Wagner Visits Twin Peaks


Copyright 1995 by Kathy Biehl. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication of this article only if you include the copyright notice.

The speed of e-mail is a double-edged sword: You can pound out a thought and dispatch it immediately, before your proverbial better judgment kicks in and evaluates the likely consequences of your words. I'll be staying a quarter of a mile from Snoqualmie Falls, I e-mailed Doc, pen pal, fellow prankster and tenacious fan of the several-year-old inscrutable television series that focused on said falls in its opening credits. As soon as I hit the send key, I felt the puncture of self-impaling. The response was inevitable: Doc knew someone who would *love* to go along. He wasn't talking about himself, either. I knew all too well whom he meant: his amanuensis, his alter ego, his prop, his excuse for no end of outrageousness and annoyance, his blasted, busted up bust of Wagner, back just in time! from a photo tour of Germany.

I didn't bring the matter up again, because I knew that was one thing I could rely on Doc to do. Sure enough, during my layover in the Phoenix airport, he asked, stressing that I could say no, if I would take Wagner along for photographing at Twin Peaks' sites. Of course I agreed;* I'd left just enough room in the carry-on bag for just this eventuality. Wagner was laid to rest, wrapped in the swath of fake ermine we'd bought three years at Southern Imports three years for the crowning finish of our video, "Wagner's Houston," atop a black satin bra.

* Yeah, right, like I was going to say no, after already having lugged that bust all over hot, humid Houston in a car with malfunctioning air-conditioning; invested upwards of $75 to accompany it on a helicopter ride over Manhattan; talked my parents into putting it (and us) up for a night; and held it out the passenger window while I drove by Dealey Plaza and Doc conversed with conspiracy freaks in the park.

I was heading northwesterly to visit separate but equal contingents of pals, a couple known as the Two Daves* and the endlessly extended family of the mischievous J. The trip was marked by magnificently clear skies** and more than my minimum daily requirement of weird, not all of which involved a stowaway.

* whose refrigerator is littered with magnets of the Michelangelo sculpture and his sizable wardrobe, which include high heels and a few other cute little items cribbed from a set intended for Venus de Milo

** Contrary to Seattle's reputation, the only thing that fell out of the sky on me was aphid juice.

License plate frame:

Warning: I brake for lattes

A pedestrian traffic jam caught our attention on a corner outside a gay mall on Broadway. The cause was a more- than-foot-long puppet of a warthog with a microphone, telling drop-dead stupid jokes in a low-pitched snarl. I was entranced. It called for a volunteer with a high school education. "Kathy," said one of the Davids. "Kathy," said the other David. "Kathy," said another man in the crowd. The warthog asked if I believed he could read my mind. "Sure!" I said. "I need a little more cynicism!" he barked. "Okay, I don't!" I complied.

He put me through elaborate mental gymnastics that led to silently accumulating a number, a country and an animal. Before he announced my results, he prepared the crowd to ante up with cash if he succeeded. One of the Daves put a dollar in the tray under the stage. "A deposit!" he shrieked approvingly. "Is the number four?" "Yes." "Is the country Denmark?" "Yes." "Is the animal kangaroo?" "Yes." The warthog proclaimed that he'd read my mind. "No, I was sending to you," I disagreed. "Oh! A clairvoyant!" he countered. Everyone laughed, a few people dropped coins in the tray, and the warthog demanded that we tell him a riddle. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" I asked. "Oh, Lewis Carroll!" he growled, and began reciting a gravely "Jabberwocky."

I wanted to take the warthog home, but that would have also entailed a tall, nice-looking young man in a striped Where's Waldo? shirt. Inspired by this incident,* Dave the Younger and I capped the ensuing meal with a high-spirited food fight that escalated from tossing French fries to shooting ice into finger hockey goals, while monkey-in-the-middle Dave the Elder quietly enjoyed a cigarette and a Bombay gin martini.

