Susan Speaks: Face Value


Usually, if I’m cranky, I channel my fictional character, Trevor. Heck, the other day, one of my online friends was having a hard time with her mother, and Trevor wrote her this gorgeous balm for her wounded soul. It was great therapy for me. And, I hope, for her. The Tour Manager dug it, too.

What you don’t know about me is that in real life, I’m cranky. I’m bitchy. I’m self-centered (as all good writers are supposed to be … or so goes the cliche). I’m frazzled, overwhelmed, and drowning in this life I’ve created. In fact, other than my friend Bridget, I’d be surprised if most of the people (if not all) who I see in my daily, offline life have nice things to say about me. Hell, there are people I’ve only known online who think I’m nothing but the worst kind of bitch.

So maybe this forthcoming rant won’t surprise you guys. You’re smart people and you know that no one can be as perpetually cheery as I try to be on these pages.

Here’s what set me off. One of the local writers I know told me over a year ago about this local, anonymous blogger named PittGirl. “She’s hysterical,” Annette told me.

It took me about two seconds to see the truth of that. And the deeper content swirling under the surface.

Because she was anonymous, PittGirl felt free to rant about the city. The city’s government. The rich and beautiful. PittGirl wasn’t afraid to talk about how bad the Pirates are. Every week, she posted the funniest pictures of the Steelers and gave them the best captions, dialogue that had me howling until the cats got scared. I didn’t always agree with her, but she always made me think about whatever she was talking about. I’d be out with the Tour Manager and suddenly, I’d say, “Oh, did I tell you what PittGirl said today? Man, it was brilliant.”

And did I mention the pictures of shirtless Penguins? Oh, my. That woman provided better eye candy than the numerous romance authors who post Man Meat Mondays.

Yesterday, PittGirl closed up shop. Apparently, someone found out her true identity. The floodgates had been opened, and PittGirl had a choice to make.

She chose real life.

I hate this. I can’t tell you how much I hate this. Even earlier this week (or was it last week?), PittGirl had posted a reminder that if her identity was discovered, she faced being fired from her day job. And yet some dunderhead had to go and pry anyway.

For what? For some bit of useless knowledge?


It doesn’t matter who is behind the person who became PittGirl. Maybe it was David Conrad, one of her self-united husbands. Maybe it was Ken Rice, a local TV anchor and someone who was long rumored to be PittGirl. Those two men (interesting that I can think of only men when PittGirl was pretty obviously a woman) are who they are… David Conrad and Ken Rice. An actor and a TV newsman.

Likewise, PittGirl was PittGirl.

I mean, heck. When did Marcia Brady stop being Marcia Brady and start being Maureen McCormick? For me, she hasn’t. If I find the Bradys on TV, I’m not looking at Maureen McCormick. I’m looking at Marcia Brady. I don’t need to know any more about her. She’s Marcia. She’s got a mom, two sisters, three brothers, a step-father, and a housekeeper who’s having a thing with the butcher. End of story. What more do I need to know?

Part of the strength of a good character is that they do not exist in real life. They are larger than life because if they were real, they’d be too large to be contained. Could someone real have the freedom to skewer some of the city’s most powerful people the way PittGirl did when details of a society divorce became known?

Hell, no. If she tried, she’d be sued for defamation of character.

And that’s exactly why anonymous characters like PittGirl — and Miss Snark for us writers, and Fake Steve Jobs for you tech heads — are so important. They use their smokescreen to say the things we are thinking. Or maybe the things we ought to be thinking. Miss Snark could shoot idiots with a clue gun. She wasn’t real. Readers knew that they were not in jeopardy of walking down a street and feeling a hard thunk!, only to find they’d been the unwitting recipient of a clue. No matter how badly that clue is needed, it simply isn’t going to happen. The clue gun exists in a fictional world.

If someone — like, say, literary agent Janet Reid, whose prickly online persona is often held as proof that she was Miss Snark — were to offer to shoot you with something like a clue gun, someone else would feel threatened. Hell, I know how creeped out I was for months after someone said to me, “I have a knife in my pocket and I’m not afraid to use it.” That was his opening salvo, too. He went on from there. He claimed he was joking.

Tell that to my nightmares, buddy.

I’ve heard it said that we Pittsburghers take people at face value. Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time believing that someone out there (especially someone apparently in Pittsburgh) would want to dig deeper. What’s wrong with face value? What’s wrong with fantasy and mystique?

Why did PittGirl have to become a real person? She was perfect as she was, hating pigeons and giving Steelers such horrid nicknames that you couldn’t help but laugh. (Baby Cici Donna? Skippy Skeeve?)

I’m a writer. I miss Miss Snark but that was an end I saw coming. She’d simply run out of things to teach us.

But PittGirl… in a city like this one, a city that’s constantly evolving and changing, that’s trying so desperately to move forward (*ahem*), we needed her. We needed her as she was: a fictional woman who could point out the good and the bad that fills our Golden Triangle. Through her, I felt a pride in Pittsburgh that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I adore this place. Her love of the city came through in every post, and I’d be surprised if mine wasn’t the only outlook she altered.

