Catherine Coulson…never forgotten

David Bushman and Arthur Smith, authors of Twin Peaks FAQ, to be published this spring by Applause Books, remember Catherine Coulson.  Coulson worked behind the scenes on many features and independent films since the age of 15, but perhaps the most iconic role was her role as Margaret Lanterman in the TV series Twin Peaks.

Twinpeaks_coverUpon hearing the sad news of Catherine E. Coulson’s passing, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge her unique contribution to the brilliantly skewed tapestry that is Twin Peaks, as well as her status as one of the most beloved figures in Twin Peaks fandom, adored for her iconic performance as Margaret Lanterman—the fabled “Log Lady”—and for her warmth and generosity towards the show’s fans, many of whom she met and talked with at the numerous Twin Peaks fan events she attended with joyous dedication.

The Log Lady was an early point of reference for pundits and fans enumerating Twin Peaks’s intriguing eccentricities: a grave, forbidding figure whose distinguishing characteristic was her ever-present log, a sturdy branch she cradled to her bosom like a beloved child and with which she consulted on matters most troubling and mysterious. She served as the story’s Cassandra figure, dispensing gnomic nuggets of mystically obscure prophesy and insight derived from her log’s silent (to us) utterances. The absurdity of this idea, presented with such solemn gravity, perfectly encapsulates Twin Peaks’s ability to exploit the tension between narrative and aesthetic extremes to create a uniquely disorienting/seductive atmosphere.

Coulson’s deadpan, nearly affectless performance only deepens the strangeness (though she is possessed of a certain flinty, defiant streak: witness her slapping Cooper’s hand away from a tray of cookies, or her habit of leaving her pitch gum stuck to various surfaces in the Double R), and her physical appearance has from the start been one of Twin Peaks’s most recognizable visual elements. We had this to say about her look in the fashion chapter of our upcoming book on the series:

“Mrs. Lanterman definitely has some Earth shoes in her closet—she tends toward earth tones in general (they match her chief accessory, a log), and her eccentric art professor look, with oversized red spectacle frames, voluminous cardigans, severe bobbed haircut, and nature-referencing pins and brooches, suggests a hippy past. One of the series’s most visually iconic characters, the Log Lady is a popular choice for TP cosplayers.”

Coulson had known David Lynch long before the creation of Twin Peaks: she appears in his landmark feature debut, Eraserhead—starring Jack Nance, her husband at the time, who would also join the Twin Peaks cast as good-hearted fisherman Pete Martell. The story goes that Lynch had the Log Lady role in mind for Coulson before there even was a Twin Peaks; during the filming of Eraserhead, he pitched her on a project that would be called I’ll Test My Log with Every Branch of Knowledge, which would feature her as a widow who carried a log around after her husband’s death in a fire.

That show never made it past the idea stage, but clearly the Log Lady concept was an alluring one for Lynch, who recycled the character for Twin Peaks, included her in the series finale after not appearing in the shooting script, gave her an emotionally wrenching scene with Laura Palmer in Fire Walk with Me, and drafted her to present newly written introductions (written by Lynch himself) for Twin Peaks episodes when the series was rebroadcast on the Bravo network.

We get it. The Log Lady is terrific: funny, weird, distinctive, haunting, and sui generis. We will not see her like again . . . thank you, Catherine Coulson, for making television a place more wonderful and strange.

October is finally here!

As we enter the month of October, we over at Hal Leonard are excited for Halloween. As we count down the days until Halloween approaches, here is an excerpt of one of our spooky books, Haunted America FAQ!

00128461From the bright lights of New Orleans, the avid fan of Louisiana cemeteries could take no more dramatic turn than toward the swamp lights of Manchac, and the mass grave that was perforcedly dug here to bury the victims of the Great West Indies Storm of September 1915.

Or, at least, the storm is what the official story blamed. Local lore, however. insists that the weather was simply the weapon that finished them off. The real killer was Aunt Julia Brown, the elderly voodoo priestess who owned almost all of the property around the town of Frenier Beach, out on Lake Pontchartrain, and who appeared to begrudge every tenant she had.

