An Interview, Encounter and Odyssey: Conversations with the Stars

Wednesday September 5, 3.30 AM. I have experienced something both wonderful and strange. An encounter with the stars, and local fans, has exceeded expectations. Yet a feeling of unease remains.

I will need to investigate further.

Thursday September 13, 9.31 AM. The following pages will hopefully unpack this experience.  They contain a recounting of the events leading up to and including the Sydney Twin Peaks: Conversation With The Stars; an interview with podcaster and event moderator Andy Hazel; and my own personal rambling account of these and other events.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018. Twin Peaks: Conversation with the Stars has been announced!

Executive Producer Sabrina Sutherland (Floor Attendant Jackie) and other long-time Lynch collaborators, Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer/Maddy Ferguson and Carrie Page), Dana Ashbrook (Deputy Bobby Briggs), Michael Horse (Deputy Chief Tommy Hawk Hill), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Brennan (nee Moran)), and Al Strobel (Phillip Michael Gerrard, (Mike) and The One Armed Man) will be touring New Zealand and Australia to share their experience of Twin Peaks and The Return with local fans!

This is an extremely fortuitous turn of events.

I contact Andrew Grevas at 25YL, via Slack to suggest doing an interview or article for the event. He thinks it’s a good idea.

Thursday, July 5, 10:37 AM. I have purchased a gold ticket to the event.This means I will get to meet the stars, have my photograph taken with them, and get to submit questions, that if picked, will be put to the panel during the show.

Gold seems like the right choice when one considers the symbolic, alchemic, and narrative significance of this precious metal.

It is a “solid” choice.

Friday, August 3, 2018, 1.39 AM. There have been subsequent announcements by the promoters. David Roy Williams Entertainment, (DRW Entertainment). David Lynch will Skype in live to each show and answer questions submitted by VIP ticket holders. Some extremely lucky fans at each show will be able to look the man in the eyes and ask their question directly!”

This is, as the press release suggests, an “extremely” exciting development!

Friday, August 10, 8.52 AM. We are several weeks out from the Sydney event and I have contacted Andy Hazel about doing an interview. He will be moderating the Melbourne and Adelaide leg of the tour. It will be good to talk with him to gain some insight into the tour and his interactions with the stars – not to mention learning more about his relationship with Twin Peaks.

Pete (Twin Pete’s) and Andrew, from 25YL contacted me several days ago about getting in contact with Andy. There’s a connection between Andy and Pete through a friend named Keith, whom Andy interviewed for his Twin Peaks podcast.

Having listened to Andy’s podcast Twin Peaks The Return: A Season Three Podcast, I had previously messaged him to share my thoughts about Twin Peaks and to congratulate him on the show.

Friday, August 10, Time Unknown. Good news. Andy has agreed to be interviewed.

Tuesday, August 14, 8.05 AM. While Andy is keen to do the interview we are yet to lock in a time and date. He informs me he’s about to record an interview with Sheryl Lee over the phone

I quickly type back—and I’m paraphrasing for clarity.

“Is it possible to throw a question your way for Sheryl, I ask, ever hopeful. I’m interested to know how the actors make sense of Twin Peaks, having lived with the show throughout their lives, having experienced the passing of time themselves, and seeing that same passing of time mirrored in their characters journey, and make sense of that. How do they process this, and experience the show in totality now that the new series has changed everything and deeply engaged with mortality and the fragile, tenuous nature of existence”

I went on:

“Obviously I understand this may be out of order and cross several boundaries so feel free to ignore my rambling free form question. When is a good time to chat with you about catching up?”

I admit it, this is not the type of question that should be asked out of the blue. It needs to be thought about and gone back to, like the show itself. What’s more there is no easy answer to be got at.

It gets me thinking: What does this question say about my own interest and preoccupation with Twin Peaks?

I first saw the pilot for Twin Peaks at the Wellington Film Festival, a year before it aired on television in New Zealand.

My formative experience of Lynch had been a screening of Blue Velvet and involved an encounter with protestors who were contesting the films portrayal of female sexual fantasy, and violence against women. While I was trepidatious about what I was about to see, having no idea what Blue Velvet was about, or who David Lynch was, I was ecstatic when I left the cinema.

A threshold had been crossed and my relationship with film was forever changed. As a result I sought out Lynch’s films and soon realised I had seen his work before, having watched the Elephant Man and Dune on the small and big screen as a teenager. I could even recalled an interview with Lynch during the Oscars, when he was nominated for best director for the Elephant Man. For some reason I was struck by how young he seemed. With his skinny face and ample quiff, he was so unlike what I envisioned a director to be.

