Podcasts made up a huge part of many fans’ experiences of Twin Peaks Season 3 last summer. In our feature, Pod People, we talk to the people behind the microphones of our favorite podcasts to find out what they’ve been up to and where they’re going next.
“Welcome to Deer Meadow Radio. Where the owls are still not what they seem.” – Sultry voiced announcer
Back in October of 2014, when David Lynch and Mark Frost made their dual announcement that the gum we like was going to come back in style, it spawned a renaissance in Twin Peaks podcasting. Dozens of fans who had been waiting over 20 years for something new hopped on the bandwagon and began to put out episode by episode recaps of the original series, biding their time until they could do the same for this new series. Some were good, some were not so good, but all were pretty formulaic.
In January 2016, Deer Meadow Radio entered the fray with a different approach. Host Mark Givens set out to do more in-depth analyses, spanning as many episodes as needed to cover any given topic. For example, he started out with 5 episodes on the original Twin Peaks pilot followed by 3 episodes on The Access Guide. Just the acknowledgement of that most maligned of all the original spin off books is amazing unto itself. He landed a few great interviews and had just started following season 3, when a side project, born of one of the first episodes of the podcast, took over his life and put Deer Meadow Radio on a bit of a hiatus.
I caught up with Mark via email to see what he’s been up to, what he thought about season 3, and where he’s taking the podcast next.
25YL: Who is Mark Givens?
DMR: I didn’t know these questions were going to be so hard! PASS
25YL: Back in June 2017, you were interviewed by our own Andrew Grevas in the article My Interview With Deer Meadow Radio Host Mark Givens. At that time, you were knee deep in the writing process for your upcoming book on the Hazel Drew murder case, which inspired Mark Frost in coming up with the character of Laura Palmer. What the latest on your book?
DMR: The book is well underway and it has been the most amazing experience. I am partnering with David Bushman on the project and it has been like jumping into a Twin Peaks VR experience of some sort. For those who don’t know, Hazel Drew was a 20-year-old beauty from rural upstate New York, whose body was found floating in Teal’s Pond near a local farmer’s saw mill in the remote town of Sand Lake in 1908. The small town murder captivated the entire nation at the time, making headlines daily for several weeks in dozens of newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Nearly every day of the investigation brought dramatic twists and turns with ample red herrings, secret relationships exposed, and an amazing array of small town quirky characters to serve as suspects and persons of interest. Stop me if this doesn’t remind you of any show we both might have seen!
This of course is not a coincidence, as although Hazel’s murder did go unsolved and gradually faded from the national and even local consciousness, it continued on in the form of local legend, eventually morphing into a cautionary tale for children about staying out of the woods at night or the spirit of that drowned girl might get you. It just so happened that Mark Frost was one of those kids and his grandmother, having grown up in the area, would spook the young Frost siblings with stories like the ghostly tale from Teal’s Pond. The story always stayed with Frost and later he would draw upon it when collaborating with Lynch to devise the Laura Palmer narrative that would become the foundation for all of Twin Peaks.
Unlike the resolution of the Laura Palmer storyline, Hazel’s killer would elude justice as leads and theories dried up, or as some suspect, the authorities’ appetite to solve the murder lessened, for one reason or another. As the decades passed, the details of the case were lost, and Hazel was only half remembered in the area by some of the locals as this creepy ghost story. In 2008 one of the newspapers in Troy, New York, republished its daily coverage of the investigation to celebrate its centennial anniversary. This rekindled some local interest in the case but the connection to Twin Peaks remained hidden as Frost—in the few interviews where he mentioned the Sand Lake murder—had forgotten the victim’s full name and gave few details about where and when it occurred. I came across the story when I was researching all of Lynch and Frost’s inspirations for the Pilot episode, and used Frost’s sketchy details (e.g. he remembered the name Hazel but had thought her last name was Grey) and a whole lot of google to find the girl’s actual name. When that finally hit, it was like discovering the Rosetta Stone, as suddenly there were dozens and dozens of contemporaneous articles covering the case in minute detail. My partner David Bushman had come across the Hazel Drew story while researching his book Twin Peaks FAQ and after hearing me talk about it on DMR he reached out to me and we have been off and running since then.
