Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

My Return to Twin Peaks

WARNING: The following post contains spoilers about the series Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return. Reader discretion is advised.

“Hawk, electricity is humming.  You hear it in the mountains and rivers.  You see it dance among the seas and stars and glowing around the moon.  But in these days, the glow is dying.  What will be in the darkness that remains?”  – Margaret Lanterman AKA The Log Lady, Twin Peaks: The Return

In 1994, not too long after the Northridge Earthquake, the wife (then-girlfriend) and I decided to move to Seattle. Our master plan was to be “big fish in a small pond.” Yeah, well, little did I know a small pond meant me working crappy dinner theatre shows and running a little video store on Lake Washington while my woman waited tables, serving the likes of August Wilson and Courtney Love. (Yes, we were living in Seattle when Kurt Cobain was found dead. Devastating.)

There were a few reasons why we chose to relocate ourselves to the Pacific Northwest.  One was because the apartment building we were about to move into down here in L.A. had been red-tagged as a result of the quake.  Not to mention, the restaurant where we had met and worked at together, located in Northridge, had endured some significant damage as well.  Plus, I had friends in Seattle and thought it would be a good idea to get the hell out of the San Fernando Valley before we, you know, got killed by “The Big One.” I might even add that I LIVE for rain and cool weather.

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There was another more secret, more mystical reason why I felt I was being called to the state of Washington.  I wanted to live – you guessed it – in Twin Peaks.  I mean, even though Twin Peaks is a fictitious town – or state of mind, depending how you look at it – I felt that if I could just get up to Snoqualmie Falls on the weekend for a hike…or head on over to the Double R Diner for a piece of damn fine cherry pie, well, it would just be a 40 minute drive from Seattle to Twin–okay, North Bend, Washington, but still!  I would be closer to the Black Lodge.  To the Roadhouse.  To the Great Northern Hotel.  To the strait where Laura Palmer’s murdered, wrapped-in-plastic body washed ashore. 

Nichole and I did get up there a few times, North Bend.  We used to hike around the bottom of the falls and one time we brought my Uncle Patrick up there and actually made our way BEHIND the falls.  I mean, if there wasn’t a backdoor entrance into the White Lodge already established, behind the falls would be PERFECT.  Ideal.  It’s breathtaking. 

So why did I want to live in Twin Peaks so bad?  Well, after meditating on it for a minute, the answer has come to me: Twin Peaks was the first show I had ever truly felt a part of its “cult.”  I was already a massive admirer of David Lynch films before the first episode of Peaks hit the air on April 8, 1990, and I will NEVER forget how I felt viewing that initial pilot.  Holy shit, TV is finally taking a CHANCE. Obviously it blew the minds of millions and went on to become one of the most influential series in television history, but I almost felt like it belonged to me personally as well, at that raw, tender time in my life.  For example, the girls on the show were girls I’d gone out with.  Girls who were do-gooders, got good grades, were loyal to their families…but at an instant could easily be drawn to mystery and darkness.  And, oh, that darkness.  It reminded me of all the rocks I used to lift growing up, to see what was underneath.  And there was always those haunting mentions of “a wind” in the trees.  Lynch himself said recently at the premiere of the new show, “I like to cut wood.  Tonight, we’re going to a place where the trees are primarily Douglas firs.  Douglas firs are a beautiful tree, and if we’re very quiet we can hear the wind rustling the needles as we move through the forest, getting closer and closer, and now we’re here.”  Shit, I can relate to that even as a camper. Why don’t you join me by the fire and we’ll talk of things many refuse to try and understand.

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Twin Peaks.  And so it was.  It was where I always wanted to be.  Where I felt at home.  Pure nostalgia. With the girls–some of whom were ruinously attractive.  With some of the guys–Special Agent Dale Cooper may as well be my ENTIRE idea of the Ultimate Hero.  With the oddwins of the town like The Log Lady and Pete Martell and Mike, the One-Armed Man.  With the dwarves and the giants and the demons and the spirits.  It all just felt…like home.  Where my sensibilities would never be questioned.  Just like a Star Trek convention would be for a Trekkie (or Trekker) or, like, wherever these Game of Thrones junkies go to hang out, wearing pelts and preparing recipes from their Game of Thrones cookbook (I have never seen “GoT” but I hope to get into it eventually…?)

I did attend a very special Twin Peaks Tree People event with my friend Kyle back in the early 90’s, where we got to cocktail with cast members and learn a bit more about planting “the seeds of change.”  It was also at that party that I got to hang out with Mark Hamill for about 45 minutes.  We had both performed the role John Merrick, the Elephant Man onstage and were comparing the way we disfigured ourselves without the use of prosthetics, unlike in Lynch’s wrenching 1980 cinematic tearjerker, The Elephant Manstarring Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt.

