Updated 9/29/99 (New additions will always be first)
"My Old Man HATED Lou Gehrig!"
I went though your website with great interest. It must be exciting and challenging to be a musician in New York City. Wife and I will be in NYC in September making a feature movie about Central Park. That is yet another story. But here’s a Shep-like story that really happened to me.
Per the subject header, here is an excerpt from a Shep-like story of mine. It is uncanny that Shep’s Army stories are quite like mine. After being drafted and taken away from my world of broadcasting, I was a dental assistant stationed at Fort Jay on Governors Island in New York harbor, which was First Army Headquarters during my gig there from 1961-63. But later on, I came back to the service as an Army Reservist. One of those roles was a commo instructor. As here’s part of that story. I have many more because I have 28 years of military service, including active and reserve duty. Shep is right-on with his real and embellished stories of the funny side of military life.
However, I’m going to fast-forward to “STOKESES GOLF WAR.” Yeah, that’s a deliberate typo on the real Gulf War, where brave US soldiers were stuck in the Muddle Yeast desert. It was the prelude to all the grief we’re encountering today in a cold/hot war. So there I was on a clear, cold winter’s day. I had just finished a story production houses for POST magazine. No, that’s not the Saturday Evening Post. This is POST, as in AV post-production. I was blest with lots of steady freelance work for this monthly. And I was wishing, as I stared at the word processor keyboard, that I could be sent someplace exciting to cover a story. And that would be a rarity for they mainly gave those plums to their own staff. And besides, I have to pay my own plane and hotel expenses and take that, ultimately, off my taxes.
Then the phone rang! It was like G-d answering my wish. But in an unusual way. It was Mark, the Unit Clerk at the Army Reserve school where I was an instructor. After I said hello, here’s how the conversation went.
“Hey big guy, are you sitting down?”
My thoughts immediately went into the “what-did-I-do-wrong now?” military serfdom thought train. If you’ve ever been in the military, that thought mode stays with you, even if you become Supreme Commander of the Free World with medals trailing down your uniform. But I attempted to derail that Private E1 worry and panic.
“Hey El Marko. Did my promotion come through?” I was trying to laugh off any impending doom.
“You’re going someplace warm next week.”
“Ah, Fort Bragg again?” I was hoping for two weeks in the sun going to a training seminar down in sunny North Carolina.
“Nope. This is the Big Sandbox.”
He wasn’t. So fast-forwarding again to me and commo instructor buddy along with 40 other Senior Instructors from other commo Reserve schools across the country. We were all standing “at ease” while the CSM/Command Sergeant Major looked at a list. Then he had an intense conversation with several other highly ranked staffers. This went on for ten minutes. And so we all speculated what was going to happen to us.
Now at this point, I have to tell you that we all held the “31 Charlie” MOS/military occupational specialty. And a 31C—bear that in mind. It is a “C.” We were the Sgt First Class and Master Sgt teachers of how to operate commo radios and bury field wire, among a multitude of military communication tasks.
Then the CSM called us to “attention” and then to “at ease.” He was now very chatty like a regular guy.
“Do all of you folks 31 Charlie qualified? Are you also 31 Lima qualified? That is, do you carry both MOSes? Ok. All Charlies raise your hands.” We all raised our hands. “Ok. All Limas raise your hands.” None of us moved.
Then the CSM gave out with a huge guffaw. “Well, it looks like the Pentagon made a mistake. Some clerk at the Pentagon mistook the request for 32 Limas for 31 Charlies. They do look alike written in pencil! So we gotta figure out what to do with all you Charlies now!”
At this point, I have to explain that there is a mammoth difference between the Charlies and the Limas. Something like the difference between Alphas and Epsilons in George Orwell’s novel “Brave New World.” Quite simply, the Charlies work with radios and wire while the Limas type letters and fill out forms in an office. And so the Gulf War effort required, in this case, folks who could do clerical tasks, not fix and operate radio gear.
And we 31Cs were all standing on good southern soil because of a 31L clerical error! That’s part of my Golf War story. Oh and Augusta is the site of a world-famous golf tournament. ###
That’s just a sample from my military adventures. I have lots more.
Do you have an interest in how these might be sold and marketed? And I hope you enjoyed this story. J
August 20, 2008
Bob, I stumbled across your web site and it is as if I arrived in Nirvana! Wow, Jean Shepherd. I am a 52 year old man, married, a grown son. I live in Canada, have been here for over 30 years, but I grew up on Long Island (East Meadow) in the '60s. I LIVED to listen to Shep every night. My father thought I was crazy, listening to that "character on the radio." But, his was a true art form, as you indicate, unique. I am sitting in my home office here in Ottawa, Canada, listening to the real audio files you have on the web site, and all of a sudden, all the years just fade away. I am that pimply faced 15 year old again, with Shep teaching me more about life than high school ever did. What memories! From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Actually, I was luckier than most, as I was and still am a ham radio operator. I fully appreciated all the references to ham radio Shep made on his show. One day, here in Ottawa, I hit bonanza. Yes, I actually worked Shep, K2ORS himself. What an experience. Unfortunately, I was on 75 meters and his signal wasn't that good. I lost the contact. What a disappointment! All the best, and keep it up. Regards Carl Raskin Nepean, Ontario
Fri.July 2 1999 Once again, I'm up too late because of Jean Shepherd. BEER...BEER...BEER...(as the troop train pulls away). My father and I only had to say that wistful intonation of the word to one another to call up the emotion of this classic American tale (which, by the way, we had heard separately, on different nights, though under the same roof). Jean Shepherd probably got closer to the real heart of America than anyone ever has--and I think he knows as much. Fitzgerald's Gatsby had his green light beckoning across the bay, Nabokov's Humbert had his nymphet, but those worlds arrive at a different level than the way things really are, and America is ultimately about the way things really are. This wasn't an accident. The rough drafts of the shows became the honed stories through a remarkable mastery of craft. I've read far and wide, and never found a better discussion of authorial irony, and how it sneaks up on the truth, than the introduction to Phantom of the Open Hearth. If Shepherd seems dismissive of the radio work, (1) he wasn't there in the dark to get sucked into his own invisible world (2) he probably doesn't really want to remember the more mundane backstage details of the shows, the way one doesn't dwell on an old job, or an old marriage, (3) the recorded stories, both written and filmed, were obviously his intended destination all along. The lionization of the less accomplished, and slightly precious, Garrison Keillor must rankle a bit. Not to mention the wholesale plundering of his narrative technique and tone by The Wonder Years, by way of "A Christmas Story". (Has anyone else ever pointed this out? It's so absolutely undeniable, even down to the physical resemblance of the father and two sons to Shepherd, that I always anticipated the gesture of casting JS as the family's paternal grandfather.) And has Shepherd ever been on the front page of a major book review? I doubt it, and I bet it pisses him off. I just hope the inevitable "rediscovery" happens in time for him to enjoy it. Thanks so much for having this page, and showing us that the endless night is still out there. Gordon Bean Los Angles, California
