July 31, 2017

Goodbye to Sam Shepard.

"Sam Shepard, the celebrated avant-garde playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, died at his home in Kentucky on Thursday of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a spokesman for the Shepard family announced on Monday. He was 73," the NYT reports.
One of the most important and influential early writers in the Off Broadway movement, Mr. Shepard captured and chronicled the darker sides of American family life in plays like “Buried Child,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979, and “Curse of the Starving Class” and “A Lie of the Mind.”
I remember sitting in the front row for “Curse of the Starving Class" at the Public Theater in 1978. I got hit by water and an artichoke. From the Wikipedia article (artichokicle) on the play:
Act I... Weston enters, drunk, with a large bag of groceries. Weston talks to the lamb briefly, and then begins putting the groceries, which turn out to only be desert artichokes, in the refrigerator. Wesley enters and they discuss Weston’s laundry and the best way to help the lamb with the maggots.

Act II... Wesley and Emma then argue over who is going to go add water to the artichokes that are boiling on the stove. Wesley doesn’t want to do it because he is making the door and Emma doesn’t want to do it because she is remaking her posters. Wesley says that Emma doesn’t want to do it just because she’s “on the rag,” so she throws down her markers and gets up to add the water.... Ella returns with groceries that Taylor has bought for the family and throws out the artichokes....
I remember a lot of throwing of artichokes and one rolling off the stage and into my lap.

ADDED: Sam Shepard co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan, "Brownsville Girl":
It’s... an 11-minute narrative... [about] a long-lost love and his standing in line to see Gregory Peck in a classic Western film ["The Gunfighter"]. No one knows who wrote which lines in the zany masterpiece... but the tale fits squarely within Shepard’s canon with its use of Old Western themes, Mexican-border drama, mysterious women, and general disenchantment as an understated rumination on the myth of the American Dream.... At one point during the song, Dylan shifts from nostalgic reverie to directly inserting himself into the very film he’s standing in line to view. “Something about that movie though, well I just can’t get it out of my head / But I can’t remember why I was in it or what part I was supposed to play,” he sings, almost as if to suggest he is unable to separate his own unparalleled fame from that of Peck’s character Ringo, the fastest gunslinger in the West deeply troubled by having become a magnet for every two-bit desperado looking to make a name for himself by besting the top gun....  The song was performed only once by Dylan and is rarely, if ever, mentioned in retrospective analysis of his most essential works.



Here's the text of the lyrics. Excerpt:
Well, I’m standin’ in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck
Yeah, but you know it’s not the one that I had in mind
He’s got a new one out now, I don’t even know what it’s about
But I’ll see him in anything so I’ll stand in line
I can see why he was vague about Peck's next movie. It was "Captain Horatio Hornblower." Try writing a quatrain about that.

54 comments:

ndspinelli said...

A good actor and playwright. I'll miss him.

Robert Cook said...

Wow! I hadn't even heard he had ALS. He was appearing in movie parts until very recently. (He had a romantic liaison with Patti Smith back in the early 70s.)

madAsHell said...

Sam Shepard.

That was also the name of the Dr. Sheppard who was accused of killing his wife in Ohio. The inspiration for the "Fugitive", and the one-armed-man.

Isn't there another actor named Sam Shepard. He always looks like he should be riding a horse in a western.

madAsHell said...

Never mind! The other Sam Shepard is really Sam Elliot.

Sebastian said...

So (apologies), was the play any good?

rehajm said...

He was a great Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.

Ficta said...

I still vividly remember a PBS version of "True West" from 1984 that's still one of my favorite theatrical experiences (even if it didn't actually happen in a theater).

Angel-Dyne said...

"...which turn out to only be desert artichokes, in the refrigerator."

I first read that as "dessert artichokes", and thought, "who the hell eats artichokes for dessert?"

Meade said...

He co-wrote Dylan's Brownsville Girl.

exiledonmainstreet said...


"I first read that as "dessert artichokes", and thought, "who the hell eats artichokes for dessert?"

Toss a little onion powder on them and you're good to go.

Shane said...

You should offer your personal reminiscences for his obituary.

traditionalguy said...

