Susan Curry, the longtime office manager of the Truth or Consequences & Sierra County
Chamber of Commerce and a former tour manager for popular entertainers, passed away peacefully on Nov. 11, 2023, surrounded by family. She was 75.
“Susan was an integral part of the Chamber, managing memberships and various programs, and was extremely knowledgeable about area attractions and events,” said Cary “Jagger” Gustin, Chamber board vice president. “She had excellent working relationships with city and county officials and worked hand in hand with other key organizations, including the Elephant Butte Chamber of Commerce, Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center, Sierra County Arts Council and MainStreet Truth or Consequences. She directed thousands of visitors to our business district and the hot mineral spas and bath houses.
“The outpouring for Susan on social media has really spoken to her community position and value in our city and county. She will be greatly missed and next to impossible to replace.”
Born Susan Holtz on September 24, 1948, in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Midtown
Manhattan in New York City, Susan displayed early on the big personality for which she would become known. She enjoyed playing on fire escapes and running around the city blocks with friends. With her father working as an orchestra pit musician on Broadway, she was no stranger to the city’s vibrant theatre scene and often accompanied her dad to work. “Susan told me she always enjoyed watching plays from the pit,” said Brenda Nelson, one of her first and closest friends in Truth or Consequences. “She just wished she could see the shoes of the performers.”
Two of Susan’s childhood friends, sisters Michelle Mourges Marx and Denise Mourges, who
remained in touch with her for the past 70 years, considered her part of their extended family. “She was impossible not to love,” said Michelle, noting that they all attended Quintano’s School for Young Professionals on W. 45th Street — a creative institution that produced performers including Gregory Hines, Bernadette Peters and Bonnie Bedelia. “When we were in our teens, we were dancers on a two-hour CBS television special featuring all the top bands from England and Motown. Show business was part of our lives.”
At the age of 14, Susan met and developed a crush on Steven Curry, a 16-year-old Camden, N.J., native who had been working as an actor since age nine, at a show in which he was performing and for which her dad was playing bass. Their teenage friendship foretold a greater connection they would make later in life.
GO WEST, YOUNG WOMAN
In 1966, after turning 18, Susan and several friends relocated from New York to Los Angeles at the height of the Vietnam War and the counterculture movement. The rock band The Doors had just arrived as a major music force, and curfew-sparked riots between hippies and the police were taking place along West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, where nightclubs such as Whisky a Go Go and Pandora’s Box were popular with the young anti-establishment crowd.
Choosing the colorfully gritty, bohemian seaside district of Venice as one of her earliest places to reside in the city, Susan, like many of her generation, immersed herself with abandon in the era — emerging from it by the early 1970s as a fixture at Doug Weston’s Troubadour, a West Hollywood nightclub on Santa Monica Boulevard, where she worked as a waitress, barback and informal, yet on-point, concierge. Among other entertainment milestones during those years, the hot spot hosted Elton John’s first U.S. show, and comics Cheech & Chong and Steve Martin were discovered there.
Patty Nocella, a close friend for more than 50 years, first met Susan at the Troubadour in 1972. Describing the club’s employees as “a big family,” Nocella recalled vividly her first impression of Susan: “She was tall and skinny, with long, dark hair that she loved swishing around. She was so outgoing and confident.” So much so that many believed she was running the place.
With loving amusement, the Mourges sisters remembered a March 13, 1974, incident at the
Troubadour that was first reported at the time by Rolling Stone magazine and later recounted in the 2013 biography Harry Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter, by Alyn Shipton. During that evening, John Lennon and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, along with their friend Nilsson, were kicked out of the club for heckling folk-singing comedians the Smothers Brothers, who were opening their new dual act. A drunken Lennon, per the book, “had attached a sanitary napkin to his forehead…. When one of the club’s world-weary waitresses studiously ignored him, he asked her if she knew who he was, and she replied, ‘Yes, some a–hole with a Kotex on his forehead.’”
That legendary waitress, never identified in print, was Susan Holtz Curry.
The Troubadour being a social hub for entertainment industry agents and other Hollywood
movers and shakers, Susan’s drive and personality attracted those in the business seeking reliable support. In the mid-1970s, she served as tour manager for singers Melissa Manchester (“Don’t Cry Out Loud”), Kiki Dee (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” a famous duet with Elton John), Maria Muldaur (“Midnight at the Oasis”) and Donna Summer (“Love to Love You Baby”), and comedian Billy Crystal. “Susan worked with many musicians, who respected her honesty and deep caring,” said Michelle Mourges Marx, who followed Susan to L.A. in 1971 and later opened her own boutique entertainment public relations firm in West Hollywood. “She was a great people connector, and she was tour manager
for Melissa for quite a while. Susan and Melissa respected each other greatly and nicknamed themselves ‘Dottie and Lillian’!”
According to Nocella, Susan also was, at different times, a go-to Gal Friday for the likes of Olivia Newton-John and singer-songwriter, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen. Singer-songwriter and entertainer Peter Allen and Liza Minnelli were among her many high-profile friends and acquaintances.
By this time living in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, Susan was known for throwing memorable parties and baby showers. One of the baby showers was for her friend Jaid Barrymore, then pregnant with future actress and talk show host Drew Barrymore. Susan also was godmother to one of the children of singer-songwriter and guitarist Gordon Lightfoot (“Sundown”). When not at work or hosting parties, she and her friends enjoyed hopping between the various clubs on the Sunset Strip.