“One day I’m gonna die,” she used to sing to herself, and to anyone who might be passing by as she sat out on her porch. “One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me.” So she could not have timed her funeral more perfectly than to coincide with the landfall of a Category Three hurricane that modern equipment would tell us moved northwest from the Gulf of Mexico at around 14 mph, with sustained winds near its center of 115 mph, and which crashed into Frenier Beach like an express train.

At exactly the same time as Aunt Julia’s funeral.

The old woman had certainly unnerved her fellow townspeople. But they had admired her as well, and the whole town was out to pay its final respects. The funeral service began at four, and that was precisely when the storm hit. Gathered around Aunt Julia’s coffin, mourners were scattered as the windows of her house blew in and the walls peeled away.

Then the winds snatched up the coffin and carried it into the bayou, along with everything else it could gather—livestock and the living included. Later, once the winds had died down and the waters finally started to recede, Aunt Julia’s body was found deep within the cypress swamp.

But they only found her body. Her casket had disappeared, and so had more or less everything else she had owned. The personal possessions that she kept around her house, the house in which she lived, most of the property that she had collected around Frenier Beach, and a lot of the people who lived in it.

Speaking of earthly riches and treasures, people always say that when you go, you cannot take it with you, and maybe that’s true. But Aunt Julia certainly put it someplace.

The bodies that could be found were buried in a mass grave in Manchac Swamp, floated across the lake on makeshift driftwood rafts, and for a century since then the swamp has howled with their restless, and so wronged spirits.

In 2009, A&E’s Extreme Paranormal investigative team even visited the grave site, and although they returned with little more than a prime-time half hour of jumbled voodoo, mini-cam entombment, and the kind of outrageous exaggerations that only reality TV can supply, still it was one of the most captivating shows of its ilk ever broadcast. They found nothing, but that didn’t mean that something wasn’t there.

Besides, the cemetery is just one of Manchac’s claims to fame because there’s reasons aplenty why the locals used to call the place “the swamp of the ghosts.”

Reasons like nearby Manchac Lighthouse, automated in 1941, decommissioned in 1987; derelict and barely accessible but, says legend, occupied to this day.

Reasons like the Blood Red Hanging Tree, an old-time instrument of local justice, whose strange fruit can still be seen hanging from its branches today.

Reasons like the Cajun rougarou that has stalked the swamp for centuries, and reasons like the ghostly highway that crosses the swamp where, until its deadly collapse in 1976, a modern road bridge once stood, although woe betide anyone who attempts trust to its tarmac today.

In fact, the only thing that Manchac Swamp has more of than ghosts and supernatural horrors is probably alligators. Which is maybe why not many people go there at night.

John Kenneth Muir visits XFILESNEWS

The X-Files FAQ author, John Kenneth Muir, was a guest recently on The X-Files News Podcast, hosted by feature editor Ky Johnson.  Listen to the full podcast below!


00124644The X-Files FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Global Conspiracy, Aliens, Lazarus Species, and Monsters of the Week explores Chris Carter’s popular 1990s science-fiction TV series, which aired on Fox for nine seasons and inspired spin-offs, including feature films, TV shows, toys, novels, and comic books. The book explores the series in terms of its historical context and analyzes how many of the episodes tackle the events of their time: the Clinton era. The X-Files FAQ also tallies the episodes that are based on true stories, selects touchstone moments from the almost decade-long run, and organizes the series by its fantastic subject matter – from serial killers to aliens, from prehistoric menaces to ethnic and religious-based horrors.

The X-Files FAQ also features a foreword written by screenwriter Chris Carter who credits John Muir for his impressive and thoughtful musings. In the book you’ll read that the writing on the show, X-Files, was only half what made the show what it is today. The people who worked on the show were working in a visual medium, and as Chris Carter states in the foreword “the show somehow managed to turn that rectangle box we all viewed each week into something special and often unexpected.”

In addition, the book recalls the TV antecedents (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) and descendants (Fringe) of The X-Files, examines the two feature films, and investigates Chris Carter’s other creations, including Millennium, The Lone Gunmen, Harsh Realm, and The After. Featuring numerous stills and the show’s most prominent writers and directors, The X-Files FAQ allows readers to relive the “Mytharc” conspiracy and the unforgettable monsters of the week – from the Fluke Man to the Peacocks.