  1. *and by Annette Funicello warbling a beach party song

I took Wagner, shrouded in his fake ermine, along on a day trip to Vancouver. Signs at the Canadian border required declaring any offensive weapons. We passed without incident, even without mentioning our strange cargo. Wagner did catch attention, however, at the troll under the Aurora bridge,* though only along the lines of "hey, wow, that's really weird." No one noticed him, however, alongside the sculpture of people waiting under a bus shelter in Fremont, which change clothes and signage according to whims of passers-by. I didn't even bother to bring him out at the house covered with Jello molds.

* point of scale: its left hand clutches an honest-to-God VW Beetle

At lunch on the golf course in Snoqualmie, C., son of J., announced that he wouldn't be going along to photograph Wagner at various Twin Peaks sites after all, because he embarrasses easily. (This from the man whose initial reaction to Wagner was that we should roll him in Saran Wrap and put him in the river in front of the mill.) Despite his comment, I left the greatest composer of all time on our table. As the meal progressed, C. tore off a strip of his napkin, dabbed it with ketchup, and stuck it into the hole in Wagner's forehead.* The rest of the napkin he folded into a long bandage, which he wrapped around W's head. After fastening the ends with a paper clip J. fished from her purse, he spooned ketchup onto the spot over the hole.

* He took a tumble into the Rio Grande, see, after attempting Liebestod to impress a statuette named Gretchen...

"[C.] is perverse," his father said that evening, with a smile.

After lunch, without prompting, C. nonetheless facilitated shots of Wagner before the diner, against mountain peaks and in the middle of the highway, where, unfortunately, no danger threatened him. At least, not there. That the Angel of Destruction was keeping the bust in its sights, however, was brought to our awareness in their idyllic backyard. Resting on an umbrella-topped wrought iron table, Wagner was lingering over a coffee cup and a pack of smokes when I spied a nook just his size in a bower made of apple tree branches. He fit, but was too heavy to stand by himself, so I stood him on the ground. A few minutes later, a terrific crash broke out. A gust of wind had lifted the umbrella, which had knocked over the table and jettisoned everything that had been on it down the deck stairs, which were now littered with dirt and shards from the flower pot that had doubled as ashtray. The felt beneath Wagner's pedestal was wet. He'd moistened himself, and no wonder! I laid him on his back to dry, next to the house, went inside and (sorry, Doc!) forgot about him. Until someone asked, several hours later, "Why is Wagner sunbathing on the deck?" J. and I related the tale of Wagner's near-demise to her husband and son. "Odd that gust of wind," said the first. "Must have been a Bach draft," said the second.

Wagner did make it to Snoqualmie Falls,* thanks to J. and her husband, who was charmed by the whole Wagner nonsense ("You talk just like your zine!" he exclaimed my first night in his house) and dreamed up shot after shot. Through his efforts, the plaster menace found its way to the streets of Roslyn, which had earlier that week lost its communal livelihood as location for "Northern Exposure." Wagner posed in front of the KBHR studio, the Brick and the doctor's office.

Outside Roslyn's Cafe, a clerk I'd seen at the hardware store walked by as I lowered W** to change the film in my camera. "Oh," he said, taking a good look at my charge. "I thought it was an ice cream cone."

  1. *And to the Snoqualmie Log, which I found on my own reconnaissance. "Guess this makes you the Wag-Log Lady," said my personal life commentator Rex.

  2. *

** How to make a Wagner photo: (1) Become acquainted with Doc. (2) When he offers you the bust, which he will, sooner or later, especially if you live near or travel to really cool places, take it. (3) Hold it in your non-dominant hand and stretch your arm out. (4) Hold a camera in your free (i.e., dominant) hand. (5) Press the button. Viola

My carry-on bag triggered concern at the Seattle airport. "Do you have a statue in there?" a security guard asked. I unzipped the bag and pointed at the fake ermine. She unrolled the cloth, got a look at Wagner's battered visage, carefully rolled it up, all without saying a word.

Back in Houston, my friend who'd agreed to give me a ride home greeted me with the news that he'd parked at Ludwig's castle -- meaning one of the photos of architectural wonders the airport posts as aids for locating cars in the parking lot. The door opening was irresistible. As last act of the trip, my camera captured the tireless model next to an image of his royal patron's best-known folly. Visual, that is.

Excerpted from Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology
Hot Town! '95, Vol. VIII, No. 2