03 May 2012

Connie Crispell's Derby Party: 1984

New York Magazine, June 25th, 1984, by Michael Daly

Charles Ransom Photo: New York Magazine

Photo: Joe DeMaria, NY Post

I remember hearing about the girl in the trunk shortly after moving to NYC in the Fall of 1984. Her story was told in clubs and bars like JG Melon and the Surf Club. A preppy red head from a good family in Virginia. Found dead in the same trunk where she kept picture scrap books and moved outside to the balcony when her murderer could no longer stand the smell. It was a story that slowed drinking and sent many home early. It was Breakfast at Tiffany's -- gone wrong.

Connie Crispell worked as a sales associate on the main floor of Brooks Bothers at 346 Madison. According to an employee, she was beautiful and, like many of the young women who worked at Brooks, she liked to party.

"Connie was 'off the hook' as we'd say. Getting into problems. I talked to her a couple times. You have to be careful, I said. You don't even know who these men are... What happened with Connie and another girl from Greenwich, these girls started turning tricks with foreigners who used to come in here..."

Connie Crispell threw a Kentucky Derby party in her apartment on May 5th, 1984. Sometime in the early morning of May 6th, Connie's pimp, Charles Ransom visited her and according to a statement he made after his arrest, became enraged after she told him she had AIDs. He strangled her, stuffed the body in a trunk and within hours was running two prostitutes out of the apartment. Four days later, police were called by the owners Connie sublet from when they rang the bell only to discover Ransom and two hookers.

I remember the main floor of Brooks Brothers in January of 1984 and wonder if I saw Connie. She was stationed by the 44th Street door. Shetland sweater, red hair, Peter Pan collar. Doing what hookers were doing in Times Square. New York City is like that. You never know what's really going on behind normal facades -- even Brooks Brothers facades.

I walk by her apartment building on 58th Street and look up at the balconies. I think of how our stories survive us and wonder if anyone could have saved her. Michael Daly wrote a story for New York Magazine that can be read here. It's a tragedy but I'm also reminded of a friend who was mugged in Washington Square. I asked him what he was doing in the park and he said smoking a joint. I asked what time it was and he tells me 2:00 AM. New York is like that.

The employee remembers, "I said, been there, done that. Partying and all that. I said, you gotta be careful. New York's...Look, if you're looking for Mr Goodbar - they'd all seen the film. I said, be careful of that..."

Albemarle High School: Drama Club, Tennis Team, SGA, Cheerleader

Connie's story continues to unfold on line:

She was one of the most fascinating, seductive and wonderful people I have ever known. If I could have married her and protected her...I would have. We were having lunch one day at Jackson Hole during a break when I was helping her move. She looked across the table at one point and asked me, "You want to save me don't you?" "Yes" I replied. She answered that she didn't want to be saved.


Heidi said...

Mapplethorpe hustled, but often forgot to ask for the money. It isn't always an earned income strategy, I guess.

Heidi said...

Came back and read the article. Seems like there was something missing from the story - like, the word cocaine?

tintin said...

Heidi- I would imagine. Or not. Mention is made of her sticking to Vodka Tonics while others imbibed. Who knows. Explains her behavior.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Yeah...Thanks for putting a sordid tinge on a nice event like the Run For The Roses. I'll be thinking of her rotting corpse in that trunk as I sip my mint julep and place my wagers...

Anonymous said...

The Last Days Of Disco indeed.

tintin said...

Main Line- sorry. Didn't mean to ruin the Derby for you. Next time we have a drink I'll share some insurance claim stories about horses and horse racing. Trust me, the sport is sordid enough. It's just well hidden.

GSV JR said...

Chilling stuff. Sheesh.

GSV JR said...

Plenty of Connie Crispells at Churchill Downs come race day. Who knew floppy hats were required wear at the ninth circle of hell?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Tin. I just read the article. Sad to say she seemed like a wonderful girl who sinned against her talents. Or, perhaps you can say, just another New York story?

Thanks for sharing.


Oyster Guy said...

Sad story, Tin. I think it's always a good thing to look behind the surface to see the hurt and humanity. Maybe it's an illness, maybe it's a choice; usually few or no solutions. I believe it's a duty to help but know that it is going to be what it is going to be.

Anonymous said...


As always, you have a great eye for interesting stories. What a flashback summary of the 1980s. Preppy clothiers, Studio 54, AIDS scare, college grades able to afford Manhattan (albeit with a bit of elicit income), and even an ex-Village People member thrown in for good measure. Combine that article with the article following it about a Venture Capitalist who expected to make "10 to 1 profits" and you have an interesting snapshot of 1984.

Tom Buchanan

K. A. Adams said...

Wow - Sad story and although I moved to NYC in '86, I never heard even a whisper of this.

In my day it was the Chambers / Levin 'Preppy Murder' that was inescapable in the news and tabloids. I can't account for why one story was so widely known and another virtually unheard of nor can I imagine that the media changed that much in that brief interval.

I saw quite a few people come to ruin in those days but mostly due to coke and booze - murder wasn't even conceivable though the city still had a slight veneer of danger left.

One can't help but wonder how many Upper East Side Wives share the same story line while it remains yet unknown to their husbands and families.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Tin...Oh yeah...there is a dark side on the back stretch.
One has to wonder how this young girl rationalized exchanging money for sex acts given her apparent background and presumed advantages.

