Scott Ryan Shares a Chapter From “Your Laura Disappeared”

Below is a chapter from Scott Ryan’s book, Your Laura Disappeared  on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. If you haven’t read the book, this is a standout chapter from a must read book. (Chapter published here with permission from Scott). Happy Twin Peaks Day!

The One that is Meant To Help

“I’m so afraid that no one will believe me until after I have taken the seat that I fear has been saved for me in the darkness.”—Laura Palmer’s final entry in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Jennifer Lynch (1990)

I am not one of those writers who believe that location inspires writing, at least for me. This is my eighth book. Writing is my job now. I don’t need to set the mood. I can write anywhere, anytime that life allows it. But can I explain to you where I am writing this very sentence? I am sitting on a balcony at the Salish Lodge & Spa, listening to “The Laura Palmer Theme” as the sounds of the Snoqualmie Falls churn in the background. The Douglas firs, which are less than ten feet off my balcony, are blowing in the summer wind. I am wearing a Salish robe while staying at the resort that was the outdoor shooting location for The Great Northern hotel. It was six years ago that I first trekked to Snoqualmie, Washington, to see the sights and feel the mood of where the pilot of Twin Peaks and FWWM were filmed. That time I came as an attendee of the now-defunct Twin Peaks fan festival. Today I am here as a tourist, although with this being my sixth time in the area, it feels more like a homecoming. I am struck by how much my life has changed in those six years.

It took me twenty-five years to finally make the trip out here, and it changed my life. Attending the twenty-fifth Twin Peaks Festival is what started me on this path of publishing Twin Peaks-based books and magazines. On that weekend I met for the first time Brad Dukes, who wrote Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks; David Bushman, who wrote Conversations With Mark Frost and now runs Fayetteville Mafia Press with me; Courtenay Stallings, who wrote Laura’s Ghost and is one of The Blue Rose’s managing editors; Pieter Dom, who runs the Welcome to Twin Peaks website; and John Thorne, who did Wrapped in Plastic. In addition to meeting these artists, I was introduced to so many people who have become a part of my daily life. All of these connections and all of these artists came into my life and inspired and supported me in a way that I had never been before. But it wasn’t just fans whom I met; it was stars from the series as well.

I met Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs, plus Mary X in Eraserhead) that weekend, and now we are dear friends. I met Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady) while I was browsing in the Salish gift shop, years before I would be brave enough to book a room there. It was there that she asked me to take a picture of her holding a stuffed log that was on sale so that she could send it to her kids to show them she had done something with her life. I remember immediately saying, “You are The Log Lady. You did more than something with your life.” I mistakenly brushed it off, thinking about how my kids don’t care about what I do either. I didn’t think about it very much, because why would I? I was too busy freaking out that I was meeting a legend. She was extra kind to me, as this wasn’t at an event. She was just a shopper, like me. She was the first Twin Peaks actor I ever met in real life. She had a human conversation with me, treated me as an equal, and I was elated.

For those of you who know me in person or from my online persona, it might come as a shock to you that I battle chronic depression. I have spent the majority of my life putting on a happy face and entertaining strangers because of my inability to experience joy for myself. This was the part I left out when I wrote the introduction, where I shared my remembrance of my first viewing of FWWM. When the film premiered in August 1992, I was preparing to graduate from college four months later. I was surrounded by people who were so excited to be graduating and starting their lives, but not me. I was not majoring in writing or anything creative. I was majoring in marketing because I was too scared to tell the people who surrounded me that I wanted to do something creative with my life, not something safe, and by no means did I want to do something boring. My greatest fear was that I would end up in a tiny cubicle selling something that had no meaning or purpose. You know, the very place my complacent ass sat when I heard the devastating news that Catherine Coulson was dead—only six weeks after our brief encounter at the Salish.

Your Laura Disappeared
Photo Courtesy of Scott Ryan

I have talked many times about how that chance meeting and then her shocking death—shocking to me at least, because I had no idea she was battling cancer when she was asking me to take a picture for her children—rocked me out of my complacency. I was working in a cubicle at a global communications company, spending my days not using my talents as a writer. This had been my crime for nearly forty years. I looked around the soulless corporation, listening to pointless phones ringing with problems and complaints that never would be addressed. I stood up, my head poking above the fake walls, and looked for an answer. It wasn’t gonna be found there, not for me. I had to change or I wasn’t gonna make it. I kept thinking, What if I died in six weeks? Would I be pleased with how I had wasted my life never trying? I was immediately knocked back to my first viewing of FWWM and the despair I was experiencing at that point in my life, as I sat in the darkened theater. All those years later, sitting in my corporate cubicle under the six-foot-long fluorescent bulbs that brightened the office but not my soul, I felt gripped by the same paralyzing despair.

What I saw in Laura Palmer was someone who was pretending for everyone else’s benefit. Someone hiding a secret she couldn’t tell. Part of the reason I have never spoken about this is because I know how much worse all the women who have been sexually abused and looked to Laura for hope had it. It wasn’t that my secret compared to theirs, but seeing Laura in FWWM was the first time I saw someone put on a social, happy face while dying inside. The way the town saw Laura, despite her being lost, was how I felt everyone viewed me. When someone is forced into a world where they don’t want to be, to be someone other than who they really are, and to suppress it for the good of the people who are supposed to be there to support them—that is a horrible place to be, no matter the circumstances.

