Babes in the Woods
Sharing pie and secrets with the mystery girls of 'Twin Peaks'
par Bill Zehme, Photos de Matthew Rolston
Sherilyn Fenn

These women have seeeeeecrets. There is much they won´t say. There is much they cannot reveal. They are known for playing women who know more than they let on. They are women whom we think we know but really don´t know at all. They are mixed up in murder. They look good in sweaters. They are the women of Twin Peaks - or, at least, three of the women of Twin Peaks. They are six peaks. Which is to say, there are other twin peaks on the series, but together these three actresses account for exactly six of those peaks. And that is only one of their secrets.

None of these three women is Laura Palmer, homecoming queen, corpse. Laura Palmer is dead, and we are sick of her, anyway. We never knew her, but then nobody else seemed either, what with her secrets and all. Laura Palmer is a pop-culture martyr: She came dead and wrapped in plastic. She came dead so that America could investigate her murder for one hour each week on network television. Laura died in order to bring us Twin Peaks, a voluptuous, woody town in an unnamed Pacific Northwest state, where the women are minxes, the men eat pie, and the coffee is a life force. (There are no children, just teenagers.) Twin Peaks is dark Mayberry: If Thelma Lou had sex with Goober behind Barney Fife´s back - that is Twin Peaks.

Like cream in coffee, sex beclouds Twin Peaks. We never see it - plain old fornication, that is - but we know it´s there, everywhere, lurking. As Sheriff Harry S. Truman put it in one episode. "There´s a sort of evil out there, strange in the woods - a darkness, a presence." He means sex. Laura Palmer died by sex. All of the others live by it, furtively. The cherry pies taste of it, rapturously so. The women smell of it, even the ones who are supposed to be virgins. As such, television has never known women like Twin Peaks women, full of wiles and ellipses and desperation. "They´re dreamy," says David Lynch, himself a dreamer who, with Mark Frost, codreamed Twin Peaks, in addition to dreaming his own films like Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart. "These girls are authentically dreamy. They´re all boss chicks. And they´re just jampacked with secrets."

Let us consider these three, in particular:

There is Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward, the Good Girl, who may not be all good; Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne, the Bad Girl, who can´t be all bad (those cherry stems! that tongue!); and Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson, the Waitress, who is probably good and bad, but boy, can she pour coffee! Kittens all, they drive men to despair. "In the grand design," said Special Agent Dale Cooper, observing the local pulchritude while on the trail of Laura´s killer, "women were drawn from a different set of blueprints." But how different are Twin Peaks women? Who drew up the blueprints for these three? Just what do they know about sex? What are their dreams? Do they have boyfriends? Did they kill Laura Palmer? Can we blame them? Which of them can really do the cherry trick?

There was only one way to make them come clean.

We told them they could have all the pie they wanted.

We took them to pie houses and watched them eat.

And then we listened to them talk.

Dossiers on each encounter follow.

Mädchen Amick

SHELLY THE WAITRESS ORDERS COCONUT DREAM

She comes to the house of pies. There was a time, it is said, when House of Pies ruled the Earth, spanned the globe, covered the map. But now, sadly, typically, like a forgotten chain link, only one House of Pies survives, in Los Angeles, and this is where Mädchen Amick meets us late one afternoon. She is nineteen. Her skin is translucent. Her hair is blonder than we remember until we remember that we were thinking of someone else. Her first name dwells beneath an umlaut: twin dots, a horizontal colon, snake eyes. It is a German name, Mädchen, which means young girl and is pronounced as if the d were a y. David Lynch calls her Madge-Kin, largely because he is unusual. Mädchen speaks with no accent. She is a Reno girl, which is to say she emerged from the desert. She drives a Jeep Cherokee. Her blouse billows and plunges and suggests that she isn´t shy about décolletage.

Her life amid pie. "Hi, Leo. I brought you some pie." As Shelly Johnson, she spoke those words just before Shelly´s scumback trucker husband, Leo, beat her with a bar of soap wrapped in a sock. (Mädchen remembers the soap to be Safeguard.) Anyway, Shelly extended the plate of pie - probably cherry - and Leo, psychotic that he is, slapped it away. Then he hit her with the soap for losing his shirt in the laundry. "This is gonna hurt you," he said.