Artichokes come as big and hard as softballs, but heavier. Assault with a boiled weapon.

Ralph L said...

I couldn't remember if his ex gf Jessica Lange was in The Right Stuff, so I googled her name and T R S and most of the images are of Shepard. Weren't they in an unobscure movie together?

dbp said...

I knew that Sam Shepard was a playwright, but my only exposure to his work was The Right Stuff. Good actor. It takes real skill to play the quintessential pilot when you are someone who is afraid to fly in real life.

BudBrown said...

Crimes of the Heart

Deb said...

Ralph L. - Lange and Shepherd were in a movie called Country, about a family losing their farm.

Levon Helm was also in The Right Stuff. Barbara Hershey was Shepherd's wife in the film.

dbp said...

Ralph L got me thinking: I saw both Fances and Crimes Of The Heart which starred both Shepard and Lange. They met while working on the first of these two and have been in a number of films together. Not sure if these are "obscure". Certainly not blockbusters. I am think Lange was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Frances.

dustbunny said...

Shepard also toured with Dylan in the Rolling Thunder revue. A poet and a cowboy.

Darcy said...

Dang. I've had such a crush on him since viewing The Right Stuff and Frances. I don't think I could bear to watch Frances again - too harrowing and sad, but the love between the characters and the actors in that movie was palpable and unforgettable.

Hollywood lost a real stud.

David said...

We had not seen him for quite a while. Lou Gehrig disease. A tough fate for someone with his high level of talent and charisma.

The Right Stuff had an outstanding cast but Shepard (and Barbara Hersey as Glynnis) really stood out.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I first read that as "dessert artichokes", and thought, "who the hell eats artichokes for dessert?"

LOL....me too.

What IS a desert artichoke, anyway?

Ralph L said...

It's an artichoke that took a wrong turn out of Jericho on the way to Jerusalem.

mccullough said...

Really liked True West

Amexpat said...

"He co-wrote Dylan's Brownsville Girl."

He also was on the Rolling Thunder Tour and wrote a book about it.

BG is a great song on a lousy album. One of those songs that only Dylan good pull off.

Fernandinande said...

madAsHell said...
Never mind! The other Sam Shepard is really Sam Elliot.


You might as uncultured as I are.

Bob R said...

He was great as Chuck Yeager. Yeager, an amazing man, is still alive.

JPS said...

MG Garrison in Black Hawk Down. And yes, excellent as Chuck Yeager. Sorry to see this.

madAsHell said...

What IS a desert artichoke, anyway?

They are best served with rocky mountain oysters.

madAsHell said...

You might as uncultured as I are.

.....and deplorable.

Fernandinande said...

madAsHell said...
.....and deplorable.


I read in another blog that The Sam Without A Funky Mustache co-wrote "Paris, Texas", a movie I've always had a soft-spot for largely because of Ry Cooder's slide guitar soundtrack.

Michael said...

I just watched the Bloodlines Netflix series in which he had a leading role. He looked so vibrant, robust. This hideous disease may creep along slowly and then strike with sudden ferocity.

Fernandinande said...

"Paris, Texas"

The main guy there is in Twin Peaks/S3 - knew I'd seen him somewhere.

Bill said...

I was nearly hit by a flying coffee can as I sat in the front row of a performance of True West in Berkeley, way back when.

Mary Beth said...

I remember a lot of throwing of artichokes and one rolling off the stage and into my lap.

Did you keep it or give it back?

FWBuff said...

I was in law school in Nashville in the early '80s when Jessica Lange was in town filming the Patsy Cline biopic, "Sweet Dreams". I had a huge crush on her. One day I saw her shopping in a local bookstore with Sam Shepard. There were several people coming up to her, and he was very protective of her (she is tiny, but he was very tall). I bought a paperback of his play "Buried Child", and asked him to autograph it for me. He was surprised but gracious about it, plus I got to say hello to Jessica Lange...

William said...

He won a Pulitzer, married Jessica Lange, and got to be a movie star. Pretty good life. He missed out on longevity, but you can't have everything. Quality is probably a better metric than quantity but, still, I take some comfort in having outlived him.

tonyg said...