Whatever the reason, Lynch and his work stuck with me, like dust to pitch, and now, almost 38 years later I am still intrigued by his screen and art practice—with Twin Peaks his most important work in my eyes. This is partly because of how the series and audience were left hanging for over quarter of a century, and again more importantly because of how it was resolved in The Return. It has also now become Lynch’s most pivotal work for me because of how it has become entangles with his broader screen and art practice, and transformed into a multi-faceted,  intertextual total work of art.

Twin Peaks is also important to me because in many ways I have grown up and aged with this work. I am a year older than Sheryl Lee and have a son who is a similar age to hers. Again, Dana, Sherilyn, and James are in my age group, while Lara, Mädchen and Heather are the same age as my sister. Yes Cooper’s journey and the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death drew me in and maintained my engagement with this show, however the emotional resonance of other narrative and character arcs within this world were just as important to me, but in a different way.

For me this was located in James, Donna, Maddy, and Audrey’s arcs, and secondarily in those of Bobby, Shelley and Leo. These stories resonated because they explored the lives of young adults who were trying to find love and make sense of their world as it went to hell in a hand basket. Yes there were moments of high melodrama, and some missteps but by and large these narratives were grounded in an honest expressions of teenage emotional life and loss of innocence.  The love, betrayal, and confusion projected and broadcast into my life spoke to me – though without the murder and multi-dimensional intrusions – and now that I look back I remember, seeing the pilot not long after an emotional break-up with the girlfriend I had been living with for the past year. What’s more she was sitting beside me, and my pathetically broken heart in that cinema on that very night. No wonder I empathised with James and became an unapologetic lover of Just You.

Tuesday, August 14, 12.35 PM. Andy and I lock in a date for the interview, Sunday September 2 at 11am. The day after the Sydney event and the same day Andy’s interview with Sheryl Lee is published on 25YL.

Friday,  August 19, 5.42 PM. Sabrina Sutherland, posts pictures of Sheryl, Dana, Michael, Kimmy Robertson, and herself, in Auckland city. The tour has begun!

Kimmy Robertson, Sheryl Lee, Sabrina Sutherland, Michael Horse and Dana Ashbrook in Aukland for Conversations with the Stars
The Stars in Auckland NZ: Image Ben Jackson

From this point on the stars will circuitously wind their way through New Zealand and Australia, meeting and greeting fans, sharing stories and answering questions. The first show will be in Auckland on the 22nd of August, with Christchurch, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth to follow.

This is going to be a crazy, whirlwind tour, with a heck of a lot of air points racked up, interviews done, Hobbit Holes explored, and koalas cuddled.

Saturday, August 26, 6.54 AM. It has been reported Al Strobel had “a minor heart attack” last night in Melbourne.

We are all very concerned for Al and wishing him a speedy recovery.

Sunday, August 26, 8.24 PM. The Al Strobel’s Tulpa page has been set up on Facebook so fans and friends can send Al their best wishes.

Messages of support are streaming in.

Sunday, September 2, Sometime between 11.30 AM and 12.45 PM. When I speak with Andy he tells me that everything seemed fine early on that night in Melbourne. The cast had met the VIP ticket holders and Al went back to his room for a rest. Later, when they were about to go on stage Al mentioned he’d been feeling tired and had just stayed in his room all day listening to the NPR.

As a result Andy was expecting Al to be subdued but when he went on stage he “was amazing…he had fantastic anecdotes, he had a really good memory.”  He spoke about “doing the Threepenny Opera in 1967 with Catherine Coulson and Jake Nance”, performed the Fire Walk With Me poem, and was fantastic all night.

But after the show he didn’t go to the party and shortly after that he had his heart attack.

Saturday, September 1, 2 PM. I’m heading in to Darling Harbour for the Sydney leg of Conversations With the Stars tour. I’m meeting up with Aaron, Alexandra, Rob at the nearby Hard Rock Café. Rob and I are based in Sydney, Alexandra, has driven up from Gundagai, four hours south of Sydney, and Aaron has flown in from Washington DC, taking advantage of a work trip to get his Twin Peaks quotient for the month. None of us have met before, but we have all connected on the Twin Peaks Aussie Fans Facebook page.

As a first time participant in an event like this I don’t know what to expect. I’m sure you have all been in situations where you are fit to busting to talk about Twin Peaks and there’s no one to talk to. I am hoping today will be an embarrassment of riches.

