Pensive Prowler #10 by Dmetri Kakmi

Honing in on Audrey Horne

Twin Peaks was a revolution — a revolution that spawned an icon: Audrey Horne.

Audrey Horne

Viewers who experienced Twin Peaks when it first appeared were touched for life. It was like a sickness or a revelation. They never saw the world through the same eyes again. Many couldn’t move on from the oneiric power, the dread and the uncanny weirdness. They lived the rest of their lives in Twin Peaks, population 1,201, where the streets were populated by incongruous teens and skew-wiff adults who behaved as if they walked out of a daytime soap straight into a Luis Buñuel opus.

What took place in Twin Peaks encompassed life, the comedy, the romance and the tragedy of it all. Things were slightly askew, overripe, hyper-real, like a soap opera on too much coffee and cherry pie.

The space was ideal for characters who made a virtue of being unconventional, to put it mildly. They weren’t real people so much as archetypes or symbols of themselves. Yet we cared about them and invested emotional mileage in their woes.

The triumph among them, as I say, was a schoolgirl with a penchant for pleated skirts and saddle shoes. Her name was Audrey Horne, and she did not behave like any pupil we had seen before. She was more like a screen goddess — Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner — fetishised within an inch of her life and gliding wistfully, hither and yon, like a nymph, through her father’s hotel as she sought an outlet for the youthful longing that burned a hole in her heart.

And, just like that, Audrey Horne became an icon, inseparable from Twin Peaks. With the Elizabeth Taylor hair and mole beside her left eye, Audrey Horne was a fox in vintage-inspired garb; and she tipped the scales when she dispensed with conventional job interviews and proved her worthiness for the oldest profession by tying a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue.

The pre-internet world went berserk. It was all anyone talked about for days, even as we tried to emulate her astounding and decidedly salacious feat. Who’d have thought working in a brothel could be so glamorous?

In the second season, as ratings slipped and the world found out who killed Laura Palmer, Audrey Horne handcuffed herself to a bank vault and blew up. It was a nasty, undeserved end. The collective outrage caused a ripple in the stratosphere.

We had to wait twenty-five years to find out what happened next.

Audrey Horne enters the scene exactly thirty-six minutes and four seconds into episode twelve of the return. I am not a patient man. This put all my reserves to the test.

The cut from one scene to the next is abrupt. Nothing led us to expect Audrey Horne in this episode. Other than a slight mention in the previous episode, there had been no mention of her.

When she appears, she is a good deal older — fifty-two to be precise. Gone is the fresh-face girl with the supple skin and liquid eyes. Instead, we are presented with an adult who carries a hint of the younger Audrey Horne in her bearing. She is a palimpsest, altered by time so that you can detect a suggestion of the younger Audrey in the eyes and beneath the skin of the older woman.

She stands in profile in a medium-long shot, wearing a black dress. A crimson coat is draped over an arm. The dark hair is in keeping with that of a sensible mature woman who makes an effort. The eyebrows, however, are as eloquent as quills.

The scene lasts eighteen minutes and fifty-six seconds. It’s a mini-play set in a study, complete with crackling fire and a desk crammed with paperwork. There’s a stilted quality to the acting, as if the words spoken, the gestures performed, the reaction shots, and the room the actors occupy is divorced from even the shifting reality context of Twin Peaks. The weird thing is Audrey Horne doesn’t move from her allotted spot. It’s as if she’s nailed to the floor or perhaps, in an echo of Boxing Helena, her legs have been removed to prevent escape.

When it was over, I thought, that’s it? That’s how you reintroduce an iconic character after an absence of a quarter century? A ridiculous domestic in which ugly words are exchanged and we’re expected to believe Audrey Horne is married to a bald midget? She even calls him a milquetoast. (Who uses the word ‘milquetoast’ nowadays?) It was like a dropped scene from Albee’s Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I pulled myself together and called Audrey Horne on FaceTime; we’ve kept in touch over the years. Her face popped up on the screen almost immediately.

‘What did you think?’ I said, cutting to the chase. I knew she’d be watching.

She arched an eyebrow. ‘Someone should tell Lynch I’d never say milquetoast.’

Bingo!

‘And I’m not married. If I were I’d do better than that. Although having a short man for a husband has certain advantages.’ She flounced her hair and wiggled the famous eyebrows.

I was glad her sense of humour was sharp as ever.

‘Why portray you as an embittered housewife who is having an affair? It’s so…’

‘Commonplace,’ she finished. ‘And what about that house? It’s a tomb. I’m so embarrassed. People will think that’s how I live.’

‘Everyone knows you keep suites at the Great Northern.’

Audrey has been in charge of the newly refurbished Great Northern Hotel and Horne’s department store since her father Benjamin Horne died a decade ago. His brother Jerry lives in the forest with a blind hermit. Audrey also bought The Roadhouse, or The Bang Bang Bar, as it’s now known, from the Renault brothers ages ago.

‘The problem,’ Audrey said, ‘is that David can’t handle women who have their own lives. Look at the female characters in the show. Agent Tammy Preston is a freak, an empty vessel in tight skirts and stilettos. And Lucy Brennan is … let’s face it … a moron.’

‘Is she really like that?’

‘Fraid so, honey. She and Andy deserve each other.’

‘Lynch is a misogynist,’ I said, getting on my high horse. ‘Look at that embarrassing scene with Gordon Cole and the French escort.’

‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ she said, her loyalty for the director coming through. ‘It’s too simple to say he’s a misogynist. What did that film critic say?’

‘Which film critic?’

‘Jack Bilson.’

‘Jake Wilson.’

‘Yes, him. He said, “Lynch is not afraid to tap into the place where misogyny comes from.” That’s more accurate.’

Wanting to change directions, I asked Audrey if she’s seen Shelley Johnson. It was a touchy topic.

Audrey shrugged on the screen and brought a cigarette to her mouth before saying, ‘She’s gone quiet on me.’

‘I keep hoping you two get back together again.’

Audrey and Shelley had a fling two years ago; it meant more to Audrey than it did to Shelley.

Audrey laughed. ‘You just want to see two lipstick femmes getting it on.’ Then she got serious. ‘She’s gone for good this time,’ she said, bringing the cigarette to her mouth again. ‘Shelley likes cock too much. Besides, she’s going out with that new guy… what’s his name?’

‘Red.’

The mouth twisted into a wicked little grin on the phone screen. ‘He’s cute. I would not kick him out of my bed.’

After we stopped laughing, I said, ‘I wonder why Lynch didn’t put all that in the new series. It’s more interesting than a frustrated housewife having an affair with someone called Billy.’

‘Truth is complicated,’ Audrey replied. ‘Tell it like it happened and it never seems true. Organise, simplify and it will seem truer than life.’

‘That’s what Lynch has done. Made you all seem truer than life.’

Audrey seemed tired all of a sudden; the strain showed around the eyes and mouth. ‘I’ve got to go. Someone’s coming over.’

‘One question.’

‘Shoot.’

‘How do you feel about Sherilyn Fenn, the actress who plays you?’

Audrey’s face immediately lit up. ‘She’s gorgeous. I never looked like her. Even in my younger days. But I tell you what, she’s starting to look a lot like me now.’

‘Can I write about this conversation?’

‘Go ahead. But no one will believe you.’

‘Goodnight, Audrey Horne. Glad you survived the explosion in the bank.’


dmetri-kakmiDmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.

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