« I don`t want to sound at all strange, » says Catherine E. Coulson, who came to fame cradling a chunk of wood as the Log Lady on David Lynch`s patently bizarre 1990-91 TV series Twin Peaks. « But I `ve grown very fond of the log. I do feel an empathy and connection with it. »
Currently a cast member of the Shakespeare Festivalin Ashland, Ore., the fortysomething actress was Lynch`s assistant on the cult classic Eraserhead at the American Filminstitute some 20 years ago when the director first imagined her Twin Peaks character. « David`s always been into wood, » says Coulson, who also appeared briefly in that nightmarish film. « He said, ‘You know, Catherine, some day I think you should play this girl with a log.' » Lynch, recalls Coulson, felt that the best way to introduce the Log Lady would be in a television show called I`ll Test My Log With Every Branch Of Knowledge. « His idea was that I would take the log to various experts and find out about them as well as the log. For instance, a dentist would examine the log from a dental perspective, and we`d learn about the dentist. »
But Lynch decided he was barking up the wrong tree with the notion, and he put it on the back burner until he cooked up a better showcase for the Log Lady (and a host of other strange folks) years later at ABC: Twin Peaks, now a rerun staple of the Bravo cable channel. Coulson, who`d become a documentary filmmaker and theatrical performer in the interim, remembers his call. « He said, ‘Are you ready to do the Log Lady?' » The director then whisked her to Seattle and, to avoid having to explain the character – a former ballroom dance instructor who became psychic after her husband`s death in an arson-set fire – to the network, he sneaked her into the pilot along with a 40-pound piece of Ponderosa pine from the Pacific Northwest.
Today, the actress preserves her stiff co-star in a manner that Michael Jackson would envy: It`s kept in a secure room at a secret location with a humidifier that runs 24 hours. « The log is doing quite well, » says a referential Coulson. « It has aged gracefully – much the way I have. » And both will continue to do so, knock on wood.
Cinescape Mars 1996