I enter the café not knowing what anyone looks like but it doesn’t take long to spot a chevron-patterned bag belonging to Alexandria. We wait for a while to see if anyone else will turn up

It turns out that both Rob and Aaron have traveled near and far to explore the terrestrial reality of Twin Peaks, and in less than a week Rob will be flying to the US, where he intends to visit several show locations he has not yet seen. He is also hoping to visit with Mary Reber at the Palmer House. Aaron, whom Andy describes as a “super-fan”, suggests Rob visit some easily accessed locations in California and points him in the right direction. He also kindly shows us some shows related videos and pics on his phones. One video features Mary Reber catching up with Kyle MacLachlan at a Pursued by Bear wine and food event. It’s the first time they have caught up since the shoot. Kyle is warm and charming, as you’d expect, as he shares with Mary, (and I’m paraphrasing) “she is the woman of his nightmares.”

Saturday, September 1, 3.30 PM. We head to the venue. The Platinum ticket holders need to pick up their lanyards and to find the assembly point. I tag along for company and to make sure I get my ticket from the box office. We follow a series of electronic signs that direct us to the far end of the Convention Centre, and then back again. Looking for guidance we are given a successive series of instructions that point us toward our end destination, but without quite getting us to where we need to be. I’m starting to wonder if we’ve wandered into a black lodge maze.

Eventually we find our way to the venue which is ironically less than a minute’s walk from where we set out. There’s a good cross section of people gathered, from older viewers to younger fans. Rob Hudson has come from Newcastle with three posies of flowers for the female stars. There’s another man who flew in from Mackay in North Queensland, where he lives on a property so isolated there’s no cellular phone connection.

As we mingle, Lilli, from DRW arrives, appraise us of the meet and greet protocols and informs us Al Strobel has made the trip to Sydney and that we will meet with us upstairs!

This is beautiful news!

Sunday, September 2, 11 AM. Andy and I connect via Skype.

So how did Andy get involved with the Conversations tour? It was through a chance encounter at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. He ran into Ben Jackson after an Electric Moon performance—the Twin Peaks cabaret band who would tour with Conversations  and got to talking about covering and reinterpreting the Peaks sound track.  A week later Ben messaged Andy to tell him he had “some big Twin Peaks news”.

When the news of the tour broke the next day…”I got straight on the phone to Ben and he said, ”do you want to moderate Melbourne or any other shows?’ And I was like, ‘no! I’ve never done this before, it’ll be terrifying.'”

Andy told Lindsey McDougall, who interviewed him about the tour on Illawarra FM, to get in contact with the DRW about moderating the Sydney show, and got his friend author Jenny Valentish, a big Twin Peaks fan to do Brisbane. The promoters also tried to get Myf Warhurst, a preeminent radio announcer and television host for the Adelaide and Melbourne show but she wasn’t available…

“So they ended up giving me Melbourne and Adelaide, and I was ‘oh god, ok, I’ll do it’. I could barely eat or sleep in the weeks leading up to it just thinking about how difficult it would be to go onto a stage in front of a thousand people, and to do a Welcome to Country…I was expecting there would be Skype problems with David Lynch. But when I got there, and met the cast, I felt like I was part of this huge machine, there was no way out, and I was going to have to go on stage and do my stuff.”

Despite this trepidation getting this gig was a gift from heaven. Andy’s background in journalism allowed him to stand back and think about how best to approach his role. He knew the cast didn’t want to discuss theories and was also aware there would be three generations of fans in the room. As such he would have to strike a balance between what new and old fans wanted and so determined to encourage the cast to have conversations with each other about their personal experiences of the show, and in so doing hoping avoid the show being like every other Q&A the actors had done for the past 27 years.

The cast of Twin Peaks on stage at Conversations with the Stars, Melbourne
Photographer: Jacqui Scott

“I wanted to get more depth… so I was actually using information from Reflections [An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes] and jogging their own memories…Like when Dana used to have Twin Peaks parties at his house during the original series, where he knew what was going to happen, and then comparing it to season three, when he had no idea what to expect. And it seemed to work.

“I loved how complementary they all were. I got to hang out with them for an hour before the Adelaide show and heard all these great Hollywood stories, like about Michael Horse living next to Lou Diamond-Phillips who bought Marilyn Monroe’s house and when you went over for dinner you’d be sitting underneath photos of Cary Grant and Marilyn having dinner at the same place.”

“They seemed to have a good time. We all had hugs afterwards… and everybody gave David Lynch a standing ovation. There was so much love in the room, and people were so excited about them being here that it was almost like I couldn’t stuff up.”

