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GUILTY PLEASURE: Twin Peaks (1990)

When you were in high school, remember that one beautiful girl who managed to have everyone under her spell? In the tiny Pacific Northwestern logging town of Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer was THAT girl. Her murder would prove there was a whole lot more than meets the eye to this homecoming queen – and everyone else residing in this seemingly sleepy hamlet! Director David Lynch, formerly known for arthouse flicks (BLUE VELVET, ERASHERHEAD) took the traditional elements of a soap opera and completely turned them on their head. By throwing in copious amounts of his trademark surrealism, offbeat humor and oddball characters – Twin Peaks would briefly become a pop cultural phenomenon not quite seen before (or since).

Gorgeous newcomer Sheryl Lee played Laura Palmer, whose dead body was discovered on the shore of the local beach, mysteriously wrapped in plastic. Quirky FBI Agent Dale Cooper (played with superb aplomb by frequent Lynch collaborator Kyle MacLachlan) arrives in Twin Peaks shortly thereafter to investigate – and eat a lot of cherry pie at The Double R Diner. Cooper discovers the town of Twin Peaks is filled with an assortment of oddball characters (Sheriff Harry S Truman, The Log Lady, transsexual DEA agent Dennis to name just a few). Part of what makes this show such a guilty pleasure – was that virtually every character on the show was sleeping around. Cooper discovers that Laura Palmer was apparently making the rounds with several of the guys in town: badboy jock Bobby Briggs ; Brando-esque loner James Hurley; as well as turning tricks as a call girl at a brothel called One Eyed Jack’s. How’s that for a good girl gone bad tale!

Some of the brilliance of the series was the casting, comprised of an assortment of notable veteran actors (Ray Wise, Peggy Lipton, Piper Laurie and Grace Zabriskie) as well as attractive newcomers both male (James Marshall, Dana Ashbrook) and female (Madchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle and Lee). Fenn, a smoldering brunette who oozed Old Hollywood glamour, was the breakout star as femme fatale Audrey Horne.

Such was a testament to the hotness of the nubile cast that ROLLING STONE magazine put Fenn, Amick and Boyle on one of its covers – which led to it becoming one of its all time best selling issues. Most of the younger cast members would go on to film careers, but none had much luck at the box office. Remember Fenn as the imprisoned, armless/legless amputee in BOXING HELENA? Didn’t think you would! Though she did make a more memorable appearance in the December 1990 issue of PLAYBOY. Alas, success outside of the town limits of Twin Peaks proved as elusive for Fenn as it did for her peers. However brief their hot streak may have been, most of the cast can still be seen working today on various tv shows and supporting roles in film.

An ill-advised effort to fill in some of the backstory spawned 1992’s ‘prequel’ film TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, which misfired at the box office. A more successful tie-in was the book “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”. Written by Jennifer Lynch, David ‘s filmmaker daughter, the book is written in Laura’s voice and gives her dark backstory. It is surprisingly profound (and disturbingly graphic) and gives an often harrowing description of Palmer’s transition from girl into adult and the sexual abuse she endures at the hands of the killer Bob and her father.

Twin Peaks is a good example of a tv show that could have (and maybe should have) ended after one season, after the mystery of who killed Palmer is solved. The show languished on for a second season, where the series seemed to increasingly become a parody of itself before being cancelled in 1991. The show continued to have a cult following in the years since and is often cited as an influence among filmmakers and revered as one of the best television series of all time. Its following is so strong that in 2017 Lynch and most of the original cast returned for a third season on Showtime Network that picks up 25 years after Palmer’s murder. Available for streaming on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon, Vudu, Hulu and Showtime. Check this series out and you will surely find yourself saying “That’s a damn fine cup of coffee” too.

End of Year, End of Days?

2016 is rapidly coming to a close. Sadly, the tail end of this year has included a variety of calamitous events to an already tragedy laden year. Most notably, the election of Donald Trump, a hateful buffoon now taking office as President of the United States. This year also seems to have been filled with the deaths of many notable people. In the world of the arts, we have seen the loss of a number of icons, many of whom have died tragically much earlier than we could have expected. David Bowie, Prince, George Michael. It was the death of Carrie Fisher, forever Princess Leia, that finally gave me pause. I have longed since reconciled that loss continually occurs all around us, but I have now reached an age where I am experiencing the deaths of the heroes of my childhood and teen years. Each and every one of them, including Donald Trump, was someone I idolized for one reason or another.

In my senior year high school yearbook, I listed as my ambition “To have even more money than Donald Trump”. I now cringe that I could ever have aspired to be in any way similar to the filterless, spray-tanned egomaniac I see before me today. But I entirely understand why I admired him so much at the time. Donald Trump is a teenage boy’s image of a rich man. A man who lives in a skyscraper filled with marble and gold. A man with a beautiful wife (his first of three at the time) who is as much of an ornament as the skyscrapers, golf courses and casinos that bear his name. His swagger, braggadocio, flashiness and camera readiness appeal so much to the teenage boy’s mindset, fueled endlessly by testosterone and fantasy. Only slightly less cartoonish a figure than Jabba the Hutt, with Princess Leia chained to his side. I graduated high school in 1989, the very last year of a decade where money and the individuals who possessed it were as highly exalted in the media as any rock star or actor. Nobody embodied that type of individual more so than Trump. So looking back, I am not at all surprised that this was a man I wanted to emulate.  What surprises me now, nearly 30 years later, is that his image as President of the United States appealed to far more than simply teenage boys.

I am wise enough to know that mud slinging and dirty dealings are what political campaigns routinely run on. But never have I witnessed one so blatantly and viciously using misogyny and xenophobia. Banish all the Muslims, send the Mexicans back across the border where they came from, start building a wall! These were the constant sound bites playing out daily as Trump inched far closer to the White House than I and any of the pundits seemed to think possible.   And yet here we are, at the end of another year and the dawn of a new era. Or, at the very least, what will be four years of an era. No matter how much we want to cling to the images of our childhood heroes, riding in a little red corvette, gallantly fighting Storm Troopers with a light saber or riding high in the sky on a private jet, time brings them all closer to reality. The cracks in their armor finally showing them for the flawed figures they really are and exposing the weaknesses in our own.