Seeking Power

 

 

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"Whatever her personal issues," Joel wrote for his unpublished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

our class.

 

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

another.

 

"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

deserved better.

 

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

drama."

 

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."

 

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Why Did You Move My Desk?

 

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