A National Broadcast

 

 

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It was the anticipation of the airing of the Susan Walsh Story on

Unsolved Mysteries that pushed Joel Lewis into action, with the belief

that his writing a story about her college days would propel his newly

established career as freelance writer. Like many of those who came out

of that generation of WPC, Joel struggled to find a career path, turning

from literary ambitions to work as a paralegal, then finally, a social

worker. It was the anticipation of the airing of the Susan Walsh Story

on Unsolved Mysteries that pushed Joel Lewis into action, with the

belief that his writing a story about her college days would propel his

newly established career as freelance writer. Like many of those who

came out of that generation of WPC, Joel struggled to find a career

path, turning from literary ambitions to work as a paralegal, then

finally, a social worker.

 

In January, 1997, Joel finally freed himself from the shackles of social

work and began scraping together prospects for writing. Sue's story

topped this list, especially when an editor for the New Jersey Monthly

gave him to go-ahead.

 

I was enraged by Joel's entrance into the circus, seeing him as one more

vulture feeding off of Sue, the way Floyd saw me and O'Keefe. In

retrospective, I was mistaken, or -- at least -- wrong in thinking ill

of Joel for his wishing to "cash in" on Sue's demise. Sue had a way of

inspiring such behavior in other humans, teasing people on with promises

of things she would never deliver, whether in sex or in emotional

gratification. And her story was little different, dragging on, teasing

us along as if she had reached out of the shadows of her disappearance

and crooked her forefinger for us to follow -- thereby making us

unwitting victims to a greater crime: stupidity.

 

Joel simply hopped on a bandwagon to which the rest of us were already

emotionally chained, dragged along by the sheer momentum of events.

Melissa Hines, James Ridgeway, Al Goldstien, Glen Kenny, Martha Young,

and the host of other participants all advanced towards the Jan. 31,

1997 broadcast date with our collective breath held, wondering what

would happen, wondering if the world would come to an end -- this all

part of the illusion-making powers of Sue. We all treated the moment

with much more reverence than it deserved, than Sue deserved. Except for

Ridgeway -- and possibly Joel -- no one, but Sue herself benefited from

any of this, if indeed, Sue Walsh was alive.

 

When the program finally did air, I was slightly disappointed. Not only

had it failed to present the events accurately, its tabloid sense of

drama missed the true tragedy that had unfolded with Sue's life,

restating badly what had already been said over and over again, handing

out the same load of crap that the print tabloids had pushed over the

previous Summer.

 

"She never exactly said where she was going," Robert Stack announced

with the same fraudulent tone of voice he had used over his long acting

career, this stage a sore disappointment for a man who -- with so much

promise as a performer -- had settled for doing sideshows. "What

happened to Susan Walsh? The police believe she simply chose to

disappear. But some say Susan Walsh was murdered by mobsters. Others say

she overdosed on drugs. Still others believe she vanished into a

sub-culture of sex and danger that lured her in and wouldn't let her

go."

 

Stack's droning voice went on:

 

"From early childhood, Susan Walsh's dream was to be a poet and a

writer. But a broken home and an unhappy childhood made reaching that

goal a constant struggle."

 

At this point, the program began to get it wrong, or taking for fact

things that might not have been true, saying for instance that sue "was

an admitted alcoholic, drug addict and stripper," instead of detailing

the fact that Sue was also a well-known sue "was an admitted alcoholic,

drug addict and stripper," instead of detailing the fact that Sue was a

 

"Still, she kept her dream alive," Stack said. "Stripping paid her way

through college."

 

This was actually the first report to admit this, although many people

knew it all along. Sue gave different numbers to different people. To

some she claimed she only started dancing in the late 1980s, neglecting

the whole Show World trip and what led up to it.

 

"When Susan graduated in 1994, she cleaned up her act," Stack reported.

"By 1988, Susan had been sober for four years. She had married and

become a devoted mother. According to friends, the two things that

mattered most to Susan were her son and her career as a journalist.

Eventually, Susan and her husband separated."

 

If Sue was ever an alcoholic, then she had been clean three years, not

four, and her husband, Mark, had taken part in some of her sex shows, as

had Glen Kenny. They were married before the birth of her baby and

separated very soon after the baby's birth, in 1985, not in 1988 as

Unsolved Mysteries implied.

 

"Though Susan dreamed of being a writer, she had a tough time getting

breaks," Stack said. "To support her son, she went back to stripping,

unable to resist the easy money and seductive lifestyle."

 

Joel's unpublished manuscript made a similar mistake in detailing Sue's

performance career.

 

"It was while attending rehab, that she met her husband Mark, with whom

she worked with in her live sex show," Joel wrote apparently getting

part of the story right, but then added: "Walsh stopped doing these

performances at the time she got pregnant with her son. From all

sources, Walsh never again performed in these sex shows."

 

In truth, Sue never stopped, or, at best, merely toned down her

performance schedule. In fact, she regularly attended private S&M Club

and over time, performed with Mistress Rena Mason and the Erotic

Travesty Show," as a member of a team of special effects makeup and

performance artists who strove to alter the perceptual reality of their

audience.

 

"Although erotic fantasies are at times portrayed, no sex is involved,

lending a surreal touch and sparking the imagination of the audience,

while revealing the seductive side of female supremacy," wrote Mistress

Rena in her advertising brochure.

