As a young girl, Sue did not apparently always feel as if she was the
sole target of a "uncontrollable insidious energy," or a lone bird
wandering dangerous streets. From the age of five or six, Sue had a
cousin, Bucky, who shared many of the same situations as she did and
bore the same kinds of pains.
Like Sue, Bucky had a mother who drove him crazy -- Sue's mother's
sister, who's insane habits made life so unbearable Bucky eventually
went crazy, too, subjecting him to a torture of inconsistent demands,
double binds and other mad rules his young mind could not register
In the early years, Sue and Bucky took on a similar relationship as Sue
would later take on with her son, she and he as fellow conspirators in a
world hostile to them. Although Sue was only two or three years older
than Bucky, she became the mother figure his own mother could not be,
attempting to ease him through the quagmire of crazy demands his actual
mother presented him.
Sue seemed to understand some of Bucky's pain, though Bucky -- who
suffered from some serious developmental problems -- did not apparently
return this understanding, already showing signs of his own growing
mental illness. At five, he barely spoke. At ten, he acted much as he
should at five. By the time he reached 18, he also reached his maximum
intellectual capacity, Sue's school mates claiming he acted no older
I apparently saw Bucky in passing and didn't completely understand who
he was. Like Sue, he had light skin, and like Sue, he was never tall.
But unlike Sue he had brown hair, brown eyes and almost always wore his
Unlike Sue, Bucky lacked the mental fortitude to break free of his
mother's influence, allowing the woman to shape him. Where as Sue put on
airs as someone "cool," dressing herself in black leotard tops and
sandals -- the uniform of the East Village hipster, Bucky looked an
acted like the classic "Nerd," dressed in polyester pants and shirts
purchased from Habband, a factory outlet down the hill in Haledon.
When Bucky's mother wasn't in a mental hospital, she ruled over his
life, keeping absolute track of where he went and with whom, She told
him when to come and when to go, and he was almost always frightened
that he wouldn't make it home in time.
Sue inherited Bucky over time, taking on a kind of custody duty,
although by the time she reached college, her earlier camaraderie with
him had cooled. He was no longer the cute little kid she had mothered
through their adolescence together, but a growing, bulky burden that
began to look and sound like "a man." Now, Bucky tagged along behind
him, his mother permitting this one luxury on the mistaken assumption
Sue, his cousin, would look after him. Sue, bearing the hardship the way
she might a whining, younger brother, telling her friends who Bucky was,
then forgetting him.
"Bucky followed Sue because she had friends and he didn't," Dorothy Ryan
said. "She was dismissive. She might let him go along with her, but she
never checked on him. He was there, hanging at her heals, and if he got
lost, that was his problem, not hers."
After a while, Bucky became a familiar face around the school newspaper
office, as if he was one of the boys -- hanging out there, even whe
there, even when Sue was off making trouble elsew
Not everybody liked Bucky. He was moody and chaotic, and was often the
center of petty battles, he himself did not know the details of. Many
people avoided him, taking his presence at the newspaper as one more
crazy thing they had to endure. Bucky himself had no social graces, he
was awkward and could not always say what he wanted to say. Several of
the men on the Beacon staff teased him constantly.
While Bucky admired Joe and Wayne, and sought to be their friend, they
made fun of him -- with Joe leading the pack of wolves that made Bucky
feel even more outcast than he had previously.
"Bucky was a kind of pest," one of the staff members recalled. "God
knows why he hung around the office, he certainly couldn't write."
But Bucky did make tapes. He was extremely found of the early 1970s AM
radio trend to parody current events with snippets from the top twenty
hit songs of that week. These were often irreverent and difficult to
produce, but Bucky believed he could do some of his own and often spent
hours at home with a tape recorder and a record player in the attempt.
The result was about as satisfying as he writing, and most people
cringed when they saw him approaching with some new masterpiece, making
their excuses to get away before he could actually play the damned
thing. These became the subject of additional abuse, which Bucky bore
patiently, as if expecting such reactions, trained in such reactions
from his life with his family.
