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40th Anniversary

Headliners

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Yusef Salaam
Falsely accused of Central Park Jogger rape; spent seven years in jail
In 1989, Salaam was a 15-year-old Harlem high-school student when he and four other young black and Latino men were tried for the rape and beating of white 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meile, the “Central Park Jogger.” The defendants were convicted on the basis of confessions they said were forced. “I was completely terrified,” Salaam recalls of the interrogations. “I thought they were going to put me in a bag in the back of some building somewhere.” In 2002, the convictions were vacated after another imprisoned murderer’s confession was confirmed by a DNA match. Salaam, who spent a total of seven years in prison, had been released in the mid-nineties, after which he spent time helping his mother run the nonprofit she directs and worked on and off in construction. Now 34 with three children, he’s an IT specialist at a city hospital. Along with his co-defendants, he’s pressing a $25 million class-action suit against the city.

Jeffrey Maier
At age 12, he reached over the wall and helped send the Yankees to the World Series
In Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, with the Yankees trailing the Orioles by one run in the eighth inning, a 12-year-old Maier reached over the right-field wall and tipped Derek Jeter’s fly ball into the stands. The umpire (incorrectly) ruled it a home run, and the Yankees ended up winning the game, the series, and their first world championship since 1978. Maier became a tabloid hero (ANGEL IN THE OUTFIELD, the Post called him). He went on to play baseball for Wesleyan University, and after college he spent a summer working for baseball writer Peter Gammons. Now he works in Boston in accounting. Maier says he’s not worried about being a Yankee hero in enemy territory. “I mean, I still have a youthful look,” he says, “but I think for the most part it would be pretty difficult to identify me based on those childhood pictures.”

George “Super Fly” Willig
Scaled south tower of the World Trade Center
On a May morning in 1977, Willig climbed the World Trade Center’s south tower using clamping devices he’d built himself. He was arrested upon reaching the roof, but Mayor Beame, recognizing Willig’s potential as a folk hero, let him go with a symbolic $1.10 fine (a penny for every story of the tower). Willig, then a 27-year-old toy designer, appeared on The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show and soon moved from Hollis, Queens, to work as a stuntman in Southern California. That job led him into television production, but he eventually found his way back to tinkering. “I was working on Entertainment Tonight, and they had hired a contractor to come in and move things around, and when I saw them finishing the work, I thought, Wow, I’d rather be doing that.” He co-founded a contracting business that thrived during the nineties boom in fiber-optics-related construction. Now 59, he rarely climbs anymore, and has never considered scaling another structure. Says Willig, “I didn’t want to be the Evel Knievel of building climbing.”

Jayson Blair
Fabricated stories; precipitated the fall of the editor of the New York Times
Blair left the New York Times in 2003 after he was caught repeatedly lifting material from other reporters, concocting scenes and quotes, and pretending to be places he was not, triggering the firing of the executive editor and managing editor of the newspaper. After his resignation, Blair checked himself in to a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He spent the next two years working odd jobs—“selling books and helping with people’s yards and whatever”—and writing his memoir, Burning Down My Masters’ House, which was published in 2004. Now 32, Blair lives in Centerville, Virginia. Three years ago, he founded a nonprofit that organizes weekly depression-support groups in Northern Virginia, runs one of the groups himself, and works some twenty hours a week as a life coach at a private psychological practice. He occasionally visits college journalism classes to warn students off his path of ruin. He is finished, he says, with ambition: “I don’t have any.”

Joey Buttafuoco
Auto-mechanic paramour of “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fisher
Buttafuoco, 52, says he’s still in regular contact with Fisher—and his ex-wife, Mary Jo, whom Fisher shot in the face in 1992. Fisher, 17 at the time, had been involved in an affair with Buttafuoco, and he spent four months in jail for statutory rape. He returned to prison in 1995 after hiring a prostitute who was an undercover cop, went back for a third time in 2004 for insurance fraud, and again in 2007 for possessing ammunition, a parole violation. In 1996, Buttafuoco moved to Los Angeles, where he ran an auto shop for several years; he’s now a partner in a company that builds sets for television advertisements. “You’re allowed to live your life and reinvent yourself here,” he says of L.A. “New York is the greatest city, but it was a prison.” He’s now married to a Yugoslavian woman named Evanka, who’s currently pregnant, and doesn’t see himself staying in California long: “My plan is to retire out in Europe. The family name has a vineyard in Milan—Buttafuoco Wineries.”

With reporting by Kat Ward.


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