Hollyweird: The Strange, Tragic Death of Jennifer Syme

Hollyweird: The Strange, Tragic Death of Jennifer Syme

By Trey Taylor

Hollyweird, in collaboration with @velvetcoke, takes stock of once-known but obscure or forgotten stories about popular celebrities and cult figures.

Ever seen John Wick? The 2014 guns-n-ammo flick about a hitman who seeks revenge after his wife and dog are murdered isn't wholly dissimilar to the tragic real life of Keanu Reeves — minus the revenge and, erm, plus Marilyn Manson.

Reeves met a girl named Jennifer Syme at a party in 1998 thrown for Reeves' rock band Dog Star. They hit it off and began dating. The pair got pregnant, but the delivery unfortunately resulted in a stillborn in late 1999, only a month before baby Ava's due date. Syme suffered postnatal depression and the strain caused by the fatality led to the couple's breakup weeks later. That was only part one of the two-part misfortune.

Syme worked as filmmaker David Lynch's assistant and brokered a relationship between Lynch and Manson. "Our relationship with Lynch had begun two years earlier through a girl we had met named Jennifer, who claimed to be Lynch's assistant," Manson detailed in his 1999 memoir The Long Hard Road Out of Hell. "At the time, everybody else had dismissed her as a name-dropping groupie. But when it came down to it, her claim was not only true, it resulted in an offer for us to collaborate with him on the soundtrack to his new movie, Lost Highway, as well as appear in the film."

Manson did appear in the film, and struck up a friendship with Syme. She was invited to a house party thrown by the shock rocker in April 2001. While there, Manson noticed she was partied out and had a designated driver take her home. Syme, for whatever reason, was compelled to return to the party. Driving back in her Jeep Cherokee on Cahuenga Boulevard, she hit three parked cars and was flung from the driver's seat. The 28-year-old was pronounced at the scene, around 6:20 a.m. "After Jennifer was sent home safely with a designated driver, she later got behind the wheel of her own car for reasons known only to her," Manson later explained in a statement released by his record label.

"Words cannot express the pain that I feel over the loss of Jennifer Syme's life," Manson continued. Manson was the target of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Syme's mother, which alleged that Manson gave Syme drugs. It was settled out of court, however, with Manson maintaining there were no drugs; he was simply trying to get her home safely.

"Grief changes shape, but it never ends," Reeves told Parade in probably the saddest interview published in the year 2006. "People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, 'It's gone, and I'm better.' They're wrong. When the people you love are gone, you're alone."

As a tribute, David Lynch dedicated his 2001 film Mulholland Drive to Syme.

Photo via Getty