So I might have alluded to this before in my review for the final “Weetzie Bat” book, “Pink Smog”, but I was lucky enough to have participated (albeit unwittingly, but not that I’m complaining) in research for events in the end of “Pink Smog”. This might get a bit spoilery, so if you want to read this after you’ve read the book, I suggest you do so. Unless you’re not bothered by spoilers, then come right on in! They’re not too huge, anyway.
I was taking Francesca’s first UCLA Extension course for writer’s for that quarter in Westwood. It was good, and I felt like I was starting to build some badly needed and long-lost confidence back up into myself through the class and Francesca’s teaching.
Until one day, she perked up, asking where Marilyn Monroe’s grave was. I said it was in the graveyard behind the movie theatre on Wilshire. Other classmates also answered in the affirmative. The graveyard has tons of other people in it from Old Hollywood, and it’d been awhile since I’d been there, so I’d forgotten how to get in.
So had the others. So Francesca decided that it would be a class field trip. After class, though, of course, since we didn’t have time to sit and workshop everyone’s writing AND go visiting gravesite in one four-hour window. Attendance for the field trip was optional.
Once we finished our four-hour block, a handful of us (all girls) went tramping through the sidestreets of Westwood in order to find the ridiculously hidden entrance to the cemetery. I got us lost a few times until we found it – and I know those streets by the back of my hand. I ran up and down them enough times in middle school after school with friends and in high school. It was a gorgeous day – high silvery clouds and a blue so sky you can see why people fall in love with LA, with California. I was in high spirits. I felt like I could do anything.
And after the kind parking bro directed us inside, we asked where Marilyn’s grave was (and was it okay if we went a-visitin’?). He answered in the affirmative and pointed. We stumbled until we found Marilyn.
It wasn’t hard to miss. The stone that sealed her inside was stained pink by 40+ years of people coming from all over the world to pay homage to her, kissing the stone. I used some of my Burt’s Bees juicy pink lipgloss to make my own kiss. Everyone else kissed the stone, too, doing our part to keep the stone stained further pink. We found a letter in French to Marilyn (I think it had some broken English in it somewhere, too), saying that the letter writer wished she were still around, that the world missed her.
We all got teary-eyed. We took pictures. Francesca had previously said that this was research for a book. She was writing/working on more than one piece at the time, so I asked which one. She just replied with a smile, not telling me.
She reminded me of the Cheshire Cat with that smile, so satisfied, so happy. It was hard not to get caught up in it.
We sat on the bench, leaned on the pillars that supported the overhang of the mausoleum, all of us, in quiet thought for some time. The breeze was cool. It smelled like the sun and the sea – not briny, but salty, a sharp poke to the nose pulling us all toward Santa Monica.
But like the big old tree, we stayed rooted to the spot, and talked more about other things, about everything for just a little while longer.
All throughout 2010, I never did find out why we went there. It was a memorable experience to be sure, but my curiosity and hungry brain wouldn’t shut up asking why, why, why had we been there? For which project. But I didn’t push the issue. I trusted that the truth would be revealed in time. And it was – I got my answer when Francesca passed me a review copy of “Pink Smog” before class in October, 2011. I got my answer when I read the book in one sitting without pausing to stop, found it toward the very end with Weetzie completing the quest that a certain Genie gave her to make her stronger.
As my eyes read down the page and the scene came to life in my mind, tears flooded my eyes. I had to put the book down. No, I had to keep reading. So I read that entire graveyard scene, because it was there, all of it – the grave, the fan letter, all of it, there crafted into Weetzie’s skin, forever. And I finished the book.
And promptly burst back into tears. Happy tears. My mother rushed in and asked me what was wrong, and I just pointed to the book and said, “I’m finally part of something bigger than me.”
A little dramatic? Maybe. But it meant a lot, somehow, to see all of that in there.
Francesca’s work changed the way I saw the world forever when I read the first five “Weetzie” books after they came out in omnibus form for the first time as “Dangerous Angels” in 1996. I still have that copy of the omnibus, bruised and battered and tattered as it is, taped together and utterly loved to pieces. It seems fitting that 16 years later, things have come full circle. No longer am I just an audience participant in Weetzie’s adventures, but by going to that cemetery, I helped shape her final one, even if it was in a tiny way. Or maybe her first one, depending on how you look at the Weetzie timeline.
Go check out all of Weetzie’s adventures in “Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books”, “Weetzie Bat & The Necklace of Kisses”, and “Pink Smog”. Seriously. They really are that amazing. Thank you to fellow student Gilda @ DrPop.org for taking these amazing pictures from our trip. And thanks to Francesca for taking us there.