James Dean’s Final Hours

Today is the 60th anniversary of the death of James Dean, the focal point of Keith Elliott Greenberg’s book, Too Fast to Live, Too Young To Die.  In his book, Greenberg pieces together the puzzle of Dean’s final day and its everlasting impact.  Here is an excerpt:

00122929Ever since his toddler years, Jimmy had a keen talent for both observing the world and interpreting it for what was primarily a small but receptive audience. If his grandfather Charles crossed his legs, Jimmy imitated the gesture. If Charles then stretched his legs, Jimmy did it too. “It was more than just mocking Charlie’s gestures,” Emma said. “Even then, Jimmy
seemed able to be another person.”

And people wanted to watch Jimmy perform. “From the time I can remember him, he was cute, and he was always the center of attention, wherever he went,” Joan Peacock told CNN.

There was also a depth that separated Jimmy from his contemporaries. “Jimmy had a little something up here that the other boys don’t have,” Traster said, motioning at his temple. The nursery owner remembered Jimmy as a teen, becoming sullen and taking off on his motorcycle—Traster pronounced it “motor-sicle”—to the family property, where he’d “medidate” in private.

By Traster’s estimation, the young man “derived a certain amount of comfort” from being on the land that defined his ancestors. “He had the spirituality the average kid didn’t seem to have.”

In February 1955, Jimmy had returned to the farm with Dennis Stock, a photographer for Life magazine, working on a photo essay that would be entitled “Moody New Star.” East of Eden was already generating excitement, and—while he wasn’t yet a household name—the comparisons to Brando had begun. It was the public’s opportunity to see Dean not only in the place that shaped him, but also with the people who loved him in a way that his fans never could. The depth of the relationship between Markie and the actor he considered a brother was particularly evident. In one photo, Jimmy is waiting for the school bus with his younger cousin. In another, Markie looks over Jimmy’s shoulder as he reads. In a third, the two pay a solemn visit to Cal Dean’s grave.

Markie never forgot any of it. “That was kind of a special visit,” he says. “When Jimmy would go to town or something, he’d want to know if I wanted to go along. That’s why I’m in so many of the pictures. And, of course, even when I look at those pictures now, it brings back all those memories.”

Because of Dean’s death on the highway, people would later focus on the picture of Dean pushing his little cousin in a miniature race car, as well as the image of the pair playing with toy racers on the floor.

Jimmy’s grandfather Charles Dean also loved fast cars, purchasing his first vehicle in 1911 and disrupting the order of Fairmount by rocketing down the road at a then-blistering thirty-five miles per hour. Jimmy was a child when he began driving a tractor but quickly graduated to motorized bikes. Recounted Emma, “His motorcycles got larger and larger.”

Over the years, Jimmy owned an Italian Lancia scooter, English cycle, Harley, 500cc Norton, Indian 500, and British Triumph T-110—with “Dean’s Dilemma” painted on the side—in addition to a number of cars. But recently, he’d made his fastest and most expensive purchase: a Porsche 550 Spyder, a two-seat race car, possessing neither a windshield nor a roof, and capable of going as fast as 150 miles per hour. Costing in the neighborhood of $7,000, it would have been an extravagant choice, had Dean’s agent not just arranged a new deal securing the actor $100,000 for every future film.

Not since the Czech Whizzer had Dean been so exhilarated over a ride. Jimmy had been driving the 550 Spyder—one of only ninety the manufacturer produced—all over Hollywood, regularly stopping at his favorite restaurant, the Villa Capri, so friends could gawk at it. It was particularly thrilling to have his relatives, Marcus Sr. and Ortense, and another aunt and uncle, Charles Nolan and Mildred Dean, in town to view this material symbol of their nephew’s success. On Saturday, Jimmy was
scheduled to race the Porsche about three hours north, in Salinas, and he asked his relatives to watch him from the stands. Marcus and Ortense couldn’t make it; they’d been away long enough and were driving home to see Markie, Joan, and the rest of the family. Charles Nolan and his wife expressed interest in attending the race, and Jimmy had their tickets in his pocket as he made his way up the winding highway to the track. But, at the last moment, the couple decided to drive to Mexico instead.