I used to bump into him at the local butcher shop. He had "it" in spades - a level of laid back, unaffected coolness and magnetism that few people possess. I can only think of two others that I've met with that level of "it": Guy Clark and Dexter Gordon.

Luke Lea said...

Reminds me of the Mexican scenes in On the Road.

David Baker said...

Sam Shepard looked the part. A man's man, the right stuff.

tcrosse said...

Higamus Hogamus Horatio Hornblower
Created by Forester's series of tales
Strode around quarterdecks,
Mastering sailing ships
Goosing up Forester's publishing sales.

D said...

Quatrains are hard on the fly, unless you crib a little:

Gregory Peck and Bob Dylan, fighting in the captain's tower;
Neither want to play Horatio, cause Virginia Mayo's so sour.
Back in 1951 you had to stand in line for the show
You couldnt scroll Netflix for old timey sailor movies,
Row by row by row.

Bay Area Guy said...

The Right Stuff as Chuck Yeager- he was fantastic. Godspeed.

Robert Cook said...

"He won a Pulitzer, married Jessica Lange, and got to be a movie star. Pretty good life. He missed out on longevity...."

He made it to 73. Not old (anymore), but not cut down in the prime of his youth, either.

Ann Althouse said...

Rhymes for Hornblower: porn slower; torn, show her; worn mower...

Meade said...

"He made it to 73. Not old (anymore), but not cut down in the prime of his youth, either."

Good point. If I too make it to 73 but not to 74, I will live 10 more years. Until 2027. And I really do feel I'm in the prime of my adulthood.

tcrosse said...

Rhymes for Hornblower: porn slower; torn, show her; worn mower...

born lower, corn rower, lorn sewer.

Feste said...

Re: "old" comments here. RIP too, to Sam. Will watch Black Hawk tonight.

“99 year old wins Masters Indoor Track Championship race”

http://video.foxnews.com/v/5347919582001/?#sp=show-clips

Orville Rogers. WWII bomber pilot.

Book - "The Running Man: Flying High for the Glory of God ."

Somewhere there, he says he has no time to look back. Only forward - glory unto glory.

Something like 42,000 miles logged running.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Don't mess with my man H.H.! People who do that tend to get either outwitted or blown to shit, or both.

An outsider...not to the Navy consecrated by generations of service. A wild card. Worthy of a rave by tradguy.

Feste said...

Love Dylan more for loving Peck.

Dylan got the question. I feel it less a self-reference to fame. More a desire to escape it.

Because, “what part I was supposed to play?”

Shepard-Peck invite me to play every part in "The Gunfighter." Brilliant warning against precocious smart-ass-ness. Peck says to let his proud-youth killer live. To be hunted as such. And a loving invitation, coming from a ‘bad’ guy, groaning to go right. Mercy gives its chances. Sheriff binary: paying respects and not. Were I the sheriff, how would I play that? Masterful.

Peck's “Yellow Sky” is similar. Bad guy goes good. And lives! With help from Anne Baxter, who could go wrong? Could have used a little Dylan-Shepard loving care. Can’t complain about William Wellman. Terribly underrated, “Yellow Sky.”

Makes me wonder? - was Dylan reciting Melville at the Nobel, in part because of Peck? Love Peck in "Moby Dick." Hard to tell whether Peck or Welles should have had the lead. Welles dominated the whole film - from just a few moments. Wonder if Dylan loved Peck as Ahab too?

Dylan should have played Ishmael, because "God hears" Dylan's cries.

Feste said...

So many extraordinary people for whom to be thankful.

Every, “thank you!,” to the good, drives the dark away.

Feste said...

and ordinary people too

truth speaker said...

'Brownsville Girl' may very well be my favorite Dylan song that isn't "Like A Rolling Stone".
And from a hired guitarist for the session it started out as a 4 minute rocker.

truth speaker said...

AND I own his 'Rolling Thunder Logbbok' so I got that going for me, which is nice.

Quaestor said...

"Captain Horatio Hornblower,"
A story of love he was forbidden to show her.
Ne'er a frigate was made for a passenger,
And never the dearest of a higher officer.