A great piece, by a hapless friendenemy of Maria Butina~or:when honey rots, because bees no longer polinate:
In 2015, my friend and I went to Disney World. Three years later, she went on a solo trip to prison.
Last Updated February 14, 2019, 11:28 PM
Gay Talese told me I was getting the story wrong. We were sitting next to each other at a sprawling wooden table at Morso, a Manhattan restaurant so far east I could see the Queensboro Bridge stretching into Queens from the window.
This meeting between me, a recent college graduate, and one of world’s most renowned journalists was organized by the now-indicted conservative political operative Paul Erickson, who worked mostly in the shadows to establish connections between the National Rifle Association (NRA), Republicans, and possibly Russia. My mother had met him at a seminar during their 25th Yale college reunion in 2009. He had made her laugh with a characteristically wildly clever joke; by the end of the day, he’d charmed his way into becoming an honorary member of the family.
After the reunion, Paul would punctuate months of silence with spontaneous (and ostentatious) activities for our family, like dinner at Sardi’s, a trip to Disney World, or a dinner with Gay Talese, whom he’d met during the trials of John Wayne Bobbitt in 1993. (Paul was Bobbitt’s media manager and spearheading his “Love Hurts” campaign; Talese was working on a 10,000-word story about the Bobbitts that would never run.)
This roundabout convergence brings us to that snowy evening in March 2017, when Talese told me I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, which was my friend Maria Butina, then 29. Like always, her long, red hair tumbled past her shoulders. She wore no makeup. Just an expression.
“You’re a reporter, right?” Talese asked. I nodded. I had just started my job as an entertainment writer at Refinery29, a publication he’d never heard of. Gay flicked his head toward Maria. She stared back at him with the intensity of someone who knows they are the subject of another person’s conversation. And no one could stare quite like Maria. In an instant or in an angle, her face could switch from bright wonder to an expression that seemed more hawk than woman.
“There’s your story. Her,” he said. “