Absolute Bowieginners: Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Absolute Bowieginners: Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me

Chris Morley gets comfortable with a kettle!

From Judea to Twin Peaks now as we investigate the mysterious appearance of David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 film serving as both prequel & sequel to the original television series which had come off the air just the previous year. Coincidentally, or indeed maybe not, two years is the exact amount of time that Bowie's character of Phillip Jeffries has been presumed missing since not returning from an assignment in Buenos Aires before he suddenly emerges from a lift in the Philadelphia office of the FBI!

Wasting no time, Jeffries heads down to the office of his former colleague & superior officer Gordon Cole - as played by Twin Peaks co-creator & fellow David, Lynch - & starts ranting before going on to explain where exactly he was during the time he’d disappeared. After which he promptly disappears again after declaring “I found something... and then there they were!” Not before implying that a former colleague might be an impostor, though - that particular accusation levelled at Kyle McLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper. “Who do you think this/that is, there?", as he puts it.

Another two years then pass before Jeffries is implied to pop up in Buenos Aires once more, possibly at the very same hotel whose lift he entered prior to his first disappearance & terrifying the exact same poor bellboy he’d frightened first time around….

Until The Return, that is. Fresh from scaring the hospitality staff of Argentina witless, & with Special Agent Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge, Dale’s doppelganger lets slip that he’d been working undercover alongside Jeffries for around twenty years. Old Phillip then proves he’s lost absolutely nothing on the bonkers score by asking for information on an agent in Colombia for the sake of Cooper’s safety, only for the poor man to wind up dead.

Most people would happily retire into the sunset & accept a gold medal for eccentricity by this point, you’d presume? Not so Jeffries, who somehow manages to lose his physical form entirely & become an orb which appears to have something of a special relationship with a kettle!

This kettle isn’t even actually supposed to be a kettle, according to its creator - Lynch himself!

“I sculpted that part of the machine that has that tea kettle spout thing, but I wish I’d just made it straight, because everybody thinks it’s a tea kettle. It’s just a machine.”
And if you wanted to speak to said orb, maybe over the trippiest cup of tea you’d ever have had the pleasure of drinking, you could do so only by finding its chamber - which was under room number 8 in a motel you could only get into from the upper floor of a convenience store, possibly the American answer to a Co-op next to a Travelodge?
If indeed kettles have feelings, this one may have boiled over if it ever learned someone else was using its identity to plan the assassination of Cooper’s aforementioned clone of sorts, who called himself Mr C. All while the real Jefferies was apparently in hiding somewhere called The Dutchman’s….

As you might have guessed, or not if you thought all this was a bit much & gave up, Mr C eventually gets a meeting with Jeffries himself to answer a big question as first posed in Fire Walk With Me. Namely, who’s the Judy he was rambling about back then? As any rational person would do by way of response, Phillip then consults his orb - which spits out a few numbers that Mr C takes care to write down. Even the orb couldn’t have predicted what would happen next though, Twin Peaks returning as a series in 2017!

Having been approached to reprise his role, Bowie declined - understandably, thanks to his failing health. He did, though, grant Lynch permission to use archive footage from the two films with the stipulation that it be overdubbed with the voice of an authentically American actor after deciding he was unhappy with the accent he’d originally used for Jeffries. Something which Lynch passed comment on.
“I never even talked to him, but I talked to his lawyer, and they weren’t telling me why he said he couldn’t do it. But then, of course, later on we knew.

We got permission to use the old footage, but he didn’t want his voice used in it. I think someone must have made him feel bad about his Louisiana accent in Fire Walk With Me, but I think it’s so beautiful.

He wanted to have it done by a legitimate actor from Louisiana, so that’s what we had to do. The guy [voice actor Nathan Frizzell] did a great job.”
Nevertheless, Lynch also said following Bowie’s passing...
“David Bowie was unique, like Elvis was unique. There’s something about him that’s so different from everybody else. I only met him during the time I worked with him and just a couple of other times, but he was such a good guy, so easy to talk to and regular. I just wish he was still around and that I could work with him again.”
While they’d never work together again on screen, a Bowie song, I’m Deranged from Outside, appears over the opening & ending of Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway.

An episode of the relaunched Twin Peaks was also later dedicated to the memory of the man who had been Phillip Jeffries, archive footage used as part of a dream sequence as recounted by Gordon Cole - portrayed of course by Lynch, who had tried to get Bowie back for a cameo pre-cancer diagnosis.

Next time, we’ll look at when David played Warhol in Basquiat, a neat lead in to his early championing of Andy’s musical proteges of sorts, the Velvet Underground & later part in reviving Lou Reed’s solo fortunes.

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