Along comes Hardin

 

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In 1989, Sue met Rob Hardin in a Cajun restaurant on Avenue A, one of

those more or less authenticly ethnic places that had cropped up along

the lowered numbered streets of the area, places that came and went with

the local taste for new or exotic and faded as quickly.

 

Sue was scared. She was just short of her 30th birthday and seemed to

have gone around in circles -- a twenty-nine-year-old sex starlet in a

market that craved twenty. Thirty was always a crisis point for go-go

girls, the point at which men start seeing them as prostitutes instead

of performers, and without some kind of novelty act, dancers either put

out on the side for customers or find themselves with less and less

bookings.

 

Sue's literary career hung in a strange limbo, too. Her poetry hadn't

progressed far beyond the juvenile work she'd done in college, nor had

her fiction. She also didn't have much experience beyond the sex trade

from which to draw ideas.

 

Hardin was a God-send, a literary man also intimately connected with the

East Village music scene, that was just the right kind of medicine for

Sue's current condition.

 

Hardin boasted of his connections, "the son of an English and music

teacher," who studied prosody at age ten, who gradated with a degree in

music composition, hobnobbed with the likes of John Shirley, and studied

writing with Dennis Cooper. Hardin boasted of readings he'd done,

invitations he'd received, books he had written, and tours he had done,

a one-man self-promoting ego maniac that must have lighted Sue's eyes u

with a degree in music composition, hobnobbe

 

She hardly understood his type, and little realized which tradition of

American literature Hardin followed, a modern rendition of the literary

snob Edgar Allen Poe most detested during the 19th Century, a man with

talent and ego, but the limited vision of a contemporary genre that

would eventually fade into a historic fad. When I saw Hardin at Tower

Books in March, 1997 (as well as reading some of his early work) I was

most struck by his clever word play and lack of heart, the sin of

literature currently plaguing contemporary writers like Mark Leyner.

 

But Sue would have fallen for his glitz, yet would find his ego much

more tempting, foolishly believing he could be manipulated by it the way

she had managed so many younger men of his kind at college. She did not

understand the concept of narcissism, and how unreachable a truly

self-center soul could be and her next move would haunt her for years.

 

She began to sing her siren's song, softly at first. Her self- defacing

IQ bit would come later, when she thought she knew him better. At first,

she just admired him, the perfect fan, cooing over his claims like some

pathetically undeserving song bird who had no business being in the same

room with him, let alone thinking she could match his craft.

 

All the time, in the back of her head, she wondered how she could use

him, what he had that she wanted, and how she could get him to introduce

her to all those other, important people he claimed to know. She

believed she had connected in a way she had failed to do with Mark. None

of Hardin's big deal literary and film friends would declare bankruptcy

the way Joe Walsh had. She was finally on the verge of climbing up into

the "cool" crowd, and Hardin was the key.

 

Hardin's biography claimed him as a writer and studio musician who lives

in a potentially lethal sector of the Lower East Side, precisely the

social scene Sue had sought since high school, and the social scene

which had rejected her. Sue could not have foreseen, however, Hardin's

reluctance to share his resources with her. Perhaps, deep down, he

sensed something twisted in Sue's approach, some aspect of the hunt,

which he shook off as his imagination.

 

Their romance began the same night they met. He and she kissing on the

train station.

 

God only knows how many men Sue associated with between the time she

broke up with Mark and when she met Hardin, but few men can claim as a

permanent hold on her heart, even if half the his attraction to her was

his resume.

 

Melissa took a nearly instant dislike to Hardin. She claimed Hardin beat

Sue. Floyd Sue's father claimed Hardin siphoned off Sue's precious

resources during the years after that meeting.

 

"It got to the point I was reluctant to give Sue any money for fear of

it winding up in Hardin's pocket," Floyd told me.

 

Were they talking about the same man? Or had Sue slipped back into her

pre--rehab behavior of spreading nasty tales, the way she had in the

college newspaper office?

 

Joel Lewis painted an odd picture of Hardin, independent of Sue. Lewis

and Hardin were part of an e-mail poetry society, a society which

objected to Hardin's insistence on sharing sexual or violent poetry with

the group.

 

"It would creek into the poetry at first," Joel said. "Then, when

someone objected, Hardin would say he was only kidding or rant on about

his free speech rights."

 

Hardin said he went out with Sue sporadically between 1989 and 1994,

breaking up for months at a time. The most intense period of their

relationship occurred between early 1990 and mid-1993. For the first two

and a half years, Sue pleaded with Hardin to marry her, but towards the

end, he pleaded with her.

 

Hardin refused to believe Sue manipulated him, protesting vehemently

when I suggested as much.

 

" More about your idea that I was being led around my Johnson: Believe

it or not, when I first met Susan, I was seeing other women to whom I

was far more attracted. Rail-thin blondes were not my type: my shrink

sister, who teased me throughout my childhood, was a skinny blonde, slim

enough to do part-time modeling, and I associated her appearance with

sexual saltpeter. My mother was a kind and curvy redhead, a beauty

pageant winner whose figure I associated with kindness and

concupiscence."

 

Hardin said Sue was utterly clean and responsible before she drifted

back into dancing.

 

"The ironic thing about Susan was this: when I met her, she seemed to be

someone who *wasn't* my usual type--a busty brunette or redhead, usually

with a sleazy background in the sex business. She seemed to be a quiet,

stay-at-home type of girl. If anything, she didn't seem exciting

*enough*."

 

For the first two and a half years, Hardin limited Susan's visits to

once a week. He claimed to care about her in a paternal way, but it took

four years for him to love her.

 

"She told me of her porn business days early on--of how she got Mark

involved, too--and told me exactly what she did (and enjoyed doing) when

she was fucked up on coke with various porn stars and sex club

promoters. I remember naively thinking, `God, she's not trustworthy at

all. I'm glad she won't ever be able to hurt me; she's not my type.'"

 

But she did get to Hardin as was displayed in numerous internet message

he sent after her disappearance, including messages to groups on the

Usenet who claimed he also bore the traces of an abuser. Joel said

Hardin broadcast a pathetic plea to the poetry group.

 

"He moaned about how much he loved her and how he would never see her

again, I passed them onto Glen Kenny, he was very pissed by the whole

thing," Joel said.

 

"The last time she spoke to me, Susan called me the love of her life,"

Hardin said. "In a limited past-tense sort of way, I do believe her. She

said tbelieve her. She said the same thing throughout our time together.

The guilt I feel comes from having been privileged to know her

desperate, loving, responsible side--a side few see for long-- without

valuing it until it was gone. I fell in love with her because she was

there for me for two long years. She fell in love with me when I wasn't

there for her. And also: she acted saner throughout that period than the

person I saw later, and whom you seem to have seen in school. The woman

I knew toward the end was the woman you knew, but to me, she w

 

But life with Hardin would have been stifling to Sue. Although she used

him once or twice, stealing work from him for articles she published in

Screw, she could not make him do what she needed, and by 1993, she no

longer needed his connections, she had developed her own. By 1993, Sue

was already sleeping with Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw Magazine,

and already beginning to research Village Voice articles for James

Ridgeway.

 

Yet before any of this, Sue would move to Nutley, where she would make a

whole different series of connections.

 

A Nutley Connection

 

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