I met Courtenay Stallings and her husband Bob at the 2017 Twin Peaks Festival in Washington. Her kindness and her passion for Twin Peaks and David Lynch’s other work is clearly evident in talking with her and experiencing Twin Peaks’ physical setting with her in Washington. What makes Courtenay unique as a fan, is that she has taken her passion and connected deeply with it through her profession, writing about the show and its lasting impact on us.
What makes Courtenay unique as a person through the Twin Peaks lens is that she embodies the good Dale; supporting her students, encouraging others to take a reflective look at their experiences, and following her heart wherever the blowing wind takes her. I cannot state strongly enough that her high quality work with the Blue Rose Magazine must not be missed. The magazine is our link with the past, and it dictates the future. I hope that you enjoy this brief look at Courtenay’s journey.
Tell me in detail about your first experience with Twin Peaks and what impact that had on you as a TV viewer and a person.
I was barely a teenager when Twin Peaks aired in 1990. I was introverted, a bookworm and a little strange, so this show transported me to a world I didn’t know I needed, but I surely did. Television was terrible in the early 1990s. I barely watched it, but something drew me to this show about a small town in the Northwest. At first, I loved Twin Peaks for the characters, the dreaminess and the soap opera quality of the show. But when the Red Room was revealed, I discovered this show was pure magic. By the time Fire Walk With Me was released, I found an unlikely superhero in Laura Palmer. This incredibly strong woman who suffered horrific abuse in her own home became a source of strength for me. I saw my own journey in her. I saw that evil could be conquered and a guardian angel and a special agent would be with me in my triumph when it was all said and done. Not many TV shows can do that.
Please tell me about your Season 3 viewing experience and how it may have differed from your experiences with the original series.
I watched the original series live on television when it aired on my parents’ 1980s Zenith TV with the dial knobs. I am now so grateful for the Blu-ray because the image is so much crisper and clearer now. I see details in the background I never noticed before.
I watched Season 3 live on television. In fact, we got a subscription to Showtime just so I could watch it live. I recorded the parts on DVR so I could watch them again after they aired. Actually, I had a planned research trip to Europe for two weeks which almost made me miss Parts 7 and 8. The hotel I was staying at didn’t have the channel for Twin Peaks. So, I improvised by Skyping with my husband via my laptop. He held up his laptop to our TV screen, and I watched a couple of episodes of Season 3 through two computer monitors across space and time zones. It wasn’t the ideal way to watch any of Season 3, but I had to watch it live. I got up very early in the morning to do this, but it was worth it.
Watching Season 3 versus the original series was a completely different experience. For one thing, the internet and social media are now the “water coolers” of today. So many incredible sites like 25YL and Twin Peaks Unwrapped provided a space to discuss each part after it aired. I felt part of a larger community whereas when I watched the original series, only a few high school friends shared my passion.
Are you more of a bumper sticker, cosplay, festival or tattoo kind of Twin Peaks fan? Depending on which one, what would your sticker, cosplay, favorite festival or tattoo choice be/has been?
This is a difficult question because I’m not sure any of them apply to me. I tend to live inside my head and not outside of it. I have cosplayed, but I enjoy watching others do it more than participating myself. I am probably more of a festival fan because I absolutely love meeting others in the community who attend festivals. Plus, festivals also tend to showcase art, music and film. I enjoy being an observer and taking it all in. My favorite festival so far is the Festival of Disruption, but I’m going to the Twin Peaks U.K. Festival later this month, so that might be my new favorite.
Have you ever converted anyone into a Twin Peaks fan? If so, please tell me about that experience.
I converted my husband Bob (not that BOB!) in 2013. He’d never rewatch Twin Peaks with me. However, in 2013, the University of Southern California hosted a retrospective of the show in which they aired both seasons and Fire Walk With Me over a five-month period. The first night in January, Mark Frost, Grace Zabriskie, Duwayne Dunham and Ron Garcia were there. It was incredible. I wrote about all of the events for the Red Room Podcast beginning in January and ending in May 2013. I brought my husband to almost every single one. He is an alumnus of U.S.C. film school and was familiar with Lynch’s films but had never seen Twin Peaks. It was thrilling to watch the show with him and a bunch of film students in the audience who were watching it for the very first time. It felt like I was back in 1990. Last year, we watched Season 3 together, and it was pure joy being able to experience that with him and have lengthy discussions about each part after it aired.
What is your favorite scene from any part of Twin Peaks and why?