I suppose the bottom line is…Twin Peaks has always sorta brought out the geek in me.  It’s my comic books, my video games, my action figures.  Y’know, GEEK shit. MY geek moment.  Like, if I was ever to go to a convention, it would either be a Twin Peaks gathering…or, I dunno, maybe Monster-Mania Con

Even after I moved back to L.A., Twin Peaks continued to inspire me to create my own worlds in my head. I mean, why else do I STILL have THESE after 25 years…???

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Now little did I know my RETURN to Twin Peaks would pack such a…well, frankly… EMOTIONAL punch.  For starters, it’s CRAZY to see everybody in the cast 25 years older.  Especially the ones who are crushingly no longer with us, like Miguel Ferrer (Albert) and Catherine Coulson (The Log Lady.)  It also wows me to no end that Laura Palmer told Cooper in the Black Lodge that she would INDEED be seeing him again in 25 years.  Was that planned all along??  And don’t get me started on the countless cool guest stars and musical acts and returning oddball characters like Harry Dean Stanton’s Fat Trout trailer park landlord, Carl Rodd.

Seriously, when Showtime announced David Lynch and Mark Frost were returning to Twin Peaks for a limited series event, the first thing that popped in my head was, “Oh, Jesus, I hope I don’t DIE before this happens!”

So in preparation for The Return, Nichole and I went through all of seasons 1 and 2 as well as 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, all of which we were still trying to get through even after The Return had commenced.  Which is nuts because now that I was reminded of Cooper’s fate – that he went into the Black Lodge 25 years ago to rescue Annie Blackburn, the waitress and eventual winner of the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, and got STUCK in there while ANOTHER Cooper, the evil incarnation of himself, managed to escape back out into the real world to do terrible harm to many – it’s absolutely HEARTBREAKING. Because now BOTH Coopers are out in the world, and every week a whole new, nail-biting hour ignites…and I sit there, tied up in knots, wondering what the hell is going to happen when the two finally come face to face. Or maybe they won’t.  Or maybe–whoa, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, is that…is that REALLY Laura Dern as Diane??? GENIUS CASTING, DL!!! All your muses, present here…

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Heartbreaking, too, because Special Agent Dale sacrificed 25 years of his life to save the woman he loved from the surreal horrors of the Black Lodge.  And now I think of all the OTHER lives he could have saved during that time. All the OTHER good deeds…and even Blue Rose cases he could have solved.  But no. No, our man Coop was trapped in a red-curtained purgatory…avoiding scary, sludge-y coffee and witnessing The Evolution of the Arm.  But I wasn’t thinking that when I first saw the series finale 25 years ago.  All I thought was, “whoa, cool, that was SO trippy and weird and now Coop is Bob, too, awesome!”  I had no idea the emotional impact Cooper’s entrapment (and eventual mind erase) would have on me.  And now that Coop’s out these days, barely functioning in the real world, living in the fleshy guise of some Las Vegas insurance agent clown named Dougie Jones, it’s even MORE sad what happened to him. Although you could gather that he is ever-so-slowly returning to himself.  And it’s taking a WHILE, Coop’s comeback, believe me.  But I’m not complaining.  I am ALL IN on this journey each and every week, sweating gusto, verve, exhilaration through my PORES.  And I am geeking out just as much now as I was 25 years ago. Lynch is SO into this dual universe/doppelgänger deal, too, look at all his films, it’s WILD.

When my most favorite filmmaker of all, Stanley Kubrick, passed away in 1999, I didn’t think anyone could fill the void of his loss.  Now I think David Lynch is doing a fine job of that.  Or at least carrying the fire.  So much so, that…sometimes…it feels like the two have been merging INTO one another lately.  Especially on Twin Peaks: The Return.  It’s THAT special.  

Have I mentioned I’m inspired?  

Art LIVES, baby.

Gotta light…?

WINE PAIRING: Well, well, well…look who’s making their OWN wine now…

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(Cue Angelo Badalamenti score!)  


Man Enough for Whiskey-barreled WINE

Few years ago, I had received a gracious invite to the Next Door Lounge in Hollywood to participate in a very special tasting of various whiskeys. Before I accepted, I seriously had to ask myself…”Am I MAN ENOUGH for whiskey?”

The answer might surprise you. 

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Whiskey for me was always shots over the years at Thanksgiving with The Counselor’s Uncle Chuck. Actually, as he possesses a pretty thick Bostonian accent, it’s more like “ssshhhaaaawwwwt”…”who waaawwwnts a ssshhhaaaawwwwt…?”

