Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The 1993 Twin Peaks Festival: A Reminiscence

Badge, Pencil and Brochure for the 1993 Twin Peaks Fest
Next week, I’m travelling to Seattle, WA to attend the 2016 Twin Peaks Festival.  I’m very much looking forward to it and my anticipation had me remembering the first festival I attended twenty-three years ago. The 1993 Twin Peaks Festival was the first true fan festival. Unlike the 1992 “festival”—a  promotional event organized by New Line Cinema to promote the release of Fire Walk With Me—the 1993 fest was managed and organized by Twin Peaks fans, Pat Shook to be specific.

The festival was held on August 13-15 and featured a number of wonderful guests including Al Strobel (the One-Armed Man), John Boylan (Mayor Dwayne Milford), Jan D'Arcy (Sylvia Horne), Frank Silva (Bob) and Catherine Coulson (the Log Lady).  (Coulson arrived toting the original log from the series; “I thought it was important for the log to return to its roots,” she said).

The Schedule of Events

The “Kick-Off Dinner” (now better known as the Celebrity Banquet) was held Friday night at the Issaquah Holiday Inn.  Coulson and Boylan could not make the dinner, but the other actors spoke briefly and answered questions.  Jan D’Arcy spoke first, relating several stories about her character.  She expressed disappointment that Sylvia Horne was basically “forgotten” by the show's writers.  When David Lynch returned to shoot the final episode, he asked Jan why she hadn't been involved in more of the shows.  “Because they never called me,” she said.  So, he made sure that she was in that last episode.

Jan D'Arcy at the Dinner (Al Strobel is on the right)

Al Strobel treated everyone to a reading of his “Darkness of Futures Past” poem.  It was as powerful live as it was on television—Strobel's deep, dramatic voice was captivating.

Strobel then related an amusing anecdote about the scene in FWWM where the One-Armed Man confronts Leland and Laura in the car.  “Originally, David had a Dodge Charger, or something, all suped-up and had a stunt driver to do the driving.  And I said, ‘What about my little Chinook camper?  I can stunt drive that.’  And he said, ‘Oh, okay.’  And so I drove the thing around—got it up on two wheels, ruined a set of tires!  And David was having so much fun watching all this that he insisted on driving the camera car!  It was really great fun.”

Al Strobel's drove the Chinook to the Fest! (FWWM's biggest prop!)

The showstopper of the night was Frank Silva.  He recounted a number of fascinating stories about his work on the show, and then took quite a few questions from the audience.  (For more about Frank Silva and his appearance at the festival, see this post.)

Frank Silva Captivates (WIP editors Miller and Thorne are mesmerized).

First thing I have to say is that Bob was an accident.  He was never, ever there from day one.  It was a whole, unbelievable accident.  It basically happened during the original pilot. I was a crew member, the on-set dresser in the art department.  We were doing the shot in Laura Palmer's bedroom.  I was tweaking the bedroom, and the camera was in the doorway.  David was out in the hall, and he jokingly said, "Frank, you'd better get out of there.  You're going to get caught in the camera."  And I looked at David and went, "Okay."  And then, a blood vessel kind of like burst in his head, and he said, "Frank!  Get down at the end of the bed, just crouch down there, and act scared!" And I went, "What?!?" "Just act scared!" And that was how Bob began.

Frank Silva tells a scary story (Craig Miller watches warily)

The only time that David and I discussed Bob was when we were doing the Red Room scene in Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk With Me.  We were talking about Bob as being the bad seed of the group.  It didn't matter to him how much trouble he caused, whether it was in the limbo world, or whether it was in the real world.  He just didn't care.  He was an obnoxious punk.  He doesn't care what kind of havoc that he wreaks in any world.  And he's out to have fun.  He doesn't care about the consequences, doesn't worry about them.  But that's the only discussion we had about Bob, or how to play certain scenes with restrained anger and stuff like that, but other than that, there was nothing really discussed about Bob.

Al Strobel, Craig Miller, and Frank Silva
Craig Miller from Wrapped In Plastic gave a brief keynote speech.  Craig worked hard on this speech and was quite proud of it.  He had the unenviable position of delivering it after Frank Silva had spoken.  Craig ably delivered a wonderful and appropriate concluding address. Here’s a very small part of it:

My sole qualification for being here is that I collaborate with John Thorne in the publication of Wrapped in Plastic, a magazine about David Lynch and Twin Peaks.  John and I both live in the vicinity of Dallas, Texas.  John and his wife did the smart thing and flew up here. I decided to drive. I wanted to see the northwest part of the country closer than an airplane window would allow.  And, despite the extra time it took, I'm glad I drove.

