The Woman On Top Of Beverly Hills: A Tribute

23 Jan

This morning I woke at 6:30, and rolled down on the yoga mat to stretch. My post-surgery scar-tissued hip and funky lower back  hurt when I wake up. Middle age. Then I opened the blinds to the sun rising, a perfect blue sky, the banana palm leaves crowding the view.  I allowed myself a full glass of pomegranate juice with my toast. You know you’re living in Beverly Hills when what you allow yourself is a glass of pomegranate juice, and hope the people walking by aren’t looking in, thinking Reallly? A whole glass of that sugary stuff?

It was a celebratory gesture for me– my year anniversary of living in L.A!  I remembered last January: exhausted after a nine-hour drive from Flagstaff, miraculously finding a parking space on Reeves Drive, and walking up the brick steps to my new apartment. Natasha was in the window of her across-the-hall-place, drinking red wine and tapping on her computer. And then she saw my wanly smiling face. Arriving at a new chapter (still didn’t know it would be anything but a 6-month visit) with a friend I’d known since we were 13. We squealed. There’s a blog about that, of course.

After the stretching, the juice, the toast to myself  for showing signs of finding a new life, I started my walk to the juicery. I passed the Beverly Wilshire where people were sipping coffee and eating croissants on the outdoor patio; several limousines purred in anticipation. As I started to walk up Rodeo, I noticed many more people out on the street than usual. At 7:45, it’s just me, the window-washers, and one guy who looks like Larry King, walking his little dog, and smoking a cigar. But today many, many people–black, white, Mexican-American, formal and casual–were all staring up.

So I looked. On Rodeo, when people are outside staring, it is about celebrity. They heard about a shoot with Nicolle Kidman. They heard that Kim K is getting her nails done on Camden. They heard that Obama is at the Wilshire (All True, Dear Reader.) But this was looking was *up*, not around. So I tilted my face toward the sky and  saw a cartoon shape of a woman on the top of the Camden Medical Center–the tallest building in Beverly Hills, black glass, all symmetry and precision. Her  female figure, like one of the pink Picasso women with big hips and thick middle was fluid, flailing, waving her arms and swinging her legs. The body–full and soft, so NOT Beverly Hills–was rounding that square corner. Her body seemed to defy  the sharpness, the tweezed eyebrows, the skinny butt, the perfect edge of Beverly Hills’ femininity.

Phone cameras were out. Cars were stopped. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was late for work, and ran to the juicery. For hours we all talked about her–the women who worked next door at the make-up salon, the guys from the art gallery. My manager went out to look several times. I wanted to, but I’d already seen her, and I told everyone “I think they’ll get her down.” The cops were everywhere, a ten-block area cordoned off.  But I was wrong.

Before I knew I was wrong, a well-dressed man in his fifties came in, saying that “the whole office is sick.” They worked directly across from the building where she was. He could see her. I asked him how he thought she could have gotten onto the rooftop.  “Those doors are always unlocked,” he said. So!  That Hollywood scene on the roof that seems unlikely if not ridiculous–was actually viable. If you wanted to kill yourself.

I asked, “Can you see her face? What does she seem like? Is she talking? Does she seem like she’s mentally capable, or disturbed?” “I have a telescope,” he explained. “She’s in her sixties and she’s naked except for a big white towel around her middle, which she keeps re-arranging–as if she wants to look pretty.” I did not ask why he had a telescope in his office. “She’s had a lot of work done,” he said, drinking his Green 2 Juice. “I think she’s had plastic surgery in the last few days–black eyes, recent red scar lines on her jaw.” Less than an hour later, I heard that she jumped and died.

I finished my hours at the juicery, and on my way home walked past the spot where she died.

naked suicide

I don’t want to make up a narrative that isn’t about this woman’s real life, real pain, her desperate last act. But I hope she will  forgive me if I make a connection between what is now in my neighborhood being referred to as “The Naked Suicide,” and a cultural environment where youth is fetish-ized, where angular and lean is the only sexy, and where men have telescopes in their offices.

Goodbye to the woman who flailed and wiggled and imposed her flesh on a place of rigid fear. You held us hostage; and you dominated the sky. Goodbye.


10 Responses to “The Woman On Top Of Beverly Hills: A Tribute”

  1. Sherry Thomson January 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Usually I’m laughing when I read LaLinLA, but not so this time. I chuckled at the writer’s defying all Hollywood standards by drinking a whole glass of pomegranate juice and with her took that happy walk toward youth and beauty at the juicery. But then, I am arrested by the words, “So I looked.” And so did we all look at what we don’t really want to see because of this writer’s careful eye. I freaked at the cone and chalk image


    • kwasson2012 January 23, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Thank you for reading! I’ll be haunted by this for a long time. Will never forget the image of the woman on the building.


  2. cleokearns1 January 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I am in tears. I think you should get this to my friend Diane Winston, who writes for the L. A. Times and get them to publish it. I will email her today though we have been out of touch.

    More soon\ C

    c/o Institute for Advanced Study 1124 Flanner Hall / Notre Dame University Notre Dame, IN 46556 732 794 7320


    • kwasson2012 January 23, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

      Thank you for reading! I was in tears as well, and today feel even more shocked than I did yesterday.


  3. reciperenovator January 23, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Thank you for writing, you are a gift to the world. So glad we met.


  4. Long time listener, first time caller January 29, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    This is a very moving tribute. As a loyal reader of your ‘In the Loop’ columns, I’ve grown to appreciate your special combination of wry humor, anthropology and humanity in all of your writing. Here you apply your lens to that seemingly mundane day’s events and the reader travels from your kitchen to a state of heartfelt tragedy. Haunting and beautifully written.


    • kwasson2012 January 29, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      Such an appreciative response! Thank you so much!!


  5. elainemansfield January 31, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    Moving and sad and full of suspense. In the beginning, I thought the cartoon shape of the woman was a cartoon or a trick balloon figure or a Hollywood stunt, but slowly realized this was a real woman with unacceptable layers of hated fat and new plastic surgery. One good thing about living in the north country–no one can see my cellulite and wrinkles under snow pants and hooded jackets. Only nose and dark glasses visible today. Don’t know what to make of this sad ending to your morning that began with celebration. Hope there was more celebration after the juice gig–and more pomegranate juice, perhaps with a shot of gin. Thanks for memorializing this desperate woman.


    • kwasson2012 January 31, 2014 at 2:06 am #

      I originally figured it was a stunt too. . .this is the land of stunts. Also the land of body-“perfection” obsession. And a fair bit of tragedy.. I still can’t get over the guy who has a telescope in his office. That says a lot. Thank you for reading and commenting. That woman captured our attention.


  6. Island Traveler February 26, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    That is a sad story. Feel bad for the woman. It is hard to live in a place where exterior beauty is worshipped and getting old treated as a disease. Living healthy is truly good for us but surgery to please others and simply to belong not healthy. But it’s hard to really give opinions on stuff like these cause we are not in their shoes. Everyone goes through life differently. Great post.


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