo.

"Is it a stretch?" Linda asks. She smiles again when her husband assures her that it is.

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