The good news: None of this has ruined her pie! Mädchen likes pie fine. She grows gleeful at the prospect of coconut cream. "I haven´t had a good coconut cream in this town," she says, as only an actress in Los Angeles might. "The best is in Hawaii." But she marvels at the range of pie now before her. Besides coconut cream, we order a slice of fresh strawberry and a slice of cherry, because it would be wrong not to.

Why Shelly had a gun in her cleavage. Shelly is a sex bomb. A high-school drop-out, she now works for Peggy Lipton at the Double R Diner. Shelly wears her waitress uniform like loose lingerie. She dallies with bad boys: married a jerk, took as a lover the surly high-school quarterback Bobby Briggs (he was also dead Laura Palmer´s swain). "Shelly´s got a kind of cheerful, out-front attitude twoard sex," says Lynch. "She and Bobby light up the screen, they´re so hot together." They are, in fact, unsuitable for family viewing: When Shelly got a gun to keep Leo at bay, she robbed its snout against her black camisole, betweeen her breasts. She then begged her boyfriend to show her how to use it: "Teach me, Bobby, teach me," she cried.

Mädchen blushes at mention of the gun. "I guess it could have been a metaphor for what´s between them when they´re making love," she says. This seems like a good guess.

She knew a girl who killed a man. Shelly shot Leo, but Leo didn´t die. "I kind of based Shelly on someone I knew," says Mädchen. "She just kept going out with these really bad guys who were abusing her. Then one time she did exactly what Shelly did. Defended herself by shooting a gun. I think the guy died." She will say no more.

A guy is peeing in the parking lot. "Oh!" she says, startled. "How about this?" We look out of the window of the House of Pies and see a fellow relieving himself behing his car. "At least it´s not my car," she says, herself relieved.

She´s not dead, but she could play dead on TV. Shelly is this hot: Currently, she is trapped in a burning sawmill that was set aflame by Leo. At the end of last season´s finale, Shelly was in danger of becoming cinder. Does she pull through? "You never know," says Mädchen, taunting as only a prime-time coquette will. "I could be dead and just be a picture on the wall."

Mysteries of David Lynch, director, part one. While directing an early episode, the peculiar auteur gave Mädchen the following instruction: "He had me do a scene that never aired where I just kept tilting my head back until I was staring right up at the ceiling," she says. "I asked him if someone would normally do that. He said no."

She says she has no secrets, but here are some, anyway. She appeared in Julio Iglesias music video. "I was his babe," she says. "He sure tans a lot." She lived through a plane crash (her stepfather´s plane lost a propeller; nobody was hurt). She recently dreamed that spiders covered her body (she had just seen Arachnophobia). She has stolen from hotels such items as towels, drinking glasses, a water pincher and pillows. "I really needed this set of good pillows, and I really liked them," she says, ashamed. She is engaged to musician David Alexis, who substituted her name for his in the cowriting credits for the current funk tune "Money," by Lakeside. And most important, like Twin Peaks Bad Girl Audrey Horne, she can knot a cherry stem inside her mouth, using her tongue and teeth. "I´ve been doing it for years," she says.

The cherry stem must be flaccid first. We later make her prove that she can actually do this; she performs the feat without flaw or deception. Longstemmed cherries are preferable. Tip for beginners: "You have to bite up the stem to make it limber," says Mädchen. "Bite it until it isn´t stiff."

On whether she killed Laura Palmer and how she liked her pie. She swears she doesn´t know who killed Laura Palmer, even though several new episodes have already been shot. Could she have done it? "I don´t know," she says. "I may have. I may have been jealous of Laura Palmer. I doubt it, but I may have." And the coconut cream? This is damned good pie. Second best."

