RIP SAM SHEPARD — I remember walking near my home one day, past a local church, and I looked up and saw Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange and their kinds going in. Shepherd, for me, was a true renaissance man in every way. Theater, movies, poetry … man, he had it all. His passing last week was a true tragedy. It hit me very hard. Patti Smith penned a moving and evocative tribute to her longtime friend and collaborator for The New Yorker.
As Smith detailed in her 2010 memoir Just Kids, she and Shepard met in the early Seventies when he was drumming for a folk group called the Holy Modal Rounders – though at the time Smith did not know that Shepard was also already an acclaimed playwright. The pair became fast friends and collaborators, working on a play called Cowboy Mouth, while Shepard also encouraged Smith to try pairing her poetry with music.
In her remembrance, Smith recalled her lengthy late-night chats with Shepard, who would call from all over the world to talk about art, family, history, books and writers. Smith remembered her friend as a willing adventurer who “liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he could wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.”
Smith shared memories of Shepard sending her a note from the mountains of Bolivia while shooting Blackthorn and of him walking over a Dublin bridge, reciting lines from Samuel Beckett off the top of his head. Smith also wrote how Shepard promised that he would one day take her across the American southwest – but was forced to give up his travels after being diagnosed with ALS.
“He eventually stopped picking up and leaving,” Smith wrote. “From then on, I visited him, and we read and talked, but mostly we worked. Laboring over his last manuscript, he courageously summoned a reservoir of mental stamina, facing each challenge that fate apportioned him. His hand, with a crescent moon tattooed between his thumb and forefinger, rested on the table before him. The tattoo was a souvenir from our younger days; mine a lightning bolt on the left knee.”
Smith said that she was in Lucerne, Switzerland when she learned of Shepard’s death. In an elegant final passage, Smith recalled how she found herself imagining the Kentucky hills outside of Shepard’s home, her friend’s packed bookshelves and “sitting at the kitchen table reaching for that tattooed hand.”
As usual, Smith said it best. The nights on Broadway tonight will be dimmed in his honor. A true star in so many ways. Rest easy Mr. Shepard.
THE RIGHT WAY TO LIVE — “Emily is inspired to create images that not only speak to an aesthetic need, but also an emotive one. The images created are informed by an ambition to provide propelling, instinctive art.” Says Emily Dolenz, “Photography has always captured my interests as a diverse art form. I am continually drawn to this seemingly instant medium that can portray a multitude of emotions. I was born and raised in England and traveled between England and America for most of my life. As I experienced diverse landscapes I became motivated to find my way of expressing my particular angle on existence. I will always be a photographer, artist and poet. My passion for the world, the life I lead and the obstacles I overcome, will never leave me, and can only bring me an increased sense of wonder. I will endeavor to keep using my art to inspire others to dream and follow their own passions and loves in life.” Emily’s work will be showcased on August 4th at Artists & Makers Studio 2 in Rockville, MD. I’ve met Emily several times and she’s a total delight. Her work, as you can see on her FB page below, is terrific. Stimulating, sensitive and bold. https://www.facebook.com/emilydolenzphotography
SHORT TAKES — Terrific interview in Keith Girard’s Improper on Joanna Bonaro and her Good ‘n Screwed project. Btw: The pilot will unspool at this month’s AOFFEST Fest in San Francisco. The shows stars Robert Funaro, whose other series, The Sinner premieres tonight on USA. Here’s the Improper interview: http://www.theimproper.com/film/18624/joanna-bonaros-good-screwed-eyes-neglected-niche-40-plus-women/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheImproperFilm+%28Film+News+%26+Gossip%29… Micky Dolenz guests on Hulu’s Difficult People, next week, with Billy Eichner and Julie Julie Klausner. The show, from the mind of Amy Poehler, is simply sensational. Eichner, who you may well know from his Billy On The Street series, where he does his ambush interviews, is seriously funny. They shot Dolenz’s scenes in Lower Manhattan and at a synagogue on The East Side. We attended both shoots and they were hilarious. If you’re a Dolenz-fan, don’t miss this one …
Eric Clapton’s bio Clapton came out in 2008. We’ve read it at least 4 times and have long considered it the best rock-auto biography ever written. We’ve just finished Jimmy Webb’s The Cake and the Rain and will nor acknowledge, that this one is the best. At 346 pages its chocked full of totally memorable moments with everyone from Brian Wilson to Harry Nilsson, Ringo, Lennon and Micky Dolenz. The thing about the book that got me the most, was the fact that Webb’s music has been covered by everyone from Woody Herman to Sinatra, Wu-Tang Clan, Weird Al and of course, Glen Campbell. The book is quite lavish with remembrances of people like Lou Adler, Johnny Rivers and of course Sinatra. In particular, the Sinatra-passages and stories are just brilliant. Frank is, as you would expect. On a cruise around California with the like of Dolenz and Nilsson, the revelations are exactly what you would expect. I loved this book and not only because I am very familiar with some of the names, but the intrigue of the music business, which was far, far different back then, than now. I recommend it very strongly … Speaking of Clapton, a new documentary about Eric Clapton, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival before airing on Showtime in 2018. Oscar winner Lili Fini Zanuck (producer, Driving Miss Daisy) directed Life in 12 Bars, which features extensive interviews with Clapton. The film chronicles the guitarist’s remarkable career, from his time as a British rock journeyman in the Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers to his stints in Cream and Blind Faith, as well as his lengthy solo career. Life in 12 Bars will also explore how music has served as a salve for Clapton during the most tumultuous moments of his life, including his traumatic childhood, his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction and the death of his son. Also, the film will feature interviews with Clapton’s family, friends, musical collaborators, peers and heroes, including late musicians like B.B. King, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix. Per a previous report, Zanuck was given unprecedented access to Clapton’s “extensive personal archive of classic performance clips, on- and off-stage footage, iconic photos, concert posters, handwritten letters, drawings and personal diary entries.” Along with Life in 12 Bars, the 2017 Toronto International film Festival lineup boasts a few other music-related projects, including the world premiere of Sophie Fiennes’ new doc about new wave icon Grace Jones, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami. Sam Pollard’s new documentary, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me will also debut at TIFF … I don’t know about you, but I am crazy about the new song Mick Jagger dropped last week, called “England Lost.” Yes, it’s about Brexit and all that, but what a great song. Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98gj0z0RkXE … and finally, what’s happened to Showtime’s Twin Peaks. The renewed run is almost half over, with very disappointing numbers and the cablenet just moved it to 8:00 PM on Sundays. I love Lynch, but the narratives in the episodes have just been so muddled. The one thing I do love is how each episode (save for one) ends with a musical number. Sunday’s was with The Chromatics again. Lynch is amazing, but some creative consulting was definitely needed. Maybe Lynch should have let Showtime see them before they aired! A sad ending for the show.
Till next time…