January 21, 2021
2018 a Croatian translation of Sam's final book, SPY OF THE FIRST PERSON, was
published by Antipod with the translation done by Martina Klasić. The book
is called UHODA. In the last year of his life, as the degenerative
disease ALS made his muscles progressively useless, Sam finished this book
about a man suffering from a similar but unnamed illness. An unidentified
first-person narrator looks across the street at a strange man in a rocking
chair on the porch. It soon becomes clear that they are the same person, a man
observing himself from the outside, his failing body so alien that he doesn’t
recognize it as his own.
Uhoda means "care" and I suppose that references all the
loving care his family provided for him in his final weeks. According to his
sisters, when Sam was unable to hold a pen, he spoke into a voice-activated
recorder. When he could no longer hold the recorder, he dictated to his daughter
Hannah or his sisters Roxanne and Sandy, who did the transcription and read the
notes back to him. Roxanne indicated, "Sometimes he wanted to dictate things at
night before going to sleep. I kept a notebook close so that he could just ask
to write something down and it could be dictated on the spot." Sandy said, "He's
a writer so he needed to write every day to be himself, and that was our
mission, to help him be as close to normal as possible."
And Hannah added, "The line between fact and fiction in his own work was always
very ambiguous to Sam, I believe. Many things blended together for him."
Toward the end of the book Sam mentions his sons Jesse and
Walker - "The thing I remember most is being more or less helpless and the
strength of my sons. A man pushed by his sons in a wheelchair from a crowded
restaurant to a street with nobody on it. A man sitting on shaggy wool with a
Navajo blanket across his knees."
In this Croatian edition, the following two artistic illustrations represent the
beginning and end of the story. The photo of Sam was taken from a January 2016
photo shoot for The New York Times.
January 19, 2021
Earlier this month Sam's daughter Hannah was caught by the
paparazzi walking in Manhattan's West Village on a cold day.
Since her father's death, Hannah has worked as an archival
producer on three documentaries that focus on racism and justice. The Women in
Media web site gave the following biography:
Shepard studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received master’s degrees
from the National University of Ireland and Fordham, where she was a teaching
fellow and a Loomie Prize winner. Engaging with history, the arts, and social
justice, Hannah is drawn to projects that cross boundaries. She has worked as a
researcher, educator, and script reader with institutions including the New York
Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the City of New York, The
Public Theater and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. As an archival
researcher and producer, Hannah has worked with filmmakers including Rebecca
Miller, Nancy Buirski, and Catherine Gund. In 2019 she was nominated for the
FOCAL Jane Mercer Researcher of the Year Award. Her fiction has been published
by W.W. Norton, Fiction Southeast, and Spout Press.
Fordham's Loomie Prize was awarded to Hannah for her paper,
"Vanished in Plain Sight: Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Wisconsin, 1830-1890".
Her paper argues that Ulster Presbyterians brought their unique brand of
political and religious radicalism, with its roots in their Irish experience,
with them to Wisconsin, influencing the early character of a state which has
been known equally for its progressivism and its evangelicalism in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
It appears that those excellent writing skills are in the
* * * * *
I came across this art board print of Sam by illustrator Paul
Cemmick. I don't see much resemblance except for his hair. The shirt says "Days
of Heaven" but the background shows him as Chuck Yeager coming out of the
flames. Personally, I don't think it blends very well.
December 20, 2020
I recently came upon this excerpt from David Yaffe's 2017 book on Joni
Mitchell titled "Reckless Daughter". As many of you know, Sam hooked up with
Joni when they were both on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975.
This is what Joni said about her relationship with Sam:
"Sam and I had a flirtation. He got scared of me. What
panicked him was we were sitting in a bar and we were talking and all of a
sudden he said, 'You’re really smart.' Often when people would say that,
they would lean away from me like I had a disease… And then we talked a
little bit more, and I was saying things and he’d go, ‘How do you know
that?’ It was like we were twins. The stars were really funny. He was born
November 5 and I was born November 7. I was born under a really powerful
sky, and I think he was too. He’s multi-expressive. He’s a playwright and a
singer and an actor and he’s good at all of them. What I think was happening
was that I was forming sentences like he would’ve. Everything was creating
an aversion. But for me, on coke, I found him very attractive. He reminded
me of the people where I come from, from the region that I come from."
* * * * *
Chuck Yeager, a WW II fighter ace who was the first to
travel faster than sound, died earlier this month on December 7. His test pilot
exploits were told in Tom Wolfe's book "The Right
Stuff", which was made into the 1983 blockbuster film, directed by
Philip Kaufman. Sam received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for
his portrayal of Yeager. The famous pilot advised Sam on his role and even had a
cameo in the film. Yeager said with a deep-voiced West Virginia twang, "Sam
Shepard was a neat guy. He hunts, fishes, drives a pickup truck and shacks up
with Jessica Lange. What more could you want out of life?"
