After college, of course, she issued an open invitation to her old
friends in the English department to see her debut at the SHOWPLACE in
Times Square, where she headlined as Sister Sue & the Lewd Brothers. I
myself did not attend," said Michael Alexander, later, looking back.
"You might look up Dr. Fort Manno or Larry Henchey or even Glenn T.
Kenney. Later, I would hear every once in awhile about her continuing
adventures. Living with coke dealers. Go-go dancing. Driving her car off
the road while flying on coke, attacking a cop & landing in re-hab where
she met Joe Walsh's brother. Marrying him. Having his kid. Leaving him.
Why, its epic."
Love left marks.
That was the point of it. That man in the dark when she was three had
said as much.
"Baby don't groan so much, you know I love you and I wouldn't do nothing
to hurt you, just you stay still, you hear me?"
And she did, feeling his touch on her as if he touched her with cold
steel. She remembered the blood later, thinking how much it hurt when he
tried to scrub it all off from between her legs, missing most of it,
slicing her thigh with his pocket knife later to make an excuse for the
In her dreams for years later she could only see the knife, glittering
at her, leaving that mark.
She saw that knife in her head when she woke up in rehab, and wondered
how she had gotten there, and then recalled the judge telling her that
if she didn't clean up her act, didn't stop the cocaine and the alcohol,
she would die or wind up in prison.
She was already dead, at least, life felt that way, no job, no sense of
worth, just that fog around her head she could never shake, sometimes it
was worst, sometime better, but it always shook her at sunset when it
made everything seem hazy and distant, and the people less real to her.
As for prison, the rehab already felt like that with its locked doors
and courtesy attendants, men in short sleeves who didn't even look at
her twice, who didn't take any of her moaning and groaning seriously,
having seen every performance a person could dig up, and hers -- to them
at least -- wasn't even as good as some. She wanted to run away. To take
on a new name, a new identity, the way she had talked about it at
Where were her two Todds now? Probably living with some other bimbo, or
maybe poking themselves at her expense, suddenly becoming transvestites
on her when she could not crack the whip and make them behave.
No one loved her. She loved on one.
That was the only reality she ever knew. Love was a trap, full of
swirling expectations she could not supply. She didn't have what it
took, and no man she'd met was significant enough for her. Each one
lacking something she needed.
What was the point of love when it didn't do anything, didn't mean
anything? She had seen her mother go through men like peanuts, one after
another, all of them tasting exactly the same.
And Sue had repeated the offense, finding nothing flavorful in any, only
a bulging penis and a mouth full of lies, and those stares, those ugly,
painful lusting stares.
It all tumbled around in her head as she stumbled around the ward,
trying to pretend like she was cooperating, the fog from the past
lifting a little, making her feel less weak than usual.
"It's like a vacation," she thought. "I'm here to rest up again before I
But on to what? She had lost her job at the paper and she didn't dare go
back to dancing, or tempt herself with a snort or a jigger. But it was
love she feared, insignificant love, temporary love, love that didn't
hold up to everything it promised.
That pain, that bleeding always seemed to start up inside her after
awhile. She just had to get up and leave. There was never anything to
stick around for.
"Maybe that's why I'm here," she thought. "To rest up, away from
She was off the merry-go-round at last. She could breathe. She didn't
have to worry about love failing her or how disappointed she felt. She
didn't have to worry about her leaping disappointed she felt. She didn't
have to worry about her leaping from man to man to satisfy that furious
need inside her. She didn't have to rely on her wits to work out of some
difficult problem, or cry out when at some critical time, she fell
apart, love leaving her in a puddle of misery
She didn't now have to worry about enduring, and that made her feel
Sue did not like rehab.
They couldn't really cure the disease she had inside of her, only the
symptoms, and only she could see the signs. She had a flaw inside that
drugs hadn't caused, and removing them only left the original problem.
She looked better, acted and sounded normal. She even felt stronger,
refreshed, roaming the carpeted rooms in search of something, probably
She did not like being behind locked doors, or being in the care of
At which point, she saw Mark.
She didn't know he was Joe Walsh's brother. He was a kind of trustee
here, someone well-enough along in his own treatment to help with the
treatment of others. Sue later told Holly how impressed she was with his
One of those odd comments that had Holly scratching her head. Him? Mark?
Mastery? He was a shallow shadow who had attained rehab largely because
he followed in the footsteps of a man who had achieved near greatness.
"He was an authority figure," Dorothy later said. "That's all Sue really
saw. That's all she needed to see."
Then, Sue found out about Joe Walsh.
This fact transformed Mark into an even more attractive being, one with
the map of Sue's future tattooed on his forehead. Here was the
connection she had lacked when working at the newspaper, the leap-frog
thing she needed to get instantly significant. Joe Walsh, formerly of
the Eagles, what luck!
Suddenly Mark's lack of social graces took on a look of quiet
indifference, his rude behavior the sign of an individualist, his
irritable nature at night, signs of genius.