Andy Hazel the host of Conversations with the Stars, Melbourne, along with the cast of Twin Peaks
Image Courtesy of DWR

Andy also set out to ask questions of Sabrina as if she were David, because she’s been “his right hand woman for the last 25-odd years” and has so much information at her disposal. There were some genuine revelations, like in Adelaide when she discussed how they had been “going through boxes of David’s writing…that he hadn’t looked at since the eighties… [including] screen plays, [and] all this fiction he had been writing”. Sabrina had no idea how this material would be used, if at all, but she did suggest they found “some amazing things” and that there maybe projects to work on in the future. Andy also got the distinct impression there were at least discussions about the possibility of more of Twin Peaks, but “nobody was confirming anything.” The one certainty he could ascertain was that the cast present would jump at the chance to work with David again.

Saturday, September 1, 6 PM. It’s time for the gold ticket holders to go upstairs. We’re given a series of coloured tickets: green, purple and red. Each coloured ticket gives us access to a particular grouping of stars. We are to have a quick chat with the each of them, get our photograph taken, have an item signed and then move on to the next section.

Surprisingly after so many years of thinking about Twin Peaks I don’t know what to say.  I also know there’s no time for a deep dive. So I decide to wing it.

Al is in the first section sitting at his table signing pictures and posing for photographs. He looks pale. He, like the other Stars, is welcoming and seems to enjoy meeting the fans.

Next I meet Sabrina, Kimmy, Michael, and Dana. I ask them about their journey; about the quick succession of travel from one destination to another; about being in New Zealand, and Sabrina’s experience of working on a kiwi farm as a student, and whether they got to visit Marae.

It turns out Michael has already been to New Zealand, and loves the fact that the Whanganui river has been granted the status of a human. Kimmy tells me she was moved to tears flying over the Southern Alps as they winged their way into Christchurch. She doesn’t think she’ll get to come out here again—and says something about being too old for more travel. She has to be pulling my leg. Of all the stars, Kimmy is fit to busting with vitality and on top of it all is very funny.

The only question I ask about Twin Peaks is to Dana. I’m interested to know about the scene in Fire Walk with Me, when he comes after Laura, not knowing where she’s been and transforms from the jealous boyfriend into the love struck fool. In particular I want to know about the blocking of eye lines, and whether the strange positioning, having Bobby and Laura seemingly looking past each other, is deliberate. Unfortunately Dana says he can’t remember. I inform him the scene has been dissected by a lot of academics including Todd McGowan [1] and that people have found it intriguing and significant. I even use the word ontological.

This gets me thinking about the strategies the actors and crew use to avoid giving away sensitive details. It also gets me thinking about how David will answer questions during the show. Will he answer in his usual fashion by talking around the question or will he get at some special detail that hasn’t been shared before? I’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally I meet Sheryl. She has the same gravitas as Al and Michael and the warmth of the others. There’s also something else about her that suggests the characters she portrays. Clearly she is not Laura Palmer, Maddy Ferguson, or Carrie Page but there is still something that lingers. I am surprised by how much this affects me.

Later I wonder if it might be an uncanny moment of divergence and instability revealed as the real and imagined Sheryl coalesce before my eyes.

Again I want to ask her a question, the question I sent to Andy, but I don’t for the obvious reasons. We have our photograph taken together and move off down stairs to wait for the show to begin.

Sheryl Lee and Simon Bare

Sunday, September 2, Sometime between 11.30 AM and 12.45 PM – Andy and I discuss how a lot of fans brought The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer for Sheryl to sign and how some of them had an intense and emotional conversations with her. This isn’t a surprise.

Many writers at 25YL and elsewhere have explored how Laura Palmer’s story helped them negotiate crisis and adversity in their own lives. Articles written by the site founder Andrew Grevas, executive editor Lindsay Stamhuis and columnist Cheryl Lee Latter testify to the deep relationship fans have with Sheryl’s character, and how Laura gave them strength to face and surmount what assailed them.

Sheryl discussed this with Andy, about how people share their stories “about traumas, and about incest, and their experiences” with her, and how “it is a very difficult thing to handle because…[she is] not a qualified psychologist” or trained to help them.

Yet the fact that she has given life to a character they connect with, who speaks to their deeply personal and painful experiences, so much so that they are compelled to share their stories with her, is also deeply humbling for her and significant.

In Melbourne and Adelaide Andy saw instances in which “some young woman were shaking, they were upset, they were clearly emotionally overwhelmed by being that close to her” but “the fact that Sheryl is so warm and welcoming and quiet, charismatic and intense, and she makes you feel so special” is in part what is so significant about these events.

This generosity of spirit was clearly evident in how she interacted with every one she spoke to. I would have my own experience of this later in the night.