Although Sue understood Bucky's pain better than most, both she and he
finding themselves at their grandmother's house, sleeping in the spare
room together as they grew up -- she showed little mercy on him when he
suffered this public humiliation. In fact, Sue added to the abuse in a
subtle and viscous way, teasing him worse than if he'd been a stranger.
"She was constantly making fun of his intelligence," said one of the
staff members at the Beacon. "I couldn't believe she could treat her own
cousin that way."
Worse, Sue encouraged her friends to mock him, too, especially her women
friends, to whom he showed some sexual attraction.
"We used to play a game call Shock Bucky," one of Sue's girlfriends from
the period said. "We would all get together when he came around and tell
stories aboucame around and tell stories about our love lives,
exaggerating the details or making up whole scenes, just so we could
watch his face grow red. We told everything in excruciating detail --
Bucky would stutter in his shock.
Bucky often followed Sue to parties -- parties to which Sue herself was
often not invited.
"People got wise to Sue," one of her former classmates said. "They would
hold parties and not tell her about them. But then, Daria and Gil
Hoffman, who were invited, would bring her around anyway. `We can't
forget Sue,' Daria would tell people and everybody would groan. Sue
wouldn't pay much attention to Bucky when he came. She would prowl the
room looking for some strange man with whom she could make contact while
Bucky sort of entertained himself."
In some ways, Bucky was more popular at these parties than Sue was,
often because people found him entertaining where Sue was not. Some
would mock him. Many felt sorry for him. And he would bloom under either
form of attention.
"Bucky was always goofy," one of these people told me.
While Sue's face appeared in numerous photographs from these parties,
she putting herself in front of every flash she could find -- and in one
case, she and her boyfriend Todd, coming to a Halloween party of
prostitute and pimp, no picture of Bucky seems to exist from this
period, although Holly's ex-husband, Fred did take a picture of Bucky's
shoe. Bucky was noted for constantly wearing a kind of Puma sneaker,
popular at the time.
More than one person from that era was reminded of Bucky when news
reports began to talk about Sue's devotion to her own son, David.
Perhaps, Sue managed to change herself radically within a few years,
making herself over into the loving caring parent she could not have
been for Bucky.
"I don't think so," said Dorothy Ryan. "When I heard Sue was going to
have a baby after she left school, I pitied that baby because I knew
what kind of person Sue was and what she could do to someone innocent."
Ryan and others questioned the later perception of Sue as "a loving
mother," claiming that Sue used situations and people to her best
advantage. If it was convenient for her to play the role of mother, she
did. But just as easily, Sue could turn her back on a person she
professed to love, especially when such a relationship began to burden
I think Sue's relationship to Bucky and later, her son, David, proved
much more complicated. Early on, both Bucky and David needed her, early
on, both seemed symbolic of the bird-like creature she saw as herself,
easily overwhelmed by society, easily beaten down. But over time, boys
grow into men, and shift from being comrades in arms to one of the
enemy. How could Sue let someone like Bucky or David get so close to her
when they were bound to betray her in the end. So she betrayed them
During college, the transformation had already occurred. Her loyalty to
Bucky had already shifted. She no longer needed to play the role of
mother for him, and when not mocking him, she ignored him. Bucky struck
most people as an immature kid, the kind who seemed to walk around with
a sign pinned to his back asking people to kick him. Few of Sue's
classmates and friends realized just how seriously ill he was until
later when he was committed to a mental institution. Once free of the
influence of his mother and Sue, Bucky seemed to get better for a while.
He graduated the mental hospital to a group home, and then -- indeed --
actually recovered for a time. Someone told me he had moved in with a
girl and thought to get married. But these plans soon ended as his
mother focused her attention on him and drove him back into the
protective world of insanity.
Many of Sue's former class mates called Bucky "strange," with some even
comparing his condition to Sue's son's -- who apparently suffered
significant emotional problems of his own during the years preceding
"How could he not be emotionally ill with a mother like Sue?" Dorothy
Glenn Kenny called Bucky "a classic nerd who later developed hard-core
Glenn, who saw Sue a month before she vanished, thought he saw similar
attributes in her.
Which Todd Are You?