Whiskey is also my Jameson-pounding, occasional partner-in-crime Brett Pearsons, who played mandolin for the Celtic-inspired punk group, The Mighty Regis, and now jams with his new indie-folk outfit, TINY goliath.  In fact, Brett wrote a play for us and I had the lead role as a Whiskey Sour-slugging serial killer named Dane. 

Other than that? I have no real relationship with whiskey. Hard liquor holds no significance for me. I like tequila, I guess. I went to a tequila tasting in the Mexican Riviera once. If I recall, we bought a bottle of vanilla-flavored tequila that had no label. But the thing got drank once we got home. 

They drank whiskey a lot on Deadwood?

Oh! I know. You know who loves whiskeys? The WIFE! Oh, hell, she may as well be my own personal Marion Ravenwood these days. I mean, I will definitely partake in the brown if she’s pourin’ but don’t count on me getting in a whiskey-slugging CONTEST with her. ForGET it.

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I’ve been trying to learn about the differences geographically in whisky/whiskey, too. Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in, like, Kentucky. OR PASO ROBLES WINE COUNTRY.

Yep, it’s true. They’re distillin’ like crazy up there now. Why, the last time we were there – okay, just last month – we tasted whiskeys, gins, AND bourbon barrel-infused wines. And I have to tell you…I am developing a real taste for them. 

Which leads us, finally, to my WINE PAIRING: The wife and I were at our neighborhood Vons supermarket yesterday and I can’t even tell you how fond I have become of their wine aisle. I didn’t catch his name but the fellow in charge of the aisle himself was there yesterday and I was complimenting him on his selection choices. TONS of local California titles, many of them whose tasting rooms we have visited. Anyway, I took notice of what appeared to be a red wine blend in a BOURBON bottle, or glass jug. But this was no Carlo Rossi table stuff, this was bourbon-infused wine. Well, just as soon as I reached for it, the wine guy slaps a bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cab in my mitt, which we learned was aged in Jameson whisky barrels! ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. And very unique. Deepen (widen?) your palette evermore once in a while with one of these and see if you notice or taste a difference. 

If this is a new trend, I’m now an official sucker for it. 

So…am I man enough for whiskey? Getting there. But I feel I’m most definitely man enough for Whiskey-barreled wine.

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My Bond is Gone

“Sean Connery is the OFFICIAL James Bond! No other Bond is better or greater than Sean Connery! Forget the other Bonds, it’s ALL about Connery!!!”

Oh, shut up, Whoever You Are. Clearly, you weren’t 9 years old when you first saw Moonraker at the Topanga Twin theater in Woodland Hills like I was. Connery’s cool, not taking a thing away from Connery…but Roger Moore was MY James Bond and now I’ve just arisen to the news that he has passed away at age 89. Strapping long life, sure…but also another piece of my childhood fades into oblivion.

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Of all the popular, popcorn-y cinematic franchises throughout the years, the James Bond films have always been my favorite. And when it came to Moore, who just so happened to be the MOST prolific of all the Bonds – 7 outings total as 007 – he was not only my favorite (pre-Daniel Craig), but also the most horny, arrogant, smug, mugging, and one-liner spouting of the Bonds. He was hilarious. And you don’t WANT your Bond to necessarily be funny! But Moore could also turn on a dime with those piercing blue eyes and face mole…and be dangerous and edgy enough to kick Jaws’s ass while reluctantly sky diving.

Gosh, I musta seen The Spy Who Loved Me  57 times growing up with the Z Channel as my babysitter. And Jaws was always my favorite Bond baddie. So I just loved it when Moore and Richard Kiel would go at it as those characters and would daydream about them going out after the shoot and grabbing a bucket of clams or something together. I loved playing with action figures as a kid and always lamented the fact that they never made any decent James Bond/Jaws dolls I could stage fights with on a makeshift set constructed with pieces of styrofoam. But I DID manage to take possession of the Matchbox version of the Lotus Esprit S1 submarine car. In fact, it’s resting in a tin box in my storage unit as I type this!

And finally…Roger Moore was just cool. And generous. And VERY FUNNY. I highly recommended both his 2009 memoir My Word Is My Bond: The Autobiography as well as his Bond on Bond: Reflections On 50 Years Of James Bond Movies. (Good grief, am I showing my “geek colors” here or what? How embarrassing.) 

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WINE PAIRING: Here’s a fabulous little Bond movie and wine pairing guide I found. Perfect for next time you take a look at, say, A View to a Kill, and decide to raise a glass of Mount Eden’s “luscious but rustic” Pinot Noir to the late, great Roger Moore.


Am I Floundering…?

Am I floundering?

