Sensationalizing Sue Walsh

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

 

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The Voice article, however, did not have the power to move the police

into action, but questions from a Newark Star Ledger reporter did. The

fact that the Ledger stepped into the case must have made many local

officials very, very nervous. In her six years living in Nutley, Sue had

managed to worm her way into the hearts and most likely the beds of some

of the town's most prominent citizens. Some hasty communication between

these officials must have taken place. The Nutley Sun, a local weekly

owned and operated by Frank Orecio, broke the news two days ahead of the

Ledger, providing more details than The Voice did.

 

And here, we strike yet one more of the many unreasonable coincidences

that fill the Susan Walsh Story. This article was written by James

Zoccoli, writer and editor, who knew Sue from College.

 

Zoccoli, who some call a mouthpiece for Orecio, claimed the police had

reached "a dead end" in pursuing leads to locate Sue.

 

"We've followed every possible lead imaginable," Police Chief Robert

Delitta told Zoccoli. "We're just looking for a break."

 

The always hysterical Martha Young, Sue's mother, told the reporter that

the disappearance had shattered her nerves.

 

"I'm a wreck," she said. "We're so scared... Susan would never go away

without calling her son, David -- he's the love of her life."

 

Melissa Hines, Sue's girlfriend and fellow dancer, told the reporter

that Sue had confided in her only days before vanishing. Melissa had

spent Friday, July 13 with Sue, though never told me exactly what they

did together, only that she hadn't danced.

 

"She (Sue) told me about somebody that was obsessed with her," Melissa

said, also telling the paper that Sue had written "some explosive

international stories about US involvement in Haiti and Russian women

being sold."

 

"She worked on a lot of controversial things," Melissa told the

reporter.

 

Martha echoed this sentiment, suggesting Sue may have become too close

with "some shady characters." Martha's attitude would change within a

month when other reporters from other newspapers started probing into

Sue's past and asked about possible abuse as a child, at which point

Martha would emphasize Sue's possible bi-polar disorder. Martha, the

same woman, who threw Sue out of her Wayne apartment in order to keep

her from competing for the same men, now trying to blame a disease for

what she did to her own daughter.

 

Then, on July 26, ten days after Sue's vanishing, the Star Ledger

article exploded on the scene, exploiting the situation for its sexual

potential for the first time, and setting the tone that would eventually

make international news.

 

And again, we come across one more of those nearly magical coincidences

that have plagued this story from beginning to end. While this reporter,

William G. Kleinknecht, did not go to college with us, he did work for

the Paterson News during the time of the 1985 strike, when Sue worked as

scab labor there. He may have indeed taken offense to the fact that she

worked while he and others went out on strike. His opening lines managed

to offend many of those close to Sue.

 

"Susan Walsh emerged from New Jersey's seamy underworld of go-go bars,

drugs and motorcycle gangs and achieved her own small piece of literary

fame," wrote Kleinknecht, getting almost all the facts wrong.

 

Co-workers of Kleinknecht later told me that he tended to think himself

"street wise" when he was actually pretty naive, and in this case, he

took some of Sue's stories filtered through Melissa and made a lead that

did not fit what really happened. But more objectionable to Sue's

friends when they read the article was the remarkably unsympathetic

portrayal her -- as if the reporter knew more about Sue than anyone was

letting on.

 

"The 36-year-old Nutley go-go dancer was both a subject and researcher

for "Redlight," a new book on the sex industry that her friends hoped

would launch her as a journalist and end her self-destructive addiction

to the sleaze circuit. But now they fear that aher friends hoped would

launch her as a journalist and end her self-destructive addiction to the

sleaze circuit. But now they fear that addiction has swallowed her up.

Walsh's disappearance from her Nutley home 10 days ago has

 

Kleinknecht said Sue seemed headed for a fall, even when her talents as

writer, poet, and her natural gifts as a street-level correspondent

seemed to be affording her new career opportunities. Ridgeway told the

Ledger reporter that Sue had parlayed her work as his street reporter

into three documentaries on the U.S. sex trade, including one by

Spiegel, a production company affiliated with the German magazine.

According to this Ledger article, Sue believed the publication of

"Redlight" was opening new doors for her. But Ridgeway and others

Kleinknecht had interviewed said this promise of success as a journalist

could not keep Sue away from her old haunts, and like most dancers, she

needed money and couldn't break away from the attention her dancing

brought her. Friends of Sue's, according to this article, said she was

depressed about being a dancer incorrespondent seemed to be affording

her new career opportunities. Ridgeway told the Ledger reporter that Sue

had parlayed her work as his street reporter into three documentaries on

the U.S. sex trade, including one by Spiegel, a production co

 

"She was depressed about her life," Melissa told Kleinknecht. "She

wanted to be famous as a writer but felt she wasn't successful enough.

She was sick all the time and felt she wasn't putting in her best

effort."

 

Ridgeway blamed Sue's illness for her paranoia, and claimed Sue often

spoke about being stalked by bar patrons and being hunted by the mob.

Friends, who said Sue was too devoted to her son to commit suicide,

claimed a number of people might have wanted to harm her. While

researching various projects, Sue spent a great deal of time wandering

around seedy neighborhoods, asking questions about the owners of go-go

bars. Ridgeway, according to the Ledger article, said she had researched

the influx of Russian women into the sex trade and would ask questions

in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, the US headquarters of

Russian organized crime.

 

"She ran into some problems with the Russians," Ridgeway said. "She felt

Russian women were being held against their will by the Managers. She

would go to Brighton Beach at all times of the day and hang around. She

liked dangerous situations."

 

An e-mail interview with Electra, a prominent dancer and booking agent,

casts some doubt on this fear. She told me she had introduced Sue to one

of the dancers used in the Village Voice article. Electra claimed the

dancer did not fit the model Sue painted.

 

Yet, as the Ledger article indicated, just days before her

disappearance, Sue taped an interview with an independent producer of

documentaries, who did not want to be identified. This producer said Sue

seemed afraid at the time, and that she "claimed" she begun drinking

again after a mobster came to her apartment asking questions. She also

said she was being stalked by another man.

 

"Right in the middle of the interview her beeper went off, and she said:

`Oh, that must be my stalker,' the producer said.

 

On July 15, Sue apparently talked to Sandy Tolan, an independent

producer by telephone. Tolan was planning to work with Sue on a

documentary for "The World," a radio program produced by the BBC and

WGBH in Boston and broadcast nationally on public radio. Sue was to be

paid as a consultant and agreed to meet with Tolan that very week.

 

"We were both very excited about the project," Tolan told Kleinkneicht.

"But I couldn't reach her and then I got a call from Jim Ridgeway on

Sunday saying she had disappeared."

 

Kleinkneicht even interviewed Don Budd, the agent who had picked Sue up

as a client the previous May. Budd said she had left a message on his

machine the day of her vanishing. Sue claimed she really needed the work

and would dance for tips if necessary. Budd, however, did not talk to

her in person."

 

On the same day the Ledger article hit the news stands, the Essex County

Prosecutor's office stepped into the fray. Ray Weiss, a spokesperson,

told the Ledger that the Nutley police had asked for help in solving the

case. Weiss refused to say whether his office believed Sue the victim of

a crime.

 

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