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Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-winning Playwright, Dead at 73

Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American West, has died. He was 73.

 

Family spokesman Chris Boneau said Monday that Shepard died Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

 

The taciturn Shepard, who grew up on a California ranch, was a man of few words who nevertheless produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. He was one of the most influential playwrights of his generation: a plain-spoken poet of the modern frontier, both lyrical and rugged.

 

In his 1971 one-act “Cowboy Mouth, which he wrote with his then-girlfriend, musician and poet Patti Smith, one character says, “People want a street angel. They want a saint but with a cowboy mouth” — a role the tall and handsome Shepard fulfilled for many.

 

“I was writing basically for actors,” Shepard told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview. “And actors immediately seemed to have a handle on it, on the rhythm of it, the sound of it, the characters. I started to understand there was this possibility of conversation between actors and that’s how it all started.”

Shepard’s Western drawl and laconic presence made him a reluctant movie star, too. He appeared in dozens of films — many of them Westerns — including Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and 2012’s Mud.” He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983’s “The Right Stuff.” Among his most recent roles was the Florida Keys patriarch of the Netflix series “Bloodline.”

But Shepard was best remembered for his influential plays and his prominent role in the Off-Off-Broadway movement. His 1979 play “Buried Child” won the Pulitzer for drama. Two other plays — “True West,” about two warring brothers, and “Fool for Love,” about a man who fears he’s turning into his father — were nominated for the Pulitzers as well. All are frequently revived.

 

“I always felt like playwriting was the thread through all of it,” Shepard said in 2011. “Theater really when you think about it contains everything. It can contain film. Film can’t contain theater. Music. Dance. Painting. Acting. It’s the whole deal. And it’s the most ancient. It goes back to the Druids. It was way pre-Christ. It’s the form that I feel most at home in, because of that, because of its ability to usurp everything.”

 

Samuel Shepard Rogers VII was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in 1943. He grew up on an avocado ranch in Duarte, California. His father was an alcoholic schoolteacher and former Army pilot. Shepard would later write frequently of the damage done by drunks. He had his own struggles, too; long stretches of sobriety were interrupted by drunk driving arrests, in 2009 and 2015.

 

Shepard arrived in New York in 1963 with no connections, little money and vague aspirations to act, write or make music.

“I just dropped in out of nowhere,” he told the New Yorker in 2010. But Shepard quickly became part of the off-off-Broadway movement at downtown hangouts like Caffe Cino and La MaMa. “As far as I’m concerned, Broadway just does not exist,” Shepard told Playboy in 1970 — though many of his later plays would end up there.

 

His early plays — fiery, surreal verbal assaults — pushed American theater in an energized, frenzied direction that matched the times. A drummer himself, Shepard found his own rock ‘n roll rhythm. Seeking spontaneity, he initially refused to rewrite his drafts, a strategy he later dismissed as “just plain stupid.”

 

As Shepard grew as a playwright, he returned again and again to meditations on violence, masculinity and family. His collection “Seven Plays,” which includes many of his best plays, including “Buried Child” and “The Tooth of Crime,” was dedicated to his father.

 

“There’s some hidden, deeply rooted thing in the Anglo male American that has to do with inferiority, that has to do with not being a man, and always, continually having to act out some idea of manhood that invariably is violent,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “This sense of failure runs very deep — maybe it has to do with the frontier being systematically taken away, with the guilt of having gotten this country by wiping out a native race of people, with the whole Protestant work ethic. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the source of a lot of intrigue for me.”

 

Shepard was married from 1969 to 1984 to actress O-Lan Jones, with whom he had son Jesse Mojo Shepard.

 

His connection to music was constant. He joined Bob Dylan on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975, and co-wrote the song “Brownsville Girl” with him. Shepard and Patti Smith were one-time lovers but lifetime friends.

“We’re just the same,” Smith once said. “When Sam and I are together, it’s like no particular time.”

Shepard’s movie career began in the late ’70s. While making the 1982 Frances Farmer biopic “Frances,” he met Jessica Lange and the two remained together for nearly 30 years. They had two children, Hannah Jane and Samuel Walker. They separated in 2009. Lange once said of Shepard: “No man I’ve ever met compares to Sam in terms of maleness.”

 

Shepard worked occasionally in movies (among other things, he wrote Wim Wenders’ 1984 Texas brothers drama “Paris, Texas”) but took acting gigs more frequently as he grew older. One movie, he said, could pay for 16 plays.

 

Besides his plays, Shepard wrote short stories and a full-length work of fiction, “The One Inside,” which came out earlier this year. “The One Inside” is a highly personal narrative about a man looking back on his life and taking in what has been lost, including control over his own body as the symptoms of ALS advance.

