A Vulnerable Sue
Despite the fact that Sue had significant contact with the nastier
elements across the Hudson, she had largely practiced her craft on the
uninitiated men of high school and college, few of whom capable of
competing head on.
On the sleepy campus of WPC, she had been protected from the truly harsh
realities of the world. She might have foraged in the wild world of
sleaze, but once a graduate, she had to face it as an adult.
Once out of school and in the real world, Sue lacked easy prey, and was
a potential target every two-bit hustler who thought he could market
"It was Walsh's youth and wholesome appearance that made her stand out
on the sex show circuit usually populated by marginal types trying to
support serious drug habits," Joel Lewis wrote.
And she was scared.
For all her ability to manipulate people, Sue lived constant fear for
her life, thinking -- as would later be painted -- that everyone hated
her, that she really had no friends or allies, left utterly to her own
resources. She was haunted by nightmares and racked with guilt.
She wasn't ashamed of hurting people -- they were casualties of war--
but of some greater, long suppressed sin for which she constantly
Yes, she talked about stalkers and may even have believed her own
stories long after other people ceased. She hated the way men stared at
her, while at the same time, did everything she could to make them
The whole concept of sexual attraction confused her. She kept
associating it with violence and pain, men's stares like bullets
penetrating her heart.
While some claim Sue was callous, a myth she perpetuated the way street
punks spread tales of their own machismo, she really wasn't. She
pretended to be tough, pretended she was made of stone, but she knew
better than anyone else how vulnerable she was, and that increased her
fear, and made her wary, and made her perfect those skills through which
she could avoid being slain --figuratively and in reality.
She liked to see herself as a survivor, someone who could ease through a
difficult situation with guile and cunning. But something kept tripping
her up. Sometimes, men caught her and used her and hurt her. Over time,
at school, she developed a hard philosophy on life: "Do unto others
before they do unto you."
She learned that by controlling men and using them, she could largely
avoid being their victim, although she often acted the part of victim in
order to put them off their guard.
Despite her reputation as a slut, Sue largely avoided sex. She may not
even have been very good at it. But she teased, she tempted, she often
dangled her sexuality before men who wanted her, rarely giving them what
they wanted, dancing ahead of their desires, giving into sex only when
it was the last option, and she could not get what she wanted from men
any other way. Even then, she often accepted sex the way a wise woman
accepts rape, letting the man do what he wanted without allowing the act
to penetrate her soul. "[Glenn] Kenny remembers that despite her active
romantic life, she feigned indifference to sex," Joel Lewis wrote.
"She'd tell you how little she liked sex before she went to bed with
you, so you'd either be the rule or the exception in her book," Glenn
Bill Madaras' claim that she'd been raped at three, rang particularly
true in Joel, and according to the array of psychiatric sources he dug
up, her personality habits at school fit with that claim.
Even then, Sue talked very little about that, or shaped her past into a
bundle of romantic notions. She preferred to say her father abandoned
her than to admit that any man had penetrated her defenses, no matter
what her age. Nor did she understand the weight she carried around
inside her head from that rape, how it tied her hands and stilled her
feet when she needed to fight back or run. Most of her life, despite her
protests, would be a repetition of that first original sin, she luring
men into the positifather abandoned her than to admit that any man had
penetrated her defenses, no matter what her age. Nor did she understand
the weight she carried around inside her
Of course, she thought herself so clever, and streetwise, able to play
around the furnaces of men's desires without getting burned, always
repeating the same mistakes the way she did when trying to suntan, never
learning that the only way to cease being caught was to quit playing the
On campus, she exerted a measure of control because she had mostly to
contend with boys or men so juvenile they could hardly seriously hurt
her, except by accident.
Off campus was another matter, and the men she met there, were not only
dangerous, but as dangerous as her imagination had made men during all
the years since her rape at three, filthy, opportunist sharks waiting
for fresh meat upon which to feed. Out among them, Sue control worked
only on the most stupid or naive, or those so blinded by their own egos
they could not see how vulnerable Sue really was, as lost in the swirl
of her smoke screens as the younger boys at school.
She, foolishly, acted so cool, as if she could skate over the surface of
this slimy pornographic world and never get caught, pretending she was a
tour guide who could survive on instinct. But she was no tour guide.