Because I got to see lots of mountains up close. When I saw the mountain range outside of Denver, I was astonished at just how—huge—they were compared to the city below.  But it wasn't until I got to Utah that I was profoundly struck by their immense power, their colossal volume.  I was in awe.  I could barely keep my eyes on the road.  It was pretty dangerous!

I believe David Lynch didn't forget these mountains, or the trees and the wind and the water.

I believe David Lynch remembered nature's beauty and nature's dangerous power when he was creating Twin Peaks with Mark Frost. After my drive here, I will never view Twin Peaks the same way again.

Jan D'Arcy, Al Strobel and Frank Silva Review the Fest Schedule
On Saturday, many fans spent the day sight-seeing and visiting various shooting locations.  That night, there was a screening of Fire Walk With Me at the North Bend movie theater.  After the show, Frank Silva spent about 45 minutes outside the theater talking with fans and answering questions.

On Sunday, the final day of the Festival, Pat Cokewell, owner of the Mar-T Cafe (RR Diner) in North Bend, spoke about some of her experiences with David Lynch and the filming of the pilot and FWWM:

One of the first questions people ask is, how did they find the Mar-T?  My first contact was in February of 1989.  We weren't very busy.  I told the location scout, "You can use it, but we're fixing to do some remodeling."  But they said, "Oh, no, no, no, don't do anything like that.  We want it just like it is."

The Mar T Cafe in 1993

About two weeks later, they said that David Lynch will be up on the weekend and he'll decide.  (They'd looked at another cafe, too.)  So they came up, and they told us they wanted to use it.

For those of us who met David Lynch, he's a wonderful director.  You hear stories about directors yelling and screaming on the set, and that did not happen for the four days that we had the privilege of having him around the Mar-T.  When he was not working, he was talking to you.

When they came back to do the movie, he came about 8:00 in the morning.  That evening, he was still there when they finished up about 10:00.  He was still his calm self.  During the filming, he would go over and show exactly how he wanted it done.  He is a perfectionist.  People would say, "Is he really as weird as his shows?"  No, he's not.

Pat Cokewell
The pie thing—we didn't know the pie thing was in there.  One night when they were filming, I gave the location person the key and said, "You lock up, and I'll get it tomorrow."  And she said, "Can we eat pies?"  And I said, "Yeah, just mark it down."  So I got back the next morning—seventeen little marks!

We had one little lady who made pies.  We'd make about six per day and twelve on the weekend.  Well, it started, and it grew, and it grew, and it grew.  There was no way that she could handle it.  So we've have as many as four pie-makers doing two shifts in there sometimes.  One day, when the second season started, we sold sixty pies from 11:00 until 8:00 that evening.  That's three hundred sixty slices!

The 1993 Festival had many great moments and started a tradition that survives to this day.  All the organizers of the festival over the many years—from Pat Shook to Rob and Deanne Lindley—deserve credit for creating (and sustaining) a unique and important event.  Twin Peaks fans everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper, My Life, My Tapes

Written by Scott Frost (brother of Twin Peaks co-creator, Mark Frost), The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper, My Life, My Tapes was released in April of 1991, just as the second season was losing steam (and network support). The Cooper book was likely designed to plant seeds for a potential third season of Twin Peaks, specifically by introducing Dale Cooper’s brother. The book also described critical events in Cooper’s youth that remained unresolved and which may have haunted the character in later life. Many of these details were alluded to in the original (unproduced) script for the final episode of Twin Peaks.

Where The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer figured prominently in the unfolding Twin Peaks story (it was an actual artifact of the plot—an object sought and guarded by various characters), The Autobiography of Dale Cooper is not anchored to the show’s narrative. No reference to the Autobiography is made in the show (and it seems highly unlikely that Cooper actually wrote an autobiography). But, like the diary, the Autobiography does provide unique and revelatory insight to one of the show’s most significant characters.