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 I was a kid growing up in Massapequa, N.Y., when I got a build-it-yourself crystal radio for a birthday one year. You may remember the kind: dead-simple to assemble, and when you were done you had to run a wire from the radio to a heating radiator or other metal fixture which would pick up the signal. Then, with an earphone jammed into your head you could listen to the faint broadcasts picked up by this most primitive of receivers. It was crude and fascinating, and I got into the habit of listening each night in bed before going to sleep. There was something mysterious and magical about seeing what strange signals this little plastic box, tethered to my radiator, could pluck out of the air in the middle of the night. Suddenly a fearless explorer of the airwaves, I roamed the frequencies in search of something new, something exotic, something weird. What I found was Jean Shepherd. Almost immediately my bedtimes became regular as clockwork. Each night at 11:45 p.m., I think it was, I was in bed, transistor radio jacked into my brain (the crystal set soon proved too low-fidelity for serious listening), waiting for the bugle to ring in that demented circus music and for that laughing, mocking, sardonic voice to come on and tell a story to me, me, just me, giggling under the covers in my suburban bedroom, thrilled at having found a secret friend in the night. All too soon, it seems now, I was grown and gone, and then Shep also moved on - although not before I caught one of his broadcasts live at the Limelight one night before smoking marijuana for the first time in a wonderfully seedy East Village hovel. I have since had my share of adventures and pleasures, but never have I felt as adventurous or as privy to arcane knowledge than on those nights spent in the dark of my bedroom, eyes closed, letting Shepherd's voice carry me away to places mundane or bizarre while providng me with a priceless education in the art and power of story-telling. Tonight I found your site, plugged one of Shep's clips into the RealPlayer thingy and next thing I knew, I was back in my Massapequa bedroom, that familiar voice doing it to me once again. Very cool. Thanks for the trip back. -Richard van Abbe
Sat, 5 Jun 1999 Hi Bob, For years I've been telling people about this absolutely deranged genius who used to be on WOR in the middle of the night. Usually I get the patronizing smile " Sure, Bob, sure, sounds great" People here in Massachusetts have been missing a hell of a lot more than a World Series Pennant. They missed out on a man who could: Off the cuff, in the middle of the night, summon all of the faithful to Jones Beach to build the "World's Largest Human Pyramid " They showed up ! ! ! How about the night John Wanamakers' burned down ? Who assembled the band in the vacant parking lot next door and invited "The Faithful" to attend the spectacle ? " "Nero, eat your heart out ! " One night, in 1954, I was alone in our new little house in Copiague, my wife was at work at the Amityville Hospital and I turned on the radio as I painted the kitchen. " Hey you !!, Hey !! Hey you !! I mean you !! Take a deep breath ! A deep one !! C,mon ! Deep ! My little Silvertone radio was suddenly a dictator ! Taking a break, I thought "What in Hell is this ? Okay, Okay " I took the deep breath and little did I know I was hooked ! The voice then ordered me to stand up straight and at the top of my lungs repeat " I'm great ! I'm great !" After all there was no around to ridicule my childish behavior, so what if I indulged in a little foolishness. I took the deep breaths, stood tall and let it fly ! " I'm great ! " Guess what ? There was a feeling of exhileration ! I let it fly again and again. Who is this guy on my radio? Of course there came the time to "Hurl the Invective". This was just a little too much. After all, I was new in the neighborhood. I wasn't about to be packed off to Brentwood for screaming obscenities out of an open window at 2:00 AM . Not me ! Still........ Well...... I opened the window and guess what ? There was all of this crazy screaming coming out of windows all up and down Emerson Ave. This guy referring to himself as "I libertine " was real !! Shep's disappearance, and the frantic calls for information regarding his whereabouts, the run on New York City's supply of Sweetheart Soap, his emergence and the aquisition of Sweetheart Soap as a sponsor. This was the Shepherd Mystique ! I kept on taking those deep breaths and not only was I great Shep was great !! Finding myself suddenly a rider on a crosstown bus with Shep on the front bumper, banging on the windshield, screaming for the driver to stop and let him aboard. The utter disregard shown by the driver as he wove his way through the traffic at ever greater speed. Yeah, Bob, I knew Shep. I was indeed fortunate to have been one of "The Faithful" and know something else ? I'M GRRREATTT ! ! ! Bob Bowley Marblehead, MA
Alas - I too was smitten by the Shepherd's web. Growing up in N Jersey (Clifton) I was a shepherd fan. All of the truly intellectual people were. :^) In eight grade, I am in catholic school. I scratch "Flick Lives" on the blackboard on the way out one day. The following day, Friday, Sister Eileen Marie wants to talk to me privately. You guessed it. Ron Martin (A little weasel eraser-cleaning jerk) saw it and ratted me out. What I didn't know was that Ronnie but a filthy slant on it and well, what was Sister to do? As I was being spoken to, she suddenly got red faced. I explained about Flick, Scwartz, Brunner, Oshenslagger Dildock and the rest. She realized her mistake. It wasn't until years later I realized the faux pas of F L I C K L I V E S written with a sloppy hand! As a teenager, my amigos called me Hieni Girtz or just Girtz, thinking that a good name for me. So, my pals borrowed that from Shep. What was the name of the theme for his show? I know it by heart but never caught the name. Also, I used to subscribe to Car & Driver because he wrote there. I was too young for playboy! Also, I got to see him live and I recall one of his shows at FDU (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. or Fairly Ridiculous Univ.) I also became a ham radio operator and I recall all the ham stories (He is K2ORS but you know that.) I remember seeing him embarrassed on the Kovacs show - wow - what a put down but he and Kovacs were two great artists. Why compare Picasso and Van Gogh? And why do we expect them to be friends? Anyway - any more sound clips. I am awash in nostalgia. Also - don't marry a polish girl! Now I am in Austin TX thanks for the web site. Jeffrey P. Miller
March 28, 1999 Bob, HOT DOG! Your website does indeed bring back memories, such as this gem that survived all these years in the hidden recesses of my brain: "Needix shmeedix, double beedix, pipkins all agree; Rover Dover, Smokey Stover eats there, so do we." Profound, huh? I think of Old Shep once in a blue moon when I get a whiff of Brasso (which I used for polishing my brass for ROTC at Rutgers, while listening to Shep) or whenever I run across the famous head-thumping song "The Sheik of Araby" in a fake book, or when I run across some reference to the Rubaiyat ("A Needix hot dog, a Nee-Hi Orange, and thou, baby, beside me here in this wilderness"). Sunday nights, nine to one, WOR, 1957 through 1961 or so. I left NJ then, but a friend sent me a box of reel-to-reel tapes of Shep in the early sixties, which, I'm sorry to say, I got rid of somewhere along the way. Question: How did Shep store his head when not in use? Answer: In a chamois skin bag. Of course, he took it out once a month or so to give it a good rubdown with Neatsfoot oil. "Seriously, ya gotta take good care of your musical instrument." Shep, in an occasional moment of self-aggrandizement, would say he thought of his stuff as art, not just entertainment. I think I might even go farther: I think he more-or-less created a new art form, which, unfortunately, he has been the only successful practitioner of. There was an immediacy, intimacy, and spontaneity about his stories that I have not run across anywhere else. And buried in those stories, there was a worldview, and a philosophy of life, that remains with me long after I have forgotten the stories themselves. And though I rarely remember Shep these days, I think that, in a sense, he has been trailing along behind me all these years, poking fun at me; goading me on whenever I feel the impulse to hurl an invective or deflate some pompous windbag; and reminding me of something that I can't quite put into words -- perhaps that all glory is fleeting, but a good laugh lives on forever. Or then again, maybe all of that is just romantic prattle, the ravings of my own inner pompous windbag, or a rationalization for an adulthood fecklessly misspent! At any rate, the shades of night are falling fast, so let me conclude with a hearty "EXCELSIOR!" Keep up the good work. Ed Hines
Date: Fri, 08 Jan 1999
Thought it might be a good time to share a few Shep stories with you.