The thematic exploration of trauma and loss that drives this relationship with fans is embedded into Twin Peaks DNA, and was present right from the beginning of the series , in the discovery of Laura’s body, and at the end, in Cooper’s disquieting realisation that the past cannot be undone.

While these themes had been explored in the earlier iteration of the show, through its portrayal of domestic violence, drug abuse, incest and murder, the new season, like Fire Walk With Me amplified these themes in a way that network television was unable to. Abuse of the drug Sparkle, the horrific portrayal of male violence, and the impoverishment of everyday life held up a mirror to the decline of America in the real world. The economic failure engendered by the G.F.C., the foreclosures on mortgages, the abandonment of housing developments, the loss of savings, which in turn amplified the opioid and suicide epidemic, were there for all to see. Yet this was only one strand of exploration.

The show also ventured into more profound territory with its indexical engagement with mortality. This acknowledgment and meditation on the nature of mortality, often cited in the end titles and manifested through the appearance of actors and characters who had died or were about to die, seemed to overlay all the other thematic strands expressed in The Return and Twin Peaks. This played out most poignantly in Catherine Coulson’s scenes, as she portrayed her own, and her characters, impending demise, but also in our seeing Jack Nance’s Pete Martell go fishing untroubled and not finding Laura’s body wrapped in plastic on the beach. While these scenes were deeply moving they were not alone, nor did the production and screening of The Return end this process.

Al’s heart attack in Melbourne was a further reminded of this, and it was not a subject that he shied away from. During the Sydney show Al described being in the Melbourne ER, about to have stents implanted.  He recounted how he became acutely aware of how cold he was, and how he was struck by the realisation that he was in deep trouble. And in response began to recite…

“E ide to Node, E ide to Node, E ide to Node…”

The line Mike delivers to Dougie/Cooper in part 6…

“Don’t Die, Don’t Die, Don’t Die…”

This candour was also evident in Melbourne and Adelaide when Andy turned the discussion to the topic of working with Catherine Coulson’s and her performance as Margaret Lanterman.

“I was seeing people get quite emotional and telling some amazing stories…Al had been talking about working with her in the Sixties while Michael discussed how grateful he was to have those scenes with Catherine to pay her respect and to illustrate the profound connection Margaret and Hawk’s characters had.

“And Sabrina was giving the real life story…about when Kristine McKenna, David Lynch’s biographer went up to interview [Catherine] and got on the phone to Sabrina and said ‘You’ve got to film her scenes very quickly because she’s really sick.’ Even Catherine it seemed had been hinting at getting a move on, suggesting they bring her shoot forward and asking if they would be all right with filming her in a wheelchair.”

Andy was worried by how emotional these conversations became, particularity in Adelaide where Sabrina got quite upset.

“And I as a moderator I was thinking: how the fuck do I get out of this situation? I didn’t mean for people to start crying.” But he needn’t have worried. Kimmy came the to rescue launching in with a “happy” story about Catherine and Charlotte Stewart carrying on like naughty school girls and having fun together on the set of original series.

While the conversation had become emotionally charged Andy soon realised it had been important for panel to go to those places.

“Afterwards Al came up to me and said ‘thank you so much for giving me that chance to talk about Catherine’, as he hadn’t yet had a chance to process Catherine’s death and celebrate her life and this allowed him to do so.”

Conversation With The Stars Melbounre, 2018
Photographer: Jacqui Scott

Saturday, September 1, 7 PM. The doors are opened and we are let in. As we find our seats Electric Moon play a set of classic Twin Peaks tunes. Between tracks, vocalist, Mia Goodwin informs us that the next song has been requested by Kimmy – Just You.  I whoop and holler and sing along, while Rob Hudson, sitting in the row ahead flicks his lighter on and gently arcs the flame back and forth in time with the song.

Kimmy does indeed have a wicked sense of humour.

Photographer Milli Profile @millihowson

During intermission Ben Jackson, from DRW Entertainment, appeared at the front of the stage and reads out a series of names, including mine. We soon learn we will get to ask Mr. Lynch two questions each. This is amazing but it’s also a little daunting. I’m starting to wonder if I should have asked a different question.

When I discuss the Melbourne questions with Andy he described a slightly different process, with more people selected but with only one question each. It also seems many of the answers Lynch gave in Melbourne and Adelaide were sweet and often hilariously brief. For instance when asked what the world of Twin Peaks means to him he replied, “a lot.” When asked what inspired him to make Laura such a complex and deeply sad character he replied: he doesn’t know. He did however expand on his answer by suggesting that Laura, Maddie and Carrie were ideas that came to him when they were needed, and that it was through these ideas the characters were born. Melbourne artist Milly Moo got the straightest answers when she asked David if he was exploring any new mediums, like needle-point—to which he replied that she was very close to the mark: “I’ve been teaching myself to sew.”