Despite having lived with this for more than two years we are still primarily in the research stage. Initially we focused on the extensive newspaper coverage from that time period. This included 4 Troy, NY newspapers (Troy was the closest big city to Sand Lake and was where Hazel actually lived and worked), in addition to the prestigious Washington Post and both the New York and LA Times, with dozens of miscellaneous papers across the country also providing first-hand coverage. Despite two years of pouring through these old papers there are undoubtedly more articles with unique perspectives/information within them still to find. Our research has also expanded to the history and socio-economic context of the time as the backdrop to the case is very much a story of two different worlds: the glamorous city of Troy where Hazel lived and worked as a domestic servant for some of the most powerful and politically connected men of that time and the rural, remote hamlet of Sand Lake where Hazel was born and raised and for some unknown reason, where she returned to meet her final grisly fate. Understanding these two very different worlds, their rules and norms, and how they intersected may prove to be a key to solving the murder.
25YL: What have you most enjoyed about the process of writing the book?
DMR: Perhaps the best part of researching and writing the book have been the trips to the Sand Lake area itself. We have been so fortunate to hook up with a growing community up there that is devoted to exploring and ultimately solving the case. This includes interested locals, law enforcement officials, history buffs and regional historians, as well as some of the descendants of the people actually involved in the case. This last group has been one of the coolest parts for me, as after looking at this story and its wide cast of characters for years, we are now hearing real-life details about how these people lived and died. You find out so-and-so was actually known to be one of the town’s drunks or Aunt this-and-that was the biggest gossip in the land. It really adds color and flavor to the story we are crafting. Special mention also has to be given to a few local amateur detectives who are practically working on this thing full-time. They are constantly digging around for details about the many persons of interest and new leads are always popping up.
25YL: I understand this is going to be more than just a book? There are going to be multimedia aspects to the project as well?
DMR: I always thought this story was so rich and compelling that it could really be told in a variety of ways and mediums. For me it started as an episode of the podcast a few years ago, that I still haven’t finished out! A book seemed a natural fit because of the depth of detail found in all of the newspaper coverage and other source materials. But the inherent dramatic power found in the story could also work in television, movies, etc. Which brings me to our publisher Metabook, who is uniquely positioned to take advantage of all this potential story-making. In the past they have worked with NY Times bestselling authors to take the original source material into new areas such as interviews with people connected to the story, audio dramatizations, original accompanying soundtracks and more. I am really excited to see how all that develops, but the book is first and foremost our focus. Beyond the Metabook we actually have had some initial discussions about the story coming out in some other mediums at some point, so stay tuned for that.
25YL: You also participated in our “Ask the podcasters” survey, back in July 2017 prior to Part 7 airing. Now that the season is long since over, how have your answers changed?
DMR: (One Prediction: His name is Windom…Windom Earle…) OK, so in retrospect it was perhaps a bit insane to think Windom Earle might end up being some sort of Big Bad in the new season! That being said I do feel like there were enough little clues plopped into the new material that you can see the ghost of Earle if you look hard enough. I think this was something I was really going to go into on DMR when I covered The Final Dossier, but as you may have noticed that hasn’t happened yet! I will say we do have the bonsai tree reference and that James Bond type suitcase that both Earle and Bad Cooper use, so I will leave it at that for now and hopefully go into a little more detail one of these days…But yeah a little Windom Earle in the third season couldn’t have gone amiss!
(Moment Furthest From Your Expectations: Dougie storyline) The devastating “ending”. I expected to be blown away, which usually means you are setting yourself up for disappointment due to lofty expectations. Somehow it was so off-kilter and off-putting that it left me with a feeling that I can’t remember getting from a show/movie before. I think the fact that the whole series is leading up to that ending really gives it a lot of the punch…in the way that not all of season 2 was NOT leading up to that great ending. I would even say that now, knowing the ending, it makes it a little difficult for me to go back and watch the whole season from the beginning. It is quite a commitment to end up getting punched in the gut.
