SAM SHEPARD & THE FILM SHEPARD & DARK.


I’ve had bar chats with Sam; many Santa Fe locals claim friendship; he’s our Santa Fe Shepard for independent thinking, accessibility, dust-bowl prolific honesty and still a flush hand of rugged classic looks. The last time I saw him, he was sitting next to me at Geronimo, writing in his little notebook and eating steak.  He put his fork down when I said ‘Hi Sam.’  He talked about his novel (Inside Man), his Kentucky ranch, and showed me his new cell phone. When he held it, it was like a man holding a gun for the first time. Nothing about him was robotic, on cue, or predictable. When he gave me his phone number and said ‘Call anytime,’ I resisted throwing myself into his arms; now I wish I had.

When Shepard & Dark opened in town for three days, I was out the door within hours. I figured the movie theater would be packed, so I brought earplugs. I take my films too seriously and refuse to be interrupted with slurping and munching. Into the first scene, my concentration was bulletproof; I would have protested if anyone said a word.

Beginning with the footage; incredible home-made movies and photographs of early Sam. You will see him as a youngster on the ranch where he is raised, and Sam leaving home as he kicked his way through puberty. Then we see that chiseled frame of masculine sensitivity as a young playwright in Greenwich Village where you meet Johnny Dark. The dialog between the two men and the dramatization of their adventures through home movies and collected letters they exchanged over a forty-year period broke my heart. I felt the pain inside of Sam as if we were best friends.

It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that I’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. It is a wrap of cinematography, humor, philosophy and a pool-of-tears-ending.

Yes, there is a dusting of emotions on Jessica Lange.

Several lines I recall, in particular, to paraphrase Sam:

We can change our lives, our work, our wardrobes, our women, but we never really change. Our essence remains constant. I’ve always felt outside the whole thing, sometimes more than others. As a writer, you have to be selfish with your time. I’m always moving, going on the road, I didn’t know that was how my life was going to turn out, but it did.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS -THE BU


In a current of unexpected waves I floated towards the Pacific Ocean, and landed along the anfractuous Santa Monica Mountains. Malibu where exotic fish are silhouettes behind glass aquariums perched on  sand dunes or in swank foreign carriers has bitten my interest to understand how an exotic lives.  malibu-colony1

The salty seaweed smell of the ocean streams through my car, driving down Pacific coast highway on my way to buy groceries. Vintage Market  is new to Malibu, and clerks are giddy about their jobs. They may be aspiring actors or were aspiring actors. I walk in and get a phone call that I’d been waiting for so, I set my cart down on a shelf and took the call. During the half hour call, my eyes were fluttering through the scene: tanned surfers, affluent college students, and diamond rich men and women of age, that don’t check their bank balance. Because of this, expressions are chilled as fine wines, and smiles are polite or radiating. They are a content population of 13,000, median home price is $901,000, and the median income household is $127,000. Here in Malibu every thing looks different from Santa Fe: The staging of ‘was in the business, am in the business, or want to be in the business,’ surfaces and dominates the scenery.

malibu_forbes-11528TThey are beautiful-the young teenagers who surf and paddle are true blondes, the blue eyes scintillating pools of water, young women are saddled onto 6” platforms, and then there are the stand-out power people, who will not acknowledge anyone, and expect everyone to acknowledge them. Tucked in the mountains, are extraordinary artists who live off the grid the way most people prefer to live in Santa Fe.
I am learning slowly and still hiding out at Chantal’s. Where I am living, two miles up from PCH off a dirt road, behind a gate, there are Bohemians, artists, home-office screenwriters, producers, and famous heirs of recognizable movie stars.
In the last two weeks my head feels lighter, and my heart is not aching for the Thinker, or my sunken red room where I dreamt of moving to Malibu. What I began twenty years ago is my primary act of indulgence; completion of my book, “Growing Up with Gangsters.”

In the last hour I walked down the road in the hands of sloping hillsides, horse ranches, and signature homes behind walls as high as the palm trees, built to withstand the typhoons of mankind. In  daylight  swirl of rain and clouds, it was as if I was in Ireland, walking along a road in Kilkenny, and then I roped in my imagination and returned to the mountains here, that will teach me how far to go, how to duck a car, or confront a coyote or a snake.
A full transcendental moon dipped into the black-out mountain evening, and has cured me of interior turmoil for the time being. This is part of adventures in livingness in what locals call the bu. TO BE CONTINUED

