LOS ANGELES -- Would you believe "Twin Peaks" coffee mugs, "Twin Peaks" cherry pies and a new line of "Twin Peaks" designer doughnuts? You'd better believe, because they could all be on the way. The wheels of merchandising are turning to capitalize on the success of "Twin Peaks," the captivatingly eccentric prime-time soap opera that begins reruns on Sunday, Aug. 5, and starts its second season on Sept. 30.
David Lynch, co-creator of the ABC series, is now in deepest Van Nuys, Calif., directing the two-hour season premiere, one of three episodes he is expected to direct this season. Lynch wrote the premiere with co-producer Mark Frost, but before they got around to that, they looked over and approved new items of "Twin Peaks" merchandise. Some will be in stores in September.
Due Sept. 4, for instance, is the "Twin Peaks" soundtrack on compact disc, featuring the haunting, borderline-hypnotic music written for the series by Angelo Badalamenti. Then, on Sept. 15, the Pocket Books division of Simon and Schuster will publish "The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer," supposedly written by the cheerleader whose cold, blue body washed up on shore in the first episode -- but actually written by Lynch's daughter, Jennifer, 22.
Laura's diary, as "Twin Peaks" fans know full well, was discovered by FBI agent Dale Cooper in the first episode last season. Is this what will be published? "That was a different diary," says Ken Scherer, chief executive officer of Lynch-Frost Productions. So there are two diaries? "I've already said more than I should have," Scherer says. "I'll be fired, probably."
Scherer says the creative team that does "Twin Peaks" is well aware that a glut of "Twin Peaks" merchandise -- like the blitz of T-shirts and gewgaws crowding stores to promote Fox's hit cartoon "The Simpsons" -- could alienate hard-core "Twin Peaks" fans, and cores don't get much harder. So whatever comes out from "Twin Peaks" will be tasteful and decorous, though in keeping with the Froot Loopy nature of the show.
"We debated not doing merchandise, but you almost can't not do it," Scherer says. "You're almost crazy if you don't do it, because someone's going to do it anyway." Those "I Killed Laura Palmer" T-shirts selling in major cities for 15 bucks a pop are unauthorized, then? "There've been nothing but unauthorized T-shirts," Scherer says.
Other sources at the company say certain ideas presented to Lynch and Frost were rejected outright as being too tacky -- for instance, a Talking Log that would babble when its string was pulled. One of the colorful (if quiet) characters on "Twin Peaks" is the evanescent Log Lady, who divines secret messages from a cherished hunk of spruce.
Scherer says the idea of authorizing a company to manufacture Log Lady Firewood was also rejected. "Obviously, the people who suggested that were not familiar with the show," says Scherer, "or they would know that the Log Lady would never burn her wood."
Apparently, talking logs are not the worst of it as far as suggestions go, but sources at the company are tight-lipped about the other rejects. One source close to Lynch did say, "I would hang my head in shame if I walked into a store and saw some of the things that have been proposed."
A "Twin Peaks" coffee mug actually makes a great deal of sense, because Agent Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) has been depicted as something of a java junkie on the show, extolling "a damn fine cup of coffee" as one of the finer things in life. Ditto a good cherry pie or a bounteous doughnut crop. But plans for such products as these are still on the drawing boards.
ABC Entertainment gave out "Twin Peaks" mugs to members of the press at a publicity powwow here last week. Bogus! Totally bogus! A spokesman for Lynch-Frost says these were not the "official" mugs, whose design Lynch has yet to approve. The real mugs, and all the other merchandise, will be handled by Hamilton Projects Inc. of New York. Merchandising rights are held by World Vision, the firm that distributes "Twin Peaks" domestically and abroad.
As for the mug war between Lynch-Frost and ABC, it apparently is over. Mark Zakarin, vice president of marketing for ABC Entertainment, says only a limited number of mugs were made up for the press and ABC affiliates and that there will be no further distribution. Imprinted on the mug was the familiar slogan "A damn fine cup of coffee." Zakarin said, "I'm sure their mug will be much more tasteful than our mug."
Scherer says it's the publishing ventures, rather than the merchandising, that really excite Lynch and Frost. These projects include, in addition to the "Secret Diary," another book that will serve as a "prequel" to "Twin Peaks," recounting the entire history of the fictitious Northwest lumber town up to the moment when Laura Palmer's body was discovered. Frost is writing it now as a sprawling saga a` la James Michener.
In addition, Lynch-Frost has tentative plans for a series of "Agent Cooper" audio tapes. Yes, you too will be able to sit at home with your Walkman and listen to the PRIVATE THOUGHTS of Agent Cooper as dictated to his all-ears and unseen secretary, Diane. The tapes will incorporate dialogue already heard on the show and new material written by Lynch and Frost.
"We've put in place a program that really plays to the strengths of David and Mark," Scherer says, "instead of just going out with mugs and T-shirts. We're not simply putting out a T-shirt to make a buck." Some of the profits from the merchandising and publishing will help defray the costs of the show, says Scherer. There is also the hope that "cash donations" can be made to worthy charities.
"David and Mark don't want to be perceived as guys just ripping off the public," Scherer says. "We've said from the beginning, 'Let's be innovative, let's be creative.' There has been talk of developing a 'Twin Peaks' cherry pie line or a 'Twin Peaks' doughnut line, but if it's just slapping our name on the box, we're not interested. It's got to be in the same taste as the show."
Well, how about a Dead Laura Palmer Doll? "David might actually like that," says Scherer, laughing. Then he stops laughing. "No," he says, "there are no dead dolls that I know of."