(Favorite Callback: Jerry Horne’s journey) Seeing it all play out, in retrospect, perhaps it went on a bit too long? I actually really liked what they did with Ben Horne. They totally continued his story arc even though specific references to Ghostwood Estates and the pine weasel were nowhere in sight.
(Favorite New Character: Richard Horne) He somewhat sputtered out by the end, but still liked the character. However, revisionist answer today would be Jou’dae! Awesome and where I would hope the story would next turn, if it does turn.
(Most Memorable Scene: 1st 15 minutes of Ep 3) Final scene or when the guys come and resurrect Bad Cooper in Episode 8.
25YL: You also did some predictions with the Twin Peaks Unwrapped guys last summer, which were pretty brutally, but humorously, wrapped up on TPU #124. You joked that DMR had become just a segment on TPU. Obviously you’ve got a great working relationship with those guys. How did that come about?
DMR: Those guys are great! I think if you meet them you can’t help but liking them. We have met up at a couple of TP-events over the years and just always hit it off. Notably we spent a whole day together in a Barnes & Noble in NY to see Frost do a reading from The Secret History. I think a lot of us bonded that crazy day! I also think we share similar senses of humor and don’t takes ourselves or our opinions too seriously. I have to give them all the credit in the world for keeping their show running weekly! That is a lot of hard work and they have produced an amazing amount of exceptional content for all of us to enjoy.
25YL: So last year on Facebook, you said after the finale that you were “settling in on brilliant and profound”, but it took you a few long walks to get there. Where are your thoughts on Season 3 now that it’s been a year?
DMR: So I have only watched Season 3 twice all the way through so far. I think it is sitting in my subconscious right now and I kind of want to forget it (to the extent that is possible) before I go back in. I think the third season is better experienced, rather than studied…at least at this stage. But yeah, still loved it and the greatest television in recent memory for sure.
25YL: What I love about your podcast are the deep dives into the extra-canonical materials. Three episodes on the Access Guide and two (so far) on The Secret History, plus an inspired episode on the Season 3 that might have been, back in the ‘90s. This is the kind of work that sets your podcast apart from the rest of the pack. But then, of course, that book dropped in your lap just as Season 3 started airing, and that seems to have kept you from doing a part-by-part analysis of the new series (beyond Parts 1 and 2). Any plans to go back and pick up where you left off? Or get back to The Secret History? Or start on the other books?
DMR: You hit the nail on the head with the book eating the podcast! That is a big reason for the hiatus. It really did take on a life of its own to the point where there is always something I can be doing to work on the book and we are still largely in the research stage. I guess I would also have to throw out that in retrospect a big driver for my show was getting ready for Season 3. If you will pardon the analogy it was a bit like foreplay and then we all know how we felt after the end of Season 3. I guess I am still recovering with half a ciggy!
I do love Deer Meadow Radio and I do vow that one day, in some form it will return. There have been more than one false starts and it may be just getting back in to the regular rhythm again or finding a new angle that would be fun to explore. I was always did plan to cover Frost’s books and believe I have the notes somewhere that would be the basis for a few episodes. I am a little less sure about covering the episodes themselves one by one. I was always looking for a new slant that hadn’t been done to death and I think the podcast community has been fairly comprehensive in going over the new season.
25YL: You are extremely conscious of spoilers, both in exposing yourself to them and in exposing your audience to them. Is that just a general philosophy, or is there a story behind that?
