"Whatever her personal issues," Joel wrote for his unpublished
manuscript on Sue, "The Beacon (the school newspaper) became Walsh's
focus, almost to a point of rarely attending classes."
Indeed, the eighty-year old college newspaper served Sue as the center
of operations while at college. Many of the people Joel spoke to when
researching his article for New Jersey Monthly met Sue at the newspaper.
"When I returned to William Paterson College to investigate this story,"
Joel wrote. "[I went to take] a look through three years of Beacon [but
these] gave few clues as to Susan Walsh's life path."
She had great ambitions when she came up to the paper, some of the other
staff members told me later. She wanted to be editor and chief, a
position nearly as powerful as the college president in an era when the
newspaper was still independent.
But central casting for a TV sitcom couldn't have picked a stranger
group for Sue to engage, turning friend against friend, writer against
writer, conspiring to create an atmosphere of such emotional turmoil the
paper often suffered as a result. Sue, however, concentrated on a
handful of people: Nicole, Glenn, Bill, Linda, Wayne and Joe.
Of these, Joe knew Sue best. He had come up from Passaic Valley High
School with her, a huge man that some women have described as "a teddy
bear," a man with dark curly hair, a constant five o'clock shadow and
steel frame glasses. Women fell in love with his brown eyes, though I
remember best his waddling, shambly walk. When he stood, he lifted his
chin and looked at people through slitted eyes. A six foot two, two
hundred and fifty pound moody man who worked as a sports writer with his
cronies Wayne Whitmore and Pete Dollack. Joe brought with him tales of
Sue's notorious activities in high school.
I didn't know Joe well, but I overhead some of his tales, and learned
more from people who had spent more time with him. I jotted some of
these details down in a daily journal, for they made up the mythology of
Sue seemed to define men in three categories: those she could use openly
(the victims), those who she could make think used her (the cads) and
those who she couldn't use at all (this latter class was a rare item).
Perhaps each category reflected some aspect of herself. She had numerous
victims, most of whom trailed behind her even after she shed herself of
them. The cads intrigued her. They tickled her romantic notions of what
it was like on the edge, and she craved the exotic enough to play a
constant game of cat and mouse, claiming them as stalkers and villains
against whom she recruited her victims.
Oddly enough, men in all three categories came to love her, finding
something wondrously special inside Sue to adore. This may have confused
her, but her confusion didn't stop her from using that love to her
advantage. A few men -- like Glenn Kenny -- became sincere and dedicated
friends who could look upon Sue and see the woman beyond the
ever-changing masks, capable of avoiding her webs and snares long enough
to define for her some level of truth. I think Joe loved her, too, but
couldn't escape the snares of her traps.
Joe -- unlike Bill Madaras, who Sue would later get her clutches on --
knew most of Sue's tricks, having seen her rifle through boy after boy
during her stay at PV high school, jocks, artists, brainiacks, social
climbers, she had theboy after boy during her stay at PV high school,
jocks, artists, brainiacks, social climbers, she had them beat. He saw
the boys stumbling around after her, though the halls of school, or down
Main Street to Paterson Avenue or Union Avenue as she made her slow way
home after classes. Each of these former victims begged to have her take
them back, each of them secretly hoping they could get even with her for
the hell she put them through. In some respects, they looked like the
cast from the movie
Joe could recognize the victims from their flushed face and the
preoccupied look in their eyes, the love and hate dripping from them
like sweat. But if Joe thought himself immune, he was not. And maybe Joe
was worse off than most of them, havithem like sweat. But if Joe thought
himself immune, he was not. And maybe Joe was worse off than most of
them, having fallen in love with her in high school, only to follow her
to college to watch her continue his torture for another four years, to
work side by s
Joe once said Sue had played these games from when she was 15, weaving
dark webs around men so as to have them do whatever she wanted, crawling
after her when she didn't need them any more. Joe, as sports writer,
often saw her wandering in and out of the newspaper office, or setting
up court at a booth in the pub, where men crawled up to her, offering
her service, or where she dictated her philosophy of life to poor girls
too stupid to know she was scamming them.
"Oh, yes, it's a groove, we're all pretty hip, you know. We're all in
this thing together," Sue might say, then launch into a lecture on how
all men were scum, or how she sometimes thought she might like to vanish
-- and if anyone would notice if she did. And the whole time, one
friendly face stayed around her, one loyal teddybear of a man stood by,
seeing every aspect of her as attractive.