I ask myself.

I’m telling you, man, at 46 years of age, this middle-age game is rough. I’m starting to have a lot of those “Get off my lawn!” moments and it bothers me a bit. I was always a very edgy, open-minded guy but I feel I have grown very impatient over the years with the state of all that is. I’m becoming more of an introvert than I EVER was. And really reclusive, too. Like, going out into the world for me anymore is just. Such. A CHORE.

I dunno. Maybe I need a vacation. Or more wine.

I also feel like I’m not doing enough creatively. Or maybe I have too many ways of expressing myself and wonder if I need to focus and pick ONE avenue of inventiveness and just stick with that. I get very caught up in trying to entertain my crew on social media but that doesn’t really accelerate my career. But then again, when one of my friends who has some considerable clout in the entertainment business winds up giving something I posted a “like”, I somehow convince myself that that is some sort of accomplishment. 

But it really isn’t, is it. I mean, it would be if that person would soon after send me a direct message which read, “Wow, Max, I laughed so hard at that last post that I wanna put you on this TV show I’m working on. I just think you’re SO underrated and I wanna help put a fresh new credit on your resume!” 

Uh. Yeah. Unfortunately, that NEVER happens.

I get so scared that I’m going to be obsolete BEFORE we get nuked by God-knows-who.

That said, I’ll tell you a cool story:

Last night I went and saw a friend do stand-up at the world-famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip. I really did NOT want to go. But this friend sincerely required my support and I was honestly curious to see what material she would perform and so I agreed to venture out. Did I prefer instead to stay home with my pugs – one who is still struggling with cancer, meaning my remaining time on Earth with him might now be limited – and watch a documentaries all night by candle light while drinking wine? OF COURSE! But I forced myself to get off my ass and GO. My wife was out at a Second City class anyway, and so I made it a date with myself.

I’m honestly glad I did.

While it was, at times, a very surreal 2 hours of (mostly amateur) comics blabbing on about Tinder, Trump, body image, parenthood, speech impediments, LGBTQQ issues, food, finances, and bladder function, it was also very illuminating to witness several vulnerable folks in a row having the bravery to go up on stage and reveal themselves through one-liners, jokes, and zingers…a few of which fell completely flat. But that’s okay, I was enjoying a rum beverage called The Punchline (haha?).

But then something really crazy happened. 

As it turns out, the main headliner from downstairs had come UPstairs to The Belly Room (where I was at) to grant us an impromptu closing set. Lo and behold, holy shit, turns out it was writer-director, Judd Apatow. Now this was REALLY cool for me because I am a MASSIVE Freaks and Geeks fan. Sure, he’s known for many already classic comedy movies, but seeing him on stage 8 feet from me doing really solid, hilarious stand-up was TRULY an inspiration. I was so excited for my friend, who did a fabulous job, that I texted her afterwards that she can OFFICIALLY go around boasting that she had opened for Hollywood Big-shot Judd.

So as I drove home, I felt just a little bit better about MY place in the world. But I do think I can be doing even more. I see so many friends ascending all around me, while at the same time talking to others who’ve won acting awards in things I’VE written now working in sales or real estate. 

Well, I’m not ready to go back to waiting tables.  I’ve come too far and done too much but I want more now. Judd Apatow helped. And my friend helped, too, because she’s sort of going through her own little renaissance right now, doing stand-up and making short films while also trying to work a day job and be a mother to two boys. So what the hell am I complaining about? 

And what about my wife, my own WIFE! She busts her ass 40 hours a week at a corporate gig and decided last year to get back to her writing and performing by signing up at Second City. Oh, she revs my juices ALL the time, I’ll say. I’m so deeply proud of her gumption.

Look, this is all telling me it’s never too late to re-boot, re-invigorate, re-invent. And, God forbid…step out of the house again once in a while.

Could be a good idea to take a class soon. Be it for stand-up, which I’ve done, or acting or whatever. Get some disciplinary brush-up action is all. Because not to be a conceited dickhead or anything, but I seriously sat in that audience last night thinking, “Man…I could get up on that stage right now and murder it, I bet.” Or fall flat on my face. The point is: THE FIRE INSIDE ME STILL BURNS!!!

I’ll be fine. I mean, I’m busy as hell every day. Working my ass off on various projects coming soon and working to be better. But it would be good to get some help from a professional mentor or instructor. A fresh, outside perspective. It’s time. I just don’t wanna feel like a flounder-er anymore. I don’t like it.

Or maybe I won’t do a damn thing.

Okay, I just took a break and Googled “flounder.” Look at THIS guy. You think HE’S sweatin’ life?