Feel free to use all or part as you see fit.
I started listening to Shep sometime in the mid-1950s when I lived with
my Mother in New Hope, PA. WOR was about the only station we listened
to, and I was a big Long John Nebel fan (which was tough for a high
school kid, as his show started at midnight and went to 5AM)- so
generally I got to listen only on weekends. But I remember that Shep was
on before Long John, and I became a big fan.
Not too many people know that Mad Magazine had an article by Shep on
Night People vs. Day People.(NOTE FROM BOB....IT CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.advanix.net/~jsadur/shep.htm#ARTICLES
I recall a photo of Shep and some
illustrations. That issue was long since lost- do you or someone else
recall what issue of Mad that was? It was my first good introduction to
Here's a really bizarre incident, and I swear it's true. This
happened sometime in the late 1950's. I was in bed listening to Shep
when my Mom came into the room to say good night. She and I made some
small talk and as she started toward my bedroom door she, for no
particular reason, vocalized a little tune-not any particular tune-
just several notes, like, "la-da-dee-da-de-da", at which point she
turned to say a final "good night". Before she could say anything,
Shep, in the middle of some story or another, paused and vocalized,
"la-da-dee-da-de-da"! The exact words, pitch and inflection! Mom was so
stunned she almost passed out. And I was speechless. She asked me if I
heard Shep "parrot" her tune back, and wanted to know, "How did he do
that?" Of course I had no answer. Fantastic coincidence or...?
Some time in the late 1950's or early 1960's Shep had a TV show on, I
believe, WPIX in NJ. That was a long way away for the TVs and antennas
of those days, but I could sometimes get a faint picture, and watched
from time to time. I remember that it was pretty low budget, and not all
that good. Shep was much better on the radio. I wonder if any of those
old shows survived. Probably not...
I briefly attended Stevens Institute in NJ in 1961/62. I was a ham
radio operator, and of course knew Shep's call, so I looked up his
address-it was in NYC, right across the Hudson from Stevens. So on a
trip to NYC I went to his apartment house. Now this was one of those
places with a doorman, so normally that was as far as you'd get. But
when I walked into the lobby the doorman had his back to me and was
engaged in some heated discussion with someone. I was too naive to know
that you had to get the doorman's permission to contact the apartment
residents. So I strode to the tenant list, found Shep's name and
apratment number, and buzzed him on the lobby phone. I introduced myself
as a ham, and we had a brief conversation. Shep said he'd like to invite
me up for a visit, but that he'd just gotten back from the dentist where
he'd had a couple of teeth pulled, and that he was in a lot of
discomfort. About that time the doorman saw me, and came storming over
teling me to "get the Hell off the phone and who the Hell did I think I
was, "etc., etc. So I can say that I at least got to talk to Shep. But
after 40 years of hamming, I have never run into him on the ham radio
However, one of my ham friends in NH DID have a chat with Shep a
few years ago. (Shep's call is pretty well known among hams, so there's
usually a good "pile up" of hams trying to talk with him.) My friend had
a good chat (he's also a Jean Shepherd fan of course), and he told me he
got a good laugh from Shep when he told him that he was using a homemade
amplifier with a surplus current meter that was calibrated in "percent
fat". He told Shep that when the amplifier was runing well, it would
show 80% fat. Shep thought that might make a good story...
When I went into the Air Force after college I was one step ahead of
my draft board, and ended up in Basic Training while awaiting
commisioning school. I had brought along only one book to read on the
trip to Texas: "In God We Trust". Well, the first thing they told us in
Basic Training was, "No books other than a Bible and religious works".
The Drill Instructor glanced at "In God We Trust" lying on my bunk,
smiled and started to move on, then did a double take. He took a VERY
close look at it, and promptly confiscated it! (Had I been a bit
quicker, I'd have told him, "That's MY Bible". )
As for "I Libertine", well, I was aware of how Shep came to produce
this. So I got a good laugh when in 1964 there was a letter to the
Editor in the Burlington (VT) Free Press about this book. I wish I'd
saved it, but essentially, it was from an outraged gentleman who said he
was "shocked...shocked..." to discover that his local high school was
using "I Libertine" as a "required reading" for the senior class. "...We
all know what a libertine is..." he stated, and then went on to say that
while he had never read this book himself, he simply KNEW that it was
inappropriate reading for high school students, and that it would give
them all sorts of bad ideas. Well, I couldn't let that go, so I wrote a
letter to the Editor explaining who actually wrote the book, and how it
came to be, and that it was actually pretty harmless. Lo and behold, the
paper printed my letter! And in those days, there were so few letters to
the Editor printed, that all who's letters made it into print got
invited to a free dinner banquet courtesy of the paper's publisher. I
took a college girlfriend, and had a great meal. Unfortunately, we then
had to listen to the publisher expound on the virtues of South Africa,
and how Apartheid really wasn't so bad... (This was a pretty
conservative paper in those days...)
So, there's a few stories for you. I have many of Shep's PBS TV shows
on tape, but I recall the really early days with great fondness.
Maybe I can recall a few more stories at some point. But memory fades
over 40 years....
Thanks for a great site! I'll plan to visit often.