Lara Flynn Boyle

DONNA THE GOOD GIRL GETS THE RHUBARB

 

James Dean ate here, and then he died. Lore has it that James Dean consumed his last meal at the Du-Par´s coffee shop, in Los Angeles´s Farmer´s Market. A car wreck ensued shortly thereafter. True or not, Du-Par´s does pie awfully well, and Lara Flynn Boyle has made it clear that she would like to eat some. She arrives in a new red BMW, as well as in a wide-brimmed hat similar to the one she wore as Donna Hayward at Laura Palmer´s funeral. She is, it seems, a hat girl. She is twenty, and her face is a serene study in freckled pointillism. She laughs easily, a laugh not unlike the bark of a seal, which isn´t as bad as you´d imagine. (We like it, in fact.) She looks comfortable in a coffee-shop booth, as though she had dimpled the vinyl cushions of many. "I´m Midwestern," she says, and in saying this, she has said enough.

She hates cherry pie. "I hate cherry pie," says Lara Flynn, sweetly, but getting her point across. "I´m gonna have a piece of rhubarb pie." She would prefer strawberry rhubarb, always plentiful and sublime back in Chicago, her hometown, but Du-Par´s cannot deliver the goods. We also request wedges of lemon meringue and cherry, despite her remonstrations about the latter. "Really hate it," she says.

Donna weeps because she needs sex. Some basic differences between Donna and the actress who portrays her: The actress smokes heavily and is game and playful; the character has no questionable habits (besides crying frequently) and is somber and conflicted. Donna Hayward was Laura Palmer´s best friend, and now she is in love with Laura´s secret biker boyfriend, James Hurley. "Donna was a little sad, dull, boring, lifeless and comatose," says Lara Flynn. "But there´s a lot of fire underneath. She´s one of those girls who took her teenage years a little bit too seriously. Everything Donna does is very urgent. It´s life or death. Like Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass." She feels better about Donna´s condition this season. "Something fun is happening," she says, teasingly. "Something´s going on."

She lost her virginity and never knew it. Lara Flynn says Donna is pure and chaste, albeit frustrated and horny. The menm who created her think otherwise. "We don´t even know for sure yet," says Lynch, meaning she probably isn´t unspoiled, as it were. "Donna´s sort of a mysterious one." Says coexecutive producer Mark Frost. "I don´t think anybody´s all good. My guess is she´s not a virgin."

We later inform Lara Flynn of this. "Really?" she says, stunned.

She is sleeping with Special Agent Cooper. To date, Donna and preternaturally awestruck pie enthusiast Dale Cooper of the FBI have appeared in only one Twin Peaks scene together. And yet in what passes for real life, they cohabit, they share lodging, they are intimate. That is, actors Kyle MacLachlan and Lara Flynn Boyle are conducting a celebrity romance. "Today´s our anniversary," she says, like a girl in love. "A year and a half." She calls Cooper "the sexiest geek" and says MacLachlan does not diverge much from his alter ego. "He´s just like Agent Cooper," she says. "He says, 'Look at those trees!' Or he´ll really marvel over a good cup of coffee, you know?"

Her dreams are sweet and sticky. "It´s like I´m having the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare all at once," Donna once said. Lara Flyn, who had her share of nightmares after playing the victim in the TV movie The Preppie Murder, says this about her nocturnal life: "Do you remember that Marshmallow Fluff stuff? That spread? This will sound funny, but I´ve had this recurring dream since I was eight years old that I´m stuck in Fluff and can´t get out. And there´s black-and-white TV static all around me. It´s frightening."

She tells her secrets. "I paint my dog´s toe-nails," she says. "For the fun of it." She cannot tie a cherry stem with her tongue, but she will let her dog eat food that is inside her mouth. She is dyslexic and acutely shy, a combination that prevents her from going into grocery stores or restaurants alone. She has been known to perform Academy Award acceptance speeches in front of the bathroom mirror, clutching a tootbrush. "Really gross, huh?" she says. She was named for the Julie Christie character in Dr. Zhivago and is the unfortunate owner of many music boxes that play "Lara´s Theme." She drives atrociously and can wiggle her ears upon request.

