What ever happened to Toots DeVille? (Teaser)

August 10, 2009 at 10:15 am | Posted in Culture | 6 Comments
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Willy DeVille died on August 6, 2009. He had contracted Hepatitis C and, beginning his treatment, doctors found he had pancreatic cancer. That was in June. R.I.P Willy DeVille.

Browsing his bio on Wikipedia, I stumbled upon a peculiar character, Toots DeVille, and decided to do a little research on her. It isn’t much I have yet found out, but I am going to to continue on this article. Doing this research sounds like an interesting side project.

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  1. Without Toots, Billy Borsey would never have become Willy DeVille.
    I met Billy & Susan (Toots) in 1970. They already were married and their son Sean was only about one year old at the time. They were both young and had a deep, devoted love for each other. WIlly was a musician even then and his talents were obvious. It was Toots who formed the “look” that Willy adapted. By 1972, when every one was wearing the Lola Granola / Dan Fogelburp look. Toots was wearing tight dresses, stiletto heels, a nose ring, dying her hair black and wearing it in a bouffant. She dressed Willy in ruffled shirts, skinny pants and pompadour. When Mink DeVille was formed, Manfred, Louis & Richard would not be allowed on stage until Toots OK’d their outfits. Drugs, & I don’t mean weed, were a part of their life. It all went with the look. Some blame Toots for taking Willy down that path but that’s just not how it was. He sought drugs without her. Did she enable him? Of course, just as much as he enabled her. Toots devoted herself to Willy and his career. She was extremely protective of him and would take no crap from any woman who made advances to him. They were together for almost 20 years.
    Their reasons for breaking up would take 20 years to explain.
    After the split, she spent quite a few years as a lost soul, having what she had devoted her life to taken away from her. She cleaned up in the ’90’s. Toots was working in upstate New York as a care provider for the elderly when she died of cancer in 2005. During her last years she had reconciled with her past. She was one of the most memorable persons I ever met.

  2. I know her full name was Susan Berl( last name may be spelled wrong) and she also lived in Stamford Ct., they where together from very young, and I believe her son was not Willy’s but was raised as his.
    That’s about all I know.

  3. This is the last post on Susan Berle I am going to greenlight, and then I am going to close the comments.

    We had long long discussion on the blogpost this one is linking to on my main blog – but regularly, people came to spread lies and rumours, for which ever reason. Lies and rumours such as the “adopted, half-French, half Pima-Indian” bit, which can be traced back to the autobiography of Doc Pomus, and other presumptuous remarks (Edit: such as the ones that a previous poster just left here – I’ve deleted it because that person sent me rather unfriendly private emails. Go away. Also, anyone else wanting to bragg about their involvement with, trying to come to grips with their envy of Toots, please move on). Even if there is a grain of truth to it, I would not be able to assess that, and I don’t want my blog to be the source of further rumours.

    If you feel like it, go and dig through the 441 (!) comments on that blog post, but read with care of course:


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