 

The show often performed in conjunction with alternative rock bands and

featured a variety of pieces "ranging from S&M to fetish, bondage,

mummification, dance, branding, erotic poetry readings, as well as Goth

and vampire. Some of the pieces are serious, while others are presented

with humor."

 

Sue, in fact, later featured Mistress Rena in a section of the book "Red

Light."

 

"Ironically," Stack went on, "stripping helped provide the critical

boost to Susan's journalistic career. Eventually she landed an

internship at New York's free-wheeling Village voice, researching the

sex industry."

 

Stack failed to say that Sue had worked her way through a dozen writers

to get in a position "to be noticed" by Ridgeway, stealing ideas from

Hardin for her better works in Screw Magazine, and then, possibly

stealing from a Long Island Newsday writer for the biggest scoop of her

career.

 

"She soon turned up a hot story," Stack said. "Russian mobsters in New

Jersey were allegedly forcing young Russian women to work in strip clubs

like slaves. Susan earned praise for the Russian mob article, but she

also go threats."

 

Praise? Threats? This is where Unsolved Mysteries really went awry. If

Sue got praise, it wasn't from the New York Times, which admired the

photography, but frowned over the reporting.

 

As for the threats, these echoed stories she had told in school, and

despite the fact that this information was available at the time of

show's taping, both in my newspaper and newspapers across the country --

thanks to Associated Press -- no mention was made her Sue's previous

disappearing history or her stories of more conventional mobsters she

told at school.

 

"Sue felt she had many enemies," the show went on. "Susan's next project

may have also put her in jeopardy. In the early 1990s, bizarre vampire

clubs began springing up in New York's Greenwich Village. The clubs

boated of a dicey clientele, many of whom claimed to be real blood

drinkers. Susan was so taken with the vampire world, she started dating

a man who claimed to be one of the undead."

 

In an article on Sue printed in the London Times the previous August,

Tony Allen-Mills wrote: "apparently undaunted by the threat of AIDS, the

participants dress in black clothing, wear deathly pale make-up and

refer to each other as vampires... The case is also raising questions

about the spreading modern vogue for a new breed of kiss-and-tell female

reporters who chronicle their sexual adventures in print. While few ever

went as far as Walsh seems to have gone in pursuit of a store, the

dangers of dabbling in free-fall sexual frankness have been laid

uncomfortably bare."

 

According to this account, Sue managed to publish several stories about

her exploits in the sex trade, including one about how in 1995, she went

to a bachelor party at a New Jersey fire department clubhouse and was

pushed around by men angered that she wouldn't have sex with them.

 

"After I'd been fingered, hit, robbed, soaked with beer and had a drunk

vomit on my costume, I learned that there are no real rules a bachelor

parties," Sue wrote.

 

"When the book (Red Light" was published earlier this year," Allen-Mills

wrote, "It carried a brief but shocking description of the so-called

vampire scene."

 

In quoting Red Light, Allen-Mills wrote: "Apparently descended from the

Goth (for Gothic) clique that evolved from punks in the 1990s, the

vampires were said to number no more than a few thousand... and be

predominantly white, middle class and in their early 20s. They will

appear in twos and threes in the early hours at certain clubs,

congregating in the back rooms. Their rituals are hidden and secret.

Using razors, open syringes or they say their eye teeth, they drink each

other's blood, usually piercing a vein in the arm or neck."

 

The vampires claim that they need the blood for nourishment and refer to

it as liquid protein.

 

"According to Ridgeway, participants check themselves regularly for the

HIV virus that causes AIDS," Allen-Mills wrote. "Apparently, Walsh began

to mix with the vampire scene in an attempt to uncover more about

blood-sucking nightclubbers," Allen-Mills wrote. "One of her friends

said that she had become fascinated by vampire culture."

 

Ridgeway in the broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries poo-pooed all this,

saying Sue had come back to him with horror stories and tales of danger.

 

"She kept saying she feared to go into the trailer, and I told her,

don't," Ridgeway said.

 

"Susan," Stack went on, "wrote a detailed, article, but in this case,

her judgment seemed skewed. She apparently believed a lot of what was

being told to her. To Susan's disappointment, the Village Voice never

ran her article on Vampires."

 

The night of the publisher's party for Red Light, Ridgeway said he

noticed that Sue's wrists were bandaged. He also claimed concern over

Sue's taking of tranquilizers and that she had apparently started

drinking again. She was now dancing full time and in a documentary made

by an old friend of hers, she talked about "the heavy toll stripping had

taken."

 

"Did Susan collapse somewhere because of her depression and poor

health?" Stack asked. "If so, police say her body would have been found

or she would have surfaced in a hospital. Her continued absence has

forced her family and friend to believe the worse possible scenario:

that Susan is dead. The police, however, have a completely different

theory. They believe that for some unknown reason, Susan has chosen to

disappear. Detectives have spoken to a number of people who believe

they've actually seen Susan, including one of Susan's old friends.

Although police checked out all the leads, there has been no positive

identification. Was Susan the target of a mob hit? Did she crhave been

found or she would have surfaced in a hospital. Her continued absence

has forced her family and friend to b

 

The first broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries on Jan. 31, 1997, brought in

more than 50 possible sightings, sending police scrambling, checking out

reports from Canada to Florida. But the most intriguing of these came

from New Bedford, where police had recovered a body.

 

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We've found a body

 

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