As we discussed, yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the bizarre Brooklyn bank robbery that inspired the still-classic Dog Day Afternoon. In honor of this strange milestone, the New York Times now has an interview with Carmen Wojtowicz, estranged wife of lead bank robber John Wojtowicz.
As you might expect, that day was pretty rough for her, too.
“It was horrible,” recalled Wojtowicz, who has since reverted to her maiden name Bifulco. Though he had walked out on their marriage three years prior leaving nothing behind but $10 in cab fare, the pair were technically still married, and Bifulco first heard from a neighbor, “Your husband’s robbing a bank!”
After watching the whole thing unfold on the news, including pictures of her estranged husband’s new “wife” Ernest Aron, Bifulco says she finally popped a tranquilizer and went to bed.
Once the whole debacle was over and Wojtowicz was serving time in prison, Bifulco says she still visited him (“Like a fool,” she says), having married him straight out of high school. Unfortunately, Aron, whose sex-change operation Wojtowicz had robbed the bank in order to fund, came along to the prison with her and the couple’s two children, at one point lifting up his shirt and announcing, “Oh, Johnny, my breasts are growing!”
Bifulco says she went “berserk” at the incident and finally served Wojtowicz with divorce papers at their anniversary lunch in 1978.
Happily, Bifulco went on to attend family therapy with her kids, earn a college degree, and worked as a special needs teacher until her recent retirement. She has also been dating her non-bank-robbing boyfriend for 11 years. So, there’s always time to bounce back.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.