The biggest pop culture question of 1990 was "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
America, finally, is sure Bob did it. He's the serial killer phantasm on ABC-TV's lurid, quirky series "Twin Peaks."But he's still on the loose. And the man/vision with the twisted maniacal smile and long greasy hair was recently seen in Brinkley and Cotton Plant, Ark.
This time he was solidly in the flesh, too. But his worst offense seems only to have been creating anxiety for some maids at the Brinkley Manor Motor Inn.
While the real-life version is also a man of more than one reality, he's not named Bob, but Frank Silva, sometimes an actor, but lately the propmaster for the movie "Hurricane" being filmed in the East Arkansas town.
"The maids were pretty weirded out when they discovered that 'Killer Bob' was coming to town. They were all nervous . . . . One Sunday morning, room service came by. There were three or four maids standing in the doorway, staring at me for a while."
It was resolved, however, before he left. "Once the fans get to know me, they find out this `Bob' character is totally different from me."
Thank goodness. Lately in Peaks, Bob's spirit inhabited Leland Palmer, Laura's wacko dad, driving him to further gruesome acts and eventually his death. But when Leland died, Bob's wicked essence took a hike in the woods, looking, apparently for another sucker host.
And what is to be Bob's fate?
Silva, whose age, as befits a phantom, is open to guesswork, is not sure. "A lot of it is made up as they go along," says Silva.
"Changes are frequent. There are scripts. There are phony scripts floating around, too. They have an idea, but they play with it, leaving it open to do with what they want."
In fact, `Bob' was practically created on the spot, at the last minute, and wasn't part of the original plot. Silva says the pilot didn't have an ending, and ABC told producer David Lynch to find one. And `Bob' was just an accident born of that process.
Silva recalls the first experience with the character: "I was working (on the set as a non-actor) on the bedroom set and David told me to go to the foot of the bed and act scared. Weeks went by as the wheels turned in Lynch's head. A scene was added here and there, and it just sort of grew."
Most of Silva's direction from Lynch is whispered in his ear.
"I never see a script. He just tells me to do my thing. I enjoy doing it that way because it's less nerve-racking."
Silva was working at the Dino DeLaurentiis production studio, when he met Patty Norris, Lynch's production designer, who thought his talents were being wasted. She hired him as her assistant, and since then they have worked together on Lynch's films, "Wild at Heart" and "The Cowboy and the Frenchman."
Most of his work has been behind the camera.
"I started out years ago as a theater major and got disillusioned with it. It's a rough business. Then I started (working) lighting design and stopped acting. Then this happened . . . . I'm trying to treat it as a hobby. Making bread and butter as an actor is tough."
Silva's latest work was in Cotton Plant for six weeks, where he was propmaster for "Hurricane."
According to Jesse Beaton, the producer, scenes from the movie were filmed in Cotton Plant because the script called for Arkansas locations and Cotton Plant's "buildings and store faces had the look we were after."
Billy Paxton, who co-starred in "Alien" and "Predator II," has the lead in the move, a crime story which also stars Cynda Williams ("Mo' Better Blues"). It is expected to be released late next year.