Sue infuriated Joe, and incited him to arguments he would have otherwise
avoided -- We thinking after so much experience with Sue in high school,
he would have been wise to her tricks, but he was not. Yet he talked
constantly about the things Sue pulled on people. He was not a man given
easily to anger, and yet when she carried tales back to him about Glenn,
he found himself in the middle of confrontations he'd not intended. Sue
claimed Glenn knew her so well that he sent secret messages to her while
holding ordinary conversations with other people, revealing, she said,
secrets she'd shared with him, and it was that bear of a man, Sue
stirred to rage, sending him lumbering towards Glenn, who -- caught in
the middle of some other conversation -- would turn and frown. "What on
earth are you talking about, Joe?"
Some people believe Joe was so in love with Sue that he conspired with
her to get even with others on the newspaper. Michael Alexander said he
knew Sue mostly through the Beacon office "where she showed a knack for
playing the game of office politics and playing one sweetheart against
"I remember pulling an all-nighter when Nicole Busch was Arts Editor to
get an article on Uncle Floyd in under deadline, and because there' d
been trouble between Nicole & Sue, the Sports editor -- hoping to
impress Sue -- sabotaged my piece. Old news & trivial, but it was
typical of the daily workings of the paper in those days. Her influence
on others at that time was hard for me to understand. She was blonde &
slender, but not quite physical enough to be sensual (but then I hung
with the leather & spikes girls, like the Weirdettes, art students &
punk-fiends.) Sue's act was coy, faux innocence, standard
sorority-sister type, but I believe she went farther than the norm in
that she told obecause there' d been trouble between Nicole & Sue, the
Sports editor -- hoping to impress Sue -- sabotaged my piece. Old news &
trivial, but it was typical of the daily workings of the paper in those
days. Her influence on others at that time was hard for
Joe did not like Michael, thinking him weird, and often, Joe did
conspire to pull stunts that hurt the newspaper, cutting off the ends of
articles, rearranging them into a non-sensical order. But this was not
viciousness, it was Joe's juvenile sense of humor, often inspired by
lack of sleep. He often regretted later, when he and his buddies thought
funny at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, giggling about the so-called joke
just hours before the flats were scheduled to go to the printer. Joe did
apologize to Michael for the mistake, but Michael maintained his rage
over it for years, making Joe out as something sub human, when Joe
Sue seemed to view Nicole as her arch enemy, a slightly pear-shaped and
very Jewish-looking girl who wore punk-style eye-liner and gave off an
artist air she couldn't justify. I remember her hair being dark, though
other says it was really dirty blonde. Although the real source of
agitation between Sue and Nicole, was Glenn Kenny, Sue managed to
disguise the conflict in numerous petty disputes.
Nicole struggled to keep Sue from seducing Glenn, and failed. Her
relationship with Glenn was so hot and cold, Sue slipped in at opportune
times. Glenn, however, was far more resistant to Sue's manipulations
that most other men at college. He was too emotionally stable for her
usual tactics, and though he played her game, became her lover, she
rarely got the kind of satisfaction from him that she got from less
stable boys. Yet even this marginal success infuriated Nicole.
I was always struck by the nearly constant smell of marijuana around
Nicole, as if she smoked joints like cigarettes. When Joel finally
located Nicole, she reluctantly talked to him, since she now worked for
a prestigious New Jersey pharmaceutical firm that would frown over some
of her college activities. During my time at WPC, I was only marginally
aware of what went on between Sue and Nicole, stepping into their
conflicts as an observer, informed about incidents as an after thought
via the rumor mill. Yet I was aware of the strain that seemed to
surround them whenever they occupied the same room. Nicole always seemed
angry, even anxious around Sue, as if struggling to keep Sue from
picking her pocket or her brain, though Glenn -- as I said -- was only a
side show in Sue climb up the editorial ladder to the top.
"She was a news editor at the Beacon," Joel wrote, "and issue after
issue, she turned out story after story about student senate meetings,
parking lot woes and faculty tenure battles -- hardly the stuff of high
What Joel did not find in those now-seemingly ancient archives was any
aspect of writing about art.
"Sue was not at all interested in writing op-ed or culture pieces," Glen
told Joel. "Being news editor was a path to being Beacon editor and
chief and that's what she was after."
Why Did You Move My Desk?