Even so, Jimmy was overjoyed to be steering the Porsche around the curves of Route 466. Observers would later theorize that the twenty-fouryear- old star was simply infatuated with the race car’s power. He’d named it the “Little Bastard,” a proclamation, some thought, about the way Jimmy perceived himself. But, below his snarling facade, Dean’s sensitivity
allowed him to appreciate the Spyder as a work of automotive brilliance, renowned for its aerodynamic design, lightweight aluminum chassis, and air-cooled engine that could expand and contract as the temperature changed.

Susan Masino at Wrigley Field!

00120817Susan Masino, author of AC/DC FAQ, was recently attended AC/DC’s concert over at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  Having seen them already four times on the Black Ice Tour, she couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see her favorite band one more time. Susan wrote all about her experience on her website, here’s a sneak peak!

Exactly one week ago tonight, I was standing at the barricade that runs across the front of the stage while AC/DC were causing noise complaints in the Windy City! And according to the Cubs manager, also screwing up the in field. Starting their show at 8pm sharp, the band launched into “Rock or Bust,” and brought over 41,000 screaming fans to their feet, where they stayed for the 20 song, two hour show.

Seeing them four times on the Black Ice tour, I waited a long time for them to make their way to Chicago, and of course the wait was worth it. Even though Stevie Young is playing for his uncle Malcolm, and Chris Slade is playing drums in place of Phil Rudd, the band still brought the thunder from down under. Especially Angus, dressed in a bright red school boy uniform, who seemed to have the energy of a sixteen year old!

Lacing the song list with 3 new tracks from their latest album, Rock or Bust, the band covered some of my favorites, including “High Voltage,” “Have a Drink On Me,” and “Sin City.”

Read more about her experience over at her website HERE!

Our 50th FAQ book is…

Haunted America!!

00128461Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the leading publisher of books on music, theater, film, television, and pop culture, is celebrating the arrival of the 50th book in its popular FAQ Series with the publication of Haunted America FAQ by the series’ most prolific author, Dave Thompson.

Since the release of Fab Four FAQ in 2007, the FAQ Series, published under the Backbeat Books and Applause Theatre & Cinema Books imprints, has evolved into a robust, wide-ranging, and successful line, offering books that are one-stop sources for information, history, and minutiae on any given topic, be it an music artist, a film genre, an iconic television show, or, in the case of the 50th FAQ, a pop culture topic. Packed with a staggering amount of data, rare photographs, and period ephemera, these reader-friendly volumes are presented in a lively, engaging style. Each chapter in any FAQ book serves as a freestanding article on any aspect of the story, allowing readers to put down and pick up the book with ease.

“A key aspect of the FAQ series is that the authors are rabid fans of the subjects they write about, and they have keen insight into what other devoted fans are hungry for,” explained Backbeat Books series editor Bernadette Malavarca. “The flexibility of the series’ topical editorial format gives authors an opportunity to cover the subject matter widely but at the same time in great detail. In an FAQ book, info a fan would have to glean through devouring a multitude of different types of media—articles, biographies, documentaries, music histories—comes together in one cohesive, lively volume.”

True to that description, Haunted America FAQ is a fast-paced survey of the ghosts, ghouls, and associated denizens of the nation’s haunted history. Tracing local ghost stories back to Native American legends and forward through horror tales, both ancient and modern, Thompson visits some of the countries best-known haunted locales and most obscure creepy places – from private homes and hotel rooms to schools, parks, prisons, hospitals, battlefields, and nearly anywhere else people go.

In addition to Haunted America FAQ, this fall’s new entries in the series include The Twilight Zone FAQ, also written by Dave Thompson; Star Wars FAQ by Mark Clark; The Beat Generation FAQ by Rich Weidman; The Smiths FAQ by John D. Luerssen; Dracula FAQ by Bruce Scivally; Michael Jackson FAQ by Kit O’Toole; A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan; The X-Files FAQ by John Kenneth Muir; and TV Finales FAQ by Stephen Tropiano and Holly Van Buren.

Photographer Bob Gruen speaks with author James Campion, author of Shout It Out Loud!

