I am very saddened by the passing of Sam Shepard. I admired him as a writer and an actor. His role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff is seared in my consciousness. That final scene when Yeager walks away from the crashed NF-104A with his face scarred and his eyes injured after having gathered up his parachute, walking with determination from the wreckage knowing that he was a better pilot than all those pudknockers who were flying around in cans and who never got a chance to go into orbit and show them who was the best man; my gosh that scene is what life is all about, friends. Sometime you just have to shoot for the stars and if you run out of gas or atmosphere, well, then come back to earth in one piece and do it all over again.
This You Tube clip is an edit of that “pushing the limits” scene. In the original edit the flight is interspersed with a giant party for the Mercury astronauts in Houston, a grand irony in that Yeager is busting his ass while the astronauts are partying with LBJ and watching Sally Rand do a fan dance. (By the way that’s Levon Helm in the beginning of that clip, who also narrates the film, another great American artist who is sorely missed.) In this clip it’s just the flight, and its gut-churning.
It’s noteworthy when an actor takes on a role that defines an entire era, like George C. Scott as Patton. Sam was too smart to be type cast though, and at heart he was a playwright. One of the finest. I saw a performance of Buried Child back in Chicago in 1995 that just captivated me. Actually it destroyed me emotionally through the next full day. A dangerously over the top story that explicates everything nasty about the American Dream, and that seems appropriate for our current experience. Sam won a Pulitzer Prize for that play.
There’s also a little known film from 1980 with Ellen Burstyn, Resurrection in which he has a role as the lover of a woman who has the power to heal after surviving a near death experience. Hard to find it. Saw it once when it was in release. I’d love to see it again.
I have a lot of catching up to do with Sam’s writing. Sometimes the most significant artists make the least amount of noise. Usually they\’re the ones with the most important things to say.
Punch a hole in the sky to where the demon lives! And while you’re doing that, chew a stick of Beeman’s. I think I got me a stick.