If she intended to use Mark to get to Joe, she told no one, but Mark --
was so vulnerable at that moment, and so needy, he might not have
objected even if he had known. Later, Sue would drag him through a
thousand small plots, making him an accomplice to her abuse of other
men. She would introduce him to the porno scene. She would use him to
take care of their child when had other urgent duties with other urgent
men. And when she disappeared, she used him to help it happen.
Few even know the details of the romance besides the extremely
uncommunicative Mark, though with Sue it must have been quick. She
lacked subtly and was impatient with courtship that didn't wind up in
sex the same night as meeting. Other men claim she initiated the sex
when they were reluctant, and one can easily envision Sue sneaking
through the dark halls of the rehab at night, crawling passed the
sleeping attendant to tap at Mark's door, whispering for him to let her
And then, in the dark, after a sigh and a cigarette, asking: "Are you
really Joe Walsh's brother?" taking his answer as a marriage proposal.
It was lull time in Sue's cycle. The furious desire to do harm had lost
its hunger. She did not need the same satisfaction from him. She could
afford to bring him along slowly, grooving up, making him feel so
superior, while telling him how inferior she felt.
Other people were now helping Sue.
She no longer felt the strain of inadequate resources. Her father,
Floyd, had responded admirably to the crisis, his guilt so thorough that
she only had to tuck it in at times and stir up its old coals.
He wanted to do everything he could to help, and she let him, allowed
him to bring her writing assignments -- as godawful as they were, and as
far beneath her talents.
He said he would find her a job, always praising her and doting over
her. He didn't even question too much when she told him that she and
Mark had come to terms and would marry the moment they graduated rehab.
Floyd must have frowned, must of thought how odd this was, and if he had
talked to someone, sought out professional advice, he would have
realized just how significant this attachment was, and how much illness
still showed in his daughter's behavior, the powerless little wrench was
now seducing one more soul, using all of those subtle talents she'd
perfected at school to cling to another man.
Sue didn't love Mark. Sue didn't even want Mark around. But Sue needed a
vehicle, one of those men like Danny she could depend upon to be at
home, someone who was just dim-witted enough never to ask the wrong
questions, or make her conform too much to those house-wife-like duties
marriage usually demanded.
Sue's mother must have been pleased. After throwing Sue out of the house
time and again, the marriage more or less made sure Sue would not come
No more need to send Sue to her grandmother's. No more need to keep the
bed by the door. No more fear that Sue might interest her newest bow
better than she did.
And for Sue, the promise of Joe Walsh's rock and roll wealth allowed her
to relax a little more.
She didn't have to dance. She didn't have to work at the newspaper
(though by that time the strike had been settled and the rest of the
scabs laid off). She didn't have to borrow against her grandmother's
promised inheritance, a rapidly shrinking rateable she might need later
Perhaps, Floyd, Sue legitimate father, felt a twinge of increasing guilt
as the details of his daughter's disastrous life began to emerge -- and
even then, he might not have known about the more grizzly particulars,
the trips at age 13 to Plato's Retreat, the money she had conned out of
boyfriends for cars, accommodations and other basic comforts of life. He
could not have seen the danger signs or known that this was only a lull.
He could not have understood that her conversion to productivity in
society was a vacation from the edge, a temporary arrangement that
allowed her to regain strength, a strategic retreat away from the war
front where she could plan a new campaign. He trusted too much in the
traditions and ceremonies of normal society, as anchors to salvation:
marriage and children bringing out instincts that Sue in her childhood
had not known or needed. And in some respect, Floyd was right, but not
in the way he might have expected.
For Floyd, the marriage might have meant an end to Sue's career on 42nd
Street, and proof the rehab had cured her, not only of her alcoholism,
but of her taste for danger as well. For the rest of us, the report of
Sue's marriage was a shock, something few of us every expected, and
couldn't believe when we heard.
To whom? Was it Bill or Glenn or Danny or Stanley? Had she finally
decided between white or black Todd?
"No," someone told me in passing. "She married some guy named Mark
Walsh, someone she met in rehab."
And if that was not enough of a shock, imagine how many of us felt a
little less than a year later, when reports came about Sue's having a
This last gave lie to presumptions that Sue had used Mark solely to
escape rehab, to prove herself in some odd way to her father, friends
and the legal authorities that she had recovered, and better, altered
herself. We, of course, did not know the subtler details and the grand
disappointments that made her shift her plans. Perhaps she had figured
on moving up from the poor brother into the Walsh family to the
wealthier Rock and Roll star. If so, Joe's declaration of bankruptcy a
few months after Sue's marriage must have stunned her and caused the
beginning of a serious emotional rift between her and her new husband.
This was Mark's fault, after all, she figured. He should have told her
Joe Walsh had no money.
Perhaps she even went into another depression or found herself
temporarily without options with the sudden news of pregnancy an
additional shock. More than likely, she feared losing Mark, or fancied
the idea of living a middle class life for a while. She had walked on
the wild side for so long, perhaps curiosity made her stroll this side
of the edge.
Old Friends Meet