07/03/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
They say that all good things must end, and so, apparently, must things of more dubious pedigree. Thus the relentlessly tested, eerily resilient marriage of Joey and Mary Jo Buttafuoco has finally come undone.
Last week the Buttafuocos—cast into tabloid hell after Joey's 17-year-old lover Amy Fisher fired a bullet into Mary Jo's head in 1992—confirmed that they have been living apart since January, with Joey, 44, residing in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley and Mary Jo, 45, in Malibu. (Their son Paul, 20, stays with his father, while daughter Jessica, 17, shuttles between parents.) "They have a deep, abiding friendship and plan to stay close," says Joey's lawyer Mel Sachs, adding that the Buttafuocos are not divorcing or even legally separating. "But the last eight years have certainly taken an emotional toll on them."
How could they not? The signature scandal of the '90s spawned three TV movies, landed Fisher in jail for 6Vi years and sent Joey to the slammer for four months on statutory rape charges. (He pulled another 78 days in 1995 after soliciting an undercover cop for oral sex.) Fisher, released in 1999, lives with her mother in New York and is attending college. "The Long Island Lolita has become the Long Island Lady," says her agent Al Lowman. "She's leading a normal life." Joey, meanwhile, hasn't tired of the public eye: In addition to owning an auto body shop, he has had small roles in four movies and in May appeared in tabloid photos arm in arm with an unnamed redhead. "That was nothing," says Sachs. "Joey is a gregarious person who socially gets along well with people."
But not, it seems, with his wife. In the end, the stress of being infamous may have finally driven the couple apart. "Everything has to do with the Amy Fisher thing," says their spokeswoman Sherri Spillane. "It's gone on too long. There has to be a day when it stops." Wishful thinking: Fisher is now shopping a book proposal and even wants the woman she shot to write the introduction. Mary Jo, claims her rep, nixed that partnership too.