Andy wondered whether answering questions at 3AM Pacific Time could lead the famously elliptical Lynch to let his guard down and reveal more than he usually would but this was not the case. In Sydney, however, he was more forthcoming, in his way, though the questions were quite different. Aaron asked the type of questions he likes to engage with about living the “art life” when you have to earn a living, and about the influence transcendental meditation (TM) has on his everyday life and how it affects the world. In answer Lynch encouraged artists who had to work to just keep at making art, when they get home, in the weekend, and to meditate to bring pure consciousness into their work. It would only be a matter of time before someone saw their work and recognised it. He then went onto to explain how TM dispels negativity and connects the meditator to pure consciousness, as he has many times before. What was interesting, at least to me, was his description of negativity as an imaginary “dark brooding cloud” that hangs over the world, which he gestured at by holding his hands up and making his fingers dance like the particles Cooper falls through in Parts 2 and 3 as he escapes the Red Room. The analogy of the “dark and brooding cloud” also got me thinking about the mushroom cloud of the Trinity test that featured so prominently in Part 8. While this was not an out-right explanation of what he was exploring in Season 3, it at least seemed as though it might be.

Another questioner, Léon, then asked for anecdotes about David Bowie and to know more about the creation of the Log Lady character. In answer Lynch told the story about Bowie’s embarrassment at the accent he used in FWWM, or rather at the response it garnered. As such Bowie had requested he use an actor with the correct accent to voice Agent Jeffries. While Lynch respected these wishes he was amazed at how much Nathan Frizzell’s, who took on the role, sounded just like Bowie’s in FWWM and how beautiful that was. When he turned to the evolution of Log Lady’s character he shared the story about how in 1973 he had got an idea for a show called “I’ll test my log with every branch of knowledge”, as discussed in Room to Dream, in which Margaret’s backstory, the death of her husband and the log she carried were already fleshed out and revived for the Pilot of Twin Peaks.

Rob then recounted how emotional he became watching the opening credits of The Return and asked if there was a moment like that which made David just as emotional and glad to be back in Twin Peaks when he was filming? David shared that he had cried “a bunch of times” on set. He then described the scene when Big Ed sits at the counter in the RR Dinner thinking he has lost Norma for good and how, as the camera stayed on him and moved in closer, and Norma’s hand reached in and stopped on Ed’s shoulder, how extremely emotional that made him.

A bit later Karen asked Lynch why he thought Twin Peaks had such longevity and he responded by telling her:

“That’s a question that I don’t think anyone knows the answer to. It’s kinda strange how Twin Peaks…traveled successfully all around the world. No one could really figure it. Something caught the human beings, and I don’t know exactly what it is.”

When I got on stage I asked David to discuss how expressionistic, surrealistic and absurdist art influenced him and was expressed in his own artistic practice. He answered, as he had in Melbourne before, discussing the finding, catching and recognising of ideas.

“I’m just loving ideas. I say we don’t do anything in the world without ideas. So I love catching ideas and once in a while we human beings catch ideas that we fall in love with and that drives the boat. If you get an idea for something you know what to do. You see the idea, you hear the idea, you know, know it, and then you act upon it, and try to manifest that idea in the world. So that’s what I love to do.”

I then asked him about his love of mystery and where it came from, and in which works by others did he find it. He responded:

“I think all human beings love mystery and I always say we are like detectives. We look around every day, and we wonder about things. We look for clues as to what is really going on in this world—what is it all about? And a mystery is, we’re all involved in a giant mystery, were trying to figure things out, and it’s so beautiful. That’s the way I see it.”

Standing on the stage, staring at a small computer screen, with David on it looking back at me,  from a semi-darkened room,  with the same image projected onto a larger above my head was a strange experience—so much so that I forgot to introduce myself to him when I said “Hello Mr Lynch”. I suppose I was focused on asking my question coherently,  while at same time wondering how he would respond. As he answered my questions I was also intently aware of  wanting to go deeper and to ask for more detail  but the format, and good manners precluded my doing so. So I left the stage grateful but somewhat perplexed, wondering if I had gotten the answer I had sought. In fact it put me in mind of watching a video with Australian film luminary David Stratton interviewing Lynch at the launch of his Between Two Worlds exhibition. At the time I was highly amused by seeing this highly intellectual film critic being given answers that weren’t really the answers he was looking for.

