When Sam met Sam
by: Sam Mirlesse
October 19, 2011
It was around 8am just a little over a week ago that I woke up and found I had a missed call notification from a number with a state area code that I had to look-up to try to figure out who it might have been. Minnesota? Who do I know from Minnesota? Luckily, whoever had called had left a voice mail too: “Hello Sam, this is Sam… Shepard, I’m eating oatmeal here in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel and I was wondering if we were on for this portrait thing? You can join me for breakfast if you like. Call me back.” Apparently when Sam agrees to be photographed over breakfast, he means breakfast, and nothing even close to the hour of brunch. Obviously, I most certainly did call back to ask him if he was still eating his oatmeal in the lobby and that I’d jump in a cab and be there in twenty minutes.
Upon arrival I found him seated in a corner reading the newspaper. We both greeted each other with an identical “Good morning, Sam,” to which I couldn’t help but grin. Sam Shepard is not from Minnesota. He just happened to be there when he decided to get a cell phone, somewhat recently. In fact he grew up in the Mojave Desert, a self-described army brat, and now spends his time between Kentucky, Ireland, and New Mexico.
“Look at this photo! They made me look like a werewolf!” exclaimed the actor/playwright, gesturing towards the newspaper advertisement for Blackthorn, the new film about Butch Cassidy in which he stars premiering that night in New York. I glanced down at the paper. Indeed, whoever had retouched the image for the ad had decided to make Sam’s teeth almost glisten like a hungry beast and shape his facial hair a little too perfectly.
“I’m not into posing, so I’m just going to read to you out of my journal” Sam told me. He opened a page at random and squinted down at the mix of blue and black ink scrawling. I got the chance to listen to a morsel of this man’s poetry, read aloud in his own voice. As I snapped the pictures and asked him to look up now and then, he asked me if I was getting anything good. I told him the light was terrible and to keep reading to me. I moved around him and made him switch chairs. We ordered a couple more rounds of coffee. “Should I shave for the premiere tonight?” he asked me. “Nope. You look exactly the way people want Sam Shepard to look. Don’t shave.”
All photos by Sabine “Sam” Mirlesse