Wenzel: Stars, horses and Sam Shepard

Eventually, all reporters cover a famous actor, politician or athlete. It's a simple likelihood based mostly on longevity, position and beat, but also a little luck.

Eventually, all reporters cover a famous actor, politician or athlete. It's a simple likelihood based mostly on longevity, position and beat, but also a little luck.

The file of famous people interviewed by the Herald's renowned hockey reporter Brad Schlossman, for instance, must be longer than a college kid's laundry list.

I've got a few.

As a former sports editor, I covered the high school sports careers of former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and longtime NBA player Mike Miller. I once had an awkward, terribly uncomfortable interview with former Twins manager Tom Kelly.

As a news reporter, I covered former Red Cross Director Elizabeth Dole and argued with her communications director. Once, in front of Al Gore, I was chewed out by a small-town mayor - who threw a wonderfully unique and vulgar term at me right in front of the vice president - in the wake of a natural disaster. Ask me and I'll tell you what that mayor said, but I can't write it here.


As an editor, I spoke often with 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, who lived down the street and who would occasionally stop in the office of the newspaper where I worked.

I covered appearances by Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Barack Obama. Although I didn't personally interview them, I was nearby in the press pool.

And, of course, my job at the Herald means I get to visit with nationally known columnist Marilyn Hagerty.

But one of my favorites was a 20-minute, impromptu visit with Sam Shepard at a bar in a tiny town in 1991.

Shepard died Sunday at age 73. He was an accomplished playwright, according to the obituary on the national news, but he also was famous for movie roles in the 1980s and '90s, including his spot as Chuck Yeager in the 1983 movie "The Right Stuff." He won a Pulitzer Prize for dramatic writing and was nominated for an Academy Award.

Back then, he also was the longtime boyfriend of Hollywood beauty and Cloquet, Minn., native Jessica Lange, which was especially interesting to me. She debuted with the 1976 movie "King Kong" and followed that with roles in "Tootsie" and "Cape Fear."

She was easy on the eyes. Vavoom.

Shepard was notably quiet. Tuesday, CBS newscaster Charlie Rose talked about how he always wanted to interview Shepard but the actor always declined.


It reminded me of that time back in 1991, when Shepard strolled into the bar in tiny Kadoka, out in South Dakota's badlands where I was working that summer. He was in town filming the movie "Thunderheart." During one scene in that movie, I'm standing right behind the camera; I still call my wife into the room every time I see it.

Shepard could have sat anywhere, but came right to the bar, sat next to me and ordered. Nachos, I think, and a Budweiser. Definitely Bud-not Bud Light.

He talked about South Dakota. He talked about horses. Unfortunately, he didn't talk about Jessica Lange.

I never let on that I knew who he was.

After 20 minutes or so, he dropped a few bucks on the bar, stood up and left.

"Good talking to you, Sam," I said.

He glanced back, nodded and walked out.

Funny how a nonchalant discussion about horses - of which I know nothing - still ranks as one of my favorites after 26 years in news business.


Publisher Korrie Wenzel writes occasional columns for the Herald.

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