 

“Something in the body refuses to get up. Something in the lower back. He stares at the walls,” Shepard writes. “The appendages don’t seem connected to the motor — whatever that is — driving this thing. They won’t take direction _ won’t be dictated to — the arms, legs, feet, hands. Nothing moves. Nothing even wants to.”

Shepard’s longtime editor at Alfred A. Knopf, LuAnn Walther, said Shepard’s language was “quite poetic, and very intimate, but also very direct and plainspoken.” She said that when people asked her what Shepard was really like, she would respond, “Just read the fiction.”

 

In Shepard’s 1982 book “Motel Chronicles,” he said that he felt like he never had a home. That feeling, he later, acknowledged, always remained.

 

“I basically live out of my truck,” Shepard said in 2011. “I feel more at home in my truck than just about anywhere, which is a sad thing to say. But it’s true.”

Los Angeles Reaches Deal with Olympic Leaders for 2028 Games

Los Angeles reached an agreement Monday with international Olympic leaders that will open the way for the city to host the 2028 Summer Games, while ceding the 2024 Games to rival Paris, officials announced Monday.

 

The arrangement would make LA a three-time Olympic city, after hosting the 1932 and 1984 Games.

 

With the agreement, the city is taking “a major step toward bringing the Games back to our city for the first time in a generation,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

 

He called it a “historic day for Los Angeles, for the United States” and the Olympic movement.

 

The agreement follows a vote earlier this month by the International Olympic Committee to seek a deal to award the 2024 and 2028 Games.

aris is the only city left to host the 2024 Games.

The Los Angeles City Council and U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors will consider the agreement for approval in August. If approved, the IOC, LA and Paris may enter a three-part agreement, clearing the way for the IOC to simultaneously award the 2024 Games to Paris, and the 2028 Games to LA. The IOC vote is scheduled for September, in Lima, Peru.

 

In embracing what amounted to the second-place prize and an 11-year wait, LA will receive a financial sweetener.

 

Under the terms of the deal, the IOC will advance funds to the Los Angeles organizing committee to recognize the extended planning period and to increase youth sports programs leading up to the Games. The IOC contribution could exceed $2 billion, according to LA officials. That figure takes into account the estimated value of existing sponsor agreements that would be renewed, as well as potential new marketing deals.

 

LA and Paris were the last two bids remaining after a tumultuous process that exposed the unwillingness of cities to bear the financial burden of hosting an event that has become synonymous with cost overruns.

LA was not even the first American entrant in the contest. Boston withdrew two years ago as public support for its bid collapsed over concerns about use of taxpayer cash. The U.S. bid switched from the east to the West Coast as LA entered the race.

 

But the same apprehensions that spooked politicians and the local population in Boston soon became evident in Europe where three cities pulled out.

 

Uncomfortably for IOC President Thomas Bach, whose much-vaunted Agenda 2020 reforms were designed to make hosting more streamlined and less costly after the lavish 2014 Sochi Games, the first withdrawal came from his homeland of Germany.

 

The lack of political unity for a bid in Hamburg was mirrored in Rome and Budapest as support for bids waned among local authorities and the population. It was clear they did not want to be saddled with skyrocketing bills for hosting the Olympics without reaping many of the economic benefits anticipated.

 

Just like in the depleted field for the 2022 Winter Games which saw Beijing defeat Almaty, the IOC was left with only two candidates again.

 

With two powerful cities left vying for 2024, Bach realized France or the U.S. could be deterred from going through another contest for 2028 if they lost. Bach floated the idea in December of making revisions to the bidding process to prevent it producing “too many losers,” building support that led to LA and Paris being able to figure out themselves how to share the 2024 and 2028 Games.

 

The dual award of the games relieves the IOC of having to test the global interest in hosting the Summer Olympics for several years until the 2032 Games are up for grabs.

 

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson called the agreement a “win-win-win scenario.”

 

The opportunity to host the Games “is a golden occasion further strengthening Los Angeles — not just through bricks and mortar, but through new opportunities for our communities to watch, play and benefit from sport,” Wesson said.

Online Suicide Searches Spike After Netflix Released ’13 Reasons Why’

Online searches about suicide and suicide methods spiked in the weeks following the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a show that dramatizes the suicide of a teenage girl, according to a U.S. study released Monday.

Google searches about suicide were 19 percent higher than average in the 19 days following the show’s release on March 31, translating into 900,000 to 1,500,000 more searches, researchers reported in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. 

