I was a big fan of Sam Shepard. His writing, his acting, his face. Mostly his writing. Mostly his face.
He was a man made of dreams. ‘He was just everything one could want,’ said Patti Smith of their first meeting. A cowboy, a writer, a rock n roll energy, a classic face. A crescent moon tattoo in the crook of a hand, of course.
He’s the sort of hero one would conjure up. A cowboy and an American literary genius. Is there any word sexier than the word ‘playwright’ (and even then they so seldom look like Sam Shepard)? A man of letters and the outdoors. He was Cowboy Mouth perfect.
Last night, I spent a lot of time flicking through his Seven Plays. Just reading odd pages and lines, the rhythm of it all. The set-up to La Turista, talk of whisky under the sofa…
“This isn't champagne anymore. We went through the champagne a long time ago. This is serious stuff. The days of champagne are long gone.”
Later in the evening, and all I wanted in the world was to watch Paris, Texas. (Shepard wrote the screenplay.) It’s a film I haven’t watched in a long time, but which haunts my memory like I suspect it does all those who have ever seen it. The loneliest film I have ever seen. Nastassja Kinski in her pink sweater. I watched it as a teenager, around the same time I first saw Betty Blue, and I still conflate the two in my mind. Photogenic desert ennui, doomed love. Something to aspire to – they probably had too much of an effect on me at too young an age.
The day before, the worst sort of Sunday, I had woken up in a half-dream panic: I could not remember the number of the house where my ex-boyfriend and I fell in love. It was over a decade now, and yet this struck me as all wrong. It was a significant house, even though it didn’t look like one. I looked the road up on a map and I discovered the very same house was currently for sale. The breath was knocked out of me as I scrolled through photographs. An ugly sofa where there used to be a drum kit. A baby's room where we used to sit on the floor and watch subtitled films with the curtains drawn, for days on end. I knew those rooms; I walked those floors. I used to live alone before I knew you.
The same desert feeling of sadness.
I was convinced I owned a copy of Paris, Texas. Maybe once I did. Turns out now I don’t. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I thought it had to be on Netflix; it wasn’t. The closest matches that came up were Paris is Burning (a favourite that I have watched and watched into the ground) and Last Tango in Paris.
I had never seen Last Tango in Paris all the way through. I vividly remember seeing part of it. Drunk-ish, late at night, in bed with a boy called Rich, who was not my boyfriend. He was an old friend, though; he was a sweet soul. I was 21, before all of it. Marlon Brando on a tiny TV propped in the corner of the room before we passed out.
Last night, I watched the whole film. I hated it. It was the worst thing to watch. I thought I’d like that early 70s mood, the Paris apartment, the coats. I love a good coat. I hated Last Tango in Paris. Did I mention I hated it?
It’s like when I read The Story of O and expected it to be much like Anais Nin, who is my favourite. Safe to say, it was not, and I still pretty much take that book as a personal insult.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I do not find Marlon Brando remotely attractive. Not at any stage in his career. I do not care for his face. I would like it to be known that I do not find angry men attractive. I do not. Give me the good ones. Give me the Cowboy Mouth playwrights, please. Or just a man with a truck in the desert, who writes books no-one will ever read.
It was number 26, by the way. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it again.