A Redlight Betrayal
Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh
For Sue, June was the cruelest month, not April. While she continued to
do her best to make people believe she was growing weaker and more
desperate and more dependent upon drugs and alcohol, she also found
enough energy in her busy schedule to continue the extensive
pre-publication promotion for "Redlight."
As the weather warmed and the publication date grew nearer, Sue moved
around from radio to video studio with all the energy of a new novelist,
acting as if indeed she fully expected her name to be on the cover side
by side with Ridgeway and Plachy. She told friends as much, and worked
up everyone's expectation. During these interviews with radio, print and
video, Sue continued to harp on how bad she had it as a dancer,
repeating and refining a speech she'd given from the days when she was
All the time, Michael and Zachmann planned for the day when Michael
would leave, and Sue -- in the back of her head, made her own plans, and
sought out contacts in the dancing world. I don't know if Zachmann
helped her with these arrangements or whether Sue simply arranged for
her alternative set of contacts by herself. In college, she maintained
alternative sets of friends, keeping one secret from the other, always
using them at her convenience, for rides or places to stay.
Sue had a weakness for attorneys, and may have been involved with
several prominent Nutley and Belleville attorneys during the last few
months before her disappearance. But it is unlikely that she would have
used people so closely connected to her old life.
While she may have claimed to have hated the dancing life, telling
friends and interviewers how she'd found herself trapped in the
profession, Sue may also have connected with someone who helped her take
her act on the road, out of the Metropolitan area to the bigger dance
circuit along the Bible belt. Within weeks of her disappearance, reports
surfaced that she may have been dancing in Columbus, while a vampire
cult web page in another part of that state also referenced her. Indeed,
after the broadcast of her disappearance on Unsolved Mysteries, reports
surfaced of sightings all along the dance circuit, from Canada, through
Ohio, to Knoxville and Indianapolis. This circuit is well known, and one
part of it, which extends into deeper Canada, actually takes months to
People who knew Sue at college claim she always talked a good game, but
never meant a word, noting that she loved dancing too much to ever give
it up, and the fact that she lasted nearly a decade longer than most
women in that profession tends to show just how good she was at it. This
talk seemed designed to disarm a potential victim. She spun it whenever
she came in contact with a new subject. Even for a short a time as she
talked with Joel Lewis in the Port Authority, she managed to convey this
tale. It was one of the great myths of her life, and she might have
preached it long enough for her to believe it herself.
More than likely, she used it to confuse other people as to her real
While Unsolved Mysteries claims Sue's career was on the upswing, she
knew better. June finally brought to a close many of her previous
manipulations. People who had allowed her to live the high life in the
past began to abandon her. Billy Walker hated her. She had even
distanced herself from people like Melissa Hines.
Floyd, her father, actually visited Sue in June, which is the last time
he saw his daughter. He came to her apartment and she handed him a
manuscript for a technical article she had written for a friend of his.
"It was very good, evidence of her ability to handle complex subjects,"
But then their conversation veered into more personal areas.
"I was critical of her," he said. "Of some of her choices. She went
ballistic on me. She fell apart. I apologized. admitted being
judgmental, and hugged her and felt her skin and bones."
Silvia Plachy, Ridgeway's partner, believed Sue's act enough, to regret
helping her combine both positive and negative aspects of her life.
Hardin claimed Sue had used Xanax, cocaine and heroin for years, now
people saw her drinking. Hardin also claimed Sue had slipped into a more
or less open prostitution with Al Goldstein, tradinof her life. Hardin
"At the end, she was a dancer with a dope problem and a taste for
danger," Hardin said, though Hardin was often the first to believe many
of her more basic ploys.
Still, Sue couldn't have been a happy camper, especially when finally
the book did hit the stores, and to Sue's dismay (though not surprise)
her name was not on the cover. While she received ample recognition
inside as a researcher, she needed authorship to advance her career.
This was a disaster!
