The games Sue played

Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh

 

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By the time the snow storms ended in April, Susan -- in apparent

consultation with Ray Zachmann and Michael Alexander -- had already

begun a campaign to prove to those people closest to her that she was

indeed slipping over the edge. This meant a radical refinement of social

games Sue had first developed in high school and college. Along with her

role as alcoholic, Sue had developed a massive array of manipulative

techniques, many of which she'd used continually since her so-called

recovery in 1985, but some games she allowed to slip into the

background, no longer needing them during her apparent reign as the sex

queen of the Lower East Side.

 

One game Sue played over and over again was the game of poverty,

something that allowed her to set up more sophisticated games of

manipulation. Even when still in college when she was begging her

grandmother for loans on her inheritance, Sue complained of how little

cash she had, borrowing perpetually, getting men and women to folk over

hard earned cash in order "to save her from ruin." Over that same period

of time, Sue squandered vast fortunes, living a life so high on the hog

that she sometimes struggled to maintain her appearance of poverty. Her

landlord, who may or may not have taken out rent in another fashion,

gave Sue breaks she didn't deserve, giving her breaks on her rent

payments the whole while Sue scooted around Manhattan in Al Goldstein's

stretch limo.

 

Having a child became very convenient in maintaining this game and

forcing sympathetic men to help her. While she pranced around with men

of all sorts, the subject of their financial attentions for dinner or

whatever else she thought to ask for, her child stayed at home, the

symbol of Sue's apparent motherly love, a needy creature she could pull

out of the closet at any time and show off for her doubtful subscribers.

Sue's father was good for a load of cash from time to time.

 

This constant call for cash fit in well with Sue's game of fate, in

which she repeatedly complained about bad things that happened to her,

and a conversation with her often amounted to a competition of misery in

which she sought to out do your problems with a list of mounting

problems of her own. Sue's particular variation on this game is

sometimes called "threadbare," in which she did everything she could to

maintain her appearance as desperate and needy, making sure by her

actions that she rarely kept enough to raise her standard of living

above substance. If by accident, she stumbled across some good fortune:

a job opportunity or a bundle of money, she managed to find a way to rid

herself of it.

 

When questioned about this tendency to lose everything, Sue often

shifted blame, as when her father, Floyd asked where her money went and

she told him Hardin talked her out of it (as if anyone could wedge any

amount of cash from Sue's clutching fingers). This was also a technique

she used for defecting other questions, blaming other people for causing

many of her woes, often injecting names into standard stories. Thus she

might tell her father that Hardin has sponged off her, then tell someone

else that it was her husband, Mark. On a wider scope, she often blamed

others for everything bad that happened to her, even those things she

clearly did to herself. And when she lacked a specific person, she

manufactured some secret admirer or equally secret enemy, creating a

conspiracy to explain her problems. Over the years, Sue expanded this

game into a model of "long-suffering" to explain why she could not make

it as a writer, as a mother, or as a lover. Someone or something else

was always to blame.

 

Sue also played another very standard psychological game known mostly as

"the harried housewife," though it had a much wider application. Since

high school, Sue constantly juggled dozens of projects all at once,

never or rarely completing any of them. When Joel Lewis went back to

William Paterson College to research for his New Jersey Monthly article

of Sue's vanishing, he uncovered a remarkably sparse amount of actual

writing, despite the fact twider application. Since high school, Sue

constantly juggled dozens of projects all at once, never or rarely

completing any of them. When Joel Lewis went back to William Paterson

College to research for his New Jersey Monthly article of Sue's

vanishing, he uncovered a remarkably sparse amount of actual writing,

despite the fact that Sue ran around college continually in pursuit of

 

And in the end, she spun this game into yet another social game, "See

how hard I tried," game, meant to make her noble in the eyes of those

she sought an investment from. She also employed a classic variation of

this game, in which she exploited apparent physical disabilities such as

her apparent ulcer and her apparently alcohol and drug addiction. In

this game, Sue broadcast her problem, as proof of just how hard she has

struggled. With some people, she played a second slightly more

complicated variation of this game, in which she kept from that person

her condition but made sure some third person informed her victim of her

condition. Thus it was not her begging for sympathy, but her victim

discovering for himself, and beyes of those she sought an investment

from. She a

 

But the variation of this game Sue planned during the Winter and Spring

of 1996 was far more sinister than any she had played previously,

encompassing not only one victim, but nearly everyone she knew, designed

to fool the press as well as her friends, family and skeptical enemies.

Her vanishing would be a perfection of broadly applied guilt, making not

only Ridgeway regret his decision not to help her with the Vampire

article, but all those other people with whom she had grown out of

favor.

 

She was, of course, not yet sold on the plan, it was only formulating in

the back of her head as she listened to Michael talk about his plans.

She did not yet know how many things would go wrong, pushing her over

the edge, Billy Walker, Al Goldstein and others joining Ridgeway in

rejecting her.

 

How much Zachmann helped Sue during this period is not known. Zachmann,

with his own contacts in the sex industry, may have helped her hook with

booking agent, Don Budd, who managed to help Sue ease out of the New

York dance scene into clubs in Central Jersey that paid more and

generated more tips. Sue hated the go-go strip clubs in Manhattan, where

dancers were asked to do too much for too little, arrogant yuppies

nearly wanting sex before they gave a tip. In "Redlight" and articles

for Screw Magazine, Sue said working class men in New Jersey showed more

appreciation for dancers, and were more willing to give better tips

without requiring perverted tricks.