All the best,
Hey there!! Glad to find your Jean Shepherd page! I was introduced to Shep back in the 60's by a high school buddy, and was immediately hooked. I went out and bought a little GE portable transistor with an ear plug, and that was my Jean Shepherd radio. Every week night, I lay in the dark listening to Shep weave his verbal magic. When I went to college in Schenectady, I lost track of him butfinally located his show (syndicated, I think) on an Albany station and listened until he went off the air. On one show, he mentioned that he was going to perform live in NJ, so a few fellow fans and I made the pilgrimage. I had my trusty Jews Harp along, and gave it a twang at a quiet moment. Shep looked out and said "Let's hear that again". Naturally, this time I flubbed it completely, making a terrible grating sound much to my humiliation. Shep's comment was something like "See, you can always tell the amateurs". It was done in good humor, and although I was embarrassed I also thought it was pretty funny. Many of Sheps stories involve the main character's gaining profound insight into some aspect of life through a seemingly trivial incident- eg the Little Orphan Annie decoder story or the classic bind date story. Over the years, similar things have happened to me and I've said to myself "Ol' Shep would appreciate this one!". To me, that's the mark of a great story teller. Keep up the good work! Seltzer bottle Mac! Paul Busman Troy NY
Fri, 25 Dec 1998 Dear Bob, Like one of your previous writers, I too grew up in Hessville. Lived about 5-6 blocks from Shep's house. Flick's Tavern was my Dad's old hangout, and the first bar he took me to the day I turned 21 (1964). I'll never forget the bus load of patrons Flick would take to White Sox night games when I was a kid. Dad would always take me along. Stopping buy a rib joint on the south side of Chicago on the way home from the game was the highlight of the evening. I can taste those ribs right now! I first became acquainted with Shep's writing in college at I.U. A buddy (from Hammond) in the same dorm ran to my room one day with his latest Playboy shouting, "You got to read this!" It was Shep's article about fishing at Cedar Lake. We both roared as I read and then shared our own stories about trying to catch one of those puny crappies. A few years later my Dad comes home from Flick's with a copy of In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and tells me I have to read the first few pages. Now my Dad never read a book in his life. The newspaper always, but never a book. So I knew I had to read it. I couldn't believe it. The description of Jack (Flick) and his tavern was perfect. I finished the book by the next day- what a kick. I later married a librarian, another great story teller, who came home from the library with Wanda Hickey. I was hooked. Unlike those of you who could hear his radio show out east, I stayed in the midwest and had to settle for catching Shep on his PBS series. I would love to hear your tapes. I never miss seeing A Christmas Story each year. I, too, wanted a Red Ryder BB gun, but my Mom was like Ralphie's and was sure I would shoot my eye out. Well, maybe next year. Thanks, Bob, for putting together a great web site. And if Shep is out there somehwere, thanks to you for helping me relive some special times in my life. I would love to swap stories with you sometime. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Steve Beison
December 1, 1998 I was introduced to Jean Shepherd in the mid 60's by a couple of expatriate NY City beatniks who left the Village in search of Kerouac. The Jersey Shore was as close as they ever got to San Francisco..... one night they stopped at the gas station where I worked after from 4 till midnight. At a few minutes before 10, a pair of Maynard G. Krebbs look-alike contest winners pulled up to the island, bought a buck's worth, and asked if I had a radio. Bruce Morrow was playing the top 40, as I recall, and in the middle of my girlfriends favorite song, they walked inside, and made themselves at home...... THEY CHANGED THE STATION!!! I only knew of a handful of stations: WOR (my mom's radio dial was welded in place, and we suffered through Make Believe Ballroom and Martin Block every morning getting ready for school...) WLS in Chicago, and K-something in Little Rock came in strong at night. Nobody under 25,; no one I knew, not a soul with an ounce of cool would intentionally listen to WOR... big bands, Joe Franklin and Memory Lane - if they did, they surely wouldn't say anything. I listened by default, in silent protest, getting ready for school every day.....dope fiends, I had been told about guys like them - irreverent, uncouth, unshaven, dope fiends, always on the lookout for a gas station to rob...... The conversation was rather one-sided.... "Our radio is broke, and I can't miss Jean Shepherd...." Not wanting to be robbed, or beaten to a pulp, or maybe even worse..... I gave them run of the place, then called the boss.... He was old - maybe 30 - a big and rough dock worker from Brooklyn. He'd take care of them.... A half- hour later, I was mesmerized by the story, how it weaved from past to present. The characters all came to life in a bigger-than-life sort of way. The boss showed up, kicked them out and fired me on the spot...... Best thing that ever happened to me..... I lost my girl (who gained 100 pounds, had 6 kids and now lives on welfare....) I buckled down in school and eventually graduated from engineering school.... I was a faithful listener (until I joined the navy in '68, and even then my folks would sometimes tape his shows and send them to me). I began tuning in to Barry Farber, as well, and became a dawn-age talk radio junkie...... I met Jean Shepherd, once, at the '66 NY Auto show when he was hawking the Rover 2000 TC...... "whatta car. The old man'ld be proud to drive one....." I was just out of high school, and working as an MG mechanic at a Rover dealership in Bradley Beach. I won tickets to the show, and I ran into him at the Rover hospitality suite - I didn't recognize his face - I had no idea what he looked like, but I recognized his voice in a flash.... I introduced myself, and we chatted for a few minutes. By the time I got out of the navy, he was no longer on the radio. After all these years, the memories are still quite vivid. His commentary, wit, and interest in events that often bordered on the bizarre, were all part of my real education. Nowadays, my radios are tuned into NPR.... every once in a blue moon, his inimitatable voice fills the car with stories, and memories. As a matter of fact, my second career is a business based on restoring the Rovers (and MG's) that were new when he was hawking them. Mark Childers
Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 Found your Shep page. Great. I, too, grew up with Shep. Even used to go into the city (from NJ - home of the Flagship) to see him at the Limelight. My recent story: I'm a car nut and 2 weeks ago went to the huge auto flea market in Carlisle PA. Vendors galore with car parts galore - and always a few things that aren't really car parts - like toys. But this year we hit the jackpot. A vendor had two leg lamps!!!! He'd made them himself and modeled them after the Christmas story. They were correct with black mesh stocking, heel shoe, and fringed shade. He said he'd made a crate, too with the "fra-jee-lee" marking. I convinced my friend to part with $35 for one. He was a vendor there, too, and displayed the lamp in his spot. We had many, many comments from knowing and approving Shep fans. A few wanted to buy it. The lamp is presently in the office of Plainsman Auto Supply in Morristown, NJ, but will be relocated to the owners bay window for the holiday season. My old story: Back in the sixties we had a struggling amateur theatre group in Morristown and Shepherd came out to do a fundraiser for them He packed Morristown High School and it was a memorable evening of classic Shep. I need to spend more time on your site and will check out the links. My main reason for doing a Shep search was the acquisition of the lamp and the realization that I haven't hear of him in years - not since the Greyhound commercials he did on TV. When was that? WHERE IS SHEP NOW?? Frank Carey