Mysteries of David Lynch, director, part two. "He once came over to me and said, 'I want you to purr like a pussycat in this scene,'" she says. "He wanted me to do the whole thing purring." Another time, she says, "He came up to me before my close-up and said, 'Imagine yourself as a fawn in the forest.'"

Of pie reviews and motives for murder.

"The lemon meringue is the best," she says. "The rhubarb is a little too bitter, although I have a stuffy nose and couldn´t really taste it that well. And I´m not even touching cherry." As for whether she killed Laura Palmer: "I don´t know," she says, which is a big shock. "But did you ever have a best friend in school who was always just a little more popular than you? And you were in the shadow? And you couldn´t stand any more of it? I think maybe Donna had that."

 

AUDREY THE BAD GIRL WANTS HER APPLE HOT

She dances alone in front of the diner. She is dancing, swirling in a dark flowered dress, hearing the music that isn´t there. Then again, she could just be pacing. Who can tell with all that sun glare? We´re just trying to get a parking space. Sherilyn Fenn, toxic beauty, waits outside the Beachwood Café, in Beachwood Canyon. She waits below her eyebrows, for which there must have once been a permanent permit. Sherilyn Fenn´s eyebrows soar to nosebleed strata; they have apexes. Nestled beneath the left is that beauty mark, her sex punctuation. She is twenty-five, and her voice comes from her sinuses, as though the weather were cold even when the weather is hot. She is short. As a child in Michigan, she could walk atop snow without leaving her imprint. She has been ethereal ever since, but drives a Jeep anyway.

She lets us taste her turkey. "I don´t know about the pie here," she says (the coffee shop was her choice), but I´m sure they have a damned good cup of coffee." She wants a hot sandwich. "I haven´t had turkey for a long time," she says, ordering herself just that: on open-faced affair replete with mashed potatoes and gravy. "I want lots of gravy," she says, and we know exactly what she means. Later, she urges us to try some of hers. "Isn´t it great?" she asks.

This is why bad girls wear saddle shoes. Audrey Horne, as played by Fenn, is a spooky rich girl whose father is scum. She nevertheless yearns for his affections, as well as those of Special Agent Cooper, in whose bed she turned up nude. Ripe in her sweaters and saddle shoes, Audrey frolics amid peepholes and hidden passages, culling evil secrets. "She dresses like Daddy´s little girl," says Sherilyn. "Saddle shoes are his idea all the way." Shockingly, when we last saw her, Audrey was corsetted up as an undercover working girl in her father´s brothel, One-Eyed-Jacks, with Daddy unwittingly about to enter her boudoir. The outcome? "She´s just gonna have to think fast," says Sherilyn, cagily, "which she usually does. I wish I could tell you! All I can say is that David [Lynch] was frustrated by that corset outfit. He said, 'I want you back in the skirts and saddle shoes, and out of One-Eyed-Jacks!'"

Whose Twin Peaks are they, anyway? "On the set of the pilot," Sherilyn says, trying to clear up one mystery, "the makeup artist always called me Miss Twin Peaks. 'C´mere, Miss Twin Peaks!' But there´s lots of twin peaks on the show. And there were these two beautiful mountains were we shot."

We pull out a jar of cherries. "Oh, no!" she moans. "Don´t pull out a cherry stem! Please don´t!" It is too late. We have placed a full jar of maraschino cherries before her and beg her to do what Audrey did to impress management and secure employment at One-Eyed-Jacks. We beg her to do the stem trick. "It´s too intimate," she says, in demure protest. The she lowers the boom: "You know what? You´re gonna be the first person I´ve told the truth to... I can´t do it. I´m telling everyone I can do it, because they´re just so disappointed if I can´t." Sensing our woe, she adds, "Well, I did get drunk one night and did it in a New York hotel bar."

Then we ask this: What does it mean when a girl knows how to knot a cherry stem in her mouth? "It means she´s a great kisser?" she says, knowing we both know better.