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I’ll leave you with this:

I woke up this morning feeling pretty depressed. First time in a while. I did my morning ritual. Y’know…fed and walk the pugs, breakfast, newspaper, listened to the Alec Baldwin interview on Stern…”THERE’S a guy who’ll leave a legacy!”, I exclaimed, as I picked at my eggs, feeling sorry for myself.

And then I came to the desk. And I knew I was going to draft a blog entry about feeling like I’m floundering. Like I’ll never truly “make it.” Like I’ll just be known as a Z-level nothing for the rest of my days who’s made no impact, who no one in the industry knows what to do with, who’s bound to simply fade away into obscurity.

And then I get THIS email (copied and pasted with permission):

The Sopranos and the work of James Gandolfini have always been very close to my heart. The last season especially, it always gets to me: from Tony’s coma dreams and the stay in the ICU, to the final cut to black. I was having some troubles of my own during its original airing, with a lot of the material hitting close to home. 

On subsequent re-watches, I can never shake the feeling the show gives me, and especially Gandolfini’s character work. After concluding my third series rewatch, I was already missing the character Tony Soprano: his mannerisms, quirks and personality. I went searching for some familiar moments from the show, but also something fresh maybe, like a compilation of outtakes, greatest moments, quotes, etc.

During this search I got very lucky and came across your videos. I was immediately impressed with your ability to so accurately channel the big guy, and knew within the first few seconds I’d found gold. Your flawless impersonations, and the ability to mimic and recreate the minutia of such complex characters are outstanding. Chrissy, Sil, Bobby Baccala, Junior – they’re all fantastic and very well done. It brought some nice feelings after missing these characters; it helped me reminisce, in addition to bringing fresh insight about what makes these characters who they are.

I think any accurate impression does so, as it relies heavily on mannerism and traits that most viewers likely only interpret subconsciously. But you bring them to the forefront, and use these things to recreate complex personalities. It’s very impressive, and must take a ton of talent and insight. Well done.

Your channel has a ton of great stuff, and I couldn’t subscribe fast enough. I think you’re very talented and have a great ear for impersonation and narrative. I just want to thank you for doing such a great job channeling these characters and adding something fresh and entertaining to the show, characters, and experience that means so much to me. Cheers.

Sincerely,

S. C. Bryant

St. Louis, MO

I gotta say…I couldn’t have been more grateful for that. The timing was crazy. It totally lifted my spirits. And was such a nice change of pace from “You suck, loser!!!”

So thanks to S.C. and thank you, dear reader, for reading. 

WINE PAIRING: Did you know Flounder goes GREAT with a White Bordeaux? How did I know that? Via this awesome Wine with Fish guide, courtesy of Wine Folly.


RIP: Doug Paul

It was shattering for me to learn that my funny-as-hell, winemaking, voiceover buddy Doug Paul – out in Dahlonega, GA. – had passed away this week due to heart failure resulting from pulmonary fibrosis. 

Survived by his wife and daughter, Sharon and Mittie, Doug was only 59 years old.  

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When Nic and I went out to explore Northeast Georgia wine country in June of 2012, I really wasn’t expecting to make such a cool, kind and generous friend at the Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery. But there Doug Paul was…in his giant overalls and hilariously-charming Jonathan Winters-esque personality, pouring us titles so unique and delicious, we continue to enjoy them to this day. Doug would FedEx us special sparklings and reds often after that first encounter. And we would truly be grateful to receive them.

Doug and I IMMEDIATELY hit it off, learned of each others positions in the world of voiceover…and kept in contact for the next 5 years via email and Facebook. One of our dreams was to make a hillbilly horror movie on his sprawling property together, where we’d play brothers. Or even a remake of Motel Hell. Or Lord knows what else.

One of the silliest and most endearing of Doug’s many talents was Photoshopping his friends heads and faces into scenes from famous movies or events in history. Here was his “Max Koch Collection.” I never knew where or when these were gonna pop up on my FB timeline. I got the biggest kick out of ’em…

Creepy Reverend from Poltergiest Max: 

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Satanic Santa Max: 

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Chuck Duck at the House Democrats Gun-Control Sit-In (note the wine glass): 

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Max Huckabee: 

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Easter Bunny Max: IMG_2606

Max and Clooney Win Oscars: 

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Jedi Max: 

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Manson Family Member Max: 

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It’s a Wonderful Life Max: 

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Max Lands on the Moon (with Mimosa): 

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Max at the Oscars with Marty and Leo: 

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Max in that Civil War Movie with McConaughey: 

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End Times/”The Road” Max:

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Historic General Max: 

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Old West Max: 

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Bouffant Max: 

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Ten Commandments Max: 

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Groundhog Day Max: 

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Edna Turnblad from Hairspray Max: 

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Tacky Friday the 13th Sweater Max: 

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Nosferatu Max: 

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Child of Drugged-Out Couple Max:

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Idyllic Family Life Max:
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Sports Illustrated Cover Max: 

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Michael Phelps and Max:
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“Whatever Terrifying Thing This Is” Max: 

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Muppeteer Max (+ Chuck Duck Cameo!):

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Psychotic Christmas Max:
IMG_2633Billy Jack/Born Losers Max: 

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Anyway…I think you get the point!

I’m gonna miss my friend. He was one of a kind. I hope he is having fun soaring the cosmos.

WINE PAIRING: My pal Jughead and I made this video featuring Doug Paul’s Fat Boy Red. I think I’m gonna change Jughead’s name to Doug Paul II: The Resurrection.


“Me & Mr. C” Teaser Trailer

Here is a teaser trailer for the documentary I am making on my high school drama teacher, Robert Carrelli. I’m calling it “Me & Mr. C.” This is a very important project to me and I am having a lot of fun putting this whole thing together. Mr. Carrelli AKA Mr. C was a major influence on my life during my 3-year stint at Chatsworth High School and has remained so ever since.

To see the teaser, click the pic of me filming Mr. C. below and GO.

WINE PAIRING: Since Mr. C is a robust 85-year-old of Italian descent, let’s go with the Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryè (voted one of the 10 Best Italian Wines from Men’s Health magazine!)

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Herzog Holiday Weekend Film-Fest With Pairings

Everything was going fine last weekend (President’s Day Weekend) until I suffered a terrible and VERY awkward spill in my Pilates class on Saturday morning. The fall wrenched my back out pretty sucky-like and so I was on pain killers and ice for most of the weekend. 

BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP ME FROM GOING TO A CIDER AND MEAD TASTING AT VENDOME WINE & SPIRITS!

By the way, do you know the difference between a cider and a mead? Well, mead comes from honey, like a honey wine, and cider is mead, I mean MADE from apples, usually…but also pears and pineapples, too, if your taste buds are ambitious. 

It’s okay. I get little confused myself…

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Jack is the beer, cider, and mead expert over at Vendome and he is just awesome. His zeal for the suds (and LEGOS) is off-the-charts enthuisiatic and so I asked him what a good German beer would be to pair with a 3-day festival of Werner Herzog films. At first he looked very confused, and so I explained that on holiday weekends – or any weekend the mood strikes us – the wife and I will switch off curating a little festival of films featuring a particular theme or actor/actress or director. So my turn was up and I chose Herzog mainly because I know my wife gets freaked out by vampire stuff and I’ve just been DYING to share his version of Nosferatu the Vampyre with her, because I know she’d appreciate it and not get too scared. (Okay, she was a little creeped out, but actually wound up enjoying the film very much. Personally, I think it’s one of Herzog’s greatest works.)

Jack pointed me in the direction of the Flensburger Pilsener from Flensburg in the Bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. This was a very crisp, refreshing lager that went great with Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, which is the story of a maniac in a white linen suit and Gary Busey hair – played by Herzog muse, Klaus Kinski, also Count Dracula – who goes a little mad in the Amazonian jungle trying to move a steamboat over a mountain to get to the rubber trees on the other side so he could then exploit them and make his fortune. At first, we were weary of the TWO HOUR AND THIRTY SEVEN MINUTE running time, but we actually wound up being very intrigued by it. Believe me, the Flensberger helped.

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The third Herzog I chose was his documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams which is currently streaming on Netflix. This one was a bit of a struggle to get through, because A.) I’m claustrophobic, and B.) Poor Werner was kind of limited in his ability to document his journey through the tight and slight Chauvet Cave in southern France, which contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered. He was also working with a group of scientists and historians who weren’t exactly as colorful a character as, say, his best fiend, Klaus Kinski. But we did enjoy some meads with that one, including the cherry and Hops-infused Dwarf Invasion from the B. Nektar Meadery. I mean, I DO have a life-long obsession with Little People so that just worked out fine.

WINE PAIRINGS: Gosh, here I am going on about ciders and meads and beers and I forgot all about the Fangria we paired with Nosferatu. That was one we’d picked up at the Vampire Vineyards Tasting Room & Lounge back in 2014. It’s Sangria, of course, with just a bit more BITE. And it’s completely captivating. Just make sure it’s very-well chilled…much like the dense banks of fog that engulf Count Dracula’s castle on any given moonless night.

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Here’s to Herzog! And Happy Jack at Vendome!