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 It's been so many years...back to the late 50's and early 60's...WOR was on in the house AM and PM--from John Gambling and Peter (The grackle is a noble bird) Roberts through JS. I remember being very young and hearing my father, who would stay up to listen to S., say "This guy may be one of only a dozen people in America with any brains." This was 1959 or earlier. Considering he was a full professor at Yale, and my father, I listened. And, I got hooked young: I wasn't more than 11 or 12. I'd listen every night I could until he was no longer on the air; even as a teen. My girl friends couldn't, stand it. I'd even stop necking to listen. If he came back tomorrow I'd pay every night just for another 45'. All those stories (Mom was from central Indiana, a town called Bourbon, appropriately dry) so there was another connection, too. That tale of the guy who got off the troop train down south to get the beer--or the bottle opener?--and the last you saw of him was as the train slowly pulled away into that night. Any of the Flick stories, night after night. The years I taught English, I did a comedy course, and Wanda Hickey was a central part of it. It was funny; I was listening briefly to a horrible sports station (WFAN) that had IMUS on it, and the sportscaster suddenly remarked, "You know, radio isn't anything anymore more than a bunch of guys answering questions and shouting; I mean, you don't hear guys like Jean S. anymore...45' of solid, one-man entertainment...no one could do it." It was true and utterly disheartening. And the guy went on to the usual fanchat about the Knicks. But I know nothing. Where is JS? What does he do? Where, or where could one get those shows? You said tapes. Do such things exist? Is there an archive? Has S. himself got them? Did WOR ever keep them? Or is it just fine folks like you who are gradually gathering what there is? I have nothing but memories of a man who was a formidable influence in my life. If you have the time, I'd like to hear from you. I have book marked the page and will continue to visit. Just to hear that horse race closing... Sam Bacon
Hi Bob, Apart from the state of shock I fell into upon seeing the recent picture of Shep, I have thoroughly enjoyed your page. I am 33 and I too recall sitting in bed at night around 9:15 with my small clock radio under my pillow, listening to this wonderful madman weave an image of his 'old man's' basement in my mind, or Scut busting 'his' glasses. I dreaded the moment when that trumpet began to sound in the background, and yet another 45 minutes of pure pleasure was about to end...and then Shep himself would keep coming back with a wisecrack. The first commercial I ever paid attention to was for General Tires. Buh-Boom--Boom! Ah yes, the memories. I was first intoduced to Jean Shepherd by my brothers who owned a copy of his album "The De-classified Jean Shepherd". I spend hours listening to that album, even the lousy music, until it was memorized word for word. The album is long lost but the words remain. The first time I saw him in person was 1969, in a mall in Woodbridge, NJ. He was on a book signing tour for "In God We Trust..." when I stepped up, aged three, and asked him to sign 'my book'. He laughed and smiled at my parents, and signed it, "To that rat-fink son-of-a bitch runt Eric! You'll never get away with this! Jean Shepherd. I displayed it proudly in my room for years afterward, until my grandmother saw it and almost had a heart attack one Thanksgiving. In 1971, following one of his early shows at Alexander Hall in Princeton, my brother Bill and I stepped outside and found him standing by his new car, an orange Datsun 240Z, with the hatch open. We introduced ourselves and thanked him for the great show, told him how we listened regularly to his radio show on 'OR, about the autograph the year before. He said he remembered me, adding, "I don't get too many three year old fans asking for autographs." Suddenly, he pulled out a bucket and a black pipe and asked us if we wanted to help him wash his car! It was eleven o'clock at night and the only light was a street lamp over the parking lot. Who the hell washes his car at night? Later I was to learn that Shepherd was known around town as a, well...sort of...wild guy. He would drive his motorcycle up and down the sidewalks of Nassau St. waving a can of Carling Black Label, scaring the bejesus out of the local pinstripe oxford alumni. My brother Bill has the photos of this late night encounter in his possession. It is the only thing I could offer in trade for said radio show recordings. I saw him many more times through the years ,until I moved to Florida in 1988. I worked in a restaurant near Palmer Square in Princeton, and he would come in there before and after the shows. Only the beer was no longer on the menu, and he would reply to my inquiries about his earlier antics with phrases like, "That was my past life, kid." It amazes me how a man with such talent in print and on radio, television and in motion picture has not been properly recognized. I do my best, introducing friends and co-workers, so I am happy to see this page and others. Good work. Carry on, Mens!! Best Regards, Eric Nabstedt
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 1998 Dear Bob, I served in Vietnam 1967-68, with the 1BN, 11th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division, Charlie battery, and HQ&HQ Battery. The point of this e-mail is to tell you about one scared kid, who at the age of 20, opened a box of books, that where provided to us by Special Services. These books where brand new paper backs, and most of the titles where, where for the most part stuff that I have long since forgotten. We used to get these books once a month. In June 1968, I opened a box of books and discovered Shep's book "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." That book and I became fast friends, I read it whenever I could steal a few moments of peace from the war. It brought me great joy and I took it everywhere with me, on convoy duty, Medcap missions, on R&R in Hong Kong, in helicopters. It always had a place in my right leg uniform cargo pocket. I have always had a copy of that book in my house for the past thirty years, although the original copy was lost to the ages years ago. I have always wanted to thank Shep for that book, it helped me get through one very bad time in my life. Thanks for you neat WWW page, I never knew that there was a site for Shep. Should you see Shep anytime soon would you please give him my thanks, I won't say that his book saved my life, but it brought joy, tears of laughter, and a touch of home to a sacred kid. Thank you ever so much for your time and understanding of a now old soldier's story. Take care Bob, and thanks again:) Sgt. Richard D. Lendley Hopkins, Minnesota Vietnam 67-68 Desert Storm 91 (And I took a copy of Shep's book to that one too!)
Like everyone else I'm thrilled to find the Shepherd page. I grew up in Brooklyn and probably started listening to Shep in the early '60's. Typical little black transistor radio, about 3" x 2", in a leather case. My best friend in the whole world Stuart Smoller who was about 2 years older than I introduced him to me, and we would talk everyday about the previous nights show. When Stuart was killed in car crash later, I would listen to Shep and remember my friend. Funny how everyone mentions different stories, yet no one mentioned the "Nude Baseball Game" that was always my favorite, I can picture the game till this day. Other bits of Shep crossing my path. In 1969 I drove to Chicago with a friend, I insisted on stopping in Hammond Ind, and sure enough there really was a Warren G. Harding School there. In November 1966 I was privileged to see Shep speak at Brooklyn College and lucky enough to get him to sign my copy of "In God We Trust, All OthersPay Cash". I couldn't treasure Shakespeare's autograph any more. Thanks for helping to sustain the memories. Michael Rosenthal Brooklyn
Date: 5/22/98 Hi Bob; I just happened on your Shep page, what a thrill to find someone who remembers. I was there through it all. Especially the "I Libertine" gambit. I don't have time to really write at the moment, but I will. I too encountered Shep in the early 50's. I lived in Phila. where I was learning to love music and hate the Jazz Musician life style, and later met him (and your Dad) in mid decade. I went on to work for Down Beat, CBS records, and wrote a Music Column for years, and a whole lot more. In Real life, (the day job) I became a Life Magazine Photographer. I have long credited Jean Shepherd as the force that corrupted my vision sufficiently to allow me to seek out a wonderful and varied life. I just wanted to say that there is a part that I see nowhere (so far) on your page. In the bad/good old, early days, at WOR Jean had a friend named Oscar, the orange tasmanian Owl, with long green tail feathers. Does anyone remember that period, or did I just not find it yet? More later when I am not in a rush. Fred De Van
