Sam Shepard (1943-2017)

Primarily known as an actor (Bloodline, Mud, Cold in JulyDays of HeavenThe Right Stuff, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for his embodiment of test pilot cool) and playwright (True WestBuried Child, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, Fool for Love, for which he won one of his many Obie Awards), Sam Shepard had a long relationship with rock ‘n’ roll. He sometimes played drums and/or percussion for the lower east side 1960s New York psychedelic folk band Holy Modal Rounders, here featured in Easy Rider:

In the early ’70s, he collaborated with Patti Smith on the play Cowboy Mouth. Their relationship is featured prominently in her National Book Award winning memoir Just Kids.

Nominally, the playwright co-wrote the largely improvised film Renaldo and Clara shot by Bob Dylan during his 1975-1976 Rolling Thunder Revue. Shepard also published The Rolling Thunder Logbook chronicling his  experience of the tour. A decade later, Shepard co-wrote a song with Dylan:

In 2007, Shepard again collaborated with Patti Smith, playing banjo on her cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:

John Heard (1945-2017)

Addendum: I must admit that I hesitated to post this obit as I usually only feature people related to music, even if the connection is sometimes somewhat tenuous, and I was unaware of any such connection with John Heard. Turns out there is one. My friend Thom sent me a link to this documentary about the early days of rock ‘n’ roll narrated by Heard.

The Great Bikini Nuclear Adventure

Controversy is mushrooming over the bikini contest a Czech nuclear power plant held to determine which of 10 female applicants would be awarded an internship. Their defense?

The purpose of the competition was to promote technical education.

But if the original vision raised doubts or concerns, we are very sorry.

Perhaps they would have done better trying to pass the contest off as their tribute to nuclear history.

On July 1, 1946, the U.S. began testing nuclear weapons on the Bikini Atoll (70 years later, the Atoll is still too radioactive for habitation):

Four days later, on July 5, 1946, Louis Reard made a splash at a Paris swimming pool when he introduced his new two-piece swimsuit design. He called it the “bikini” to commemorate the test.

Fourteen years later, on August 8, 1960, Brian Hyland hit #1 on the Billboard charts with “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”:

Thirty-four years after that, sometime during the summer of 1994, The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure hit drive-in screens (and later USA Network’s Up All Night, where I probably first saw it):

Believe it or not, this sexploitation film promotes a strong environmentalist agenda, not surprising given that it is an unacknowledged adaptation of Edward Abbey‘s agit-prop novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (the filmmakers really didn’t try to hide it, naming characters Abbey, the book’s author, and Hayduke, one of the book’s protagonists). So if these bikini babes had won the internship they probably would have used it as an opportunity to “monkeywrench” the plant.