SHEPARD & DARK


phone-pics-291.pngTHE SCREEN IN SANTA FE scheduled three showings of this Docudrama.
Huh? Sam ol’ boy lives in Santa Fe. I’ve had bar chats with him, everyone has, and he’s our mascot for independence, accessibility, and still a flush hand of rugged classic looks. Like he should be Ralph Lauren‘s model, not Ralph.
I figured the theater would be packed so I brought earplugs. I take my films too seriously, and refuse to be interrupted with slurping and munching. Into the first scene; my concentration was so acute I would have protested if anyone said a word. Beginning with the footage; unbelievable home-made movies and photographs. You will see Sam as a youngster on the ranch where he grew up in Central California, Sam leaving home and working his way through puberty. Then we see that chiseled frame of masculine sensitivity as a young playwright in Greenwich Village where you meet Johnny Dark. The dialog between the two men and the dramatization of their feelings about the collected letters they exchanged over a forty-year period is something beyond a beyond a reality show.
It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that you’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. Just to name a few. So if you wrap the cinematography around the humor, philosophy and ending that left me in tears, you have a masterpiece of film for the audience.
Yes, there is a dusting of emotions on Jessica Lange.
I walked away feeling as if my life had not even begun. So much life squeezed into one man lead me to It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that you’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. Just to name a few. So if you wrap the cinematography around the humor, philosophy and ending that left me in tears, you have a masterpiece of film for the audience.
Several lines I recall in particular, to paraphrase Sam:
We can change our lives, our work, our wardrobes, our women, but we never really change. Our essence remains constant. I’ve always felt outside the whole thing, sometimes more than others. As a writer you have to be selfish with your time. I’m always moving, going on the road, I didn’t know that was how my life was going to turn out, but it did.
That kind of admission for a floundering but dedicated writer will last me a while. On documentaries; they don’t get enough attention. I hope this film tears that fence down and let’s the HONEST-REAL-BULLS come through.

 

FILM TO THOUGHTS


Silent Sunday, before the raucous of Cinco de Mayo in Santa Fe. Awakening to the thread of emotion after watching
“The Only Thrill” a movie made in 1997 with Shepard and Keaton. Shepard says,” NO! Things don’t just work out,
you have to make it happen.”

A WISH FOR THE academy awards


” Who are you really excited about seeing tonight?”
Oh I am not excited in the way you ask. I am excited to
escape to tinsel tipsy two-liner Hollywood and just listen
to those speed talking talking ladies chirp, and then I am
a serious film follower. So the films are what it’s all about. I wish there were more in-dept discussions about the FILM MAKERS STORY, THE ACTORS STORY, AND HOW THE STORY GOT TO SCREEN , FROM THE SCREEN WRITERS AND PRODUCERS.
The behind the movie story has it’s own merit in this turbulent financial fiscal
%&*(%$#$%^ era.

CESAER’S SALAD


I moved in with my Dad when I was thirteen years old.  My mother had just passed away, and I arrived with innocence and untrained cooking skills.  Mom was an Irish Catholic meatloaf and corn-beef cook.  Dad was a Russian Orthodox raised  moderate vegetarian, and decided to hire a chef to teach me how to cook.

I came home from school one day, and found Caesar  in the kitchen. He was a stand-in for Paulie in the Godfather, only he had curly black hair, and apple red cheeks.  Caesar was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and an apron that fell short of fitting him.  Dad instructed Cesar to teach me how to make salads, baked fish, and spaghetti with oil and garlic. Everyday after school, Caesar was in the kitchen preparing dinner for us, and I  stood beside him, observing his chubby knuckled fingers, slice and chop vegetables. We started with what Dad ordered; a meal in a salad, and later coined it Farmer’s Chop Suey. The salad was not just prepared, it was a decorated masterpiece when he finished. During the preparation, I noticed beads of sweat on Caesar’s face, and a jittery nervousness, surfaced just before my father arrived home, “What do you think?  Will Dad approve?”  He asked. I assured him Dad would love the salad.    Cesar and I became pals, and waited anxiously for Dad’s arrival.  He wasn’t all that agreeable. Fastidiousness and perfection are common traits amongst gangsters.  Usually, Dad remarked there wasn’t enough garlic, or there were too many croutons, and Caesar would swiftly correct the complaint.

After Cesar went home,  Dad would talk to me about food, and how everything starts in the stomach, and how the vegetables have to be scrubbed, and the seeds removed.  Three or four times a week Dad dined out, and he didn’t order salads.  He frequented Italian restaurants, and his favorite was Bouillabaisse, with a side of pasta.  I never saw him enjoy any food as much as Borsch with sour cream, and smoked white fish. That was his favorite childhood meal. His  father was a Orthodox  Butcher, a very scared skill that requires a thorough  understanding of Kosher preparation.

About six months had passed, and I came home one day and Cesar wasn’t there.  Instead I found my father in a rage. I asked about Cesar and he told me it was none of my business, and to start preparing dinner.  After my first salad preparation, Dad applauded my presentation, and assured me everything he was teaching me would serve me later on in life. He explained he had to be  harsh and demanding,  because he wanted me to be able to take care of myself properly.