* * * * *
Here are some new additions to the photo shoot that took
place in NYC on September 29, 2011 when Sam was promoting his film "Blackthorn".
The last photo shows him with his friend, producer Heather Rae.
In journalist Marshall
Fine's critique of "Blackthorn", he wrote
that the film could serve as a terrific
valedictory performance for Sam, and indeed
it does. It was the last film in which he
was cast in the lead role, which garnered
If you haven't seen it yet, it's
available to rent online. Sam is awesome!
The second photo below shows Sam with
director Mateo Gil and his two co-stars.
Eric Hynes of Time Out New York wrote,
"Wrinkled, leathery and densely carpeted
in a salt-and-pepper beard, the
67-year-old playwright and actor still
exudes intellectual mischief and
hard-stare sex appeal; his self-styled
ruggedness is a perfect match for an
infamous gringo living incognito. It’s
his best screen work since 'The Right
October 31, 2020
The film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bestselling Western
novel, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, premiered in
Directed by Billy Bob Thornton, the film starred Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz,
Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Bruce Dern and Sam in a very small role.
The book was published eight years earlier and won both the U.S. National
Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The movie version did not
fare so well only receiving a 32% rating on the Tomatometer. It was released on Christmas Day 2000 to mostly negative reviews
and grossed $18 million worldwide against a $57 million budget.
Set in 1949, "Horses" is about two friends who take off from
their Texas ranch and head for the vast spaces of Mexico. There, they find
charms, dangers, romance, treachery, jail and their own rich rites of passage to
This is the only photo of Sam in the role of J.C. Franklin,
the Grady family lawyer who gives John Grady Cole the bad news about his
disinheritance. Thornton remarked, "Sam is such a big admirer of Cormac McCarthy
that he told me he'd be willing to do any role at all in the film. He wasn't
concerned about the size of the part. He only has one scene, but he was
incredibly excited about playing it."
David Krakauer of the Santa Fe Institute wrote the following
about this pair of prolific writers - "Sam’s office was in the Institute library
where we could hear him typing out essays and plays on his Olympia SM9. When
Cormac McCarthy and Sam worked in adjoining rooms of the library, the Institute
resounded like a nineteenth-century steel mill — deafening hammering of dueling
Olivettis and Olympias."
In the photo above, David sits between Sam and Cormac.
Sam often took on bit parts and hopefully he was paid well.
Another film that flopped at the box office a year later was the techno-action
thriller SWORDFISH, starring John Travolta,
Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle and Vinnie Jones.
I especially liked this review by Paul Clinton of CNN:
Here are some things you probably know about "Swordfish":
It features some wildly exciting action sequences. John Travolta is not
wearing dreadlocks or platform boots. Yes, Halle Berry goes topless - and so
does Hugh Jackman. There's a nice twist at the end of the film.
And here are some things that you probably should know: "Swordfish" is
idiotic. Travolta is sporting the same haircut he wore in "Pulp Fiction"
(1994). He's also playing the same standard-issue bad guy he played in two
films directed by John Woo, "Face/Off" (1997) and "Broken Arrow" (1996). And
by the time this train wreck of a film is over, you don't care about the
twist at the end.
I never saw it because I refuse to see any film with John Travolta with the
exception of "Saturday Night Fever". I never watch films starring Hugh Jackman
either. And Halle Berry and Don Cheadle didn't add any excitement so I
definitely skipped this film. And who wants to see Sam killed! The scene I'm
referring to was shot near Bend, Oregon at the Ranch of the Canyons. It's an
aerial sequence in which a jet-black helicopter flies over Sam as he is fishing
in the river. Evidently, the scene took several days to complete with the crew
spending most of their time wading back and forth across the swift-running
river. Sam was an ardent fly-fisherman and it must have been a perk for him to
get paid for fishing and also have the chance to catch several trout between
October 28, 2020
It's been over three years since Sam left us and long-time
partner actress Jessica Lange still has not shared any remembrances of their
life together, but almost 30 years ago, she did share some
intimate details about their relationship in a Vanity Fair interview. Here are
When we started, it was never with the intention that we
were going to run off, live together, have a family, do all these…regular
things. It was just this unbelievably passionate love affair. But then we
just couldn’t give it up.
I'd seen Sam in Resurrection
and there was something about him that struck such a familiar chord, probably
because I'd spent the last fifteen years with foreigners. I'd lived with a
Spaniard, then this Russian, and there was something about Sam…his long legs…I
immediately felt I knew something about him, that wildness, that typically
American wildness, a no-restraints outlaw quality.