Deep down, beyond all the bull shit, she was still that vulnerable three
year old, staring up at the sweaty man who told her to hold still, who
undid her dress, and his own zipper, who told her to keep quiet about it
after wards, swearing her to secrecy as she later did all her friends.
Sue's act as vulnerable was remarkably convincing, because she only
pretended it was a mask, and men, sensing the reality of her situation,
reacted quickly to rescue her.
So seductive did her vulnerability seem, few men saw her fangs or
recognized her distaste for their affection. When they fell in love, she
saw them as clinging, and fled from them, often after slicing them to
pieces. Hardin, a boyfriend from 1989 to about 1993, was not far from
wrong when he called her "a poor little thing." Madaras was not wrong
when he called her "brave and noble." She was both, and neither. She was
someone turned inside out, playing the role of a survivor when she was
really a perpetual victim.
Leaving campus in 1984 started something ticking in her head and would
lead to another explosion not much different from the one in the student
center stairway. Her presence in the real world stirred up the sharks,
their swirling and their lust started her head to swirl. She felt
herself lose the kind of control she had mastered in high school and
again in college. These men, with their hard and dangerous stares, did
not succumb to her juvenile manipulations. They could not be teased and
denied. She did not brag about slicing open men's penises as she had in
college and would later in the pages of "Red Light," she was too scared,
and alone, shrouded by a veil that had fallen between her and the rest
of the world after that rape at three.
Maybe she sensed something about the cold that had fallen over her soul
from that moment, yet could not pull herself away from the threat,
constantly teasing the beast, challenging it to do it again, as if deep
down she believed herfrom the threat, constantly teasing the beast,
challenging it to do it again, as if deep down she believ
Maybe she even sensed just how over her head she was when she walked off
campus and into the redlight district of New York, but had committed
herself, and could do only what the Sixties called: Keep on keeping on.
If she paused for an instant, if she let the memory over take her or try
to sort through the webs in her head, she might not survive, might just
melt into a pool of quivering. unresponsive flesh. She had to think she
was someone cool and that at the end of this dismally colored rainbow
she would discover something other than a pot full of nightmares.
Contrary to popular opinion, she was neither drunk nor drugged, though
both alcohol and chemicals played an important part in her mythology,
the way the Mafia, stalkers, the CIA and FBI did. Her philosophy painted
a dark world in which she wandered through dark avenues, stalked by
people who weren't quite human, two-dimensional fiends who haunted her
every step. And she, although weary of running and fighting, pressed on
because of a unmanageable inner horror that drove her to treachery. She
openly admitted in private and in her diaries that she spread harm in
stealth, believing, of course, thain her mythology, the way the Mafia,
stalkers, the CIA and FBI did. Her philosophy painted a dark world in
which she wandered through dark avenues, stalked by people who weren't
quite human, two-
It was her nature, but added to her desperation, and left her without
hope. She needed to control massive elements of her environment and yet
was too weak, and over time, she melted into the maze of hate she
herself created, fulfilling the fantasy that she had painted for other
people to believe. All this occurred in cycles, of course, this passion
for pain and loathing building up inside her after long periods of time.
She would appear absolutely calm for days, weeks, months, even years,
and then would begin again, sneaking back into her life like a beast,
sending her back into the slow rise of tension and lies, until she
reached some crescendo and satisfied that monstrous hate -- for a time.
During the slow build up, she struggled for control, not of the beast
but of the dangers her actions aroused. She found herself constantly
under attack as she scurried under the heals of important and
unimportant people. She understood that to survive, she had to either
avoid their crushing her by running away or manipulating them. Sometimes
she could keep them at a safe distance, control their nasty desires by
subtle orchestrations, playing up to their egos or to their sexual
perversions, luring and teasing men, taking women into her confidences.
Sometimes it was as easy as keeping men on the wrong side of the peep
show glass at Show World, where the product of their masturbation could
not touch her.
She did the bidding of evil, but was not evil herself -- at least, not
to herself. She was always wondering how she got where she was and how
it might be possible for her to escape. She hated dancing, but refused
to stop, she hated seducing men, but could not cease that either, as if
to stop moving, to stop manipulating, would leave her more vulnerable
than she already was. All she could hope to do is keep moving, trying to
balance the various overpowering forces around her, and hope that they
would miss such a small, insignificant creature as her.