This was the exact same position I had been put in with David.  What I really wanted was to come up with a question that would perhaps lead to something new and to get David to open up. This was obviously an act of hubris on my part, which in hindsight prevented me from fully appreciating the gift I had been given. It was as if I was Cooper standing at the front door of the Palmer house, seeking resolution, only to discover Sarah Palmer did not live there, and that catharsis and release were not to be had.

In this I was disappointed, but only momentarily, and not in the way I expected.

The question that revealed most was asked by another fan Brett, who had seen Lynch speak with David Stratton in Brisbane at the opening of Between Two Worlds in 2015. Apparently the discussion had turned to David dancing with Giulietta Masina at the Montreal Film Festival and Brett wanted to know “…how that came about, and how it was meeting her, [Fellini’s wife and muse] in real life?”

David paused before responding…

“It was a beautiful night. At the festival I think Giulietta Masina was on the jury and after Blue Velvet screened there in Montreal everybody was asked to go to this ballroom—and there was going to be a dinner and a party afterward. And at this ballroom they came to me and they said ‘We would like you to start the dancing with Giulietta Masina’. And I thought I had died and gone to heaven. And I see her and the music starts, and I go to her. And she is coming over to me. And away we go, starting the dancing in the ballroom with me and Giulietta Masina. It was unbelievable. And I’m dancing with her and I want to ask her about Federico Fellini, and I’m looking at her face and I’m at a loss for words”

Brett went on:

“I also know you love Fellini and this year is the 75th wedding anniversary of Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina. I shall be in Rimini over that time to place flowers on their grave in celebration. Would you like me to say anything to them for you and to buy flowers to place for you to?”

David: “Yes I would and I would like you to tell them how great they are and how they were both such a great inspiration to me.”

Brett: Thank You Mr Lynch.

David: Thank you very much Brett.

It was clear that David was touched. His eyes glistened and his voice wavered.  And in that moment we learnt a lot about David, his love for Federico and Giulietta, the inspiration they provided, and how this kind and thoughtful request touched him and allowed us to see the man and not just the director and actor.

Sunday, September 2, Sometime between 11.30 AM and 12.45 PM. There’s been a lot to talk about. Andy wants to know if there were any moments that jumped out to me in the Sydney conversations.

Kimmy’s story about finding out the series was going to come back was hilarious with her describing getting a call from Sabrina and being asked if she was able to speak with David. She’s not quite sure how it happened, but the conversation began with her lying on her bed with her phone, and then, somehow, ended with her lying on the floor under the bed staring up at her mattress.

Dana and Kimmy also discussed trying to get information out of each other about their scenes, without getting caught, and how Sabrina was always vigilant, breaking up any conversation that seemed untoward in any way.

Michael’s description of the Pacific North West and the woods that cover it as a place with “strong medicine” seemed significant, and pointed to the relationship between the character Michael played and the man he is. Despite being brought up “on rez” in the South West, Horse had a lot of local connections with that part of the country that helped him connect with his character. He acknowledged Australian indigenous Dreaming and Dream Time as something he, as an indigenous man, “valued, and shared” from his own cultural perspective, which was warmly welcomed by the audience.

If I had a criticism of the event in Sydney it would be that there was no Welcome to Country or Acknowledgment of Country. I know Andy did this in Melbourne and Adelaide but it should have been done for every event in Australia, in acknowledgment of the land on which the event took place and its local custodians and elders, both past and present.

Al Strobel’s story about the scene from FWWM when Mike pulls up beside Leland’s car in the campervan at Sparkwood and 21 was also informative. According to Al the scene was filmed with the yelling and screaming and the revving of the engine as it appears in the film, without Al having to post-sync the dialogue during post production. (Incidentally Al revealed that the camper van was indeed his own). This gives further insight into Lynch’s approach on set and the way he tries to create an immersive space for the actors as much as he does for the audience in the theatre or at home.

Laura shared how the space she entered into while file was so mysterious, partly because she, like the other cast members had no idea what was going on with her character or where her scenes fitted into the narrative.  Despite this she  recounted how much she trusts David and all the “magicians” that work with him to bring these worlds to life. This was especially true of the Red Room scenes where she was so often been required to speak and perform in reverse.

“It’s like going back, in time…it’s suspended in time that place…it doesn’t really feel like three decades have gone by…it’s kind of a different way of being in there… I never ever know what’s going to happen in that room.”

She described it as being like learning another language but more discombobulating—having to perform, move and present emotion in reverse.

“It does trippy things to your head. There is a certain structure but there isn’t” and “nothing in there is ever filmed the same way.”