Sheryl Lee’s unrestrained performance gave me the strength to keep going. A movie in which the “happy ending” is that the main character dies? Now you were talking my lingo. As for my personal struggle, however, there seemed to be no happy ending in sight. I didn’t expect to be visited by an angel or to bathe in the glow of an otherworldly blue light. I had no hope. I was certain that my life would follow the safe path, that I’d make no attempt to break free of it. From 1992 to 1997, I created no art. I didn’t write a word. If you look at all I have done since 2017, you will then understand how unnatural that was for me. I created nothing, but I watched FWWM over and over again. I didn’t understand why at the time. It took me years to realize how I had latched onto Laura’s strength to get me through those years and those that followed. The film empowered me to continue on for twenty-five years with no hope. Whenever I was lost and feeling that there was no point in living, and it happened often, or when my very existence seemed pointless, I watched Laura. Or, more specifically, Sheryl Lee. I knew Laura wasn’t real. But Sheryl was doing something in that performance that I had never seen before. She became an avatar for my pain, my duality. She didn’t leave a safe space between the audience and her performance. She laughed harder than she should have out in the woods with Dana Ashbrook. She cried harder than she should have under the bush outside of the Palmer house. She bared her soul and her body not in a sexual way, but in a raw, painful, fearless way that just wasn’t normally captured on film. I wish I was brave enough to do more of that here, but I am no Sheryl Lee. I never wanted to meet Laura Palmer. For me, it was Sheryl the artist whom I watched. She delivered a true reflection of how pointless depression feels. We all knew Laura was going to die; there was nothing to be done about it. It was written in the stars. There was no way out. And for those years, “no way out” was all I knew.

Blue Rose magazine

In 2015, Catherine was my angel. Without knowing it, she saved me by making me see how short life is. It was offensive to her memory for me to squander another moment of it. Three years later, I sat across from Sheryl Lee, and I thanked her for saving my life. For keeping me alive until circumstances allowed me to become who I was supposed to be. To share my art and write about what I wanted to. I have peers who inspire me to be better and accept me for who I am. I do not have to sell my soul to a corporation just so that an executive can buy a third boat. I found a partner in my wife, who supports me and gives me the courage to step out into the world. Jen is my angel.

So now I sit at the Salish and write this missing piece of my story for the first time. I do it with the hope that if you are out there and not where you should be in life, let me shine a light of change on you. I have lived on both sides. I have done what was asked of me, and I have done what I was born to do. To be honest, no one else really cared which path I traveled. The only person it truly affected was me. So be yourself. Any success I have had was because I moved forward and became the person I truly am. If you are struggling today, I can’t give you any better advice than to hear the voice of love and be who you are, not who people want you to be. It took me almost thirty years, but I got out of that darkened theater and found enough light to survive. The proof is that today I texted Sheryl Lee and asked her when she wanted to do the interview for this book. There is no way twenty-two-year-old Scott would have believed, or even have been able to conceive of the possibility, that he would get to live this life, where Sheryl would know his name. Becoming friends with Sheryl was set in motion because Catherine said to me, “I want my kids to know I did something.” Within a month of Catherine’s passing, I started The Blue Rose magazine. Trust me, no one was further away from realizing their potential, their dream, or shedding their baggage than that punk college kid who watched FWWM and feared that his life was just shown on the big screen. I wasn’t gonna meet The Log Lady or Laura Palmer, or be surrounded with friends who were artists. For so many years, I believed my only option was to end up in the train car. To take the ring. But even though it took me decades, I became who I was always born to be. It happened through hard work, dedication, and never giving up. Laura got one angel; I got several. I’ve dedicated this book to Jen, Lisa, Courtenay, Janet, Sheryl, and Catherine. I have been lucky to be saved by so many wonderful women who have opened me up to the world.

Charlotte Stewart with Eraserhead baby and Scott in front of red curtains
Photo Courtesy of Scott Ryan

I walked down to the falls and listened to “Falling” as I spied the same view that the television cameras captured in the opening credits. It looked exactly like what I had first seen on my television screen in 1990; the same music that played then played now through my AirPods. But today, I am really here, listening to the song for real. Am I Laura standing inside the picture hanging on her wall, watching herself? Is this real or is it some strange and twisted dream? I think of how broken I was when I first heard this song. Since those days, I have written and directed Kimmy Robertson in a comedy sketch viewed by over 18,000 people on a Facebook Live event I hosted; I’ve had sushi with Mark Frost on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood; I’ve hosted a panel with Twin Peaks actors in front of a thousand people; I’ve sung Broadway show tunes with Ray Wise in my minivan; I’ve drunk martinis with Charlotte Stewart and Dana Ashbrook in a bar; I’ve signed copies of The Blue Rose magazine in London at the UK Twin Peaks Festival. I have a piece of original art created by Michael Horse hanging in my home. I look down at my phone; I see a text from Sheryl Lee confirming the interview next week. I look back to the falls and am truly humbled and thankful for all the good days Twin Peaks has given me.

David Lynch has a song on Crazy Clown Time called “Good Day Today.” He says, “I wanna have a good day today. Send me an angel, save me.” I am in Snoqualmie writing about Twin Peaks because I was sent so many angels who kept me going until I came out on the other side. I still battle the depression demons within, but when they come, I know they will pass, and I spread kindness to others because I made it out of the Waiting Room and into the White Lodge. Just five short years ago, the thought of getting to talk with Sheryl Lee about what she gave of herself to create that difficult piece of art that saved so many struggling people out there would have been unimaginable.

Don’t take the ring. Dreams come true. Turn the page to read my new interview with Sheryl Lee.

Purchase Your Laura Disappeared here.

Written by 25YL

This article was written either by a Guest Author or by an assortment of 25YL staff

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