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'Bag Lady Sue' hopes West Newton crowd will be swimming in laughter

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 9:03 p.m.
Here's what Pittsburgh native Suzanne 'Bag Lady Sue' Austin looks like when she's not in character. The comedienne will perform at the Youghiogheny Country Club in West Newton on Nov. 21, 2012. Submitted photo
Comedienne and Pittsburgh native Suzanne 'Bag Lady Sue' Austin will perform at the Youghiogheny Ballroom in West Newton on Nov. 21, 2012. Submitted photo

Pittsburgh native Suzanne “Bag Lady Sue” Austin travels around the country with her stand-up comedy act, but never turns down the chance to return to her roots.

Austin of Golden, Colo., will bring her “Bag Lady Sue” show to the Youghiogheny Ballroom (West Newton Volunteer Fire Co.) on Wednesday. Hosted by the West Newton Community Swimming Pool Committee, the 8 p.m. show is for adults 18 and over. Tickets are $20. Seating is limited to 400.

Proceeds will help with ongoing upgrades and maintenance at the pool

Austin says she is always willing to help local organizations, especially those in the Pittsburgh region.

“I absolutely love coming home. My mom still lives there. The people there are the best,” Austin says. “No matter where I travel to, the people in Pittsburgh are, by far, the nicest and friendliest.”

Austin, or “Bags” as her friends call her, is described as a “fearless, fun-loving spirit, and an avid troop supporter and motorcyclist, who performs from coast-to-coast at rallies, nightclubs, concerts, fringe bars, military bases, comedy clubs, and just about everywhere that doesn't have rides for the kiddies.”

She headlines a nightclub show in Las Vegas throughout the year at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino.

Austin says she got the idea for “Bag Lady Sue,” while she was working as an exotic dancer in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s.

“I was walking in the Strip District when I handed this homeless lady $10,” Austin said. “She tells me I should dress up like her and go in the strip club.”

Austin decided to give it a chance, and mixed her dancing with comedy.

“The crowds loved it,” she said. “Men even starting bringing their wives, which was unheard of back in the '80s.”

She remembers her first stand-up routine at the Cricket in Bloomfield.

“I was terrified for the first two years going on stage,” she said.

Before long, she was touring as “Bag Lady Sue,” and sharing the stage with artists such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brett Michaels, Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, and her friend Trent Tomlinson.

She has been featured in many national and international magazines including Easyriders Biker, American Iron, Full Throttle, Vibes (in Tokyo) and Hustler Magazine Holiday 2007.

Austin does many charity events throughout the year. She said she sends care packages with her DVDs, T-shirts, photos and letters to active duty troops, when requested by a friend or family member, and asks folks to do so at the end of every show.

More recently, she has been promoting comedy-benefit parties at clubs around the country to help out the Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and American Legions.

Organizers said they are excited about bringing Austin's comedy act to town. “She's extremely funny,” said Rainey Craig, event publicity chairman. “She's appeared in Wyano and other places around the area, and she's been quite a hit. The adults will love this.”

The comedy show is the first event of its kind sponsored by the local pool committee.

Nancy Molovich, pool committee president, said the show is an opportunity for people to take in some fun and relaxing entertainment the day before Thanksgiving.

“Some of our younger members thought Wednesday would be a good choice, because it is considered club night,” Molovich said. “And being the day before Thanksgiving, many people will be off work or school the next day. Also, a lot of family members come home for the holidays and the students come home from college.”

Plus, the event is a for a good cause. The West Newton Community Swimming Pool opened in June 1972 at 215 Peach Alley, near the West Newton Elementary School.

“We've also been looking at purchasing a PVC liner,” Molovich said. “The vinyl shell will protect the existing pool and give it a beautiful new look for many years.”

The 45-by-75-foot public pool is handicapped accessible and has on-duty lifeguards, two spring diving boards, a wading pool, showers, locker rooms and a snack bar. Swim classes, First Aid/CPR instruction and lifeguard training are offered at the pool. At the facility, area swim teams compete every August in the West Newton Rotary Swim Meet.

This summer, the pool celebrated its 40th anniversary with a pool-side gala event. “It was a phenomenal time,” Molovich said.

The committee also sponsors an annual dinner at Gary's Chuck Wagon in West Newton, and recently held a Night at the Races at the West Newton Moose.

At Wednesday's comedy show, complimentary samples of White Diamond Vodka will be served by the White Diamond Girls. Draft beers will be complimentary with purchase of special mugs.

Austin says her shows are tailored for the crowd. She stays in character as “Bag Lady Sue,” whom she describes as “hideous,” until the end of the show.

“People love her, she's hysterical,” she said.

Her “Bag Lady Sue” ensemble includes a Pittsburgh Steelers hat.

“I'm a die-hard Steelers fan,” Austin said.

Although she doesn't reveal her age, Austin believes her zest for life, her faith, and love of family and friends will always keep her young at heart.

Trib Total Media staff writer Stacy Wolford contributed to this story. Colleen Pollock is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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