In this exclusive interview excerpt, legendary photographer Bob Gruen, speaks with Shout It Out Loud author James Campion. They discuss the significance that KISS’s makeup had with making them who they are now. Watch the video below to learn more, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Shout It Out Loud: The Story of Kiss’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon

00141630How does an underground oddity become a cultural phenomenon?

For over 40 years, the rock band Kiss has galvanized the entertainment world with an unparalleled blitz of bravado, theatricality, and shameless merchandising, garnering generations of loyally rabid fans. But if not for a few crucial months in late 1975 and early 1976, Kiss may have ended up nothing more than a footnote.

Shout It Out Loud is a serious examination of the circumstance and serendipity that fused the creation of the band’s seminal work, Destroyer – including the band’s arduous ascent to the unexpected smash hit, Alive!, the ensuing lawsuits between its management and its label, the pursuit of the hot, young producer, a grueling musical “boot camp,” the wildly creative studio abandon, the origins behind an iconic cover, the era’s most outlandish tour, and the unlikely string of hit singles.

Extensive research from the period and insights into each song are enhanced by hundreds of archived materials and dozens of interviews surrounding the mid-’70s-era Kiss and its zeitgeist. New interviews with major principals in the making of an outrageously imaginative rock classic animate this engaging tale.

As Campion writes in his introduction, “Destroyer is the indisputable KISS mission statement—the realization of a dream that stridently reflects the extraordinary time from which it was fashioned. Destroyer is ’70s rock: loud, yes, and decadent, you bet, but mostly it is pompous, weird, and fantastical….It is a cartoon fantasy’s parody of excess. Its message is fun and doom all rolled up in a thunderous package of melodramatic farce.”

Shout It Out Loud is the story of how an underground rock and roll oddity became a cultural phenomenon.

Bobby Borg talks Business Basics for Musicians

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics for Musicians, has complied another interview series where he talks about some of the tips you will find in his book. In this episode he talks about pursuing a career in the new music business. Watch the video below to see what he had to say!

To see more of this interview series visit the books page HERE. Let us know your thoughts on the videos in the comment section below!

Theater Talk with David Rothenberg & James Grissom

Last week at New York’s Drama Book Shop, David Rothenberg, author of Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion, and James Grissom, author of Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog traded Broadway tales.

In an excerpt from that talk, Grissom recalls how he and Rothenberg first met.

FortuneCVRWithBorder_138534David Rothenberg’s multilayered life thrust him into Broadway’s brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Peggy Lee, Alvin Ailey, Lauren Bacall, Christine Ebersole, and numerous others.

An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.

Confessions of a Serial Songwriter

Shelly Peiken is a multi-platinum Grammy nominated songwriter who is best known for her #1 hits “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby”. She earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Bitch” recorded by Meredith Brooks. She’s had hundreds of songs placed on albums, and in TV and film. And, she is the author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, to be published in March by Backbeat Books.  You can read about the book below or, better yet, listen to Shelly talk about her life and her book in the video!

COASS-Final_CVR_152159Confessions of a Serial Songwriter is an amusing and poignant memoir about songwriter Shelly Peiken’s journey from young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to working professional songwriter writing hits of her own. It’s about growing up, the creative process – the highs and the lows, the conflicts that arise between motherhood and career success, the divas and schemers, but also the talented and remarkable people she’s found along the way. It’s filled with stories and step-by-step advice about the songwriting process, especially collaboration. And it’s about the challenge of staying relevant in a rapidly changing and youth-driven world.

As Shelly so eloquently states in Confessions of a Serial Songwriter: “If I had to come up with one X factor that I could cite as a characteristic most hit songs have in common (and this excludes hit songs that are put forth by an already well-oiled machine…that is, a recording artist who has so much notoriety and momentum that just about anything he or she releases, as long as it’s ‘pretty good,’ will have a decent shot at succeeding), I would say it would be: A universal sentiment in a unique frame.” Peiken has tapped the universal sentiment again and again; her songs have been recorded by such artists as Christina Aguilera, Natalie Cole, Selena Gomez, Celine Dion, the Pretenders, and others. In Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, she pulls the curtain back on the music business from the perspective of a behind-the-scenes hit creator and shares invaluable insight into the craft of songwriting. Shelley Peiken_author photo

Don’t forget to visit Shelly’s website over at


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