An Immigrant A Day

UPDATE: Today I chose to delete this Instragram account and cease the project. It was a lot of work and the follower count seemed to stall early on at 65. But I did get 28 immigrants drawn and it lasted exactly a month, so that I feel pretty good about. I will continue to support immigration and diversity in any way I can. Now on to other projects. 

How’s 2017 treating everyone so far???

(crickets)

Yeah, me, too. I tell ya, I had NO idea the world would change THIS drastically in such a short amount of time.  I mean, so much for me cutting down my DRINKING.

If you go on Facebook nowadays, you really can’t seem to escape very angry people on your friends list posting links and retweeting tweets concerning the current U.S. president, his executive orders, and his administrative picks. Listen, far be it from me to tell you what you should be thinking or feeling, but…in my estimation, there is a newfound sense of dread and DOOM in the air, and it is NOT appearing to relent anytime soon.

So what can we do besides getting REALLY pissed off and protesting? Well, I decided what I was gonna do – since I don’t care much for crowds – is start a 2nd Instagram account called An Immigrant A Day. Essentially, drawing real people (and even a few made up ones) who’s stories affected me in simple (and sometimes more powerful) ways.

See, I don’t really have a beef with people from other lands and cultures coming into this country to make a rich and fulfilling life for themselves. It’s what we should all be about. The problem is, that’s now becoming less and less of an option for many folks abroad who have the American Dream in their hearts, as the U.S. seems to be turning into a very sore and bitter and angry and judgmental place…one that has not been very welcoming of such people these past few weeks. Or even of the people from other countries who already live here. Shame.

Anyway, you grasp what I’m squawkin’. I’m not gonna waste time preaching to you.

But as for me, since I’m not a real poster of politically-themed things on social media, I thought was a good idea to pick ONE aspect of these troubling times to comment on, in only the most appropriate way I knew how. So if you don’t mind, I would appreciate it very much if you clicked the pic below and followed my “An Immigrant A Day” Instagram. I’m learning a LOT about these fine examples of humanity. (Wait, “fine examples of humanity??” Can you believe this is ME talking?? Must be yet another sign of old age-slash-resignation…)

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WINE PAIRING: Do like I did, and take a half hour explore what are sure to be some very deletable Mexican Wines from Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe region. The “Del Viko” Tinto already looks very tantalizing…


My 2016 Year-End Wrap-Up

Pop a neck brace on, cuz I’m about to give you some WHIPLASH!

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All in all, it was another year of frustration, set-backs, neglected goals…and, okay, maybe a few bursts of good fortune. I can also declare 2016 THE most nightmarish year of my lifetime, personally, for politics. Remember those Republican debates…?

Rep Debates

Also, I’ve never seen so many folks get so bummed out by the death of a pop star. I mean, of ALL celeb-types who perished in 2016, it seems to me like David Bowie’s demise was the most catastrophic. I dug Bowie, wasn’t a major fan, LOVED his acting roles, but his chameleon-like visages were utterly inescapable on social media. And it’s STILL going. And how come, suddenly, anyone famous who dies post-Bowie has to now get “Bowie-ized” in a graphic or meme?  This trend bewilders and (nearly) offends me.

Uh…maybe Carrie Fisher didn’t like David Bowie’s music…?

Rebel Rebel Princess

As for ol’ Max Koch himself, 2016 was the year I took things up a notch by FINALLY breaking down and getting new headshots, my first in several years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I apply this only to myself – a face is a necessary evil. If you look around at all the beautiful faces you see in your daily life, mine…just ain’t one of ’em. And that’s okay! I know I have MAJOR physical flaws, but, at this point in my life, I have learned to embrace them. If not continue to strive to improve upon them.

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Yeah, if you think you’re some kind of actor living in Los Angeles…you NEED these. It’s unavoidable. And I hate that about ’em. And why? Because you AGE! And you look little to nothing like you did 5, 6, years ago. So you gotta stay on top of these insipid tools of the trade. (Okay, I just panicked a little that I’m going to turn 47 next year…)

My real goal is to get on-camera work in crappy, low-budget horror movies. Seriously, if I could just be the next Bill Moseley, I think I’d be very, very happy. 

Speaking of acting, I still manage to remain employed from time to time. You always hear me on the radio, but most notably, 2016 was the year Motiongate Dubai opened. I voice Master Mantis all over the DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda attractions over there. I was also Mantis for the 2016 Wix Superbowl campaign and voiced 3 characters for Nickelodeon’s first-ever official animated TV movie, Albert (I can die happy knowing I played a deflating cactus.) I also went out for the Dana Carvey “First Impressions” show that didn’t go so well , and, as usual, wound up in some pretty big rooms for callbacks–“JUST CAST ME, DAMN IT!! I SWEAR YOU WON’T REGRET IT!!!”

