I have been a note taker all my life. I love details, and since they can get lost or minimized if you rely on memory alone, I make an effort to document them. I guess a diarist does basically the same thing. The difference might be that my record keeping is more immediate. When I want to remember something, I often jot it down right then and there, while events are still unfolding. This means I might have to write on a post-it or a napkin or even a paper plate. Another difference might be that I don’t try to lyricize my notes. I just write what I observe and the notes wind up in a box that I may never look at again.
On the other hand, some notes prove to be very useful. I had boxes and boxes of notes regarding my association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the Harvard-educated physician who wanted to become known for finding a cure for cancer and instead became known as the “cross-dressing millionaire dermatologist who killed his wife.” My notes were about him, but they were about things going on in my life during the years I knew him too. And of course they covered the territory where our lives overlapped. Added to my notes were newspaper clippings regarding his crime, his trial, his incarceration, his suicide attempts and his death. I had copies of the Court TV tapes that introduced him to millions of viewers nationwide. I had notes regarding my conversations with the various other players in his life, including the many women who sought him out after his incarceration. I even had letters various women wrote to him while he was in prison. (He’d asked his brother to hold on to them, but when his brother became ill and realized he was going to die, they were sent to me for safekeeping; my reputation precedes me.)
My story of knowing Richard Sharpe is fairly incredible. He had been my friend long before he committed his terrible crime. I knew him as a man of science who was driven to do good in the world. Because he was a dermatologist and I was (and am) an electrologist and aesthetician, our business lives intersected. When hair-removing lasers first got FDA approval in 1997, Richard Sharpe had the foresight to see that they would be the next big thing and he bought a couple of them. He then formed a coalition, with 18 area skin care professionals, whereby he would lease his lasers to people like me who couldn't afford a laser of their own. Everybody made a ton of money during this time; making money was another aspect of his uncanny genius. But all of the new found wealth depended on him, and when he fell to pieces, the coalition went down like a house of cards.
After the crime, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, least of all Richard Sharpe. But he pleaded with me, through mutual acquaintances, to get in touch with him, not to turn my back on him in his darkest hour. It took a while, but I made the decision to continue to know him. Perhaps it was easier for me than for others because my father had been in and out of trouble for many years and I had visited him in prisons from a very young age. I already knew the protocols for entering a prison. More importantly, I already knew that you can hate what someone does and still find a way to care about the person.
My decision to remain friends with Richard Sharpe impacted my life in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time. I suffered a great deal of loss; and I gained a few insights too. I think any reader who has experienced shifts in their life as a result of their association with a difficult or strong-willed or mentally-ill person—whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend—will identify with my journey.
Even those who can’t imagine ever befriending a criminal are sure to be intrigued by my story. Certainly my clients and friends were. They asked me hundreds of questions about his activities while the drama was unfolding, and they continued asking me questions when they learned I was thinking of writing a book.
When I decided the time had come to actually start writing Cornered, I had all those boxes and boxes of notes to go back to. Then it was time to let lyricism play its part, leaving some incidents on the cutting room floor and gluing others together. Now I’m working on two other books, one about skin and hair care, and one a compilation of profiles of transgender people, many of them based on my transgender clients. Note taking, which began as a hobby for me many years ago, has apparently blossomed into something much more substantial.
Linda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. While Cornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.
About the Book
In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.
Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Corneredallows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.
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