5/14/98 Bob: I'm the author of No Commercial Potential: The Story of Frank Zappa, The Ernie Kovacs Phile, and most recently Teenage Nervous Breakdown: Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age. Jean Shepherd kept me sane growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey in the late Fifties and early Sixties, and he was a great influence on my subsequent career path. I saw him in NYC in a play called "The Voice of the Turtle", actually spoke to him and when he replied calling me, "Kid" he scared the shit out of me. When I went to Rutgers in the fall of '63, he came down to the Student Union and opened with "Hello all you soreheads". Strange because Eric Nissensen, the author of biographies on Miles Davis, and John Coltrane and in the process of working on Sonny Rollins bio, thought I should write about Jean Shepherd. Which I'd do except how could one even attempt to use other words than his! I'll have to tell him to point his browser to this site. He made a world of difference to me, a beatnik/peacenik alienated kid and I suspect that there are many of us out there in real life who feel the same. This is a marvelous site, and you've done a wonderful job. BTW, I have a copy of The America of George Ade, it one of the reasons that I write fables in that style. What is he about these days, still working? well I guess I'll have to read further on. keep up the good work, best wishes, David Walley
Thanks for the Jean Shepherd page... I grew up listening to Shepherd on WOR. The first time I leard him was at my grammar school graduation party (1959), where I got a real eight transistor radio in celebration of my success in escaping the clutches of Sister (Mary-)Joan at Our Lady Queen of Peace here in Staten Island... My old man and his pals drank beer and listened to the Yankees on a leather Philco portable. The game seemed to go on forever, but I was in a new world ofwords - Shep made the images that night come alive. I never knew a man could do that. I was blown away that night.I listened to Shep throughout high school - no one else knew who he was,except my buddy Gus (who's name was Richard, but he didn't like Dick, so wecalled him Gus).I shared late nights with Gus, listening when we could, talking about stuff from those days in the early sixties before the Beatles. I lost track of Shepherd when I went away to college and to the Air Force and got married with kids and all. My kids are 21 and 17 now and we watch "A Christmas Story" and "OllieHoopnoodle..." and they know a little about Shep, but they look at me kinda strange when I tell them what he could do...Thanks again for the page and for the links and for the leads to his recorded voice. Bob Jake
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 I just discovered your Jean Shepherd page and loved it. In the early 60s while I was in high school, my friends and I lived each night with Jean's WOR show. Each morning we would greet each other with Jean's commercial segway from the night before ("speaking of soap ..."). I twice had the opportunity in college of meeting Shepherd when he came to the Universary of Miami for a guest lecture. One experience was actually quite humorous when we spent the day together in a rented car dodging a stalking fan in a Volkswagon plastered with bumper stickers. It's funny how some things stick in your mind after 30 years plus. I remember Jean was incredably friendly and patient to me, a young idolizing fan. Anyway, i am now Managing Editor of the NY Post and am interested in learning more about jean's fate. I'm also very interested in hearing some of the tapes you talked about. Please advise. Marc Kalech
Thanks for the great Jean Shepherd web page. Brought back lots of memories from when I was growing up in New Jersey in the 50s. I was really thrilled when "Christmas Story" came out and my wife could gain some understanding of who and what I had been talking about. Do you remember the time he asked his listeners, next time they came to a toll booth, to pay for the person behind them as well, and some of the reactions from the attendants and from the drivers of the following cars? Do you remember when he asked his listeners to phone in to request shows and ask them to play the Mozart Clarinet Quintet? (I left N. J. in 1957 to go to college in Mass.; I could sometimes pick up WOR from Boston, and of course I went home for summers and vacations. I moved to the West Coast when I got out of college in 1962 and that was about it. Merlin Dorfman
Date: Sun, 28 Dec 1997 11:19:43 EST Your page has brought back to life something I had missed for so many years now.... Hi, I'm Craig, and I'm a devoted Jean P. Shepherd fan starting from around 1973/74 - and although I only caught the tail end of Shep's Illustrious radio career, I was no less crushed when he began insinuating he would leave the hallowed halls of WOR. I knew him only in the context of broadcast radio... a medium I worked in for over a decade myself, doing endless voiceovers for products I could almost always hear Shep making fun of in the back of my head. I (like Shep) have been a ham radio operator since the ripe old age of 15... my Christmas dreams surrounded the latest Allied Radio catalogue (now Radio Shack) vs. the beebee gun. I recovered my old mans Eico tube amplifier and his retired Knight Kit tube receiver to dial up WOR and listen to Shep tell his tails over the 60Hz hum of (what to me was) electric sex. Like a kid... I just thought Shep would just always be there... and that everyone in the world has gotta know who this guy is... and if I did record a show or two... promptly recorded over them with some other garbage. What I do have are two shows from somewhere in the 60's (complete with Kent cigarette and Miller beer commercials)... and I'm desperate to add ANY radio shows to my collection. One show observes how "showbiz" is in everything (the Garden State parkway vs. the Turnpike). Listening to him tell stories brings back a time in my life I never want to forget. Your Web Page has caused that craving to well up again (along with a Christmas gift of "In God We Trust...", which sparked my curiosity, which landed me at your web site... Nice job on this one by the by.... true proof Web pages don't have to have exploding graphics to be powerful!) Cordially, in a really zany sense, Craig, N1gdr
..I nearly fainted. I was one of those countless kids, like you, who he kept awake in New York in the 50s and 60s. As an aspiring broadcaster, I used to spend Friday evenings at WOR and "saw" Shep a couple of times, as well as Long John, whose name might ring a bell too. That's another trauma unleashed by your site: I had my own college radio show on Friday nights on WFMU in East Orange/New York, and did hours and hours of "off-beat" radio ala Long John with many of his "regulars", including Augie Roberts, Dom Luchessi, Jim Mosley, Jack Robinson, Ivan Sanderson, Bill Daut, Andy Sinatra (The Mystic Barber of Brooklyn) and others. I still have many of those 90 minute shows at home. Shep and Long John had a profound effect on my own style as a broadcaster and to them I owe many thanks and my unflinching devotion to Radio.. Bob Zanotti Swiss Radio International Berne, Switzerland PS I still have a couple of original off-air recordings of Shep's, including 4th of July routine, ca. 1962. PPS Do you remember those experimental Shep and Long John TV shows on Channel 9 that ended in disaster...and so they should have. These guys were radio, not TV.
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 As a youngster growing up in the metropolitan NY area, I loved to listen to Jean on WOR at night. So years later, when in college at the old Newark State , I was thrilled to find out that the master was going to speak one evening. I was surprised that many of the kids in the audience didn't really know Jean like I did after years of listening to stories about Flick and Schwartz. Unfortunately this became my undoing that evening, because as Shep spoke, I anticipated what was going to be said next which would send me into total fits of uncontrolled laughter. I've never been known for a quiet lady-like giggle, but one of those laughs that causes other to start the same, even though they have no clue why they are laughing. Needless to say, Jean would stroll over to the side of the stage where I sat and send little one liners my way! Though mortified with my poor behavior, I was nonetheless estatic that HE targeted me! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I would gladly go through the embarassment again. Sue C.
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 1997 What a discovery! Your Shepherd info could have been written by me. I can't tell you how many nights back in NYC in the 60's the TV would go off and the radio would go on at 10:15 to listen to Shepherd on WOR (and don't forget the extended shows Saturday nights, from 10 to midnight! ) I'm an English teacher in upstate NY who tries to expose some concrete-headed adolescents to real stuff like that in Wanda Hickey and In God We Trust (are they out of print now?) I'm very interested in other titles of Shepherd material, both printed and audio. Any helpful suggestions? I have a few Playboy stories that I do in class (high school juniors), but little else. Is Shepherd still writing? Is he on the air anywhere?
