“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'” –Jack Kerouac
I agonized over how to write this, primarily because I knew the subject; she meant many things to me. Other folks around town have written it up already, but I really wanted to “do it justice”–not to mention the whole subject really threw me for an emotional loop–and so I lagged. But my personal baggage should not come between this post and whomever out there who may need to read it, so I’ve tossed my half-completed Notepad drafts into the recycle bin and have just come here, to the wordpress page, to compose this on the fly.
Los Angeles is full of a special breed of amazing women, inspired women, women who wear their damage like red dresses and with whom you fall impossibly in love. These women blaze a trail through the city, equally torn between their dreams and their demons. They’re artists, and in turn they inspire art; despite their sadness, they shine. You’d think with all the beauty that ripples out from them, they could see some sort of way through, but their lives accelerate too fast, and close in on them, and the beauty happens less and the desperation happens more.
I wish I could seize every one of these women by the shoulders and force her to grab onto peace, onto serenity, like a buoy in a sea. To hang on, and to slow down, and to change; to stop burning out so fast like a flare shot off into the night sky, falling fast and guttering, the sparkle turning, too fast, to ashes.
This is the story of Rikki Madrigal, whom I knew towards the end of her life. I did not know her well. When I knew her, I was pretty lost & sad as well.
If I knew her today I would never let her walk away from me the way I did the last time I saw her.
I would have grabbed her by the shoulders, and begged her to hang on, and to slow down, and to change. Maybe I couldn’t have prevented what happened, but maybe I could have. We never know how much we matter in the lives of others.
Rikki, I never got to tell you how much you mattered in my life, but what I’ve learned lies somewhere in a truce between the two sides of you that did battle for your life.
I wish neither of us had had to learn it this way.
The story that follows was written by LA author Brian Bentley. Originally purchased by a major LA glossy, it was then passed over for publication again and again. I don’t know why. I want to thank Brian for writing it, and providence for bringing it to my inbox. When I received it, I knew I had to publish it, but it took me a while to grapple with my own memories. Brian, I apologize for the delay. Your difficult work in writing this story deserves far more acclaim than I can give it here.
PLAYING WITH FIRE: The Crazy Life and Mysterious Death of Rikki Madrigal
Everybody seemed to know the woman from Silver Lake with the flaming red hair.
But no one knows what really happened the night her house burned down.
By Brian Bentley
When Rikki Madrigal walked into a room, she made an instant and unforgettable impression. Six feet tall, with flaming red hair and a fondness for colorful homemade dresses and striped leggings, her appearance suggested a living, breathing Raggedy Ann doll. Not much escaped her large, coal-black eyes. Luminescent, soulful and haunting, they darted back and forth with boundless manic energy.
Rikki loved to smoke and drink, boozing to reach oblivion like a reckless 25 year-old. But by the time of her 40th birthday party, which she celebrated in true Rat Pack style, with a gathering of friends at Musso and Frank in Hollywood, Rikki was a middle-aged woman who desperately needed a time-out. She had always swung wildly from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other; it just seemed part of the natural up-and-down rhythms of her life – to fall in and out of trouble. “That’s just Rikki,” her friends would say with a smile.
In the early hours of July 4, 2006, the party finally did come to an end. Everyone’s friend, that crazy girl Rikki from Silver Lake, was dead, lost to a house fire that made the six o’clock news.
The rest of the story is here.