Bill Hart, 1937–2008


Bill Hart, friend Johnny Dark, and Sam Shepard, circa 1970
Rafael Pazmino

Bill Hart was a director and a former literary manager of the Public Theater. In addition to many other productions in his long career, Hart directed Sam Shepard’s States of Shock and Tooth of Crime (Second Dance). Shepard remembers him here.



Billy died today at one forty something

sitting straight up

listening to a tale of how he saved someone from suicide

talking them down from a steep pitched roof


last I saw him


clutching at some invisible hand-hold

falling back exhausted

thrashing forward like some broken bird


mouth agape

he would just come out with things

like: “I had no idea it would be such a long journey away from evil.”

or: “We’re already dead, aren’t we? We’ve already done this?”


recklessly crashing down the midtown street

accidentally knocking over James Baldwin

“Poor Little Jimmy,” he called him

Mailer waking him at all hours

picking his brain about graffiti

Was it really Art?

Was it really Life?

Was it really Real?


character witness on behalf of Lenny Bruce when he was up for “Obscenity”

and shooting smack

Lenny called him “The Groovy Kid”

but that was back when he really was

when his eleven year old head was gently held

between the trembling palms of Lady Day

and kissed upon his high forehead

when he ran with two white dogs

through the streets of East L.A.

flailing in circles

sometimes berserk

sometimes profoundly stoic

always brilliant and shining with ideas

that seemed to come from far across the known world


who could see directly into the heart of a thing

and call it by a name you could suddenly recognize

with new eyes:

a play

a film

a story

a tale

a legend

a poem

a flight of birds


with not a mean bone in his body

acerbic lightning voice

and a mind that will always shine

on those of us lucky enough

to have crossed through its piercing beam

Sam Shepard

Pecos, New Mexico


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