Joe Swartz sensed some of this in high school, and more of it later in
college, but even he didn't know the worst of it, didn't know how set
the pattern had become in Sue's life, as if she had been practicing this
crazy dance from early childhood. He did not know that she had already
developed a taste for forty-old-men when she reached puberty, making
weekly trips to Manhattan where she could exploit their sexual fantasies
in public -- not in sex shows, not yet, but in the earlier versions of
what would later emerge as places like The Vault.
By 16, Sue had certainly already begun her tumble into the underworld,
wandering aimlessly among the fountains and glitter and thickly carpeted
floors of Plato's Retreat, the Greek decor mocking her with marble
statuted bodies none of the men she met could achieve. By 1975 or 1976,
such places had alrand thickly carpeted floors of Plato's Retreat, the
Greek decor mocking her with marble statuted bodies none of the men she
met could achieve. By 1975 or 1976, such places had already slipped into
palaces of perverts, where the middle-aged, pot-bellied men out-numbered
women ten to one, and the former seductive glories of the Free Love
moment had become tainted a touch of disgust. Although designed as
Even early on, before Sue learned how to play one man off another, to
tease rather than submit, to let men's desire's drive them crazy, she
must have suffered greatly -- even without her knowing that she
suffered, the center of every man's attention, the target of every man's
"This is all I deserve," she would tell herself, though the thought
might sound more like, "They all love me."
At 15 or 16, she could pick and choose from any man. She was the young,
pretty blonde whom all men craved, and men offered her money and
affection for something some dark man had stolen from her at three. She
would learn to understand that these stares, this permanent attention
was no paradise. She would come to hate them, interpreting their glances
at attacks, which she needed to avoid or deflect, yet in the beginning
she necessarily succumbed, too weak to resist their pleasure taking.
But long before she reached college, she had hardened, knowing she could
get anything she wanted from them if she only shaped their desires
right. She only succumbed when she had no choice, when cornered into
delivering what she'd been perpetually promising. From them and their
hard stares, Sue learned how to get over on those men, avoid their
penetration, let them linger, let them want her. She learned how to be a
mistress a whole decade before the Vault opened on Little West 12th
Street. She learned she didn't need a whip to be in control. Or, at
least, she thought she did.
What was that ticking in the back of her head? Why did she feel so weak
and lost? Why hadn't she achieved anything for all of the twisting and
turning, for all the men she had shaped to her desires? Why couldn't she
get the stain of that original sin out from between her legs. And as the
cycle grew more crazy, she grew more confused, and when she needed her
wits most, when she most desired to escape, she was stuck in place,
unable to move, men --her men, some men, any man -- doing what they
wanted with her, shaping her life into their lies.
Outside, on campus, or in the streets of the city, many more desires
intervened, desires she couldn't read as easily, such as the desire for
power, or for prestige. Sue never quite understood these things as
easily, nor could she read those men and women. She couldn't read me.
She later failed to read Ridgeway. That scared her, and kept her
haunted. What she couldn't control, could hurt her, and did, often.
Perhaps that's what made her start dancing in topless joints in
Manhattan, the predictability of the danger. All lust, no dangerous
sense of love (which people didn't mean anyway, and couldn't show or
prove except by trying to hurt her in some unnatural way). Maybe she
preferred the hard stares from around a bar to the uncertain stare of
men across a class room or office or mall. By the time, she graduated
almost every one of us knew she was dancing, though I didn't know to
what degree, the epitome of the college girl putting herself through
college via striptease.
"In recent cinema we've seen SHOWGIRLS, & NORMA JEAN & MARILYN, wherein
female role models enact the Oedipus story, & we're supposed to say with
Tiresias," said Michael Alexander in a communication from Texas. "It is
not I, that is blind. But I believe there Oedipus story, & we're
supposed to say with Tiresias," said Michael Alexander in a
communication from Texas. "It is not I, that is blind. But I believe
there is a reason, in
But for Sue, that mythology was one of pain, and a mounting pressure
that would lead to yet one more explosion in her life. But first, there
was Show World.
Show World's World