Buttafuocos weathered bad times, now splitting

After a bullet to the head, inexplicable loyalty to a philanderer, talk show appearances, movies of the week and bad hair days, Mary Jo Buttafuoco has finally left the bum. Well, at least she’s separated from Joey Buttafuoco, who had an ill-conceived affair with then-17-year-old Amy Fisher in 1992. Fisher, dubbed the “Long Island Lolita,” then shot Mary Jo.

“They are not living together anymore, but they have not initiated any divorce proceedings,” Dominic Barbara, Mary Jo’s lawyer, said Wednesday. They, of course, have a spokeswoman, Sherri Spillane, who repeated the party line: “There is no talk of divorce. They just need a little space.”

The reason for putting the 23-year marriage on hold wasn’t revealed, although it’s an interesting development following the her public forgiveness of Fisher, who was released last year after almost seven years in prison.

The Buttafuocos, who have a 20-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter, live separately in Los Angeles. They moved to California in 1996 so that Buttafuoco, an auto repairman, could get into show business. The year before, he tried to get an insider look into Hollywood by soliciting sex there from an undercover police officer, and won himself another brief starring role in prison (the first stint lasted four months for the charge of having sex with a minor, namely Fisher).

Besides running an auto shop, Buttafuoco managed a cameo in “Celebrity” and hosted a talk show on West Hollywood public access TV for like-minded public losers.

HOW ABOUT A CATCHY SONG? YOU OUGHTTA GO TO MINNESOTA : He hasn’t suggested carving his bald mug on some rocks yet, but Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is volunteering to make a pitch to expand Minnesota tourism. He announced an agreement Tuesday with Los Angeles-based Americantours International Inc. “Like any business, we have to advertise and get our name out there,” the governor said. At least he recognizes his value: When asked where the money would come from to pay for a new campaign, he joked: “I’m thinking about me doing it and I’m not that expensive.”

The company definitely wants to cash in on “The Body,” and plans to have him attend the International Tourism Berlin conference in March 2002. “We believe that the governor’s celebrity has made him popular worldwide,” said Americantours’ chief executive officer, Noel Irwin Hentschel.

We at People have some recommendations for promotional events: 1) As people disembark from the plane, have him leap from the terminal ceiling for a friendly body slam hug; 2) Launch a “Be Governor for the day.” Besides touring the office, visitors can make one legislative decision, since Ventura doesn’t seem to have time to do any actual gubernatorial work. 3) A duet with Prince, who can celebrate getting his name back. 3) Wrestlemania, outdoors, wintertime now that’s tough. 4) “Fargo, The Musical.” Encourage audience participation during Ventura’s wood chipper scene.

MUGGLES, SCHMUGGLES: “Muggles,” it turns out, might come from Kansas, after all. Back in March, American writer Nancy K. Stouffer filed a suit against Scotland’s J.K. Rowling over the terminology “muggles.” In the Harry Potter books, muggles is wizard-speak for humans. Stouffer argued that ideas for the Potter series came from her 1984 book, “The Legend of Rah and Muggles.” In her book, muggles are little people who care for two orphaned boys. Scholastic, Rowling and Time Warner joined the lawsuit parade in November, asking a judge to rule that the Potter books do not violate Stouffer’s trademark and copyright.

Recently, it surfaced that Lawrence, Kan., resident Carol Kendall wrote “The Gammage Cup,” which includes a candy maker named Muggles, in 1959. The 82-year-old author, who has published 10 books, says she came up with the name while living in London, where a friend often joked she was in a muddle. She liked the word so much, she changed it to “muggles” for her characters. Kendall, though, isn’t interested in making it a class-action suit. “There’s only so many ideas,” she said, “and if you have one, then someone else out there probably has the same one, too.”

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND THANKS: Woody Allen might actually get a friendly wave from his neighbors. Nah, it’s New York. Anyhow, the filmmaker can take heart in a literally landmark victory. The filmmaker had petitioned against a 17-story building set to go up on Madison Avenue in the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Allen not only testified against the project in February, he distributed a three-minute video to city Landmarks Preservation Commission. On Tuesday, the commission unanimously rejected a proposed apartment tower on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised,” Allen said after the vote. “I’m so used to losing.” Allen had testified he uses Carnegie Hill in his backdrop, saying, “there are very few areas anywhere on the island where I can really present the city in the way that I want the world to see it.” Although he expressed pessimism shocking no one about preservation battles, he did say “if you love the city, you really have to try all the time.”

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail