Laurel Near was a singer when she became involved with Eraserhead through her friend Catherine Coulson. She portrayed the Lady in the Radiator.
December 15, 1981 (by phone)
(I’m doing an article on David Lynch and ERASERHEAD and, you know, I’m trying to talk to everybody I can. And so if you don’t mind talking for a little while, maybe I could –)
(Could you tell me first of all how you met David?)
I was down in Los Angeles with my two sisters, Timothy and Holly, and we were singing in a trio called the Near Sisters, and I think it was Holly or Timmy that knew him through acting and theatre friends. But he came to a concert we were doing – I think I’d met him before that, but that’s sort of where I officially met him.
(What did he tell you he wanted?)
What did he tell me he wanted? Well, basically he said he liked my smile. And I was much younger then. So I didn’t – I’d never done any films or anything like that, and it was like supposed to be a real small movie, you know, just practicing. And so that’s, yeah, basically it. And I said I’d do it. I didn’t know what I was getting into really. In fact, I really didn’t know what I was getting into until after I saw the film, because I only pretty much knew my own part in it. I didn’t know anything about the film.
(Had you done any film work before?)
No. No. I’d done lots of theatre and dance before, but not anything like this.
(How complicated was the makeup that you had to wear?)
Oh, it was real complicated. That’s one thing I didn’t realize that I was getting into, you know. I thought I was just going to go and sort of dance across the stage. But the makeup was – I can’t even remember the name of it, but they put – it was like warm – hot, and it was – they had to – I think I did it about five or six times and it was real thick stuff that when you took it off it just sort of peeled your whole face off with it. My face hurt a lot after the sessions. But they took a lot of time and they were real sweet to me, you know, they took care of me. But –
(David did all that himself, did he, the makeup?)
David and someone else, yeah. Mostly David though, I recall. This is a long time ago and I can’t really even remember that much about it.
(How long were you working on the film?)
God, I think it was only maybe ten days. It wasn’t very long, even if that. We worked real late at night, I remember, so that we could get all the lighting and stuff just right.
(Can you remember any sort of particular incidents that stick out from your time on the film?)
Just working with David was a real treat. I love his sense of humour and just he’s real – he’s real sincere, he’s a real sincere person. You know, basic. I just remember liking him as a person, you know, and he was – I remember he was – to make the film, he was throwing a paper route. He was really working hard throwing this paper route out of this little tiny Volkswagen that – I don’t think the doors closed. And he was just – he was like a beautiful character, you know. I’m sort of glad I met him.
(Have you worked with any of the people on the film since?)
No. I know Catherine Coulson, who did the lighting.
(Yeah. She’s the one who gave me your number.)
Yeah. She’s real good friends with my family. We haven’t worked together.
(What are you doing now?)
After I did that, I joined a dance group in Oregon and we toured around a lot. It was a collective group of people and we created our own stuff, and I did that for seven years. And now I’m in a transition. I’m not sure what I’m up to. I came down to – I was living in Oregon and it’s a real culture shock, coming down here, because it’s very different, the cultural climate. I feel pretty square. And I came down here with my boyfriend. I thought maybe I could get more dance input and work down here, but it’s not really happening. I don’t – I think I’m more of a northern California person, and Oregon. So right now I’m just working at a health food store, trying to make enough money to probably leave.
(Are you interested in doing any more film work?)
Yeah. Yeah, I am. I don’t have a – I don’t have a whole get up and go to go and dress up and go out and stuff to go get parts. So that’s my problem.
(I guess your role in ERASERHEAD hasn’t sort of produced many offers.)
Certainly right. I guess they can’t see the real me in there. Or maybe they can. But I was real surprised when the film came out because I had no idea –
(That it was a real film?)
What it was going to be like, this whole plot line. And it was real wonderful watching Jack Nance work, because – I don’t know. Have you interviewed him?
(Oh yes. I spent two afternoons with him,)
Yeah, he’s really wonderful. So I felt like I was working with real unique, wonderful people.