Pie arrives and , briefly, so does Bobby Briggs. The Beachwood pie repertoire encompasses apple, peach and cherry, and we order samples of each. "Can we have them hot, with whipped cream?" she asks, full of expectancy. Moments later, she is banging on the window beside us and hollering, "It´s Bobby!" By a quirk of fate, strolling by on the street is her cast mate Dana Ashbrook, who plays Shelly´s lover boy, Bobby Briggs. Sherilyn dictates the following into our tape recorder, à la Agent Cooper: "Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks has just passed us, and it is a shock, Diane, I have to tell you." (Diane, of course, is who takes Cooper´s dictation.) Ashbrook joins us long enough to groan at our pies. "Oh, my God," he says, looking sick. "I´ve had so much pie in the last year." Then he leaves to go to work on a car.

She reveals Audrey´s greates secret. "Secrets are dangerous thing, Audrey." So said Agent Cooper on the night he found Audrey between his sheets. The secret Audrey has never told: Her virtue is intact. "Absolutely and completely," declares Sherilyn. "It´s like big talk. She absolutely hasn´t been with anybody. She acts like she has. She wants to. That is her secret." As for Cooper´s libido: "We´re at a loss," she says, baffled. "I mean, I thought if I´m in his bed, you know, that should be cut and dried. But he didn´t go for it. I think he needs to loosen up."

Johnny Depp´s arrowhead turns up. We ask for her own secrets, and she says, "Hah!" Then we ask about her former fiancé, Johnny Depp, onetime star of 21 Jump Street. "Not a big secret," she says of their fateful relationship. "Johnny and I got engaged because we loved each other very much and it was our way of saying, 'What´s the next step to prove that we love each other more than that?' It´s never fun to get your heart broken. I will always love him." From her coin purse, she plucks out a crude Indian arrowhead. "Johnny gave me this," she says, fingering the artifact. "And I don´t know why, but I´ve kept it with me ever since."

Prince is like a houseplant. Once, long ago, when she was new to Hollywood, she kept company with Prince, her friend to this day. "He´s like an African violet," she says, as though we will understand. "I will be attracted to him for the rest of my life. I can´t explain it, but it´s like he´s always there in spirit. I can feel him." We really don´t want to know anymore.

 

Soon she will not be wearing clothes. Other secrets: She often dreams that sharks are chasing her through her grandparents´ living room. "I think it symbolizes something," she says. "Maybe the lack of feeling safe." She is afraid of the dark: "I have a really vivid imagination about people busing in and trying to rape me or knife me or shoot me." She has planned out escape routes from her apartment for just such occurences. Like Audrey, she likes to dance when she is alone. "I do very strange dances." She spent two months as a Playboy Bunny when she was eighteen: "All the girls stuffed underneath to make their breasts big on top," she says, including herself. "Otherwise, I´d look like I had nothing." In the film Two-Moon-Junction, she was frequently naked and also a blonde. In the December issue of Playboy, she will be naked again, in artsy photographs taken by her boyfriend, whose name is actually Barry Hollywood. "The pictures look like paintings," she says proudly and adds, "The offered me a great sum of money."

Mysteries of David Lynch, director, part three. In the new Lynch film, Wild at Heart, Sherilyn appears briefly as a girl injured in a car wreck. Before dying, she babbles about the contents of her purse. Sherilyn says, "David´s direction was 'Only think of this: bobby pins, lipstick, wallet, comb, that´s it.' It´s very abstract."

Lynch says of the death scene, "I just pictured her being able to do this. She is like a broken china doll." About Audrey, he says this: "Uh, well, she has trouble at home. Audrey is kind of abstract."

She ate no peach and killed no homecoming queen, probably. In the end, she would have preferred the banana cream at the House of Pies, where she is no stranger. She attempted no peach pie and little cherry. "I like the apple," she says. In point of fact, she killed off the apple but not Laura Palmer. "I don´t think Audrey would kill anybody," she says. "Unless it´s in self-defense. People say to me, 'You killed Laura Palmer,' and I say, 'You´re crazy! I´m not that bad!"

Bill Zehme
Rolling Stone, October 4th 1990.

Retour