When aspiring actor Yaniv Rokah got a part-time job as a barista in a coffee shop in Santa Monica he very quickly struck an unlikely friendship with Mimi a short sprightly octogenarian who worked at the Laundromat on the other side of Montana Avenue. Rokah became fascinated with this extraordinary colorful old lady who it turns out wasn’t actually an employee of the Laundromat although she did washing there for her own ‘clients’ and then slept there between the machines at night. The owner and staff were more than happy to let this very affable senior who had wormed her way into their affections to make this her ‘home’, and over time she befriended so many of the local people she became know as Queen Mimi.
An intrigued Rokah started filming a documentary on Mimi and over the next five years he and his camera tried to find out how this intelligent and articulate homeless had come to settle in the laundry. Her history was fascinating, but equally so was the fact that this enigmatic figure was extremely selective with revealing anything of her past, and even after Rokah gets extremely close to her over the years, he discovers some of her biggest secrets purely by chance just as he is about to wind up the filming.
It is not just the workers of Montana Avenue who come to warm to this intriguing woman, but also some of the local celebrities that have crossed her path too. The actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis befriends Mimi and invites her to a couple of Hollywood Red Carpet functions, and then eventually ends up renting an apartment for her , which Renee Zellwegger pays to have it furnished. As grateful as she is to have her first own home for some forty years (the last 18 of which had been in the laundromat) still doesn’t stop her phoning Galifianakis up and suggesting he buys her a TV. This is both unexpected and funny coming from a woman who had not only refused to adopt any of the usual habits of a homeless person, but had also avoided charity and handouts all her life.
What endears you most to Mimi however is the genuine affection that she inspires from everyone she encounters, which is capped off when you see the packed movie theater audience giving her a standing ovation when this documentary premiered in Santa Monica.
Rokah’s flattering profile is the perfect ode to one of life’s real eccentrics even though you naturally assume there are still parts of Mimi’s story that she is still keeping to herself. There is probably enough for another movie.
Mimi can currently be seen on NETFLIX