Susan Walsh, Missing Stripper

Written by Jill Morley on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.


I
love the show America’s Most Wanted on Saturday nights. Saturday nights
are a bust for me. I teach and play tennis all day and am too exhausted to do
anything after 7 p.m. Besides, host John Walsh has gained much sympathy from me
over the years. What with the disappearance of his son and his determination to
make right in the world by developing this show, how could one hold anything against
him? Yes, he’s a bit forced and righteous and tv-head-ish with a shellac
of gray hair, but I actually think he is sincere.

Also,
I have a friend who disappeared five years ago and have become obsessed with missing
people stories.

Susan
Walsh (no relation)wrote a story about the Russian mob for the Village
Voice
, had an 11-year-old son and made ends meet by stripping in New Jersey
go-go bars. Smart and funny, she was sort of a hippie with an edge. She had long
blonde hair and was extremely thin. A manic-depressive, she would go off her medications
routinely, sometimes taking Xanax for the high. She dated guys she claimed were
in the mob and stalking her. At 36, her skin was worn from many nights working
in smoky go-go bars gyrating in front of men’s leering faces. I interviewed
her for Stripped, a documentary I had been making about strippers, the
night before she disappeared.

Stripping
was a job Susan came to detest. In the beginning she enjoyed the money and attention.
But in the interview she said, "Once I realized these men were erect and
hard and it was all about their biology and not because they liked me, I became
furious with men." Her rage emanates in a piece she wrote and performed that
aired on Midnight Blue, Al Goldstein’s cable show. In it, she slides
her bikini top off, dances to pulsating porno music with a fan blowing her hair
back, looks seductively into the camera and her voiceover says, "Thank you,
pathetic droplets of insect mucus. Each night you go to bed, alone; you polish
your poles with your scabby fingers contemplating how many times you grabbed my
pubic hair for the same five-second orgasm you could’ve gotten from spending
five dollars on a glossy magazine instead of 50 dollars at a go-go bar acting
like a cartoon… Did I mention that I hate your penis?" It is wild, to say
the least. When she first showed it to me, I thought it was funny and bizarre.
Now when I look at it, I feel sorry for her having so much anger.

When I asked her why she still danced, she said it was because she was in an addictive
swing. After 11 years of sobriety, she started drinking again because the job
became too painful; she felt trapped because, according to her, she was the only
one supporting her son. "Staying in it is killing me," Susan said. "I’m
scared right now."

Susan
disappeared July 16, 1996. According to her ex-husband, Mark Walsh, Susan left
the apartment complex they shared in Nutley, NJ, that morning, leaving her wallet
and beeper at home, and never returned. Perhaps she went to make a phone call.
Maybe she went to "meet some guy," as Mark told one reporter. Maybe
she never left the house at all.

Soon
after she disappeared, there were "sightings" of her in Newark. None
of them turned out to be Susan. Bounty hunters volunteered to search for her.
Mobsters were suspected, and it got bumped up to a federal case. Unsolved Mysteries
did a story on her, and, most recently, a show called Million Dollar Mystery
showed interest in her story.

How
could this have happened to my friend? Her story has become a tabloid odyssey!
She was just a sweet woman with major problems. When I saw her the day of the
interview, she looked sick, like she was in a downward spiral, but I thought she
would recover. I never dreamed I would be one of the last people to see her.

She
started to consume my thoughts. Shortly after her disappearance, I was hired as
a reporter on a radio documentary for NPR where I went undercover as a stripper
to find out what had happened. The dancers seemed to think it was a mob hit. Her
go-go agent thought this biker guy Susan dated kidnapped her to impress his friends.
I frequented some of the predominantly Russian go-go bars, but couldn’t tell
whether that was true or not. Most of the Russian women did not speak English
and the ones who did didn’t want to get in trouble with their agents.

After
a club owner in Newark became angry with me for asking his dancers questions and
not getting on the stage myself, he motioned to this huge bouncer to boot me out
of the bar. Luckily, my partner saw what was going on and we got to our car before
they did. I was glad they never got close enough to see that I was wearing a wire.

The
story aired on NPR, but we never got any more leads on what might have happened
to Susan. Searching for her proved to be dangerous. Since she loved her son so
much, I couldn’t imagine her leaving without him. I have come to accept that
she is probably dead. That it may have been an unconscious suicide. That she knew
she was continually putting herself in unsavory situations, and knew the risk.
The risk she accepted. The risk she lived by.

Watching
America’s Most Wanted always makes me think of Susan. I wonder if
John Walsh would consider posting her picture after all these years have passed.
Maybe he can wag his finger at the television and get someone to unearth some
info on what happened. Maybe more exposure even this late in the game will help.

But
I’m not sure that the idea of putting her out in public consciousness again
is helpful. It’d probably be most helpful only to those of us who miss her.

..