I recently read Patti Smith's truly excellent memoir, Just Kids, which details the singer's famous friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe from beginning to tragic end. As you may or may not know, Patti Smith and Sam Shepard were lovers for a while, and this period in Patti's life is just as romanticized in the book as any other. Patti Smith writes about Shepard with a lot of love and kindness. That said, here's the thing: I think Sam Shepard is a dick, and so, apparently, did Robert Mapplethorpe.
We've debated whether or not Sam Shepard is a hot playwright on this blog before. Link says yes. I say no, only because I suspected he was an a-hole. My suspicion has been confirmed. Patti Smith and Sam dated for a while before Patti knew who Sam actually was. He went by the name "Slim" (ugh, how pretentious) and Patti had no idea he was an Obie winning playwright. She wouldn't know his real identity until Jackie Curtis pulled her into the girls' room one night and yelled, "Don't you know who that IS?" Strike One.
Okay, a short diatribe that's somewhat unrelated. it burns me up that Jackie Curtis would be star struck by Sam Shepard when Jackie Curtis is JACKIE FUCKING CURTIS. If you don't know who Jackie Curtis was, (s)he was an Andy Warhol girl and the star of Women in Revolt. She was a genius comedian and the world is an uglier place without her. I don't know, it just makes me sad when the world doesn't remember the right artists and SO often those artists are queer artists. If I had a nickel for each of them, to quote a John Waters' movie, "I'd buy a big purple Cadillac and drive around and laugh at poor people." Anyway. Diatribe over.
Patti continued to date Sam even after his whole weird "not telling her who he is" thing. They wrote and performed the play Cowboy Mouth together.Then she found out he had a young wife and a new born baby at home. And she continued to date him! Okay, I know a lot of the blame must be placed on Patti for going along with all of this, but she wasn't the liar. (Also, I like her work a lot more than his.)
Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard seemed wary of one another. Of course Mapplethorpe was wary... look at the shit Shepard was pulling. Ladies, if your oldest friend in the world doesn't like your new boyfriend, chances are your boyfriend is a total dick. If your new boyfriend doesn't like your oldest and best friend, chances are your new boyfriend is a total dick. It's true in both directions.
Eventually Sam Shepard sort of stops talking to Patti Smith, which is fine. Patti went on to marry the love of her life, Fred "Sonic" Smith form MC5, for whom she wrote the beautiful song Fredrick. Sam Shepard went on to become, well, Sam Shepard.
It was a funny experience to read this book. I've been a huge Patti Smith fan since I was in Junior High School. Obviously, I don't know her personally, but her music is so intimate that it sort of feels like I do. And I've been the best friend to enough girls that as soon as "Slim" entered the book I thought, "Uh oh. I bet this is Sam Shepard and I bet he's a total dick."
I was right, and so was Robert Mapplethorpe.