Hi,I have enjoyed reading the wonderful stories and tributes that appear on your web site. Somehow I wonder what Shep himself would think... Anyway, like many others, I had several opportunities to "interact" with the grand master, mostly book signings and one-man-shows in the Village. But my best encounter was not so much with Shep, but with someone very close to him. It was the spring of 1971 and I was a freshman at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was "studying" to be an electrical engineer, but that fantasy lasted only a couple of weeks. I dropped a bunch of classes and was filling in my spare time by doing two radio shows on the campus station WPIR 660 AM. During the early spring of that year, Shep announced on his evening radio show that there he was going to do a press conference at a location in Manhattan. I think it was the Overseas Press Club or something like that...it was located across the street from the NY Public Library (41st between 5th and 6th?). The key was that the press conference was only open to reporters from school newspapers. To get in, one had to send a letter on "official letterhead" and request a press pass. This was not a public event. This was going to be an opportunity to get up close and personal with the man himself. I had to be there! I confronted the station manager at WPIR the next day...He was a dope-head senior, art major and more interesting in his next high than my destiny. He told me to leave him alone, to take some of the letterhead from his office and write my own letter...I did. Using the station typewriter, I concocted my request using the best business letter etiquette I could muster...those years of Catholic School were paying off! Much like the scene in The Christmas Story, I anxiously awaited the mail delivery each day. Several weeks passed and Shep was still announcing the press conference but the press passes were almost gone. I started to worry. How could it be? Was I too late? Finally, a package arrived at the station addressed to me. It was a large white envelope with Jean Shepherd's America emblazoned on the front. Curiously, I opened the package to find a stack of glossies of "the great one" in various poses on location around the proverbial JS's America. "What the hell is this crap?", I thought. I jettisoned the glossies quickly looking for my "secret decoder ring" buried deep inside the package.....my official press pass. Finally, I found the letter. "Dear Mr. Brandt...." great, who cares? And hidden inside, a simple card. My key to the Inner Sanctum was a simple white card. Admit One. By the way, I kept the package of glossies for many years and then must have tossed them in a weaker moment during one of my many moves. How I wish I had them now. The day before the press conference I convinced my sister to let me borrow her new Norelco portable cassette recorder. My thought was that if was to be a "reporter" from WPIR news, I needed to look the part. Indeed, there were no WPIR reporters, no news room...no news. We were a station full of funky hippie music 24 hours a day. No freak in his right mind (now there's and oxymoron) would dare to listen to news! But Shep was not to know this...heh heh heh. I took the subway to Manhattan that rainy weekday afternoon and entered the stately old building with plush carpets and lots of brass. The guard at the front desk examined my press pass spuriously and I waited patiently for the elevator along with about 50 other pimply faced youths who has had acquired the requisite passport to happiness...off to the fifth floor to see our fearless leader...the great one...Shep. As the crowd grew larger, the guard was less attentive to examining the "press passes." It was becoming quite evident that many of the throng had not gone to the trouble of acquiring the appropriate press credentials, as I had. The place was gonna be mobbed. As luck would have it, the first elevator arrived and was quickly filled to capacity. Some pushing ensued, but I waited for the next car, and then the next to arrive. Finally, I was waiting in the lobby with a handful of folks the most memorable being this rather gorgeous young woman with long dark brown hair. The elevator opened and we entered, I holding the door for the lovely lady. I tried to make small talk with the lovely lady in the elevator. She seemed disinterested. I was able to get her to acknowledged that she too was attending the Jean Shepherd Press Conference. Cool. We said little more to each other but she admit to being a big fan. As we left the elevator, she smiled at me, and said ..."Have fun!" That elevator trip and encounter would have been meaningless until toward the end of the press conference (all recorded on cassette), Shep introduced his producer Leigh Brown to the huddled masses. Leigh Brown was the beautiful woman from the elevator. My mouth dropped. I was shocked. I was speechless. I was on the elevator with Shep's producer. I had visited the Inner Sanctum...It was perfection. Actually, I was more shocked by the fact that for years I assumed that Leigh Brown was, Lee Brown, a guy. Duh! I think I heard that Jean Shepherd and Leigh Brown married many years later. Not sure if that is true, but clearly understandable. She went on to produce most of his TV shows and was involved in all of his films. So, the next time you ride an elevator with a beautiful woman...ah, forget it .haven't thought about this event in decades and your web site stimulated it. Thanks. from Augusta, Maine John Brandt
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 From: "Children's Theatre of Charlotte Hi. My name is Rob Odum, I work for the Children's Theatre of Charlotte in North Carolina. We're one of the top ten children's theatres in the country, and we're always looking for new ideas. Recently, we've been working on our playbill for next season, but we continue to be amazed at the lack of good holiday scripts around. I'm a big fan of Jean Shepherd, and "A Christmas Story," and I'm wondering if anyone has ever adapted it to the stage. I think it would make for a wonderful piece of theatre! Since you're obviously a fan (nice web site, by the way), I thought you might have some thoughts on this, or know how we might go about contacting Mr. Shepherd. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your consideration, Rob Odum Children's Theatre of Charlotte 1017 E. Morehead St. Charlotte, NC 28204 (704) 376-5745 email@example.com (Sounds like a great idea! Of course you could always do the one about "Ebeneezer Stooge" and "Bob Thatcher!") .....BK
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 Dear Bob--Thanks for this wonderful website! I first started listening to Jean Shepherd on WOR on September 29, 1971--one of the seminal dates of my life. I was almost sixteen, a callow high school junior (Clifford J. Scott HS, East Orange NJ) who was working after school at the local branch of the public library when the other kid working there, John Lawrence Parsons, Jr., first told me about Shepherd and his radio show. For the next three years, I listened to Shepherd as often as I could--which was,until I went off to college, almost every night, and afterwards whenever I could get hold of someone's car and drive to a high hill where I turned on the radio to 710 on the AM dial and picked up the show. For years I taped his shows on 45-minute cassettes, and figured that thiswould keep me to my old age, especially after he left the show go to pursue film-- alas, in 1978, some asshole broke into my dad's house and swiped all of my tapes--still a searing loss after all these years (seriously). Occasionally, when all is quiet, and after a beer or two, my mind will cast itself back to those wonderful shows.Listening to Shepherd gave me the tips on how to tell a story--not too long,not too involved, and relatively simple, to keep your audience interested. Sadly, the person around that I have found who comes the closest to Shep these days is Garrison Keillor and his "Prairie Home Companion"--but his use of irony and low-key delivery tends to make me wish for the punchlines and broad delivery of Shepherd. Shepherd is an acquired taste--when he had the show "Shepherd's Pie" on PBS("Jerseyvision"), it amused me that the reviews of the show were written by two distinct types of people--Shepherd fans who were estatic that the Master had brought his genius to the small screen, and walking-around types who had never heard of him and could not understand what he was about. At any rate--and forgive me for going on as I have here--I am very happy thatI have found your website and have re-accquainted myself with the majesty of the Mighty Shep. Thank you again! Excelsior! Reg Pitts KDAD40@aol.com
July 10, 1997