Pittsburgh is poorer for her loss. She made this often grey landscape brighter.

I hope the dunderhead who needed to know so desperately who she was can look at him- or herself in the mirror today. Because, dunderhead, you ruined a very very good thing for an awful lot of us.

Maybe you’re the one we should be calling Skippy Skeeve.



  1. Burgh Baby

    November 19, 2008 7:43 pm

    We can only hope that PittGirl is reborn in some way. The person who felt the need to dig clearly has WAY too much time on their hands and really did ruin something good for all the rest of us.BR/BR/Totally miss her.

  2. Amy Ruttan

    November 19, 2008 8:11 pm

    That totally sucks. What is a matter with people?

  3. Bridget

    November 19, 2008 11:28 pm

    Well said, my friend. ;-}

  4. Thomma Lyn

    November 20, 2008 12:14 am

    I’m sorry to hear about PittGirl. It sounds like she will be very missed. I hope she can find a way to keep her voice out there. And hear hear to your post! BR/BR/(And sending smooches to Trevor for that wonderful balm! 😀 )

  5. bunnygirl

    November 20, 2008 12:17 am

    There have always been those who think spoiling someone else’s party makes them special. It does prove something about their character, but it’s nothing special, except maybe in the “short bus” sense of the word.

  6. Ann

    November 20, 2008 1:47 am

    Well, that just sucks. BR/P.S. I don’t think your bitchy (and I have met you in person). :)BR/And I’m right there with you on the frazzled and overwhelmed.

  7. Toni

    November 20, 2008 12:46 pm

    Sorry that happened! Some people can’t be happy unless others are suffering! You know maybe the outer was curious, fine, but once they figured it out it takes an extra special kind of meanness to take it the next step and tell everyone!BR/BR/Again sorry for PittGirl and sorry for you and her other fans!


    November 20, 2008 1:32 pm

    How sad. I’ve never heard of her before (I guess I’m on the wrong coast). But if she’s as smart as she sounds I think she should lay low for a little while and then come back under a completely different name with much tighter security and a slightly different way of going about things.BR/BR/I also can’t help but think that if she truely believes in what she was doing she shouldn’t be scared to show her real identity and stand behind her material…. I don’t know…

  9. karen!

    November 20, 2008 5:29 pm

    Great post, S.

  10. robin

    November 20, 2008 6:20 pm

    Reading this entry is the first I’ve heard of PittGirl. It’s unfortunate that if she brought enjoyment to so many that she has to close up shop. Unless her posts were malicious, I can see no reason why she should have worried. If those that she wrote about aren’t able to appreciate the humor and laugh at themselves then that’s too bad. If those that found out who she is find it necessary to expose her, then they need to re-examine their motives and realize what a disservice they have performed.

  11. Alice Audrey

    November 21, 2008 12:36 pm

    I’m supposed to be self centered? Dang! Hope I can come up with something good anyway.BR/BR/Bummer about PittGirl. I feel the loss even though I never got to read her at all.

  12. flit

    November 21, 2008 2:16 pm

    Here’s my contribution to making you happy 🙂 BR/BR/I’m sorry that some nosy parker felt the need to ruin people’s fun

  13. Julia Smith

    November 21, 2008 2:18 pm

    That definitely sucks. I work with someone who would totally do that to someone else just because she’s so miserable herself.

  14. Ann

    November 21, 2008 9:08 pm

    Hey Susan, I nominated you for a blogging award (over on my blog). BR/Have a great weekend. 🙂

  15. Wylie Kinson

    November 21, 2008 11:33 pm

    Fun suckers… well, they SUCK! I’m sorry to hear that the enjoyable PittGirl is gone. May the ratter be infested with armpit lice.

  16. Pamela Plumley

    November 22, 2008 2:10 am

    Sounds like she was a lot of fun for you guys who had her! Too bad people feel the need to ruin it for others like that…

  17. Frogs in my formula

    November 22, 2008 1:49 pm

    Amen. Snitches suck. I don’t even know her and I regret what happened.

  18. April

    November 22, 2008 3:04 pm

    This is a great blog. I’ve given you the Rock Star Award for it. If you’d like to claim it, you can on my blog at; BR/!

  19. Susan

    November 23, 2008 7:24 pm

    Wow. I go away to CA for a week and look what happened?! I really enjoyed her blog. Boo.

  20. dawn

    November 28, 2008 12:41 pm

    Susan, was there any follow up on this? Did PittGirl lose his/her day job?BR/BR/I feel like someone locked the door on the party before I even got past the bouncer!

  21. Susan Helene Gottfried

    November 28, 2008 2:14 pm

    From what I’ve heard, all is well in PittGirl’s real world. I got a quick message through FaceBook, and that’s been it.

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