She had gambled everything on getting credit, using up stories she had
banked in diaries for years. She had no more stories to give. Ridgeway
had refused to help her with a book on vampires, and behind her, over
the years, she had left a trail of writers, poets, and musicians, from
whom she had sucked ideas the way a vampire did blood. While she still
associated with Michael Alexander, the poor poet hardly had the
resources or the contacts she needed to make her mark in the publishing
One of the last things to push her over the edge may have been Al
Goldstein, who after four years of dating her, decided he couldn't
handle her drinking or her attitude any more.
"We had a falling out and I told her I didn't trust her," Goldstein told
the Herald & News.
Later, when he heard of her disappearance, Goldstien said he thought she
might be dead. Then later, after thinking about it, he decided he wasn't
"She's paranoid," he said. "What do paranoids do? Hide. If she was
murdered the police would have found a body."
After four years of enduring Sue, Goldstein had begun to get a sense of
what she was really about, having put up with her stories of being
stalked and her tales about all the dangers she faced.
"She was a drama queen," Goldstein said.
This may explain why Sue showed up at the publishers book party with
bandaged wrists, a fact that has had police looking for a woman with
scars. Ridgeway was among those who noticed this, taking the bandages to
mean that she had tried to kill herself, another act that college
friends said she may have perfected years earlier.
"At least she knew which way to cut to draw blood without actually
endangering herself," said one ex-school mate.
Ridgeway, who in interviews with Joel Lewis as well as Unsolved
Mysteries, has expressed his conviction that Sue died as a result of
drug and alcohol use, and indeed, that night at the party, he told her
of his concern.
" Susan brushed it all off, claiming she would get help when she needed
to," Ridgeway told one interviewer.
But if suicidal, others didn't see it. She seemed desperate to make an
impression on the publishers, trying to sell another story, not about
vampires now, but about the Russian Mafia. Glenn Kenny saw her
"I suppose you could say that of all her college friends, I was the one
who she remained in the most constant contact with over the last 19
years or so, but there were often stretches when I wouldn't see or hear
from her for six months or so," he said."I did in fact see her about a
month before she disappeared, and I can give you some insight into her
behavior at that point. You said you knew something about her family
life--did you know her cousin Bucky? Classic nerd who was later
developed hardcore paranoid schizophrenia. Suffice it to say that the
last time I saw Susan I thought of Bucky. Still, all that mob stuff she
blathered on about becomes more unsettling the longer she goes unfound.
"The larger point was that Bucky was nuts, not to put it so
indelicately--he eventually degenerated into a 100% "Aliens are sending
me messages through my fillings" fruitcake, if you will. This was
precisely the impression I gleaned from Susan the last time I saw her.
"The first incident took place in mid-June. I was attending a meeting of
my writing group at a member's house in the Times Square area and I
remembered after the meeting that a reception for Ridgeway/Plachy's Red
Light was convening that night at Sally's II, a trannie bar that was
featured in the book and that I, in fact, had brought Ridgeway and Susan
"I had been at one point intending to write journalistically about the
whole drag/pre-op transsexual subculture; now the project is turning
into a work of fiction. But anyway, I know the scene pretty well at this
point, and the book's publishers felt it would be "fun" to stage a
reception for the book at an honest-to-goodness...you get the idea.
" I was in the area and figured I'd pop in. I hadn't seen or heard from
Susan in a long time and thought she might be there. I was correct. It
wasn't much of a party. The bar was pretty dead, and what native
population of Sally's was in fact in evidence were looking down their
noses at the interlopers, one of whom was in fact Susan.
" Who greeted me most affectionately, introduced me to the book's
publishers and publicists, and after laying down a couple of drink
tickets--she was having rum and coke, which gave me pause, but not
enough pause to note that she was supposed to have quit
drinking--updated me on the story of her life.
