The film: Monster
Date of visit: March 2009
Location of visit: Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
On my last trip I visited a place in New Zealand wherein the Parker-Hulme murder had taken place. For this jaunt, I wanted to visit the bar where Aileen Wuornos, the serial killer immortalised in the biopic Oscar-winner Monster and two Nick Broomfield documentaries, spent her last free night prior to her arrest.
Before we get started, see that photo at the top of the page? Yeah, that’s not Aileen Wuornos and I didn’t take it. That’s Charlize Theron playing Wuornos in Monster sat in the Last Resort Bar. But not when I was there.
The Last Resort is a typical dive on a bland stretch of South Ridgewood Avenue in Port Orange, situated opposite the high society resorts and locales of Daytona Beach. We pulled into the parking lot at around 10am on a sunny morning. My aspirations for the excursion were low; I expected to walk away from our pilgrimage content to have snapped a photograph of the bar. Which was accomplished before I’d even exited the car. We opted for a spot of recon – round the back. If you’ve seen Monster you’ll know the back yard area of The Last Resort is a sprawling clutter, that looks like your dad’s shed exploded. It’s a quinessential biker yard with years of accumulated junk. The showstopper: a huge tree full of bikes. It’s either awesome or a don’t drink and drive commercial waiting to happen.
On our return to the car, we paused to get a photo of a brick. The importance of the brick is that it is housed in a wall where some of Resort’s regulars scrawl their names, aphorisms and homages. I spotted Aileen’s brick where she (or someone who knew her) had put her name, my knowledge of which was informed by one of the four books published since her arrest. They each delve into her later years as a prostitute, during the time she killed seven men.
As we stood outside taking photos of the sign, a man came up asking if we were looking for someone. He was tall, big and burly. He wore a cowboy hat and shades. I told him I had seen Monster and heard they had filmed the bar scenes here. He asked us to come inside the dusky bar, where it was nigh-on impossible to see and told me almost immediately “Ayuh, I was here the night she (Aileen) was arrested. I was standing right where you are now when they took her away.”
My internal mouth was agog. So was my actual mouth. I had been happy enough with the brick, but here I was talking to Cannonball, a man who I had read about, who had actually met her. So I asked “What was she like?”
“Well, for someone who had killed seven people she didn’t act like it. She be bragging about it, and play “Diggin’ up Bones” on the jukebox. She’d talk to anyone who’d listen about what happened.”
We discussed the case. It was surreal for me to be talking to someone who was in the midst of what happened, a man who had been interviewed countless times and appeared in a dozen documentaries.
“Yeah, if she had been stopped by the police after the first murder, after Richard Mallory then things would have been different,” he went on to say.
I told him I had read about the case in detail and knew of the Williams Rule which indicates that evidence from one trial is inadmissible for use in another in the state of Florida (or something very similar), which is wherein the problem lay in her defence. I think I was talking too fast or sounded too English (or both) but he glossed right over it. He told me how strange it was for him to be recognisable across the world for having known a serial killer.
On the back wall hung a framed newspaper clipping; the accompanying article outlining the details of her arrest. Cannonball pointed it out to me and told me that Aileen’s real girlfriend looked nothing like Christina Ricci who portrays her in the film. I walked over to the plaque, a shrine of sorts and looked. I already knew. He told us of his reluctance to appear in the film as the bartender, but he was happy to make a brief cameo in the background of one scene. The film crew took over the bar for a week, documented in a collage of behind the scenes photos hung on the adjacent wall.
As we made our way to the car, Cannonball pointed to a nearby tree informing us of yet more local history; the last person in Volusia County had been hung from it.