LETTING THE SUNSHINE IN
In the mid-1980s, with life becoming less pleasant and more expensive in ever-growing L.A.,
Susan moved to Florida at the urging of a cousin. There, through a combination of chance and chatter with mutual friends, she rediscovered Steve Curry. By that time, Steve had enjoyed fame as a cast member in the original hit 1968 Broadway production of the counterculture rock musical Hair, which launched the careers of actress Diane Keaton, singer Melba Moore and others. It was, in fact, the stylized, mirrored, Afro-haired image of a 22-year-old Curry that symbolized the landmark show on its iconic promotional poster and cast recording album cover.
“It was fated,” said Michelle Mourges Marx. “Susan never lost her love for Steve, nor he for her. It was so much a cosmic intervention.”
In Florida, Steve, who had already been married and divorced twice, had settled into an earthier existence as a you-pick produce farmer. About six months after Susan reconnected with him, they moved in together in Broward County, where Steve took a job with the City of Deerfield Beach water department and Susan waitressed. Eight months later, in 1986, shortly after tying the knot, their first child, Matthew, was born. Their second son, Andrew, arrived in 1988.
Susan’s longest employment in Florida was with the DMV, where she worked for more than two decades and made many friends. She remained in that job until the couple retired and relocated to New Mexico in 2010.
“Susan and Steve came to Truth or Consequences because he wanted to be a cowboy,” said
pal Brenda Nelson. “They purchased a property that was zoned for livestock and got two horses. And I purchased a calf that I kept at their place.” Susan loved the cow, named T-Bone, and retrieved vegetable discards from the local grocery store for the animal to eat. “She got such a kick out of being a New York City girl raising a cow!”
The couple’s idyllic desert life together lasted until 2014, when Steve fell ill and passed
unexpectedly of sepsis at 68.
“The Currys were wonderful people,” Nelson said. “They both became close family friends of ours from day one. After Steven passed, Susan made it a point that she and I go out for dinner every Thursday night, and I’m so glad she did. I loved our talks.”
One of their conversations turned to an obscure, adult-rated 1971 film titled Glen and Randa, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama that starred Steve Curry and his first wife, Shelley Plimpton (they were also stage castmates in Hair). “I purchased a copy of it on eBay and told Susan, and she asked if she could borrow it,” Nelson recalled, continuing with a laugh: “I gave it to her and she never gave it back. She said, ‘You do not need to see my husband naked.’”
Already volunteering around town, as well as working part-time as a waitress at the former
Groovy Grits and Latitude 33 eateries, among others, Susan’s involvement with various local
organizations and events deepened in the years following her husband’s passing. She was an especially valuable asset to the annual Truth or Consequences Fiesta weekend celebration established by radio and TV game show host Ralph Edwards in 1950.
Longtime Fiesta organizer and historian Destiny Mitchell, characterizing Susan as an “unsung hero,” said she was an event force for nearly a decade. “Susan was such a people person, which came in handy, as she was primarily the vendor coordinator. She knew each vendor by name and had a great rapport with all of them — knowing where they came from, who owed her money, and what they specialized in without ever looking at her vendor list. She was a walking wealth of knowledge about Fiesta, and the history of this town, from her personal experiences to all of the information she accumulated working at the Chamber.”
Mitchell also described Susan as “a loyal friend to so many — one who did not hold back in
expressing love or blunt advice. She was always a staple, a pillar, in our community. She was one in a million and shined like a star, and her dedication will surely and truly be missed.”
Susan’s childhood friend Denise Mourges concurred. “Susan was smart, funny and blunt, with a heart of gold. She will be missed by all the many people that she touched over the course of her life.”
After their respective husbands passed, pal Patty Nocella noted that she and Susan, who loved cruises and other adventures, had resumed traveling together in recent years. “She was a good person, and the best friend anyone could have,” Nocella said. “She would give the shirt off her back to you. I hold our memories very close to my heart.”
A lover of animals, Susan supported the Companion Animal Action Team (CAAT), a nonprofit that provides spay and neuter services for dogs and cats; Sierra County Humane Society; and Donkey Magic Farm animal refuge in Truth or Consequences, among other organizations and causes. Her tireless volunteer efforts extended to the annual New Year’s Eve Turtle Ascension, Small Business Saturday, downtown Truth or Consequences Halloween celebrations and more.
Susan Curry is survived by her son Matthew Curry and daughter-in-law Erin Curry of Boston,
Massachusetts; son Andrew Curry of Truth or Consequences; grandsons Aiden, age 13, and Jasper, age two; and many cherished friends she made throughout her life and career, including her traveling companions and Sunday Breakfast Club pals in Truth or Consequences. The Curry family has expressed gratitude for the love and support of Susan’s many friends in the city.
The 2024 Truth or Consequences Fiesta Board has nominated Susan Curry as the Legacy Grand Marshal for the 74th annual Truth or Consequences Fiesta parade, in which she will be memorialized and honored with a float.
Dean Lamanna, Director of Communications for the Truth or Consequences & Sierra Chamber of Commerce, was Susan Curry’s friend and colleague. Special thanks to Susan’s lifelong friends Michelle Mourges Marx, Denise Mourges and Patty Nocella for their generous contributions to this article, a version of which originally appeared in the November 24, 2023, edition of the SIERRA COUNTY SENTINEL.