A Marvelous Manipulating Sue

 

 

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Years later, after Sue vanished from Nutley that warm July in 1996, we

would look back and realize that when Sue dispatched Stanley, she was at

the top of her form.

 

She was a master of manipulation who seemed to waste her talents on

petty things, a flim-flam woman who never managed to con her way into

anything of significance.

 

Many recall how desperate she constantly seemed, how life was such a

burden and she was at the edge of her rope, and how if things didn't

turn around for her soon, she might have to do something desperate.

 

Only in retrospective did some of us understand the nature of the games

Sue played, how Sue played off people, changing her appearance as

completely as a chameleon, and how she used different strategies for

luring different men into her webs.

 

How had Sue managed to ensnare Stanley, who was neither a student, nor

stupid?

 

Some associates from college said she worked on men in various ways, but

one was what they called "The IQ game," or as they put it more bluntly,

"You're so smart and I'm so stupid and I wish I could do all the things

you've done and known all the people you've known" bit. This was a game

she would play years later to great success with Rob Hardin.

 

Sue would continually berate herself, working her victim into a false

sense of superiority, the bigger the ego, the more easily duped the

victim was. Sometimes, people -- close friends, lovers, even family

members -- went on for years deluded by this deception, Sue actively

reaping the rewards of their talents. At school, her boyfriends wrote

her papers for her, gave her money, drove her from place to place,

bought her clothing, fed her, and did some of her dirty deeds, such as

checking up on supposed stalkers.

 

Dorothy said Sue would make her daily and weekly rounds, harvesting the

seeds she'd sown, collecting money and favors from men (and women) to

whom she professed love and friendship. When these people ceased having

anything she wanted, she "distanced" herself from them, acquiring new

friends who still had something to offer. Even when she still had use

for such people, Sue abused her lovers behind their backs, often mocking

their sexual problems or their egotism in front of her new friends.

 

Sometimes, she came straight from bed with a man, mocking the experience

among her girlfriends. Yet, this side of her rarely showed to those she

needed to control.

 

"She always played herself off as a victim; she always presented herself

in earnest need, and needed your help in particular," Dorothy said. "She

would run around town begging rides from people, or borrowing their cars

and money and whatever else she could get -- always with the air of

hopelessness. But she was getting over on people. It was always a role

she was playing. She was a drama queen."

 

In appealing for help, Sue used to tell people she had this huge problem

that only this one person could help her solve, a problem that she could

not control. She was a target of some conspiracy or the result of an

involvement with shady people, people she fell into because she didn't

initially know what they were about.

 

"Sue always found gullible people as helpers, people not wise enough to

see through her act," Dorothy said. "She would make herself seem so

genteel to them, and emotional fleeting and make these people care so

deeply about her, and worry over her so much, believing she was so

damaged."

 

These men -- sometimes women -- would think nothing about ruining their

own lives to help Sue, trying to nurture her, Dorothy said. These people

would give into Sue every wish and care.

 

"They cared so deeply they couldn't see what she was doing to them or

how she was hurting them," Dorothy said. "And they couldn't see how she

didn't care for them at all. They thought they were finding a real

relationship and what they got was mind-fucked."

 

"From all her old friends' accounts," wrote Joel Lewis in his

unpublished manuscript on Sue's vanishing, "Susan Walsh seemed to be in

a state of perpetual crisis -- on issues ranging from boyfriend problems

to her family life to Beacon office politics."

 

"Everybody lived vicariously through' Sue's life," said Nicole.

"Everyone seemed to get involved with whatever was happening with her at

the moment -- which I think was what she wanted."

 

At school, some school mates described Sue Walsh as "a constant flirt,"

saying she had a way of leading men on, then brushing them off.

 

"She's on a real power trip," one fellow writer once observed. "She

likes the fact she can get away with it."

 

"Sue often talked to friends about her poor relationship with her mother

and often spent the nights at the time, sleeping on a student center

couch because her mother often threw her out of the house after an

argument -- often over Walsh's current step-father," wrote Joel.

 

"You could go to a movie and she'd try to hit on someone while you were

in the theater," Bill Madaras told Joel.

 

Most of those clever enough to observe it, admired Sue's delicate touch,

her ability to manipulate people into giving her what she wanted. She

often got other people to pay her bills, give heshe wanted. She often

got other people to pay her

 

"She's a master manipulator," said Dorothy. "I know. She confided in me.

She would tell me what she was doing and how she operated. She was proud

of herself. She thought I was too stupid to remember things, but she was

the one who sometimes forgot what she told me. But she didn't have many

friends she could really rely on. So I just sat there and listened. She

told me everything."

 

Sue constantly played the role of a helpless soul, who needed people to

do things for her, often pretending to be ill or depressed. She was

neither. Despite claims for bipolar disease by her mother -- a

convenient excuse the woman used for years to explain Sue's abhorrent

behavior and something she may have read about in one of the many

self-help books she read at the time -- Sue displayed none of the

classic signs of that disease: the fits of sudden generosity, the sudden

impulse to help other people, and the deep depression caused after a

rush of sudden activity.

 

Abbie Hoffman, on whose life Sue modeled much of her behavior, struggled

with this disease most of his life. She may have been talented enough to

fake alcoholism as well, since she had more than one person upon which

to make a personal study, or may have suffered from the depression

typical of family members of alcoholics.

 

"Some (former classmates) felt that Walsh had some sort of mental health

problems," wrote Joel, "and that she herself claimed she was suffering

from a manic-depressive disorder -- now called bipolar disorder -- and

claimed to go into `fugue' states, where everything appeared foggy and

detached. She claimed she was taking lithium as treatment."

 

For the most part, Sue was talented enough to deceive even those most

close to her, using combinations of behavior to make sure people stayed

deceived. Even after nearly twenty years, Bill Madaras still believed

much of what Sue had told him.

 

But towards the end of Sue's college career, her lies wore thin. People

started seeing her as someone who loved to be the center of attention,

the center of the universe, even if this meant getting herself into

trouble.

 

"The attention feed something inside of her," Dorothy said, noting that

Sue's 1996 vanishing fit in with her behavior at school. "She might be

afraid to come back. But she will come back, and when she does, she'll

suffer the consequences nobly. She has always played the part of the

tragically noble."

 

Sue entertained herself in other ways, too. She had a fascination for

motorcycle gangs, and was constantly developing scenarios in which she

was being stolen away for a gangbang by some biker group. And she may

have actually dated one of the New York Hells Angels during the early

1990s. The whole concept of bondage seemed to tickle her fancy. She

could not stop talking about the possibilities, and over time, those

possibilities grew into stories she expected other people to believe.

She would pick some scurrilous looking fellow on campus and say he was a

biker out to rape her.

 

Sue was also fascinated with the CIA, and continued to imagine people as

members of the CIA trying to recruit her. She often told fellow students

that the CIA had been impressed with her high IQ, and constantly

reported contact with people who claimed membership in that covert

organization.

 

And then, of course, there was the Mafia. Sue never tired of inventing

plots in which she played a central role, if not as a victim -- who the

Mafia wanted to sell into white slavery or rape or kill -- or as a

possible hero who knew something that could destroy their operations.

 

Sue constantly pulled other people into these plots, forcing friends to

aid against her perceived enemies. Sue would claim some ex-lover was

stalking her and ask her new lover or new friend to help her keep track.

These plots varied, sometimes incorporating elements of her CIA tales or

those of the Mafia. But in each, Sue was the target and everyone had to

cease conducting their lives in order to save her.

 

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The Dry Alcoholic

 

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