As It Happens

Remembering Catherine Coulson, the Log Lady on Twin Peaks

After the David Lynch TV show wrapped, Catherine Coulson became a stage actor. But years later, fans who were drawn to her strange Twin Peaks character were still asking her to sign logs for them.
Catherine Coulson in By The Waters Of Babylon, and a tribute to her Log Lady character on the stage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival after her death Monday. (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

Catherine Coulson was a stage actor, a film director and a muse. But, to most people, she was the Log Lady.

In the early '90s, Coulson played Margaret Lanterman, the Log Lady, in David Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks. The Log Lady was perhaps the most intriguing character among a whole cast of oddballs on the show.

The Log Lady carried a chunk of ponderosa pine everywhere as she observed the strange activities in the town. It was not entirely clear why. But Coulson called the relationship between the lady and the log "one of mutual respect."

Coulson died of cancer earlier this week. She was 71.

After Twin Peaks wrapped, Coulson became a stage actor -- a regular player at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Christopher Moore was one of her directors.

"I fell in love with her from the first moment I saw her on stage," Moore tells As It Happens host Carol Off."I always thought of her first when I read a play and thought, 'What will Catherine be in this one?'

Catherine Coulson playing Milky White in Into The Woods at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

"She was heartbreaking and true and very, very funny. She had an amazing and very salty sense of humour."

The story goes that director David Lynch looked at her and saw a log in her arms and created the character out of that vision. She also collaborated with him as an assistant director on the movie Eraserhead and played the lead role in his short film The Amputee.

"She had a very, very long and beautiful friendship with David Lynch, personally and artistically, and she took the responsibility of being the Log Lady very, very seriously," says Moore.

Twin Peaks director David Lynch created the Log Lady character for Catherine Coulson. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

He says that the Log Lady role changed Coulson's life. And it made her into an indie icon, perhaps, in part, because her relationship with the log remained a mystery.

"She kept that information very private. I don't know that she shared that with anybody, David Lynch even," he says.

"The log was very much still a part of her life," Moore explains. "The log, as she would always tell people, was kept in an undisclosed, but secure, climate-controlled environment. And it still is."

For the 15 years that Moore knew Coulson, she never told him where the log was kept. But he knows now. He's become the guardian of the log. And he's not saying where it is either.

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