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David Lynch Went to High School in Alexandria

Photo by Flickr user _titi.

The filmmaker David Lynch, who turned 7o today, is best associated with West Coast noir—nearly all his works, namely Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks, and Wild at Heart, take place in either California or Washington state—but you might not know that Lynch actually spent some of his formative years in the DC area.

Lynch’s father’s job with the Department of Agriculture led to the family moving often. The Lynches landed in Alexandria in the early 1960s, where the future writer and director attended Francis C. Hammond High School (which is now a middle school). Lynch also started taking Saturday classes at the Corcoran School of Arts and Design in 1964 before moving to Boston to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The biography David Lynch: The Man From Another Place even suggests that Lynch’s decision to become an artist came from befriending DC painter Bushnell Keeler, who was featured in one of Lynch’s first short films: a 3-minute 1967 home video of them sailing the Chesapeake Bay in Keeler’s King Cruiser.

There are other interesting DC tidbits in Greg Olson‘s biography, David Lynch: Beautiful Dark. Here are a few of the most “Lynchian”:

  • “After the Lynches moved to Alexandria, Virginia, fifteen-year-old David was standing with his girl, Linda Styles, in her snowy front yard when same-aged, tow-headed Toby Keeler sauntered up, became Lynch’s fast friend, and stole Linda’s heart.”
  • “Wearing a typical college boy’s button-down Oxford shirt and tweed jacket, David would accompany Toby to a nightclub in the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C., that bore the evocative Lynchian name of The Shadows. In the dim, smoky light, the two friends would sip beer and enjoy such fledgling mainstream acts as Bill Cosby and The Mugwumps (soon to become The Mamas and The Papas), and one night they watched with members of The Kingston Trio as David and Toby’s pals, the folk music duo Ron and Buzz, won a chance to meet the Beatles…”
  • “Promising Donald Lynch that he’d return the family car by an appointed hour, David steered the nondescript 1958 Chevrolet through the virtually empty streets of Alexandria, picked up Toby and some beer, and headed for D.C. The car looked like a sleepy family sedan but, as is often the case in Lynchland, a surging hidden power throbbed beneath its sedate exterior, for Donald had selected the big V-8 engine. Toby says David loved to shock other drivers by mashing his foot to the floor and leaving them behind in a cloud of tire smoke. Once they got to D.C., they had a hard time finding a parking place, and were amazed to see that the ten-abreast line of people waiting to view Kennedy seemed to stretch on and on forever.”