David Lynch’s Jan 12 2015 Tweet
— This piece is slated to run in ANGRY MORON #4—
My Hero, DALE COOPER OF TWIN PEAKS: “YOU’LL SEE ME AGAIN IN 25 YEARS.”
Of course that’s Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, Twin Peak‘s dead heroine/spectre and emotional schism, warning FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) of even darker days to come during one of the show’s numerous dream sequences.
In the summer of 2014 I was approached to write a series of essays for (what I was led to believe) would be an anthology of nonfiction pieces describing “the Twin Peaks experience.” The nature of the project was later revealed to be something else altogether, and I went elsewhere. But since I had given my opening volley my very best ammo, here you go.
TWIN PEAKS, a memoir by Simon Drax Part 1: Roll The Video Tape
“She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic.”
Many things come wrapped in plastic: candy, porn, drugs, Laura Palmer—and video tapes.
I was fairly destitute in April 1990, living w/ five useless friends in a brooding ramshackle house in Allston, Massachusetts. We had cable, but little A/V equipment. We had a television, the five useless friends had their guitars, I had my shitty PC on which I wrote hopeless fiction, but we were without a single vital device: a VCR.
David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks would premiere in mere days, and being an obsessive geek in my early 20s who felt he had to own the shit he loved, I came to a desperate realization—I would tape every episode of Twin Peaks as they aired.
At this point in my life I had watched both Eraserhead and The Elephant Man a minimum of 500 times, had seen Blue Velvet twice on opening day, and was even fond of certain sequences of Dune. I just knew—Lynch and Frost’s show would be something strange, unexpected, vital. I had to have it, keep it, own it. There was just one problem. I didn’t have a VCR.
“MOM?!” I said into the phone, intentionally cracking my voice (bad acting) to fully project my desperation. “THE GREATEST DIRECTOR IN THE WORLD IS MAKING A TV SERIES AND I WANT TO TAPE IT, CAN I BORROW YOUR VCR?”
“What?” my mother said.
More quietly: “The greatest director in the world is making a TV series. May I borrow your VCR?”
“For how long?”
“Only eight episodes!”
Because she could not see me, I allowed myself the cruelty of rolling my eyes. “Eight weeks,” I told her.
“That’s a long time!” she said.
She doesn’t even use the fucking thing, I thought, but remaining calm, I said, “Not that long. I’ll take good care of it, and I’ll bring it right back.”
Short version: she said yes. I thanked her profusely, hung up the phone then danced around the room not unlike Laura Palmer’s good little boy spirit with the mask in FIRE WALK WITH ME. That scene of course would come later, and I’ll get to FIRE soon enough.
But back to April 1990—
It’s been nearly 25 years. Forgive me, the details have become a little blurred. I’d had a date, gone to a party, slept with a girl—or something or someone—the night before and the morning of TWIN PEAKS’ premiere, and I realized HOLY SHIT, I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME. My mother lived 30 miles away from my ramshackle house, an hour’s drive each way, thanks to the congested Hell of Boston/Brighton/Allston.
(I broke the speed limit.)
Breaking the speed limit, I wondered what TWIN PEAKS would deliver that night.
I thought Kyle MacLachlan’s character would actually be a sinister villain. (Wrong.)
I thought there would be a huge body count. (Wrong.)
I thought there would be dream sequences. (NNNnnn… not really. Not yet.)
But I was certain of one thing: it would be good. (Yes.)
At my mom’s she gave me a big hug and kiss. She couldn’t see me wince or the blood that ran from my eyes, not because I didn’t like receiving a hug from my mother but because of the toxic levels of BEN GAY that swirled like the atmosphere of Venus in her apartment. We chatted, she offered me cookies, but to my disgrace I was too busy disconnecting the coaxial cables of her VCR then reconnecting them to her TV. In my feeble defense, she really never used the thing, ever. I’d bought her copies of CASABLANCA and GONE WITH THE WIND and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and the like but she never watched them or anything else, ever. Maybe I’ll just keep it, I thought, full of evil, but then, No, No, Never, super boy scout, just like Dale Cooper, who was only hours from my future.
“I gotta go. Thank you. I love you.” But that VCR was tucked firmly under my arm.
Back in Allston, minutes from PEAKS’ premiere, my useless friends wandered into the “TV room” as I hurriedly made the coaxial connections.
“Man!” they said. “What’s that smell?!”
“Ben Gay,” I told them. “Shut up.”
“Man, how the fuck does Ben Gay permeate plastic—“
“I don’t know. Shut up!”
Because it was time. The VCR was hooked up, the cassette snapped in, the tape rolling. And TWIN PEAKS was unleashed to the universe.
Text © Simon Drax
Ah yeah. Composing this post now, this is how I imagine Dale Cooper’s response to my scribblings:
He would not be amused or impressed.
Because after I was approached to write the series of TP essays and after I had produced the short piece above, I thought it would be instructive to watch Twin Peaks start-to-finish, something I hadn’t done in too many years, and it was… inspiring.
Dale Cooper as realized by Lynch, Frost, and MacLachlan really is a hero. Not a one-dimensional Super Boy Scout but a man generous and absolutely loyal to his friends as well as razor-sharp and unflinching in the face of evil, fearless when dealing with shitheads and bastards. Re-watching Twin Peaks I realized I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to be Dale Cooper. Dale Cooper would never steal his mother’s unused VCR. Newsflash: I didn’t. It was returned as promised eight weeks later, where it would sit beneath her TV to be covered with dust and unused until her death in 2010, then thrown out.
As for Dale Cooper, matters grew dark as the original run of Twin Peaks came to a close.
He didn’t fall in with a bad crowd. Like many good men, he got too close to the bad.
Even when possessed by demonic Bob, Coop managed to land not only a punch but a mirror-shattering head-butt, above, giggling like a sick fuck of evil to come. And that was the last we saw of our hero.
I look forward to your return, Coop. Dust off that black suit and smash Bob out of your skull!