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Sam Shepard Remembered

Many others will better say what Sam Shepard meant to the American Theater of his youth, and to films he later appeared in as a centered and unhurried actor. I can only speak to what he was to the theater of my youth, by quoting a friend who accompanied the news of Shepard’s death with the words, “In drama school we all wanted to be Sam.”

The only Shepard piece I directed was Action, in 1992, the one-act play that can find it focal point easily enough in its title. Perhaps his most Beckett-like work, it is always worth seeking out to see how various casts or individual actors explore its compact yet expansive possibilities.

On the Fourth of July in 1996, I was walking down a sun-scorched Avenue of the Americas, around 45th Street, when I was stopped by a traffic light, when I had my only in-person encounter with Shepard.

Having forgotten my sunglasses, I was looking down to keep the rays out of my eyes, as I rummaged my pockets for a light for my cigarette, when a glowing butt dropped right next to my foot, which was then squashed by an old but well-cared-for cowboy boot.

“Gotta light?” I said, before looking up into the creased, scrutinous squint of those solid, penetrating eyes.

He paused for a moment, and when I did not make anything of him other than wanting his help, he produced a Zippo lighter, and flipped it open while igniting the wick in one fluid motion.

He lit my cigarette as the walk light lit, and I said, “You’re taller than I thought you’d be.”

His creases deepened a bit and I thanked him for the light as we went our separate ways. And now he has gone the way of us all in the end.

I still think fondly of the monologue he wrote for Cowboys #2 extolling the many virtues of breakfast, almost every time I slice into some glistening sunny side up eggs. And I guess I always shall.

The New York Times Notice of Shepard’s Passing

George Barnes – Artist Profile

Over at One Man’s Guitar, a break from the norm – George Barnes

Our profile of the first electric guitarist, and an influence on just about every American guitarist who came after

George Barnes…

… Then, I heard the duets of George Barnes and Bucky Pizzarelli. I was enthralled with the musicality of the tunes, the breathtaking licks, the slower passages of glistening, liquid tone. For some reason I assumed the suave, James Bond looking guy with the colorful name must have been doing all the exquisite lead playing. Only later did I realize it was the squat, cigar-chomping George Barnes who was tripping the light fandango in such a transcendent manner.

He had a lot of practice, as it turned out…

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George Barnes artist profile