DMR: I think Lynch and Frost get it right on the money here (from what I can tell, especially Lynch). I think all Twin Peaks fans have to be said to be fans of stories. For me the point of the story is to be surprised and go through the experience the storyteller set up. Now when I am going over 30-year-old episodes of Wiseguy, probably less pivotal to not know all the twists and turns. But for things I care about and really want to enjoy spoilers, mathematically, diminish from the end experience. Even those seemingly harmless spoilers that don’t really impact the plot can take you out the story (e.g. “oh here is that part from the trailer…wait they must have re-recorded that line of dialogue”… just watch the movie!) As for being careful with my audience about giving things away…that is just good manners of course! Once again there is a bit of tongue-in-cheek to most of what I say/do. So timestamping where Wiseguy spoilers are on my website so everyone is forewarned is meant to be a bit of a self-deprecating joke, even though I am not sure who the intended audience for that kind of humor is!
25YL: You seem to be a “Frostian” Twin Peaks fan, as opposed to a “Lynchian”. Do you agree?
DMR: Nope! But I don’t blame you for thinking that and I don’t run away from the label. Lynch to me is the unqualified genius who has created things literally like no other person. Frost is brilliant…maybe a genius? but Lynch’s overall resume and the effect it has had on me is definitely more impactful. That being said, his best work to me has been with Frost. And to me Twin Peaks is equal parts. I think it really is impossible to say one had more influence on the show than the other, based on the facts that one’s primary role is to create the story (writer) and the other’s role is to bring it to life on screen (director).
But back to your question, the reason my show sometimes focused on Frost so much was that I don’t really get into the many layers and levels of interpretation of Lynch’s works as some do. To me his movies are powerful experiences…in the moment experiences. People are welcome to have fun in deconstructing them in whatever ways they want to, and I certainly have read a lot of that over the years. But I personally just enjoy watching them! Frost on the other hand operates in a different way. It goes back to the distinction between director and writer. Frost loves the world of red herrings and Easter Eggs referencing characters from old movies and books. This is the kind of thing Deer Meadow Radio was made for…looking into nooks and crannies of the TP universe and finding nuggets of gold. That is why I spent 5 episodes alone on the Access Guide…there is a lot in there to unpack! For example, in our research for the Hazel Drew book, we have talked to some of the descendants of the original farmers/mill owners where Hazel’s body was found. We have learned a lot of their family’s backstory and it is remarkably similar to how the Packards are presented in both the series and The Access Guide. Some of these types of things are bound to be coincidences but Frost definitely plays round with these concepts, so figuring out what is what is part of the fun. Lynch on the other hand is much better at just mind-fucking you! And I love that…it’s just harder for me to do an hour podcast on! I was playing around with ways to cover his movies from an original perspective, so there could still be something on that front at some point. Overall I would conclude that a majority of the audience (maybe not necessarily hardcore fans) doesn’t give Frost nearly enough credit for the Twin Peaks story, but the upside is there is more stuff to cover from that Frostian perspective.
25YL: You’ve said that “The Return” is now an anathema on DMR and it’s now “Season 3”. I agree, and I find it interesting that some folks still insist on calling it TP:TR because they feel that title is better suited. What do you think of that?
DMR: Well first of all, despite my flat monotone delivery, I am usually joking around, to some extent or another. By all means call it what you want. You will of course be wrong! I think of that along the same lines as the Japanese/German (which one was it?) episode titles. I tend to go with the creators versus some sort of fan consensus…and those titles are just so bad. Anyway, I don’t absolutely hate “The Return”, I just kind of always expected this was another season (Season 3) of Twin Peaks. When it came out that Showtime forced the subtitle on them it totally made sense to me. “The Return” is a little like a subtitle for another Terminator soft-reboot or something… generic enough that it could almost be used for anything. “Twin Peaks: Genisys”, “Twin Peaks: Salvation”. C’mon…I think we can do better!
25YL: You’ve been very optimistic that there could be a Season 4. Do you still feel that way now that it’s a year later?