My favorite scene is the first time we enter the Red Room. Lynch took me to a place on television that seemed to exist only in my dreams. Red curtains, brown-and-cream colored Chevron floors, otherworldly characters, backwards talking in some strange code — I loved it all. Years ago, I taught creative writing to college students. When we discussed surrealism, I’d show them some Twin Peaks, including some Red Room scenes. My former students still remember all the strangeness I shared with them. I even converted a few to the show. It was maybe one of my greatest acts as a professor.
Going from being a fan to writing about Twin Peaks to leading the premiere Twin Peaks publication has to have been a wild ride. Please tell me about how your fandom has transformed into a part of your profession as a writer. What advice can you give to other writers who want to turn a passion into a profession?
I’ve been a fan of Twin Peaks since 1990, and I’ve been seriously writing about Twin Peaks and David Lynch for the past six years. It’s my favorite way to approach the work because I get to dig in and explore topics and themes in a way that I am not able to in casual conversation. Writing has always been my favorite medium of communication, and it’s the best way I know how to share my ideas with others. I also enjoy reading others’ work in the community. There’s so many intelligent and creative folks in this fandom.
My advice to others who want to turn a passion into a profession is to just do it. Don’t give up your day job just yet but take the necessary steps to create and then share it with others. Find yourself a community of like-minded folks who can support you. Find yourself a good editor, too. It can be a friend or partner. My husband is my greatest editor. Your writing will greatly improve if someone besides you can offer advice. Read a lot. Good writers are avid readers. David Lynch said, “Anybody that creates is a friend of mine.” I love that idea. Create for yourself, of course, but heck, you’ll also be a friend of David Lynch, too. There’s nothing wrong with that!
What’s current and upcoming for you in the world of Twin Peaks and David Lynch?
The Blue Rose Magazine just published the Women of Lynch issue. I had the honor of serving as the managing editor of that issue along with Scott Ryan and John Thorne. Ten women wrote 40 essays exploring David Lynch’s female characters in his films and television shows. We also interviewed Sabrina Sutherland, Sheryl Lee, Charlotte Stewart and Piper Laurie. Blake Morrow created an incredible iconic, dreamlike cover in which fans recreated characters from Lynch’s work. Now, the Blue Rose is finalizing Issue #8, which publishes in November. It includes interviews with Sheryl Lee and David Patrick Kelly as well as some fantastic essays and more. We’re also reminding folks to subscribe for next year, too. We are still going strong but can only continue with the support of our subscribers. Folks can subscribe via the website www.bluerosemag.com.
As for me personally, I am working on a book titled Laura’s Ghost: Women Speak About Twin Peaks that will be published by Fayetteville Mafia Press in 2020. I explore the legacy of Laura Palmer’s character on women in the Twin Peaks community. The book serves as a lens through which we can explore the ways the character Laura Palmer both haunts and inspires women of all ages. The show’s given so many women an opportunity to explore their own complex and creative nature. I want to celebrate that and provide a space for their voices to inspire and serve as an archive of this special moment in time. The book explores trauma but also the healing benefits of creativity, too. I began the book in 2016 when I wasn’t seeing a lot of female voices in the community. So I wanted to create a platform for that. The book includes interviews with fans, women who worked with Lynch behind the scenes and Laura Palmer herself — the incredible Sheryl Lee.
Also in the works for me is an academic article for the Supernatural Studies journal titled “Twin Peaks: The Return as Subversive Fairy Tale” in which I explore Season 3 as a fairy tale that Lynch and Frost subvert by twisting the tropes of the original series and offering up a story which is darker yet comes closer to the truth in the way it looks at trauma directly. And, finally, I was just approached to write an essay on Twin Peaks for a book. This is in the early stages, so not much to say about it just yet.
Courtenay Stallings is a professor and the assistant director of Pepperdine Graphic Media at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Stallings is also the associate editor for the Blue Rose Magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to Twin Peaks and David Lynch. She is completing her doctorate in cultural studies and history at Claremont Graduate University and is currently writing a book titled Laura’s Ghost: Women Speak About Twin Peaks, which explores the legacy of Laura Palmer’s character. She would like you to know that the good Courtenay is in the lodge and can’t leave. Write it in your diary.
Twin_Petes is a 27 year-plus fan of the show, music, merchandise, and emotions that emanate from the woods surrounding Blue Pine and Whitetail Mountains. He and his family now reside in what can best be described as the Purple World. His favorite response to most questions is: “That…cannot be revealed.” He loves all things Lynch and Frost. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @Twin_Petes.