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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.

Britney & Me

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I saw Britney Spears in Vegas last weekend. Britney has been doing a residency in Vegas the past couple years, so when friends asked if I wanted to see her in concert, I eagerly said I would go. Britney became a superstar about the same time I moved to Los Angeles. I still remember hearing the guys in the youth hostel I was living in debate whether her parents were contemptuous for letting her get breast implants at the tender age of 17. Her ROLLING STONE cover that month showed a much “fuller” Britney than we had seen in previous months. Her new tata’s seemed to scream “I’ve arrived” and I was dying to scream “I’ve arrived” also now that I was finally in the City of Angels destined to fulfill my own dreams for a career in the entertainment biz. Not as a pop singer of course, but as a writer.

I should start by saying I’m not a mega-fan of Britney or anything. I like her music, but have never bought her cds nor paid to download her songs. There has always been a soft spot in my heart for her though. Despite her mega success, I have always thought of her as something of an underdog. The stereotypical small town child shoved into showbiz by a stage mom dying to live vicariously in the reflected glory of her child’s stardom. Anyone who has owned a television over the last 17 years is pretty well versed in what a train wreck her life has been. Cutesy romance with fellow teen pop star Justin Timberlake comes to an end. Quickie Vegas marriage to a former high school beau (quickly annulled), then another marriage to an unemployed “dancer” whose girlfriend was already pregnant. Quickly pops out two kids amid rumors of drug use. Resulting fiasco divorce leads to parting of ways with the longtime manager who discovered her. Reckless partying with various “celebrity” (Paris Hilton anyone?) pals before falling into the inevitable clutches of a shady “manager” who (depending on whom you believe) plies her with more drugs before she full on melts down (via head shaving!) and ends up 5150’d (involuntary psych visit) so she can be returned to the (safe?) control of her father as her conservator. And now, having been stabilized, performing a residency in Las Vegas five nights a week. Brit Brit has had her fair share of highs and lows, that’s for sure.

Our “seats” (actually standing room only) were in the “Pit”, which is smack dab in front of the stage Britney performs at in the Axis Theater in Planet Hollywood. I had fantasized about beads of Brit Brit’s sweat hitting me as she danced rapturously to her lip synched hits. Britney made a dramatic entrance and proceeded to dance and (pretend) to sing her way through an amazingly well choreographed and elaborately staged series of her hits with an equally mesmerizing number of changes in costume and set pieces. High kicks and pelvic thrusts as impressive as those early in her career. Britney spoke to audience at several intervals, “hello Vegas” and “You guys are awesome” just to prove all of her voice (and enthusiasm) was not pre-recorded. She seemed even more fit and recharged than she had in her early 20s. Standing beside me were a couple of her hardcore superfans in their early thirties, whom I feared were going to spontaneously combust each time Britney strode near us onstage. Her Brit-ness was greeted with a “BRITNEY I LOOOOOOOVE YOU!” or “YASSSSSS GIRL” at an eardrum shattering pitch like trained seals. Stardom can be such a fickle beast, I actually thought it was great to see there really is loyalty these days, even if several cocktails have to be consumed to bring it out. Whether they were diehard fans, or merely attending her show because they happened to be in Vegas and had time for another show, the crowd in attendance ranged in age from teens all the way to their 70s. Purple-haired millenials swayed alongside grey haired Midwesterners, all seemingly under Brit’s spell.

“Are you having a good time?” Britney yelled out to the crowd, with a hint of the Louisiana girl she once was still detectable in her voice. I wanted to ask Britney the same thing. But “snow” flakes had started to trickle down from the ceiling. Hundreds of hands reached up to catch them, while simultaneously holding their camera phones to stream the show for their respective social media feeds. It was snowing in Vegas and Britney had done it once again.

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