By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The first time I interviewed him, in 1986, I spent hours peppering him with questions, all of which he deflected with cheery aplomb. I felt like a high school kid parked with a perky virgin who politely removed my hand each time I put it on her thigh. Today, we’re both too old for that song and dance, and we race through our paces like blase divorcees.
“You feel warier than you used to be?”
He leans back in his Aeron chair. I look around his atelier, which is studded with Lynchiana. A coffee cup, a big kit of Brookestone tools, a gorgeous, unfinished painting that contains the words Bob‘s Anti-Gravity Factory. In a touch so talismanic that it feels art-directed, his small portable stereo is adorned with the husk of a dead fly.
He lights up another cigarette, and I ask about his smoking. He says that 22 years after quitting cold turkey, he started up again in 1992.
“What happened in 1992?”
He laughs mirthlessly. “Don’t get funny with me, Powers.”
I originally wondered if his fabled obsessiveness was a sly shtick, a way of giving reporters something droll to write about while throwing them off the scent. No doubt this is partly true. But in 1989, I spent a week interviewing Lynch for a French documentary and saw firsthand how thoroughly his obsessions shaped his life. Back then he wouldn‘t allow any food in the house (he hated the smell) and ate exactly the same thing every day (as I recall, a tuna sandwich for lunch). Since then, the menu has changed but not the obsession:
“I’ll have the same thing every day for six months maybe, or even longer,” he says. “And then one day I just can‘t face it anymore.
”Now, I have cappuccino in the morning, many coffees during the day, and salad that’s put in a Cuisinart so each bite tastes the same. No meat. This has got nuts and eggs and some lettuce and different kinds of greens. So it‘s a little bowl of Cuisinart salad with Parmesan cheese on top. And then at night I have a block of Parmesan cheese, maybe a 2-inch cube, and red wine. Mary [Sweeney, with whom he lives] cuts it up for me into little chunks and gives it to me in a napkin.“
When I ask why he wants to stick to this redundant diet, he tells me that it’s ”reassuring . . . there are no surprises there.“ Lynch‘s inner life is obviously so fertile and turbulent -- a steaming Amazon of run-amok impulses -- that his culinary routine provides a kind of sanctuary. Like the concrete walls that house him, his dietary rituals help him fend off the outer world so he can devote all his time to work.
For Lynch loves working more than anything in the world. Tireless as a silkworm, he just can’t stop creating: He paints, makes movies, produces TV shows, takes photographs and plays guitar for a heavy-metal band called Blue Bob. Creativity is the one topic he never tires of talking about. He‘ll tell you how some ideas come from deep inside you, and how other ideas come from places so much deeper inside that they seem to be coming from outside you. And he’ll tell you how still others trickle into your mind like water and pool there until you finally notice them and fall in love with their possibilities. Just don‘t ask him what they mean.
”Once you fall in love with the ideas,“ he exults, ”that is so thrilling. There’s not much more to think about except trying to go as deep into that world as you can and being true to those ideas. You kind of get lost. And getting lost is beautiful.“
Of course, some ways of getting lost are not so lovely, and for most of the last decade, Lynch seemed to have dropped off the cultural map.
It hardly seemed possible. From the moment he made the definitive midnight movie, Eraserhead, in 1976, he was a guy on the rise. True, Dune was a megabudget flop, but Lynch had already landed a Best Director Oscar nomination for The Elephant Man, and his next picture, Blue Velvet, quickly became one of the cinematic touchstones of the last quarter-century. By the summer of 1990, his trademark blend of irony, grotesquery and visceral emotionalism had made him the heppest cat around. Wild at Heart had just won the Palme d‘Or at Cannes, Twin Peaks was an international craze, and Lynch himself gazed out from the cover of Time, which dubbed him the ”Czar of Bizarre.“ He had turned a common Irish surname into a resonant adjective -- the word Lynchian was every bit as evocative as Kafkaesque -- and his eccentric sensibility seeded the clouds of the ’90s, influencing TV programs like Northern Exposure and cartoonists like Daniel Clowes, and injecting his artistic DNA into the work of Tarantino, Egoyan and the brothers Coen (what is Fargo if not a more anodyne Twin Peaks?).