Back into the Underworld
Make no mistake. Susan Walsh wrote the book "Redlight," or wrote such a
significant part Ridgeway should have been listed as the intern, not
The book is a snap shot of Sue's reemergence into the New York City sex
scene, highlighting those parts of underworld through which she wandered
during her second descent in 1989, the most recent phase of a long
history of sexual play in New York City.
Sue's book hardly even alludes to the first emergence of Sin City during
the early 1800s, or the development of the sex trade framed by the
entertainment industry of Broadway and the Bowery or the foundations of
the swinging scene which emerged in a more modern America in California
after World War Two and slowly made the transition East with the free
love moment of the 1960s. Wife swapping developed during the repressed
1950s, and grew into "key clubs" where husbands went home with the woman
whose keys he collected from a table top. Publications began advertising
swingers parties, an upper crust social gathering that evolved into open
sex. I stumbled into such a party in 1967, when a friend of mine pulled
the address out of the back of the Village Voice. We -- then hippies --
showed up at the door of a posh West Village apartment only to find men
in suits and ties and women in evening gowns waiting inside. These
people did not particularly take well to us when we said we worked as
loaders at the Little Falls Laundry.
One of the earliest Swing Clubs as the "Group" in California, which
changed its name later to the "In Crowd." You got in by knowing a
member. Cocktail Lounges soon began a similar service called private
parties. This was a very big trend in New York City
By 1972, on-the-premise parties took place in hundreds of places
nationally, the most famous of which was Plato's Retreat in New York
City, a club Sue would visit when she was still in her early teens and
could continue to visit up until the early 1980s. Although Plato's
Retreat vanished, the movement went on, with private and public places
exploding all over the country. Sue documented the rise of the fantasy
club scene in New York in a series of articles in Screw, but by 1990,
the scene was already in decline, too many clumsy masters and mistresses
charging too much money.
Sue returned to the fantasy sex scene at its height.
"Sue fell right back into her old habits," said Dorothy. "She didn't
ease back. She was neck deep within weeks of her getting laid off."
In the six months before Sue moved to Nutley, she was one of the primary
players in Paradise Lost. Screw Magazine called it the "most opulently
decorated and avate-gard of Manhattan's private salons' which had three
large dungeons with a wide variety of fetish tools, including
full-suspension authentic reproductions of Spanish Inquisition torture
devices, and "a truly stunning array of exotic mistresses... all
well-versed in bizarre practices and psychological manipulations."
Sue's best friend at the time went under the name Madam Sasha, though
the woman was really a local artist named Janet.
Janet had a drinking problem and, oddly enough, vanished from the New
York sex scene within a few years. Witnesses at the time, claim Sue
wanted to help Janet get over her drinking, often relating her own
experiences with alcohol and cocaine. Sue often told the story about how
she was driving home once on Christmas Day so high on Cocaine that the
impact of the drug made her vow to never do it again.
"She said she was happy to be sober," one source said.
Even as she plunged deeper into the scene, she complained about how much
she hated it, and how all the other performers had come to hate the men
they serviced. This was 1989, five years before her book "Redlight"
would quote her penis-slicing passages, seven years before she would be
recorded saying as much for a documentary of go-go dancing.
Only a handful of people understood what Sue's "penis-slicing" passages
in "Redlight" were about, or how Sue came to develop these ideas back in
High School. Dorothy, of course, who claimed Sue had been influenced by
a rock band named "SCUM."
Dorothy was wrong. Although Sue claimed to be the inspiration for the
movie "Desperately Seeking Susan," the real movie of Sue's life was
released within months of her disappearing, a movie actually about the
woman whose life Sue modeled herself on: Valerie Solanas, and to
understand Sue, you have to understandSue's life was released within
months of her disappearing, a movie
Like Sue, Solanas prostituted herself in order to make money to write,
but felt no passion and no guilt when dispatching the men with whom she
had sex. Sue and Solanas both found life boring and felt that no part of
modern socimen with whom she had sex. Sue and Solanas both found life
boring and felt that no part of modern society had any relevance to
women, and that only thing left for women to do was to "overthrow
Like Solanas, Sue believed men to be biological accidents, the product
of a broken chromosome -- incomplete women, which explained to Sue why
so many men sought to be dominated by women or dress up as women.
"Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to
complete himself, to become female," Solanas wrote. "He attempts to do
this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live
through and fuse with the female."
Like Solanas, Sue believed women did not envy men's penises, but men
envied women's pussy. And in Sue's imitation of Solanas, she began a
one-woman war on the male species, attempting through high school and
college, and later, when sinking back into the sex industry in 1989, to
humiliate and cripple as many men as possible. And along the way, she
believed it her duty to disrupt the behavior of women she called
"Daddy's girls" who kept men in a position of authority.
Sue, following Solanas script for revolution, was seeking to "fuck up
the system," from working groups to romantic relationships.
"Dropping out is not the answer, fucking up is," Solanas wrote, and Sue
adopted this as her credo."
This philosophy dominated Sue's life, and even in those moments of
relative calm, dictating her approach to the world. It is for this
reason, she fell so fast back into the old habits. She was simply
following Solanas' model.
"She was in on the peak of the Paradise scene," one source told me. "She
and Janet worked there together."
Paradise Lost is located in the West twenties, on the second floor. Like
many places of its kind, you call for an appointment, and people check
you out before you get too deep into the scene. A place called `The
girls from Ipanema, run by a French woman named Tiffany makes customers
call from a phone both on the corner of 56th and Broadway, from which
they can study someone by binoculars, and then told to come up to the
When visiting Paradise Lost, you walk into a room where there is a small
couch. Generally the women are there reading, there for you to make a
selection. They parade by you for you to make your selection, then you
are taken to another room, told to strip, and then about three minutes
later -- when the people are satisfied that you are not a cop -- the
woman comes in.
The owner runs Paradise Lost like his personal Harem. There is always a
large amount of money there, and a lot of drugs. The money usually gets
stuffed into a drawer, as women bring it in from their gigs in the
various dungeons. The owner is not frightened of being robbed. He
carries a 357 magnum.
By 1991, Sue had severed her connection with Paradise Lost, obviously
peeved about having to give up such a big percentage of her income and
decided to freelance, using such venues as the Vault. If she ever
considered more straight-forward prostitution in the various venues from
the private apartments in the East Village to the second floor
establishments on the numbered streets along 11th Avenue, Sue never
said. She certainly knew the scene and could tell you about Kimberly and
Friends advertises which under the name Wendy's Wild Women. Or Body Heat
at (82nd and Third). Corporate Treasures, or the Men's club, or such
posh places as Beverly Hills Models with its doorman, elevator on 8th
Avenue near 30th Street, Ultimate Ventures or Priority Gold on 83rd
between Lexington & Park. She knew of Jillian Bradley and Friends,
Madame Ruby's, *Studio 46, Christy Love/Honey Lip and California Girls,
aof her income and decided to freelance, using such venues as the Vault.
If she ever considered more straight-forward prostitution in the various
venues from the private apartments in the East Village
But Sue is following the pattern of behavior set by Valerie Solanas,
James Ridgeway ought to be careful. In 1996, Sue fully believed she
would get credit for the massive amount of work she put into her book,
and before vanishing expressed outrage at Ridgeway. Solanas claimed Andy
Warhol stole her play and proceeded to shoot him. Is Sue's disappearance
a prelude to an attempt on Ridgeway's life?