Monday, July 31, 2017

sam shepard [1943 - 2017]

do you recall john donne telling death, 'thou shalt die.'  when i was young i believed donne.  not only would i live forever but those whom i love, my friends and family, and my favorite artists.

george romero's death two weeks ago surprised me but somehow i thought of him as mortal.  he looked like a favorite goofy professor who still lives in the working class neighborhood where he grew up.  romero looked old even when he wasn't.

sam shepard looked old even when he was young and beautiful.  when you look old all your life you seem immortal.  i mean shepard in early films like days of heaven [1978] and the right stuff [1983] was seriously handsome.  he looked and sounded like a late 20th C gary cooper.  and yet, his youthful good looks were weathered, his expressions were earthy.  and yet shepard's eyes were that of a poet.

so i knew him as an actor first.  but when i got to my late teens and discovered poetry i became an addicted reader of shepard's plays.  perhaps it was because of the rollicking music of the language.  perhaps it was because of the themes of isolation and desolation.  it could also be because i grew up poor, rough, and had a crazy family like many of his characters in his plays did.  perhaps it was because i identified with shepard himself, an artist pupped out of the rock&roll chaos and shimmer of off-off broadway where experiment was the rule rather than the exception; a human being who was raised in chaos.

hell, there are many reasons why i fell in love with sam shepard as a writer, and as an actor.  i remember in the late '80s he was on the cover of interview magazine [a warhol publication] where you could see a crescent tattoo etched on the webbing between the thumb and pointer finger on his left hand.  i was fucking amazed because i didn't know writers were tattooed [it wasn't long after that i fell in love with thom gunn's poetry, another early inked writer].  i was inked too.  i didn't have much going for me at the time.  i knew only one thing: i wanted poetry.

i remember reading shepard's play true west and when i took an undergraduate course in theater at the local junior college i took a chunk of that play for part of an in-class assignment.  my partner and i watched the filmed play starring john malkovich and gary sinise.  i can't act worth shit.  but i had a lot of fun in that class and with that play.

oh, so many plays!  geography of a horse dreamer, cowboy mouth, curse of the starving class, fool for love, buried child, la turista etc etc.

and of course there are the movies.  sam shepard was just as prolific as an actor as he was a writer.  the most recent movie i watched with him in it was jim mickle's brutal cold in july [2014], a wonderful film of blood, gore, love and betrayal.

i will end this piece by declaring my fondness for another sam shepard film that co-starred diane keaton, baby boom [1987].  shepard plays a veterinarian who falls in love with keaton's hyper-business woman.  a slight film of late 1980s yuppie-dom about having it all but it is a delight just the same because of shepard's good natured cowboy instincts and keaton's great comic timing. 

well, fuck me.  death shall not die.  we die.  i thought sam shepard would be one of the few to live forever.  i thought his face became more beautiful as the years etched more lines in it.  alas, he died.  we all shall die.  i don't know if his art will live forever.  who cares.  what matters is the love you make while you live, including the love for your art.  we are lucky.  we have his writings.  we can watch his films.  perhaps that might be enough.

[i'm not going to edit this piece.  let the grammatical and spelling errors stand!]

viva la muerte!


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