The study did not examine whether the actual number of suicides increased following the series’ release, but researchers said the internet search trend is troubling.

Google search volumes for things like “how to commit suicide,” “commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” all decisively spiked during the 19-day window after the show’s release. A 2009 study suggested “suicide search trends are correlated with actual suicides,” according to a letter accompanying the study in JAMA.

Many mental health experts concluded that Netflix acted unethically by releasing the series. In it, a high school girl leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that explain the decision to take her own life. The series, which some argue glamorizes suicide, has been renewed for a second season.

The San Diego State University researcher who led the study, John Ayers, called on Netflix to reconsider the show and the effects it is having on its teenage-skewing audience.

“Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide,” Ayers told VOA in an email. “Tragically, it is unsurprising then that we find the show has increased suicidal thoughts.

“The show’s makers must swiftly change their course of action, including removing the show and postponing a second season. If not, subscribers should consider canceling their subscriptions so not to support programming that can cause premature death. I am no longer a subscriber.”

Currently, the most violent episodes are prefaced with warnings. Netflix has also created a website equipped with suicide hotlines for each of the countries in which it can be streamed. In a statement, Netflix defended 13 Reasons Why, saying that the show has spurred an important conversation.

“We always believed this show would increase discussions around this tough subject matter,” Netflix said. “This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for season two.”

The study analyzed Google trends between March 31, 2017, and April 18. They halted their research on that date because former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez committed suicide on April 19, a development that might have skewed the data.

Researchers used the period between January and March 2017 as a control to determine the expected volume of suicide-related Google search queries.

Уряд пропонує цього року святкувати День Незалежності 4 дні

Кабінет міністрів України рекомендував роботодавцям перенести робочий день з п’ятниці, 25 серпня, на суботу, 19 серпня, таким чином влаштувавши безперервне святкування Дня Незалежності упродовж чотирьох днів – з 24 до 27 серпня.

Як ідеться у відповідному розпорядженні уряду, таке рішення для керівників підприємств та організацій пропонується «з метою створення сприятливих умов для святкування Дня Незалежності України, а також забезпечення раціонального використання робочого часу».

Рекомендація, однак, не поширюється на органи Пенсійного фонду, «Укрпошти», Держказначейства та банківських установ.

24 серпня – державне свято. Цього року Україна відзначатиме 26-ту річницю Незалежності.

У ДСНС попередили про пожежну небезпеку на півдні й сході України

У Державній службі з надзвичайних ситуацій попередили про пожежну небезпеку, яка зберігається у південних та східних областях України.

«31 липня у Запорізькій, Одеській, Херсонській, Миколаївській, Харківській, Донецькій, Луганській, Дніпропетровській, Кіровоградській, Полтавській областях надзвичайна (5 класу) пожежна небезпека», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Рятувальники звернулися до громадян з проханням дотримуватися правил пожежної безпеки під час перебування в лісах, парках, на відкритих територіях тощо.

За даними Укргідрометцентру, сьогодні в Україні переважно без опадів, денна температура повітря 25-30 градусів тепла, у західних областях – 31-33.

 

У ДСНС попередили про пожежну небезпеку на півдні і сході України

У Державній службі з надзвичайних ситуацій попередили про пожежну небезпеку, яка зберігається у південних та східних областях України.

«31 липня у Запорізькій, Одеській, Херсонській, Миколаївській, Харківській, Донецькій, Луганській, Дніпропетровській, Кіровоградській, Полтавській областях надзвичайна (5 класу) пожежна небезпека», – йдеться у повідомленні.

Рятувальники звернулися до громадян з проханням дотримуватися правил пожежної безпеки під час перебування у лісах, парках, на відкритих територіях тощо.

За даними Укргідрометцентру, сьогодні в Україні переважно без опадів, денна температура повітря 25-30 градусів тепла, у західних областях – 31-33.

 

Italian Poster for "Casablanca" Attracts $478,000 at Auction

The only known surviving Italian issue poster for the classic movie “Casablanca” has sold for $478,000 in Dallas at a public auction of vintage movie posters.

 

The firm Heritage Auctions says the price ties a record for the highest amount paid for a movie poster at a public auction.

 

The 1946 Italian poster — four years after the Oscar-winning movie was made and first shown in the U.S. — measures 55.5 inches (1,409.7 millimeters) by 78.25 inches (1,987.55 millimeters). It previously was owned by a collector in London.

Auction spokesman Eric Bradley says the buyer Saturday chose to remain anonymous.

 

Bradley said Sunday the price equaled the record amount paid in 2014 for a poster for “London After Midnight,” a 1927 silent movie where Lon Chaney played a vampire.