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Twin Peaks Panels at Lubbock-Con 2020 with Michael Horse

25YL Contributor Rob E. King in conversation with actor Michael Horse at Lubbock-Con 2020

While Twin Peaks fandom flocked to the Fayetteville, Arkansas Comic Show for a Twin Peaks gathering, which included Sheryl Lee, Kimmy Robertson, Harry Goaz, Sherilyn Fenn, James Marshall, Dana Ashbrook, Eric Da Re, Gary Hershberger, Charlotte Stewart, and Rebekah Del Rio, Michael Horse made his way to Lubbock, Texas for Lubbock-Con 2020. “The Hawk,” as Mr. Horse calls his series character, was posted up at a vendor’s autograph table to meet fans both Saturday, February 29th and Sunday, March 1st with discussion panels scheduled each day. I was asked to moderate the discussions. There is, of course, history to Mr. Horse’s willingness to appear at such an unexpected location. Part of the Lubbock-Con event included a roundtable discussion panel with myself and fellow editors of the forthcoming McFarland Books publication, “The American West of David Lynch’s Filmography and in Twin Peaks: Essays on Regional Identity, Narratives, and History” (Fall 2021).


Why Lubbock?

In 2009, Michael Horse reprised his role as Quanah Parker in a play titled “The Soul of the West.” It was performed in Abilene, TX and at Palo Duro Canyon. That play was co-written by Lubbock folk musician and writer Andy Wilkinson and actor Anne Lockhart. As evidenced in the excerpted quote below, Michael Horse was with other television talent on that production.

“[Barry] Corbin, who is cast as Goodnight, is a veteran character actor known for his role [Maurice] on “Northern Exposure” and more recently as the father of Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, on “The Closer.” Other stars include Alex Cord of the television series “Airwolf” as Burk Burnett, a cattleman and oilman who in the 1880s purchased a small herd of native cattle the rights to the Four Sixes “6666″ brand; movie and television actor and Native American rights activist Michael Horse as Quanah Parker, the last great chief of the Comanche; Buck Taylor of “Gunsmoke” as Buffalo Bill, who represents the only image of the cowboy many Americans have thanks to Wild West shows and Hollywood depictions.”[1]

Then, in 2018, Andy Wilkinson put me in contact with Mr. Horse for an exclusive 25YL interview following the finale of Showtime’s Twin Peaks (2017). Andy’s son, Ian, is one of many organizers of the Lubbock-Con, which he participated in and co-founded five years ago. Ian scheduled Mr. Horse to appear at Lubbock-Con in 2019, but the actor had to cancel due to a shooting schedule in New Orleans on the TNT series Claws. Still, he made a promise that he was open to keeping his appearance in 2020. Ian had offered me the moderating opportunity for that first scheduled appearance based on my work with 25YL. Both actor and organizer kept their promises. Given that history, the following is my experience with these Twin Peaks panels.

Special guests and talent at Lubbock-Con 2020, including Michael Horse at center.
Special guests and talent at Lubbock-Con 2020, including Michael Horse, picture from Lubbock-Con 2020 Facebook page.

Roundtable: “The American West of Twin Peaks”

The Lubbock-Con hosts a series of academic panels presented by professors, librarians, and professionals from Texas Tech University alongside popular culture panels from the community and other industry professionals. The panel titled “The American West of David Lynch,” as I stated above, included myself and editors Austin Allison and Christine Self, Ph.D. Our fourth editor, Robert G. Weaver was unable to attend. The panel’s moderator was Head of Collection Development for The Vietnam Center and Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive, Andrew Hinton. We were first asked how our book contract came about and each editor’s role in it. I’ll summarize some of our answers and only highlight interesting points in the following paragraph for brevity.

Given where I live, the Southwestern collecting scope of my place of employment, TTU’s Southwest Collection/Special Collection’s Library, and imagery from Twin Peaks (2017), a few of my early articles for 25YL examined Twin Peaks from that regional perspective. This culminated with the concept of the forthcoming book. The most important inspirations were the following articles and essay. One discussed Odessa, where Richard/Cooper finds himself in Part 18, and another a tour of the Trinity Test site in New Mexico with some curious coincidences at close-by San Antonio, NM. Then, last year, I was finishing a draft for an academic essay answering a call for papers from New American Notes Online (NANO) for a special issue on Twin Peaks: The Return. I gained a lot of perspective from writing that paper and discussions between my co-worker, Austin, and I about it eventually encouraged us to seek a book contract. He had to convince me that anyone else would want to tackle that approach to Lynch’s work. Fortunately, we did receive a good amount of abstracts for papers that impressed us.

Some adjustments had to be made to our original idea before we put out the call for papers. The regional focus expanded from the Southwest to the American West, and it was modified to include all of David Lynch’s filmography as well as the transmedia of Twin Peaks, especially Mark Frost’s novels. Most of the details that came from the rest of the panel fleshed out ideas presented either in my essay, “The Horse is the White of the Eye: Pioneering and the American Southwest in Twin Peaks,” or from the original call for papers. Each editor spoke to what they bring to the editing as follows: Rob King (content specialist, general editing, and indexer), Austin Allison (history background and general editing), Christine Self, PhD (Women’s and Gender Studies background and copy editing), and Robert G. Weaver (editor for the West Texas Historical Review and citations specialist).  Content-wise, the overall emphasis was for the audience to consider the idea of a place and the social construct of “The West” as it might appear in readings of Lynch or Frost’s works. All contributors’ topics were kept confidential in that forum.