Sorry. Lost my mind for a second there.

Let’s see, what else. Oh! My documentary “Gramps: Beneath the Surface” finally came to Vimeo, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary, so now you can watch that for free – and I REALLY hope that you do.

This past Fall, I also started filming a portrait of mine (and Kevin Spacey’s) most-influential high school drama teacher, Robert Carrelli, which I hope to have out on Vimeo by Spring of 2017. THAT has been an extremely rewarding experience as Carrelli has been a major mentor in my life. He’s 86 years-old now and just as vibrant and hilarious as ever. Here he is channeling The Godfather, quite naturally…

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Even though I also celebrated 10 years on YouTube, I’ve slowed down a bit on making videos simply because they take so much time and care and the audience for my stuff continues to dwindle significantly. But I did make the effort to squeeze in a 2016 “Halloween Hellshow”, featuring Jack Nicholson, the Sopranos, and a farting zombie toy…and “A Very RAY DONOVAN Christmas”, where I satirically take on the characters featured in my current favorite family crime series. 

2016 was a crazy year for travel, too. While I suffered the tortures of the damned in Key West, I could NOT have benefitted more from my experience visiting Washington, DC with a duck puppet on my hand the whole time. Seeing those “Exorcist steps” in Georgetown alone was not only one of the highlights of my 2016 but of my whole, entire life. 

Let’s see, what else happened? Well, I had my first colonoscopy. THAT was fun. I also got to “space out” at JPL, say goodbye to The Cutting Room Movie Podcast and hello to Magazine Podcast with my Cousin Lorenzo, and, holy shit, wouldn’t you know it, got to even hold my first-ever CHINCHILLA! 

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The year has been winding down peacefully as I reflect on what was and what is to be. One of the fun little holiday ideas my wife and I conjured up was to sadistically subject ourselves to a bunch of REALLY SHITTY Christmas movies we’d never seen before. Well, we only managed to get through 3: “Christmas With the Kranks” with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, “Surviving Christmas” with James Gandolfini and Ben Affleck, and – gasp – “Deck the Halls” with Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. Turns out, we kinda actually LIKED the one with Gandolfini. He was GREAT. Well, he was always great. I mean, you SO believed how badly he wanted to whack Ben Affleck with a snow shovel. Man, I miss that dude…

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Hey, speaking of Afflecks, SAG Awards screeners have started to arrive and I can’t even tell you how much I got out of this “Manchester by the Sea” which stars Ben’s brother, Casey. If you’re into “grief porn” like me, I highly recommend you check this one out. 

Listen, death has been a real punishing theme of 2016. And that’s why I really wanna make sure I keep living as hard as I can in the new year. Of course, I will drink wine and watch movies and snuggle with my pugs. Sure, I’ll hang out with my brilliant, beautiful wife and awesome-ass friends. You bet I’ll fly out to Grapevine, TX to celebrate my ridiculously-lovable nephew’s 2nd birthday. But I will also work even THRICE as hard to entertain people and try to make a difference out there. 

It’s funny. The older ya get, the more fearful you are of not leaving behind some kind of legacy. I frankly don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have plans to enact, books to draw, movies to make, and hummingbirds to feed.

WINE PAIRING: I’ll be popping a bottle of Champagne Pommery, and once again toasting the Central Coastline…counting my luckies. Happy New Year, my friends.


“Gramps: Beneath the Surface” Now on Vimeo

“In 2006, filmmakers Max Koch and The Counselor went deep into the California desert to spend a weekend with Max’s step-grandfather, Dick Surface. Armed only with a $300 Sony Handi-cam, a lot of beer, and the desire to capture a bit of Dick’s desert life-style, they ended up delving deeper into Dick’s psyche than expected. Drawn into Dick’s routine, they got a glimpse into his world – his family and friends, his joys and regrets, and his often controversial views and positions. But as the camera kept rolling, long misunderstandings came to light and family secrets were uncovered, forever changing Max’s understanding of his family, and his relationship with Dick. Now, on the occasion of the 10-Year Anniversary of this fateful weekend, Max and The Counselor invite you to grab a cold one and head back out to California City to really get to know “Gramps: Beneath the Surface.”

WINE PAIRING: Uh-oh, in honor of Gramps, it will have to be his favorite beverage at the time…Coors Light! (I know, I know…sacrilege! But sometimes you must acknowledge The Silver Bullet! Even in a wine-centric blog…)

To watch the doc in its entirety, click the pic below and GO:

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An unused drawing I did for the doc back in 2006. My Grandpa Bill taught me how to fish using Planter’s cheese balls as bait.