Written as a series of transcripts from tapes made since he was thirteen, the “autobiography” traces the life of Dale Cooper from boy to man. Detail are provided about his first love, the death of his mother, his college years, and his eventual career as an agent for the FBI. The book shows that Cooper’s whole life has been leading toward the mysterious events that manifested themselves in Twin Peaks and his ultimate confrontation with evil in the Black Lodge. First, there are dreams both he and his mother share. His mother dreams of a “man” who is apparently pursuing her. Later, the young Dale has a similar dream in which the “man” attempts to get into his room. In yet another dream, and perhaps the most startling part of the book, Cooper’s dead mother gives him a ring. When he awakens he is clutching the ring in his hand. All these events seem to foreshadow what happens to Laura in Fire Walk With Me.  Could the Autobiography have been an inspiration for what Engels and Lynch would later script? Scott Frost explained that he briefly consulted with David Lynch while writing the Autobiography and so it’s possible that certain elements in the book originated with Lynch (though it seems unlikely in this specific case, since many of the details regarding the Teresa Banks investigation were changed for the film).

The book was designed as an extension of the second season. In it, we learn that Windom Earle apparently monitored Cooper through much of his adult life and ultimately recruited Cooper into the FBI. These details mesh nicely with existing information from second season storylines and hint that we would have learned more about Earle had there been a third season.

Frost does a fine job channeling the Cooper character onto the page; he also succeeds at conveying the “Lynchian” environment in which Cooper lives. Throughout the book Cooper encounters dead bodies, people with severed body parts (hands, fingers, ears), and a bizarre connection between sex and fire. (Cooper’s first sexual experience occurs during a brushfire ignited by stray fireworks, another occurs at a college bonfire, yet another with a gasoline-soaked arsonist.) Because all the entries are supposedly transcripts from Cooper himself, Frost has to recreate the style of Cooper’s speech and delivery. He pulls it off surprisingly well.

There are problems with the book, however. Some are minor, like the misspelling of Albert’s last name. Others are less forgivable: The dates of Caroline Powell’s murder don’t match with what is described in the show. In the series, Cooper says Caroline died “four years ago” (i.e., 1985) but the book places her death in 1979—ten years before Cooper arrived in Twin Peaks. The most noticeable mistake, however, are the details Cooper provides about the Teresa Banks investigation. The discrepancies between book and Fire Walk With Me are numerous and stark.  In the book, Teresa’s body is found in a ditch; she worked at the Cross River CafĂ©, and lived in a Lakeside cabin. Cooper does encounter Sheriff Cable, but there’s no mention of Chet Desmond or Sam Stanley. In the book, Cooper conducts a completely different investigation from the one shown in Fire Walk With Me. (Although, given the slippery nature of the Deer Meadow prologue, this is not necessarily surprising.)

Even though The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper, My Life, My Tapes is not as compelling or crucial as The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, it is still a worthy book. It provides a unique perspective on Dale Cooper, and allows for a better understanding of how his story was being developed for the second (and possible third) season of Twin Peaks. Will any of the tantalizing hints from the Autobiography survive into the show’s revival on Showtime? (Or did David Lynch “reset” the character entirely in episode 29 and Fire Walk With Me?) If Mark Frost used it as a reference for his new book (or for any of the backstory to the new series), The Autobiography of F.B.I Special Agent Dale Cooper, My Life, My Tapes—a seemingly insignificant and forgotten piece of tie-in merchandise—could suddenly become quite relevant again.

Scott Frost commented on the book in an interview in Wrapped In Plastic #73 (March, 2005):

Scott Frost:  I wrote the book because I was the only body left standing at that moment. Everybody else was furiously trying to do the show. I believe I had finished my scripts at that point. So it was either me or someone completely from the outside. I had also done the script for the Cooper tape [Diane: The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper] so I had Kyle [MacLachlan’s] voice in my head pretty thoroughly. I sat around with David for a morning and his idea of an autobiography was:  “At some point I want him to investigate peeing asparagus!” [laughs]  That was his approach. Then I went off to Philadelphia and spent a few days out there. And I went to FBI headquarters. That was great fun because they were fans of the show. I got to go around the academy at Quantico and shoot guns.

The idea for Cooper’s brother came up after the book was finished. For some reason there was an actor [Roger Rees] who Mark had decided would be a great older brother for Dale. [But] they decided he would be great without ever actually talking to him. The book was already done and they came back and said, “Now put his older brother into it.”  I came up with the notion of having him run off to Canada as way to dispose of him rather quickly—to get him into the book and then out of it.