"We live in Orwellian times, Glenn," was a constant refrain. It seemed
that one ex-boyfriend of hers was a hit man for the mob who had left in
her possession a 90 page handwritten confession of his past sins, which
she in turn took to her friend in the FBI who's in love with her, and
mentioned to her friend from the CIA who's in love with her who she met
on account of being afraid of a previous boyfriend who's in the RUSSIAN
mob, the upshot of all these conspiratorial tendrils being that she's
not safe anywhere and that several parties are out to have her killed,
and did I know that back in the '80s she was on the verge of being
recruited by the CIA because of the high grades of her intelligence
tests and....etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
"She was trying to sell this tale to the publisher of Ridgeway's book
also, and kept trying to get me to commiserate.
"'Glenn's known me for 20 years, and he knows I'm not delusional! Tell
"Well. Susan had, in fact, been many things over the years, but
seriously delusional was never one of them.
"Still, people do change. I wasn't sure if she was having me on or what,
but I was a little worried. And then again, for someone who was
apparently in imminent danger of assassination, she was pretty
high-spirited, at one point doing a variation on her go-go routine on
the dance floor of Sally's, something I generally would discourage a
biological woman from pulling in that environment (tends to make the
queens think they're being shown up).
"I made a point of meeting her two nights later at another party for the
book, where she was a little better behaved--we regaled a couple of
party-goers with harrowing tales of our adventures in pornography in the
early '80s--and I was a little less worried. She promised to give me her
beeper number when she got connected, and I didn't hear from her after
that. I don't know, and can't speculate, on what happened after that. I
think she may have just had a psychotic break. Or she could have just
talked enough nonsense thregaled a couple of party-goers with harrowing
tales of our adventures in pornography in the early '80s--and I was a
little less worried.
Hardin saw Sue on July 7, 1996, nine days before she disappeared.
"The last time we spoke, I found myself advising her--not out of
anything but frustration at where her life was going and why. She said
she hadn't been in love with anyone after me, and she said, 'I really do
listen to everything you say.'
"It makes me wonder if there was anything else I could have said. I told
her that men now treated her 'too nicely' because they knew she was
unattainable: too easy and too hard. I told her that you can't see the
true strength in a man whom you reflexively disrespect, and that her
business was renewing her sexual trauma nightly, so that all men
violated her, all men were unworthy of trust or respect.. I told her
that she should be on Lithium and could easily find a job at an office
and that, if she did so, her issues with men would fall into perspective
again. I didn't know that she had already started to drink again--a
habit she'd kicked for years.
"After she returned to the sex business, for weeks I had dreams of her
standing in a slimy lake, submerged to her shoulders. Above water, she
smiled in a dazed, too-innocent way; beneath the water, black insects
and flatworms and eels and insect crabs crawled through her exposed
ribcage, ate away her hips, discolored her skin, burrowed through the
fist between her ribs. I tried talking to her in these dreams, but she
herself appeared to be dreaming, imagining herself in some glamorous
spotlight as the insect men scuttled across her and ate of her and used
her and whispered their childish promises to the sleeping child-head
above the water.
"Even Melissa doesn't get it. She saw me through Susans eyes, and Susan
never hated me more than when she loved me. And after she stopped loving
me, I was alternately any another sex partner, or a distant possibility
that no longer existed, 'the love of her life.'
"So far as I can tell, Melissa doesn't have much respect for that
phrase. All I ever wanted was for her to pursue her writing, to take
care of her son, to feel loved, and to feel that her life was of value.
I'll never be with another sex worker or person with bipolar disorder
after this. It is too tragic, I feel too guilty as it is, and my efforts
only make a difference for a fleeting time. I keep thinking we could
have a little chapbook of her poetry published, no sensational, lurid
cover, just a few of her best poems and prose-poem passages. I know that
she kept a diary at Ridgeway's request, and that she did so
conscientiously. If that were published (and it could be), then all of
this talk about her being a failed journalist would cease, at least on
the part of people who understand tone and style."
But several other people saw her within the last week. One store owner
in Belleville heard the same speel as Glenn Kenny, her going on about
how everybody was out to get her, and how she really needed to protect
"She kept going on and on about this and what people might say if she
should suddenly vanish," the wicca Store owner said. "I kept asking her:
'So when are you leaving, Sue?' She never answered me. A week later, she
Won't they miss me when I'm gone!