Sam and I were so much in love, so wild about each other
and being together. We were absolutely inseparable. We couldn’t even go to
the grocery store without each other.
I've been with a lot of men and I've known a lot of men.
And you know I’ve had romances with what you’d call famous men, and none
compare to Sam in terms of maleness.
The worst part about
life with Sam is the separations. He's not the kind of man who’s going to follow
a woman around. He’ll come see us [she always takes the children], but he's not
going to pack his bags, sit on my locations for three months, and twiddle with
the kids….Sam would've been happy if I never made another movie, if we could've
lived together in the wild, idyllic manner we had in the beginning. But I kept
wanting to act. Those separations became sources of real, um, difficulty for us.
I was pregnant for
three years. Sam's one of those men who loves you when you’re pregnant–just
thinks you look more beautiful than ever before, loves the big belly. It was
great, except I get real dark sometimes when I'm pregnant. My mood swings
are extreme anyhow, but when I'm pregnant, I could be like Medea any moment,
I’m so hard to live with. Sam says he went through it twice, he doesn't want
to live through it again.
It's obvious that the pair each harbored their own demons.
Jessica often spoke about her mood swings so perhaps she suffered from a
bi-polar disorder and, of course, Sam continually battled alcoholism.
These were the last photos of the pair caught by a bystander
near Duluth, Minnesota, on July 27, 2015, exactly two years before his death on
July 27, 2017. You can see how frail Sam looks.
October 18, 2020
In 1976 director Robert Woodruff asked Sam if he had any
unproduced plays that could be premiered as part of the inaugural Bay Area
Playwrights Festival. Sam gave him THE SAD LAMENT OF
PECOS BILL ON THE EVE OF KILLING HIS WIFE, an operetta, which he created
with composer Katherine Stone. [Yeah, that's quite a title!] The play premiered
on October 22, 1976, but Sam never saw that production because at the time he was up in
Canada shooting "Days of Heaven".
The second production was presented in NYC by La Mama in a
double bill with SUPERSTITIONS in September 1983.
And in April 1984 the double bill premiered at the Magic Theatre in San
Another 'Pecos Bill' production was presented by New York's Signature Theater Company at the
Joseph Papp Public Theater in the winter of 1997.
"Superstitions" originally premiered on July 1, 1981 at the Intersection Theatre
in San Francisco. The advertisement below comes from the Berkeley Archives. Note
that it reads, "Improvisational jazz theater piece based on the poetic vignettes
of Texas-grown writer Walker Hayes."
In this instance, Sam used the pseudonym "Walker Hayes" though I don't
understand why he's referred to as a "Texas-grown writer".
Sam's wife O-lan appeared in the 1983 La Mama double-bill production as well as
in the 1981 Intersection Theatre production of "Superstitions". Here she is in
'Pecos Bill' with actor Mark Petrakis.
October 16, 2020
Published in 1973 by Black Sparrow Press,
was Sam's first book, which contained short stories, poems and monologues. The
book runs just under 100 pages, and includes around 50 individual pieces and are
a much darker collection of writings than "Motel Chronicles". I especially
was attracted to this photo of Sam with his youthful smirky grin, so different
from his future intellectual portraits.
Cultural critic and essayist Mark Dery writes, "No doubt,
'Hawk Moon' is early, immature Shepard, half-baked in spots, overegged in
others. The London Review dismissed the book as 'scrappy and inconsequential,'
rolling a derisory eye at its 'breathless, unpunctuated prose-poems and cute
little seven or eight-liners in free verse in the style of Richard Brautigan.'
Yet the reviewer conceded that the best of the fleetingly brief stories—flash
fiction decades before the term was coined—'are sharp, macabre histories of
urban fear and violence' that are very much of their moment - the mechanized
world of motor-car, radio culture, rootlessness and nuclear threat. Yet, you can
still see the mythical world of the Frontier, the Wild West, the prairies
receding in the rear-view mirror."
October 10, 2020
Back in August Ada Pirvu wrote a unique article called "The
Armani Aesthetic and Film Costume Appropriation: Sam Shepard in 'Voyager'.
Ada is the author of Classiq, an online journal that celebrates cinema, style,
culture and storytelling. She also contributes to the film magazine, The Big
Giorgio Armani has had a long relationship with the movie
world and has worked on many films. He knows that clothes enhance the cinematic
experience so he was hired to be the costumer designer for Sam's character - the
engineer Walter Faber in "Voyager". Ada writes
that when she first saw Sam in his tank top, vest, suspenders and Trilby hat,
the image instantly reminded her of Armani's 1980s and 1990s campaigns. Ada goes
on to say, "It was not just the clothes that brought Armani’s campaign imagery
to mind, but the feel of the shot, and Sam Shepard’s body language, and the gaze
on his face. It is a detached look."