 

Sue should have been very pleased about the move, and apparently was,

but only because it allowed her to spin yet another element working

towards the tapestry of her eventual disappearance. Almost as soon as

she started dancing in night clubs like the Shake Her Lounge in Dunellen

and the Spot Light in Manville, she began to revielement working towards

the tapestry of her eventual disappearance. Almost as soon as she

started dancing in night clubs like the Shake Her Lounge in Dunellen and

the Spot Light in Manville, she began to revive one of her oldest and

most dependable games: stalking. While she had cultivated a significant

paranoid myth around her exboyfriend, Billy Walke

 

She needed other subjects that would help cover her trail when and if

she decided to vanish. Thus she began to tell her friends about men from

Central Jersey who had fallen in love with her at the clubs and who had

begun to stalk her. One such character was Morty Epstein, who was an

alleged biker wanabout men from Central Jersey who had fallen in love

with her at the clubs and who had begun to stalk her. One such character

was Morty Epstein, who was an alleged biker w

 

The mythological wild bikers had always intrigued Sue, who as a girl had

read many of the skin magazines showing their alleged deeds. Most

bikers, as grungy as they appeared, lacked the killing and raping

tendencies Sue endowed them with. But Melissa, who also danced on the

New York circuit, had no way of knowing this, and believed Sue tales of

horror.

 

Sue also revived her FBI-CIA fantasies from high school and college in

the guise of a man she only referred to as "22," who she told Melissa

was a member of the CIA, but apparently referred in her diary as a

member of a fan club for the mass murderer of the 1970s. She combined

these stories with increased references to her stories concerning the

Russian Mafia, Vampire cults, and more traditional mobsters. As with all

the stories Sue told over the years, many inconsistencies existed in

these reports, one person's tales did not match up with another. This

was often her undoing in the past when comparison of such tales often

allowed her victims to suspect her. But she had learned much over the

years, and by allowing people to think she was deluded, or overwhelmed

by alcohol and drug use, few gave the variations in her tales much

thought.

 

Then slowly, over the months she make sure she painted a careful picture

of danger, drug dependence, and growing desperation and depression. Her

beeper constantly went off, and each time she reported it as her

stalker. She claimed to get telephone calls in the middle of the night,

terrifying her lover, Christian so thoroughly, he nearly suffered a

breakdown from the anxiety. She left prescription bottles around. She

made sure people saw her with a drink in her hand (though few can

actually say they saw her drunk and neighbors claim they never saw her

take a drink at all.) She made Melissa drive her to the emergency room

several times. And during all of this, she kept up a non-stop monologue,

selling her plight.

 

It was a masterpiece of psychological drama that not everyone believed

completely, yet set the stage for a time when she might need the

confusion to cover her tracks when and if she decided to follow through

with her plan. Timing was everything, and her timing was nearly perfect,

or perfect enough to leave a trail of hazy recollections, guilt and

worry.

 

Sue played the other side just as carefully, never once packing up her

life the way Michael did over the last few weeks before his

disappearance. While Michael used these weeks to say good bye to those

he cared for (culminating with a featured poetry reading in which he

read a retrospective of his life less than a week before his vanishing),

Sue went on with life, pretending as if she had nothing planned at all.

She agreed to take the bones Ridgeway tossed her to keep her from

creating a fuss about the book, joining in on pre-publication publicity

as if indeed she was author of "Redlight," doing radio shows, personal

appearances, even videos -- all which would enhance the book's sales

later.

 

Instead, she painted a portrait of continual decline even on the dance

circuit, weaving her game playing into a more or less consistent tale of

woe. Budd told the press Sue had left a message on his answering machine

the day of her disappearance. She was desperate for work and would be

willing to dance for tips in necessary. Over the few months he d worked

with her, Budd said he came to admire her,consistent tale of woe. Budd

told the press Sue had left a message on his answering machine the day

of her disappearance. She was desperate for work and would be willing to

dance for tips in necessary. Over the few months he d worked with her,

Budd said he came to admire her,

 

But by May, even her dimmest friends began to notice something wrong.

She seemed more manic, and more desperate. At this point, she began to

suspect the worst and knew for certain her name would not appear on the

cover of "Redlight," spoiling nearly four years of work and

manipulation. By this time, Michael's plans were pretty set. He was

contemplating a disappearing act for Bastille Day, July 14. Sue began to

see her own disappearing act as inevitable, though she still had a few

ideas, and would hold on until the end.

 

Perhaps she saw her world falling apart anyway, strained relations

between her and Goldstein ruining her high life in Manhattan as well as

her ability to publish at will in Screw Magazine. Whether or not as the

result of the retaining order issued against him, Walker apparently had

a serious fight with Sue, and she apparently ran to Goldstein, demanding

that he fire Walker -- who worked for him as a copy editor.

 

Sue may have used Walker during the previous two years to help get

access to files from Screw so she had material to give to Ridgeway for

"Redlight." The similarity between passages in "Redlight" and previously

published stories in Screw was too uncanny to be accident. Goldstein

apparently didn't know about any of this until signed copies of

"Redlight" appeared on the shelves of the St. Mark's book store, at

which point he discovered Sue's duplicity, and then, he, too, severed

connections with her, pushing her into adopting her plans to follow

Michael into obscurity.

 

 

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