Photo: Marty Lederhandler/AP


Buddy Jacobson’s deadly love triangle was a story I lucked into. A recent arrival in Manhattan, I often ate in Nicola’s restaurant on 84th, where another regular was Jacobson, who owned the building opposite, No. 155. A onetime top racehorse trainer, but highly unpopular with the nobs—“I don’t even like horses,” he would say—Jacobson had been booted off the track for causing labor trouble and started a model agency, My Fair Lady, because of what he did like: plenty of young women.

Jacobson, who was 47 but a liar about his age, lived in 7D with 23-year-old Melanie Cain, who was a leading model as well as his partner in the agency and a girlfriend of several years. Jacobson was wiry and intense, with shaggy dark hair, and Cain, who moved to the city as a teenager from Naperville, Illinois, was well described by Seventeen when she made the cover as “the image of everything wholesome, like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.”

It was also in Nicola’s that I met another tenant in Jacobson’s building, Jack Tupper. Tupper ran into Cain one hot July afternoon; she’d been having troubles with Jacobson in the street. She suggested to Tupper that they go jogging. Their affair began.

Jacobson, jealous, offered Tupper $100,000 to leave Cain, so the new couple decided to move. On Sunday, August 6, 1978, Cain left Tupper in bed and went to sign a lease on their new apartment—that was the last time she saw him alive. It was not a perfect murder. Tupper was stabbed, bludgeoned, and shot seven times. Jacobson and two Italian workmen he was using on another building on 83rd Street then dumped the body in a box and drove in his yellow Cadillac to the Bronx, where they were spotted trying to burn it by somebody who even got the license plate. Jacobson was arrested while stuck in a jam at the Triboro toll plaza. Which was when the story began to become interesting. There were, as it turned out, untrue rumors that My Fair Lady was actually a call-girl front and that Tupper was involved with cocaine smuggling (though he was on intimate terms with a hash-running ring).

After he was convicted, Jacobson, disguised as a lawyer in a suit smuggled in by a friend who owed him money, walked out of the Brooklyn House of Detention and made his way to California—Manhattan Beach, no less. He was caught six weeks later, turned in by his son David, who’d also helped with his escape, and died in prison of bone cancer in 1989. David is today a horse trainer and says his dad was “railroaded.” Cain got married and now teaches yoga in Connecticut. ­

From the Archives: ‘Love and Death on the Upper East Side,’ (September 11, 1978)

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