DMR: Sadly I am a little less optimistic than I once was…but I actually felt pretty certain of it before, so now maybe 50/50. I have heard some rumblings that I think may have some validity that there really are no plans right now. That being said the interviews from Lynch and Frost that I have seen have been ambiguous or even positive when asked about the future. Plus there have been similar sentiments from some of the actors. Certainly never say never…and I would expect SOMETHING at some point. I mean everything comes back at some point. Even if it is Elseworlds graphic novels by Harley Peyton and Bob Engels in 20 years, finally giving us adventures set on Gamonbozia, the famed planet of creamed corn!
25YL: With only 22 episodes under your belt, you’ve managed to land a few big fish for interviews, including Harley Peyton and Mark Frost himself. How was it talking with those two in particular?
DMR: Awesome! As you probably know Harley is very down to earth and pretty much up for anything. I mean the focus of our talk was his work on the Access Guide and he knew that going in! I am always looking for some new info or a new angle and sometimes that can be hard with someone like HP, who has done lots of great and extensive interviews over the years. But I was lucky in that he was up for the Access Guide, and Secret History had just came out and he had read it so we had that, and also he had a show called Channel Zero out at the time. So we had lots to talk about and I even threw in a couple of TP curve balls his way.
Frost was definitely the White Whale for me. When The Secret History was coming out I had gotten contact information for his PR people and was very close to getting a call set up. There was extensive back and forth (and I when I say back and forth I basically mean me emailing this poor woman once a week for months on end) until I finally got the green light. But then he was taken ill for a period of time and had to cancel his entire European book tour if my memory serves me correctly, so that all was put on hold. Later we followed up with our contacts when we started working on the Hazel Drew story and that’s how we landed the interview for the article we wrote. He was great! Very generous with his time and pretty much just like you would imagine he would be. Because of how that call was set up we were kind of limited in talking about Hazel Drew so I had to keep all my TP-related questions burning in my pocket. When The Final Dossier was announced I knew the ropes a little more and got in the interview queue a little earlier this time. It was less of a mad scramble, although I seem to remember some minor hiccups, but eventually I was able to get 15 minutes on The Final Dossier. Again this was great because it was pretty much fresh territory, even though I had seen some of his initial interviews on the book, I could come up with original questions. I also managed to sneak in some Season 3 questions (and I think an Access Guide question?), so overall a great experience. And to date my final show, so a good cliffhanger episode, if nothing else.
I also do want to pimp out my interview with Ken Scherer because I think it was the best in terms of meaty new content going back to the times of the original series. Ken was uniquely positioned as the CEO of Lynch-Frost Productions to see a lot of both the creative and business decisions that happened back then. He also hasn’t done a lot of interviews…the only other one I think I have seen is in Brad Dukes’ book and I think Brad had similar things to say about what this guy knows about that period of Twin Peaks.
25YL: You also interview Scott Frost for your book on Hazel Drew. Any chance you would do a deep dive on My Life, My Tapes and hit Scott up for an interview on that? That would be the greatest.
DMR: Yeah when/if I do get back up and running again that would be a great one to cover. I had started a Book Club umbrella for some of my segments having done the Access Guide, and some of The Secret History and The Final Dossier. I was also planning something cool on Talbot Mundy, maybe Dune, definitely certain Frost titles. I found there were a lot of great Twin Peaks-related books beyond the official spin-offs. I am a little more skeptical about Scott having much to say about the book at this point, based on other interviews I have seen with him. It really did seem to have been a sort of fast and dirty project for him, decades ago now. I don’t think I have heard him recall any of the details with much clarity.
25YL: OK, last question, tell me about the sultry voice who does the intros and outros for your podcast episodes? Who is this mystery woman?
DMR: That is all arranged through some murky underground 3rd party connections of mine, so I couldn’t say for sure. I have heard whispers of “The Pink Haired Woman” or simply the “Lady In Pink” bandied about, but those sound like stage names to me. As with all aspects of life, some things appear destined to remain a mystery!
25YL: Thanks again Mark for taking some time to chat.
DMR: Thanks for talking to me and continued success to the wonderful 25 Years Later!