In some ways this description of the Red Room and the difficulty in apprehending it seems to bleed out of Sheryl’s own experience of time, emotion and memory, which Andy noted in our conversation, and Sheryl alluded to on stage—which speaks to a connection between Laura and Sheryl that seems, in some ways, shamanic.

Andy informs me that Al’s wife uses Shamanic practices in her work as a drug and alcohol counselor. This seems to help me make sense of Lynch’s spiritual preoccupations, Frost’s allusions to the occult, magic and the collective concussions, Michael’s understanding of the world and now Al’s connection to spiritual knowledge, and of course Sheryl’s relationship with the character that she plays.

We then discuss the final questions put to the panel near the end of the show, including the question I messaged to Andy on the day he found out he was to interview Sheryl. I had submitted it online, but cut it back to make it simpler to read – though clearly not enough.

Once it is read out by Lindsay, the Sydney host, Sheryl asks me to stand up and to ask the question in my own words.

I’m horrified…I have to say the words.

Twin Peaks for me is all about making sense. It’s for us to make sense of, it’s for you to make sense of, but I’m interested in how you make sense of it. I know that David isn’t going to tell us how he makes sense of it. I know Sabrina knows how it makes sense [and won’t tell us]. But it’s a really important work, and it’s not just a drama, it’s dealing with some real things. It’s dealing with mortality, which is on screen, which is real. We’ve all experienced loss at a certain age…you’re expressing something that’s really true and deeply personal, and you’re seeing yourself in time, you’re experiencing the pain and joy of the world…and you’re seeing this thing reflected on screen, and we all go home and try to make sense of what you’ve done but how do you process this, as a person and as an actor portraying that world?”

Even writing this I’m shrinking with embarrassment, wishing I had been clearer and more concise. I wonder why I asked this question in the first place. Listening to Sheryl’s response however makes me feel less stupid and grateful for the opportunity.

“Thank you. That is a very beautiful question, and a very a deep and thoughtful question. I appreciate you being courageous enough take the mic and say it so beautifully, with the words that you did…[pause]…There’s not a whole lot about life that I understand, that necessarily makes sense to me, from here [Sheryl touches her head]…But if I can get into a place of quiet stillness and open a different part of myself, then I can feel some sense. But it’s not from here [head] it’s from here [heart]. This [head] just gets in my way. So I don’t have words that can answer your question, but feelings and I understand them. The best thing I can say is that I understand what you’re asking, and I can feel your question, and I feel the answer in the recognition of a human heart.”

Just listening to this again makes me emotional.

Afterwards, I was contacted by a few people who thought she hadn’t answered my question. I however I disagree. Her answer made perfect sense to me and was extremely generous. However, while the question was put to Sheryl about the show and her life, it has for some reason effected me deeply and in unexpected ways.

I mention this to Andy, and a few people at 25YL how this encounter has manifest as a moment of existential uncertainty that I don’t know how to make sense of.

It’s not until several days later, when I dream about my younger sister, Louise, who died almost eight years before, that I get it. In the dream I’m sitting in my living room and I see someone coming up to the back door of the house out of the corner of my eye. It’s her,  and she’s trying to sneak in and surprise me—but I see her and she smiles.  She’s not dead at all, and she’s so happy to be back with me, with family.

And I realise the question for Sheryl, about making sense of  Twin Peaks and the lives depicted in it, and her life and experience of the world is in fact a question directed to myself.

It is also a question that Twin Peaks itself invites us to answer for ourselves.

Saturday, September 1, 10.30 PM. After the show I walk through Darling Harbour and the busy city to where my partner will pick me up to take me home. I pull out my head phones to listen to the voice memo I recorded on my phone—the show in its entirety to use as reference while writing this article. I push play and discover I’ve recorded two hours of static. For some reason I’m not worried. I smile and continue on my way.  Perhaps this isn’t an accident but an opportunity. I may even make use of it in a creative work of my own.

[1] Todd McGowan, The Impossible David Lynch, ed. John Belton, Film and Culture Series, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 132-33.

Written by Simon Baré

Simon is a filmmaker, video artist, educator and writer . He was awarded a Master of Fine Arts (2016) and Master of Film and Digital Image (2013) from the University of Sydney. Simon is now a PHD Candidate at the University of Sydney researching sense making within modes of practice that resist, invite, and confound categorisation. Simon is ambitious to further his academic and teaching carrier while furthering his research-based film and art practice. Alongside his interest in art and screen media Simon enjoys skateboarding, mountain biking, and cooking for his family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Fireman illustration titled "Listen to the Sounds"

We Are The Art Life: Noor Daumier

The Believers: Mark Frost Takes on Nicholas Conde’s Novel of “Urban Voodoo”