Cue cards written on back of old library catalog cards for New Mexico maps.
Cue cards written on backs of old library catalog cards for New Mexico maps.

Michael Horse Discussion Panel

Following that panel, it was finally time to chat with Michael Horse. I had made cue cards for myself on the backs of old library catalog cards. They were originally for New Mexico maps. Michael simply walked himself into the standard classroom-sized area and sat beside me in front of the room. He wore a blue button-up shirt and white cowboy hat. We had maybe twelve to fifteen people in attendance, testifying to the niche popularity of Twin Peaks in Lubbock. None of it seemed to phase Michael. He began joking with those in attendance, putting them at ease while observing me, almost as if he didn’t understand why I was there. By the weekend’s end, it was obvious to me that he prefers a simple discussion between him and the audience as opposed to a moderated discussion. Still, he was open and enjoyed laughing with me and the audience about his White Folk Collection, which includes an item relating the Osmonds, a piece donated by Stephen Spielberg’s mother, and one of Jennifer Tilly’s bras, which she gave him on a movie set.

He admitted that he didn’t remember working on Disney’s Gargoyles but expressed his great pleasure working in voice acting. He recorded fifty voices for the film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and also explained a method where a mic set-up in the form of a circle sits in a room. The actor walks around it, offering dialogue all the way around until it is compiled to sound like a crowd of voices. He let the audience in on a secret, that animators and voice actors are literally the students from your school years who made fart jokes in class and had imaginary friends. He announced that he and his wife are working on a new animated series about a gas station in the middle of the desert. He plays a coyote, confirming an audience member’s question that he is based on the Native American trickster-god. His wife plays a Raven, if my memory serves. Visitors pass through but can only come inside if they offer a folklore from their own culture and background. When they enter, they see the little gas station is a huge library of these collected stories.

Promotional ad featuring special guest actor Michael Horse for Lubbock-Con 2020.
Promotional ad featuring special guest actor Michael Horse for Lubbock-Con 2020, image from Lubbock-Con 2020 Facebook page.

To the point of mischievousness, he said he took a picture of Twin Peaks character Denise from season 2 with him to the set of The X-Files and would ask set members if they had ever seen David Duchovny’s sister. They would tell David that they didn’t know he had a sister, which he would have to explain. Michael further joked that had he known how culturally huge Twin Peaks was going to become, beyond how special they understood it to be, he would have stolen more from the set. That is in addition to the bear claws and screenplays he had originally taken.

It was also obvious how much Michael enjoys his fellow actors and close friends. He allowed that he misses Jack Nance and offered a great story of Jack coming into a liquor store where Michael was working at the time at 6:30 in the morning. Michael said he asked Jack “Why are you here so early in the morning?” Jack stopped and explained that he had woken in his apartment to find there was no running water and that he was going to call the landlord when he realized he was the landlord and got out of there before anyone could complain to him. Of his scene as Hawk performing a welfare visit to Sarah Palmer, he confessed that Grace Zabriskie was so good and convincing that she honestly scared him. Per Catherine Coulson, he let me know outside of the panel that he got Showtime’s permission to create a few more of the log necklaces he designed for Rock Love Jewelry and will soon sell a limited number of them from his Gathering Tribes website.

More talent he was close to included Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn as his neighbors for a time. I was also surprised to learn that writer John Fusco is Michael’s friend and that the role of Chavez y Chavez in Young Guns had been written for him originally. We also talked about his audio parts for Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks. He was tickled at the story he got share about Ed and Nadine, but the Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard parts really intrigued him. He told the audience that he had personally met Hubbard. The way he told the story is that he was at a party in L.A. in the 60s and that there were few con tricks that could be laid on him as he had previously worked at a carnival, where he carried around “the World’s Smallest Man,” a nasty character he exclaimed.  He was at the party when someone said they should meet. He swore that while it wasn’t sexual, Hubbard was leveling an alluring gaze at him, that he could tell he wanted something from him. What scared Michael the most is that he would say yes to whatever it was Hubbard was offering. He faked going to the restroom and left the party, but he was convinced Hubbard was every bit evil as convincing. A last counterculture hero he shared meeting was Hunter S. Thompson along with Bill Murray. Surely the Where the Buffalo Roam years. He claimed that he never understood a word Hunter spoke the entire time he was around them, which wasn’t long when they broke out the guns.


For more stories included in Michael’s discussion, see my previous interview at 25YL and Blue Rose Magazine issue #6.


 

[1] Deason, Gene. “All-star Texas cast featured in Rehab Center dinner theater,” Brownwood Bulletin, July 8, 2009. https://www.brownwoodtx.com/article/20090708/news/307089980

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Written by Rob E. King

I am a librarian, writer, and proud member of Twin Peaks and Robert E. Howard fandom. I've also somehow become the go-to writer for MTV's 90s animation series.

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