Friday, May 20, 2016

Catherine E. Coulson - An Appreciation

Catherine Coulson on the cover of Wrapped In Plastic 49

Last year, the Twin Peaks community suffered a terrible loss with the death of Catherine E. Coulson, who played the Log Lady (i.e., Margaret Lanterman) in the series, and in the film, Fire Walk With Me.

The Log Lady was, of course, one of the most memorable characters from the show.  She embodied many things about Twin Peaks. At first, she seemed to be simple comic-relief (evident from her first appearance, in the pilot, where she repeatedly flips a light switch on-and-off to quiet the large group of townspeople in the town hall). But her importance in the narrative grew as the series progressed.  It was soon evident that the Log Lady knew many things about forces surrounding Twin Peaks; that she was privy to secrets and arcane knowledge about “the evil in these woods” that no other character could ever know.  In effect, The Log Lady became akin to Tom Bombadil in The Lord of The Rings, a character who ostensibly exists outside the main storyline and who sees the world in such a unique and fundamental way that the exigencies of plot don’t really apply.  The Log Lady was free to enter and the leave the narrative at will, dispensing advice and secrets and warnings when she deemed necessary. (She even performed this role in the Georgia Coffee commercials, in which she confirmed the truth of certain matters and later instructed all the characters to “Watch” at a crucial juncture.)

The log image from Catherine Coulson's "business" card.  She often gave these to fans.

So important was the Log Lady that David Lynch essentially reimagined her as an ambassador of Twin Peaks when he created “The Log Lady Introductions” for a later rebroadcasting. These introductions have since become a fundamental part of the show—an essential element of the overall mythology.

Catherine Coulson embraced this ambassadorial role in real life.  She was a tireless advocate for the series, and was one of the warmest, most generous actors in the show’s vast ensemble. Anyone who ever met or spoke with Catherine Coulson found this to be true.  She loved Twin Peaks and she loved and appreciated the fans.  In one of our interviews, she told Wrapped In Plastic, “Twin Peaks fans are really wonderful.  They are very, very respectful people. They are polite, they are helpful to each other, they are just very a lovely and intelligent group of human beings.  It is a real pleasure to talk to them.”  Another time, she said, “What a wonderful thing to become a cult figure in your forties. First of all, I get to talk about Twin Peaks, which is a great world, and I get to talk about my friend, David, who is a great guy. He’s just a terrific human being. What more could a girl ask for?”

Catherine Coulson always supported the work Craig Miller and I did on Wrapped In Plastic. She actually promoted the magazine from time-to-time, going so far as to once mention us in Variety (which was a thrill). She understood our passion for Twin Peaks because she shared that passion. This may be why she was so approachable, why she understood the enthusiasm and love so many people had for the series. Yes, she may have been an actor on the show, but, deep down, she was also the show’s biggest fan!

When the full cast for the new Twin Peaks was recently released, I was most happy to see Catherine’s name on the list. What a great treat it will be to see the Log Lady again! Thankfully, she was able to participate in the new show before her untimely passing.  I don’t expect her part to be much (perhaps she will simply introduce episodes once again). But Catherine Coulson will be there—the Log Lady will be there—fulfilling her role as the indisputable representative of Twin Peaks.


Catherine Coulson at the 1993 Twin Peaks Festival, Issaquah, WA.

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