“I enjoyed being out of reach.”
Do you remember that hat? He even wore it in bed and it
became a distinctive trait of this transient traveler. The story was based on
Swiss author Max Frisch's 1957 novel, "Homo Faber", and was adapted for the
screen in 1991. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff,
it starred Sam, French actress Julie Delpy and German actress Barbara Sukowa.
It's a must-see for all Shepard fans!
October 5, 2020
New material has been added today on the documentary
THIS SO-CALLED DISASTER by director Michael
Almereyda. It was filmed in the fall of 2000 during the last three weeks of
rehearsal for the Shepard-directed play, "The Late
Henry Moss", a
autobiographical drama about the playwright’s volatile relationship with his
father. It premiered at the Magic Theatre on November 14, 2000. Though Sam
appears uncomfortable at times in front of the camera, it was actually his idea
to document the staging of his play. That came as a surprise to me. At one
answers an AP reporter's shallow questions and wearily asks her photographer to
please get out of his face. Oh, that man makes me laugh. Well, we all know he wasn't regarded as Mr.
After Sam had played the role of
the ghost in Almereyda's "Hamlet", he contacted the filmmaker. Almereyda recalled, "Sam called me up and said he was directing a new play and that he
had a great cast and he wondered if I was interested in making a record of it.
He instigated the process. It was pretty impossible to say no. And he hadn't
even seen 'Hamlet' yet."
That great cast included a trio of notorious hellions - Nick
Nolte, Sean Penn and Woody Harrelson.
Sam explained his actions in an interview in the April 2004 American Theatre
magazine: "I knew this was sort of a chance of a lifetime with this many great
actors. The thing is that, as is true of any production, you don't see the work
the actor does. You don't see the sweat, the real grit, the energy that goes
into making the character. These guys were absolutely dedicated. For movie
stars, this was something that a lot of them hadn't really encountered."
And the film's director explained, "I
don't really know any documentaries like it. Most movies like this tend to be
pretty self-congratulatory, and I cut everything like that out. It wasn't an ad
for their nobility, it was more an attempt to show what happens on an intimate
level when people of this stature get together... The editing was a big
challenge, and in many ways the editing shaped the movie more than might be
apparent because I wanted a kind of artless or casual style. But really it's a
very crafted movie."
Freelance movie writer Ruthe Stein wrote, "I went into the
screening thinking the title
referred to the San Francisco production of 'The Late
Henry Moss,' although the play hardly qualified as a
disaster, so-called or otherwise. It sold out a
four-week run and was the talk of the town.
The meaning of the title isn't explained until late in
the film, when Shepard brings up a letter from his
father, their last communication before the man was run
over by a car while in a drunken stupor. In the note,
the elder Shepard absolves his son of any responsibility
for this 'so-called disaster between me and your mother.'''
The film premiered on May 7, 2003 at the Tribeca Film
Festival and is available on DVD. It can also be viewed at this
link if you don't mind the Spanish subtitles. The 89-minute
documentary explores Sam's working relationships with the play's cast but also
cuts away at times to some personal insights from Sam regarding his father. It's
a must-see for Shepard devotees as one watches Sam in a rocking chair on the
his writing refuge, a cabin in the Minnesota woods, while describing at length
the miserable relationship he had with his alcoholic father.
One reviewer wrote, "As a character study alone 'This
So-Called Disaster' does some fine work examining the background of a
playwright. It is interesting to listen to the story of Shepard’s father, who
led a very troubled life, culminating with his untimely death. He even shares
his last encounter with his father, one that is touching in the way that it’s
told so humbly."
Sam recalls, "It's one of those meetings you never forget, you know, but it was
horrible because he was absolutely smashed. And I should've known better, over
the years, to try to sit down with him when he was in that state, because he was
a mad man, he was crazy - he was totally crazy. And, uh, you know this Dr.
Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality thing that happens with true alcoholics."
The film ends on a sad note showing a home movie of Sam with
his dad and the following photos were also shown in the film. The first one
shows Sam's parents, Jane Elaine (Schook) Rogers (1917-1994) and Samuel Shepard
Rogers (1917–1984). The second one shows his dad as a bomber pilot during WW II.
You can see that Sam resembles his father, but I think
Sam and Jessica's son Walker has a closer resemblance.
July-August 31, 2017
January - June 2014
January - June 2011
July - December 2010
January - June 2010
July - December 2009
January - June 2009
July - December 2008
January - June 2008
November 2005 - December 2006