Linda Crispell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tintin said...

I hope I didn't offend. I felt I knew her in some way and am struck by the sadness and the joy that was in her.

Anonymous said...

This is actually a Charlottesville story. Has anyone ever found out if Connie Crispell was a member of the local gang, The Damn? That's perhaps a guess, although maybe not right on. Charlottesville is a bright and rich Stygian universe, and yes, floppy hats are required at the 9th circle of hell!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous K. A. Adams said...

"Wow - Sad story and although I moved to NYC in '86, I never heard even a whisper of this.

"In my day it was the Chambers / Levin 'Preppy Murder' that was inescapable in the news and tabloids. I can't account for why one story was so widely known and another virtually unheard of nor can I imagine that the media changed that much in that brief interval.
In the first case, it was a minority killer and white victim. These stories are consistently swept under the rug by the news outlets, even more so now than then. You see, it's not allowed in our "modern" society to say bad things about minorities, even if they're true.

On the other hand, the "Preppy Murder" featured something that the news outlets love: The Great White Defendant. Our society is so enamored of The Great White Defendant that some people will even make up stories where none exists, like the Tawana Brawley rape hoax and Duke lacrosse rape hoax. We're even seeing it now, with a Hispanic as a substitute Great White Defendant (did you know that the NYT used the term "white Hispanic" exactly five times before George Zimmerman came along?).

So there is a reason; it's just a despicable one.

Ted K. Hechtman said...

I'm the human who wrote about her not wanting me to save her. I think of her often. Obviously...here I am. Many years after her death, (many years, I asked a mutual friend (who had known her before I had met her at The Yale Club one late afternoon). How she felt about me. I never knew. She never said anything about it. He said to me ""------------" I thought you knew, she loved you like crazy." I wasn't sure how to respond. Shoe could be cruel sometimes. Not often...but sometimes. She once said she could never take a ____ home to her father. I don't think that was for real. As I said...she could be cruel and she was angry at me and a bit tipsy when she said it. Did I say how much I miss her? I did didn't I.

Ted K. Hechtman said...

I have a ghost
I have a ghost
She is over my shoulder
Behind and to the right
At the border of my vision and my imagination
She dresses as she liked to
In a tasteful black dress
And black loafers
And her hair, the color of clover honey,
Tied back with a ribbon
She is here now
Right now
Although she rarely is discernible
When I am occupied
With women who are alive
And deserve appropriate attention

I have a ghost
I have a ghost
I see her with my mind
In front and to the left
Over there with her arms crossed and casually smiling
And now she wears a summer dress
White and light and cotton
And white sandals
And her hair the color of summer wheat honey
Let loose and blowing
She is here now
Right now
Although she prefers to remain quite personal
And concentrates
On my confusion
And of course
She smiles

Ted K. Hechtman said...

This will be the last comment. I thought I had lost it but found it in a file on a laptop in a closet.

Connie had honey colored hair. Not just a single variety. There were strands that were blossom and a few that were tupelo and everything that wasn’t either of those two varieties was rich clover. She a long nose that started straight between her large eyes and seemed to spread out above her top lip, which was a straight line. She smiled from her bottom lip. When she did smile, she had a few too many teeth and strong vertical crescent creases that would frame her face. Her ears were a bit too large and protruding for her face. The lobes were always punctuated with tasteful earrings. Connie was tasteful even when she was cursing you out which she did, to me at least, rarely but proficiently. I would describe her laugh to you but I don’t know how. It was an extension of her voice and her voice was molded by her accent, which may have been the sweetest modulation of English I have ever heard. Her voice would change the color of your clothes and lead you out to some porch someplace where the breezes were warm and the drinks were too sweet but just fine actually. I won’t give up on the laugh though. Here…her laugh was loving, welcoming, infectious and had a taste somewhere between pralines and sex. She stood about this tall. Just here, right below where my hair meets my forehead. I’m 5 foot six. She was not thin. Not at all. Her legs were fine and in proportion but her calves were a little too wide and her thighs not long enough. Her chest was a little wide and her breasts were the right size for the chest. Her nipples and aureoles were the color of her lips but a shade lighter. and I don’t know what else in the world is that color. Give me a minute. ( ). She dressed like Barbara Bel Geddes. She dressed as if every place she went expected the well bred and pedigreed to show up eventually. She dressed as if she was attending Smith College in 1958. She dressed as if every place she went was restricted in membership.

Connie was not beautiful. She was not beautiful in the way that Sophia Loren or Uma Thurman isn’t beautiful In the way that Amanda Plummer isn’t beautiful. But if you went to a party with Aphrodite, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor the younger, Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman and twenty or thirty other A-1 certified grain fed consensus approved beauties and Connie was there you would not only spend the night trying to get her attention but you would probably send her a dozen roses the next morning.

tintin said...

Ted - Thank you. Thank you for your poem and for the beautiful description of Connie. It helps me and my readers to understand her and I hope it helps you as well.

Ted K. Hechtman said...

Thank you. Being able to see the things preserved in a sort of electronic amber is...is what?....is good I suppose. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

"New York is like that..." lucky world no other place sees murder or mayhem, eh?