By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Mother took me and my two sisters to Palm Springs,” SuSu recalls. “We were in a very beautiful motel, very ’50s, and there was this very beautiful man with long blond curls, and he would wear bikinis with zebra- or leopard-skin prints, and he would be in my mom’s bedroom. I would call him Uncle George. Later, I found out he was Gorgeous George, the wrestler, and my mom was having this thing with him. I fell madly in love with him. He was my first sexual obsession, at 4 or 5. I used to jump on his cock on purpose in the pool. It was like a big feather cushion, that thing.”
Or the soon-to-be-famous. Following an emotional breakdown and a brief stay in a Harlem mental hospital, SuSu deposited herself in the Manhattan theater world of the early ’60s. Bulimic, still a virgin, naive yet uninhibited (a dangerous combination in any city), Tyrrell soon came under the thrall of future Warhol superstar drag queen Candy Darling, who starred in the Warhol films Flesh and Women in Revolt and shares the dubious distinction — along with Holly Woodlawn, “Little Joe” Dallesandro and Jackie Curtis — of being enshrined in the Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side” as a poster child for sexual adventurism. (She died, at 26, of leukemia.)
“Every day was a new adventure with all these New York freaks. A lot of Andy Warhol people. A lot of homosexuals, and I had never in my life met a homosexual. The Warhol crowd I thought for the most part were a bunch of drips. They were all these vacant geniuses. We were down in the Village having breakfast, when this beautiful blonde creature entered who looked exactly like Marilyn Monroe, with ghostly, lily-white skin, a white-blond wig and a black-velvet coat to the ground, and these large hands that reminded me at that moment of the Wicked Witch when she’s holding the apple, because they had these tremendous knuckles. And I fell madly, completely in love, in, like, five seconds. I crashed into this person. It was an accident, an utter complete love accident. In a matter of months we were living together, in a railroad flat with the bathtub in the kitchen. I loved every little trick about her.
“We had a falling out, and I never got to kiss her goodbye. It was so sad, because I used to go with her to get the shots, her hormone-treatment shots. It was with this really scary doctor down in the Puerto Rican part of Alphabet City. They didn’t have chairs to wait on. They had planks. There were pregnant women there, too, so he was a jack-of-all-trades. But Candy was there for hormones so she could grow breasts. She ended up dying of that. And damn it if she didn’t know, sitting there on those planks. There were friends of hers who had already died. That’s how bad she wanted them. God bless her.”
After almost a decade working in theater, SuSu improbably aced an audition, at age 26, for the roll of a middle-aged drunk in John Huston’s Fat City, on the recommendation of co-star Stacy Keach, after a promised role opposite him in the Frank Perry Western Doc (1971) had been handed to the more famous Faye Dunaway at the last second. Invited by Huston, just prior to shooting, on a coastal road tour of Northern California in which he was to trade pieces of pre-Columbian art with his fellow millionaires, SuSu jumped at the impending adventure over the objections of her agent, who was far too familiar with the procedural pitfalls of the Hollywood casting process.
“I was totally thrilled. The great John Huston, this grandfather figure. I’d just lost my dad, I hated my mother, and now here’s another parent figure to cuddle me. I can sit on his lap. To me, he’s like 100 years old. I know he lived a long time after, but to me this is Methuselah. Methuse-fucking-lah. The last thing in the world I’m thinking about is sex. They pick me up, and all the stuff is in the back. We’re in a caravan with three station wagons, with his goddamn oxygen tanks on top, and he says, ‘Get in the back.’ Now, I don’t know exactly how this works, but I do know I’m not riding in the back. So I said, ‘No, I get carsick. I have to sit in the front.’ And they were horrified. That burned his ass big-time.”
The next few days were a blur of drinking binges, nights spent in opulent four-star hotels in the company of all the other ingĂ©nues du jour (“scary girls who, to me, looked like prostitutes”), and day trips up and down the coast between San Francisco and Big Sur.
“So that night, we stop at this place that’s right up against the ocean, with the crashing waves below, where the bedroom windows are as big as a wall. It’s called the Sea Ranch. I was bombed by then, drinking and not eating. Matching them vodkas, drink for drink. Eventually, it’s 3 in the morning and he’s got me trapped in his room. I go in the bathroom and lock the door, and I’m just sitting on the toilet, shaking. It’s been a long time now, and there’s a knock. I hear [affecting a patrician drawl], ‘All right, dear. Are you ready? Time to go to bed.’ In that John Huston voice, like God is talking to you. And I’m thinking, ‘This is it.’ I’m scared shitless. At this point, I was just worn down. I was naked with a towel around me. I was totally nuts. But if we went to court, I’d lose. So we go to bed.