I developed into a moderate vegetarian and have used that salad as a blueprint for most of my meals. Now I create a variety of salads, and a lot more ingredients:  like white beans,  garbanzos, walnuts, tuna, or shrimp,  artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes etc.   My friends call me a free-style cook  because I only use recipes when I’m making soups or stews.

I was very fortunate to grow up with a father who spent hours teaching me what I would need to know in life.  This is something you won’t read or see in a film about growing up with gangsters.

Demons and Dramas


Ben Siegel

To a drama-whore like myself, uncertainty is a cocktail. If my life isn’t wrinkled with folds of conflict, I will invent them. These past recollections were the building blocks of my future; I lived on the edge with my father.
Ann, my therapist, asked me about my mother but there was so little to tell. She was restrained to her secrecy, some vow she gave my father, and the personal veil of repression that cloaked all of her past. I told Ann that I was adopted into my friend’s homes by their mother’s, the ones who had met mine.
My best friend Denise lived in Brentwood with her divorced mother and siblings. We hooked in the dark unfamiliar and confusing imbalance of a broken home life.
Her mother was suffering depression after a recent divorce and I was dangling from my father’s fingertips, helplessly.
After my mother died, Denise wouldn’t let a day go by without calling me. “Are you all right,” she’d say. She didn’t like my father, and her reasons were mature beyond her years, “He frightens me.” Denise wouldn’t spend the night at my house, but once, and she said that I could stay at hers anytime I needed to get away.
After school one afternoon we stopped in the Brentwood Pharmacy. Denise was looking at the book rack and I was following along.
“ Luellen, my mother told me your father is in a book, The
Green Felt Jungle. It’s about gangsters. Want’a see if they have it?”
I agreed to look because Denise was interested, but it meant nothing to me.
Denise twirled the book rack around, and I stood behind her watching.
“That’s the book! Let me look first and see what it says,” Denise whispered. She tensed up; I could feel it in her arm, as I grasped her.
“Oh, my God, there he is,” she said, and we hunched together over the book and read the description of my father, “Allen Smiley, one of Ben Siegel’s closest pals in those days, was seated at the other end of the sofa when Siegel was murdered.” Denise covered her mouth with her hand, and kept reading silently.
“What does that mean? Who is Ben Siegel?” I asked.
“Shush, not so loud. I’m afraid to tell you this, Luellen. It’s awful. ”
“What’s awful? Tell me.”
“Bugsy Siegel was a gangster. He was in the Mafia. He killed people. Your father was his associate.”
“I don’t think I should see this,” I said and started to leave the drugstore. Denise followed me out.”
“ Why did Bugsy kill people?” I asked.
“Because that’s what gangsters do. Luellen, you can’t tell your father you saw this book. Please don’t tell him I told you.”
“Why not?”
“My mother told me not to tell you. Swear to me you won’t tell your father!”
“I won’t. Don’t tell anyone else about this Denise, all right?”
“Luellen, have you met any of your father’s friends?”
” Yes, I’ve met them. I love his friends.”
A short time after that I waited until my father left for the evening, and then I opened the door to his bedroom.
I walked around the bed to a get closer look at the photographs on the wall. It was the first time I could read the
inscription: To Al, my dear friend, Your pal, Ben.
I stared at his eyes, droopy heavy-lidded sexy, and a gleaming boyish smile. It was a different photograph, but it was the same man in the “Green Felt Jungle.” The photograph placed next to it, was of Harry Truman, with a similar inscription dated 1963. The disparity of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel alongside Harry Truman wouldn’t mean anything to me for another thirty years. At that moment I was driven with curiosity and anticipation of what Denise had told me.
I opened the top drawer of his dresser. It was fastidiously organized with compartment trays for rolls of coins, a jewelry tray of diamond cufflinks, rings and watches, and another tray of newspaper clippings. The next drawer was stacked with neatly folded shirts in tissue paper. Under that was a drawer with a lock on it.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” I slammed the drawer, muted by his stern expression. He pulled a key from his pocket, and locked the drawer.
“ HOW DARE YOU GO INTO MY THINGS! His hands shook, the veins in his neck inflamed.
“What is it you’re looking for? Luellen. Tell me, or else you will not step out of this apartment for a month. LUELLEN! Speak up! What are you looking for?”
“ I was looking for pictures?” I stammered.
“ What kind of pictures?”
“ Photographs. Of…Mommy.”
“ You’re lying to me! Don’t think you can fool me, you can’t. You want to see photographs, have a look at this one.” Then he pointed to the picture of Ben Siegel. Every vein of his neck swelled. He reminded me of a snarling wolf about to rip my head off. I looked down at the ground, and held my breath.
“Now you listen to me and don’t forget this for the rest of your life. This is Benjamin Siegel! He was my dearest and closest friend. You’re going to hear a lot of lies and hearsay about him. They call him “Bugsy,” but don’t let me ever catch you using that term. ” I  have not forgotten.