The Making of Busty Heart

How a buxom blonde from Newton became Boston’s most famous fan.

By | Boston Daily |

busty heart

Photo courtesy of Susan Sykes

On April 27, 1986, Susan Sykes, 24, attended her first Celtics playoff game. She had a fortuitously placed seat at the Garden, in Loge 32, directly next to soon-to-be NBA draft pick John Salley. During Boston’s 103-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks, CBS panned to their section.

At that point, announcer Brent Musburger told a national audience, “Speaking about the upcoming lottery, and the NBA draft, I see the familiar figure of John Salley, watching the activity this afternoon in Boston.”

That’s when Sykes, clad in a tight white shirt, stared into the camera and shook her breasts:

The sight of the buxom young blonde threw off Musburger, who attempted to keep talking about Salley. “He figures to go high in the first round …” he said, trailing off. After a few moments, Musburger blurted out, “[Salley is] enjoying the action here at the Boston Garden.” Then, Musburger started laughing, and didn’t stop for about 15 seconds.

“I parlayed 15 seconds of fame into a 30-year-career,” Sykes, now 51, told me.

From that point on, Sykes went by a new name: Busty Heart.

Picking an alias was easy. She grew up on Heartbreak Hill in Newton, and in school, her classmates called her “Busty.” At the time, Sykes, a graduate of Dana Hall and Pine Manor College, was struggling. She’d worked as a paralegal and a court officer, but by the mid-’80s, she was sleeping in her car, she said. Then she made her big debut at the Celtics-Hawks game. To this day, she doesn’t recall who gave her the ticket—she said maybe late radio broadcaster Johnny Most, a family friend—but the resulting burst of publicity helped boost her career as an exotic dancer.

“I’d always wanted to go to a Celtics game, but it’s been hard for me to go out publicly, as you can see,” Sykes told Globe sports columnist Michael Madden in May 1986. As the Celtics advanced in the playoffs, Sykes’ seats progressively improved. She even traveled to away games. By the time the Celtics clinched their 16th championship on June 8, 1986, against the Rockets, she was a sensation. Sykes said it took her two hours to get out of the Garden that night. “In the end,” wrote Fox Butterfield, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, “half a dozen police officers had to protect her from dozens of clutching admirers.”

Sykes went to the Garden as much as possible, and on occasion, was even spotted at Fenway Park. In 1987, the Celtics faced the Lakers in the finals. To acquire the cash necessary to buy premium tickets at the Los Angeles Forum, she made a promotional appearance at the Golden Banana in Peabody. It raised $10,000, enough to score seats near Jack Nicholson, who had recently pretended to moon the crowd in Boston. The name of her operation was “Get Back at Jack”: her goal was to dump a cartoonishly oversized bra—which was painted to look like two basketballs—on the Lakers obsessive’s head. When Sykes arrived for the game, she remembers entering a V.I.P. entrance and passing actress Dyan Cannon. “Nobody asked for a ticket,” Sykes said. At halftime, she managed to pull off the prank. “[Nicholson] got so mad,” she said.

L.A. won that series, but Sykes’ career took off. She began dancing at clubs across the country and making appearances at sporting events. In May 1990, she popped up at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. “When Heart made a seventh-inning parade lap through the stadium,” wrote Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch, “the Cardinals were inspired to score a run when a double-play throw went awry.” The Cardinals lost, 5-1, but Busty Heart’s appearance prompted manager Whitey Herzog to quip, “That’s the most excitement there’s been around here all year.”

But the prudish organization wasn’t a fan of her antics. When Sykes attempted to enter another Cardinals game a few days later, she was arrested and charged with trespassing. “She was skipping around in a lewd manner,” team spokesman Jeff Wehling told reporters, even though Sykes was fully clothed. “We work hard to create a family atmosphere. There are a lot of women and children who attend the games. We don’t need that kind of stuff here.”

The penalty, a $150 fine, was minor. But the incident was demoralizing. Sykes liked the attention, but she also didn’t want to become too much of a distraction—especially to her beloved Celtics. “It presented a security problem,” said Frank Stanton, her longtime partner/manager. After what happened in St. Louis, she stopped going to the Garden.

By super fan standards, Busty Heart’s reign was short. “Fireman Ed” Anzalone announced his retirement last week after serving as the New York Jets’ hype man for 26 years. Busty Heart’s tenure at the Garden lasted less than five. For a short, memorable stretch, she was the Celtics’ unofficial mascot. While she hasn’t attended a Celtics game in more than 20 years, she likes reminiscing about her late-’80s heyday. “It’s probably nothing like you’ll ever see again,” Sykes said.

During the past two decades, she’s made a living starring in international ad campaigns and appearing on television. She was a guest on “The Man Show” and “America’s Got Talent,” where her unique skillset came in handy. (If you need further explanation, visit her Guinness World Record page.) This year, she had a part in the Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle The Dictator—she’s the one in the trailer who’s smashing bricks with her breasts—but her big scene was cut for being too raunchy.

These days, she runs Busty Heart’s place, a strip club in Northwest Pennsylvania. Recently, a guest from Vermont approached her with an old Polaroid featuring her younger self. “People remember,” she said. “Boston fans are loyal.”

And so is she: When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called it quits in 1989, Stanton claims Magic Johnson personally phoned Sykes to ask if Busty Heart would perform at the Hall of Fame center’s retirement party. Her answer was no.