Genius and Insanity are often Two Sides of the Same Coin


So the night of Aug 22 at the Santa Monica Pier, I was finishing up a day at the beach with some friends by looking out at the ocean from the edge of the Pier.  We were boozing, having a few laughs, when we hear a splash.  The girl who had been standing on the pier in a strange costume, (butterfly wings, combat boots, ballerina skirt, all in varying shades of green, yellow, and black) had jumped in.

Suddenly, we were part of an audience. I’m sure you’ve realized that when something terrible happens (car crash, etc) people gather to watch. Humans can always be counted on as a spectator group. Everything warped from fun, to drama.  Intense feelings were abound, even after we saw that she was okay and swimming/floating. Do we call the police? Has someone called the police? Who is she? Why did she jump?

One spectator remarked to me that “Sometimes when you see someone do something as crazy as this, it makes you think that you’re the one on drugs.” It’s true. Everything becomes all too real and you wonder what you can do to help.  Someone had already called the police, and she was floating so it seemed okay.

Yet the current of the ocean was not in her favor.  Slowly it started pulling her out to sea and a sense of urgency returned to the crowd.  I was distinctly aware of the situation, yet seemed outside myself.  This was not an experience I was prepared for, nor expecting.  My friend, a former lifeguard, wanted to dive in to help her despite being pretty intoxicated.  Luckily we were able to persuade her not to do that, as helping two people from drowning is harder than one.

Just as the tension is building, the girl starts to sing this ethereal tuneless melody. She’s vocalizing in probably freezing water and it’s carrying around the pier creating this strange beauty. Yet in her song, the notes were wrong, felt discordant, sent shivers down your spine.  As I focused more onto the emotion behind her wordless aria, I was chilled to the bone. It was desperate, a cry for help, a siren’s song of death.

This was a performance.

Whether or not it was intended as such, she wanted the attention and she got it.  As the police finally arrived on the scene, a lifeguard jumped in to get her to take hold of his floating tube.  She refused, and instead swam farther away from him. He pursued, calling out “What’s your name?” to no reply.

She was frantic now. She had her hula hoop around her and her gigantic combat boots obstructing her swimming so she ditched them in order to evade capture. The lifeguard would not give up so easily though. He caught up to her and grabbed her by the torso to pull her to safety, telling her to “Relax!” She evaded once again, this time by diving down into the water. He caught her again and was pulling her to safety as the police backup arrived.

In my eyes, this was either an elaborate performance, or attention grabbing suicide attempt. Either way, this experience will stay with me for quite some time, as I’m sure every spectator will agree.


About Kathryn Meister

Production Stage Manager.
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