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear..Thanks to discovering your web site and that of Jim Sadur, my fascination with Jean Shepherd was rekindled. I always tried to stay up to listen to Schmid's weekly rebroadcasts, but rarely made it. So I have now purchased a fistful of cassettes from the merchant of yesteryear and go to sleep every night as though it were 1962, listening to 45-90 minutes of Shep.One of your scribes sent me a copy of a record of Shep reading Service poems--o joy. I have been reading them aloud for three years with a rinky-tink piano record playing in the background. But no one reads them like Shep. The amazing thing is how relevant he is today, to me, at the age of57--after 30 years in the ad biz and a life of a secret night person. I have kept secret journals in the folds of my RNA of all the wonderfully silly things that I have seen, heard and done; things I would not have appreciated without an advanced degree in Shepanthropology. His stuff really works! He once said in an interview with Studs Terkel that he was not dealing in nostalgia but in the reality of our daily lives. I still read the silly section of the Times and almost daily, there it is--some truth about the human condition that was chronicled by Shep thirty years ago. Shep has led me into a detour to the small house halfway up the next block,were Vic Sade and Rush Guk play out their little dramas. Ernie Kovacs had nothing on Paul Rimer!!, Neither did Bob and Ray. Lum & Abner weren't bad either. My next excursion will be into George Ade by way of Shep. Thank goodness I don't have to listen to WFAN any more. Joel Baumwoll
A high school pal turned me on to Shep around 1970. It was the Robert Service poems that got him hooked. I listened until Shep went offWOR around 1977. WOR blew away Bob & Ray from the afternoon drive time around the same time as they got Jean. A real unwanted housecleaning in my book! My favorite nites were holidays... Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb being read on a steamy 4th of July is every bit as exciting as a real fireworks display. Perhaps more. I caught him live at Fordham College and I laughed so hard my sides were aching. He told a story about being at college after the war and being so poor that for enterainment they had eating contests ... using Ex-Lax.The winner must've had some constitution. After he vanquished his foes (each in turn running out of the room) he calmly strode out into the night. I hope that Jean has seen your site and takes some pleasure in how he has influenced so many. My local "listener sponsored station" KKUP recently did a spoken word marathon and played an hour or so of tapes of Jean (Ludlow Kissel story, The My dad hated Lou Gherig Story). The two hosts provide the clues I needed to find my way back to Jean Shepherd's America! Regards, Charlie Rath San Jose
Dear Bob Kaye, Thanks so much for your Web page. I cannot tell you how moved I was to find so many others sharing my affection and deep love for his radio work, sharing my appreciation that his outlook and humor had been truly formative influences. My insomniac mother had been ruined by him before me. She was lucky--she heard him when he had a longer, freer overnight gig on WOR. In Shep's last year or two, when he read his written stories aloud, and the ads took up 15 minutes of the 45 minutes, it was difficult to be as much of a full-tilt teen-age fanatic as I had been when I first tuned in. ButI hung in there and saved my pennies for (low-quality) audio cassettes to save his shows. The little Norelco that did the recording turned out to have a timing problem, so the tapes sounded pretty slow when I last checked. I will let you know what I can salvage when I next move, and unearth the relevant box. It tickles me that you are also an accomplished jazz musician. At his best, Shep's mix of acid and sweet, his improvisational, suspenseful, playful storytelling, expanded the sense of what is possible in humor, specifically in sounded, spoken humor, in a deeply original way. The expansion of borders, the enlargement of the imagination from something truly fresh, that's what the best American art, jazz and humor do. Excelsior! David Grosof
You're right. I was one of the masses, huddled under my blanket with my pocket radio tuned to WNAC in Boston (where they ran the previous night's show from WOR), the only 12-year-old in Waltham, Mass., who was willingly in bed at 8 p.m. every night, listening to Jean Shepherd. My parents, who had turned me on to Shep, knew what I was laughing at. My kid brother, 7 years old, didn't, and when I would laugh too loud he would wake up and beat the crap out of me with Louie, his teddy bear. I remember the sound of his theme coming tinny though the $5 radio. I remember how he would start a story, then wind through endless back alleys and detours only to come back and finish it precisely as his closing theme drifted in! I remember, as you do, how it felt for him to talk directly to me. I remember it today, 30 years later. I'll remember it always. Thank you for your site. It brings back the sweetest memories of my youth. Excelsior, David Marcus
Dear Mr. Kaye, What a distinct pleasure to discover the Jean Shepherd home page. As an adolescent addict living in Lyndhurst, NJ in the mid sixties I listened six nights a week to the inventive narratives issuing from the WOR towers - the same antennae which poured out the insipid inanities of Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald, "Rambling" John Gambling, and the horrid, jaw-clenching voice of Martha Dean. It's ten FIF-teen in New York, and this is Martha Dean! I never knew how Jean Shepherd maneuvered his way into THAT crowd. I guess he hid in the basement and waited for everyone to go home, then came out and ran the station by himself, because there was no other way they'd let opinions like his go out over their air. I was fortunate to be able to see him perform twice at Metuchen High School. I remember the students presented him with an enormous, poorly crafted cardboard kazoo. He said he had thought it was a giant 'New Jersey Turnpike Relief Tube'. He told the story about the prepubescent girl stripper in the schoolyard, getting down to the red rubber rings and snaps on her underwear and gyrating in time to the beating of the line against the flagpole. Does anyone else remember that one? What was her name? But if I was fortunate to see him, I was blessed beyond all expectations when he actually made an entire show out of something that I sent him. I had been listening for some time, and I knew that he was interested in airplanes. In an old copy of Popular Mechanic's Illustrated History of Transportation I found an article about Lincoln Beachey, inventor of the 'loop' and early stunt pilot. Basically plagiarizing the book, I wrote him a letter telling of Beachey's life and showmanship, about how he would fly between two poles so close together that he had to tip the wings on end to get through; about the 'Death Dip', a series of near vertical dives from which he would pull out at the last possible instant; about his last flight where the wings tore off his plane. And he read it, on the air, the whole thing. He obviously thought it was a good subject, and went on about stunt flying and airplanes and Lincoln Beachey for an entire program. I was in ecstasy. Here I was, forty-two pounds soaking wet, a certified geek, and here was Jean Shepherd - Jean Shepherd, for cripes sake! - making a whole show out of something that came from me, me, ME! I still find myself using his phrasing and approach to situations, and talking about rump sprung house coats with fossilized egg stains, of puking up parts of old erasers I ate in the second grade, and wearing an electric blue tie with a hand painted snail on it, the snail growing to sit on my shoulder and belch to my horrified embarrassment under the hard stare of a blind date. I tell my son he can't have a BB gun because "You'll shoot your eye out". I know that one atom of GI soap can give an entire regiment the runs. And don't even ask about raisin Kool-Aid. When I get to heaven they won't hand me a harp, I'll get a matched pair of 6L6's, and I'll know just what to do with them. Leo Meire
Bob - What a pleasure it was to find your Jean Shepherd page on the web. I was born in '59, and grew up near Freehold NJ. I was a kid. One night I was up late, listening to WOR on this little clock radio I had (it had the little white numbers painted on the black metal flip things) (and a lamp) And I hear this William Tell overture with a kazoo over it...and this guy comes on and starts telling this story. To me. I swear it seemed like he was talking directly to me, and I couldn't believe he would take the time. It was like being hypnotized by his story. It was Shepherd and I was hooked. Was it Thursday nights? General Tire was the sponsor, and Shep used to get such pleasure reminding us that sooner or later we would own General. Ba-dum-dum. I will never forget the night when I found out that the radio staion could play Shep on tape, I think it was a story about an orange ice cream parlor next to some road out in Jersey. For the first twenty minutes I was thinking that the story seemed familiar--that he was telling it again, but then at some moment I realized with crystal clarity that I had heard this _exact_ story before. I was practically crying. That this intimate experience between me and the guy on the radio could be *counterfieted* by a stupid tape machine. I felt awful. Of course, now that I am older, I would give almost anything to hear those stories again. ...Which brings me to the question: Are any of these tapes available? A bronze oak leaf cluster with a brass fig-le-gee for this info. thanks again, Matt Arnold
I am a 50 year old mom who is the mother of computer genuis types, and who has been shamed into getting "on the net" or become road kill out here, so I have been thinking back on my life and reviewing all the things and topics that I enjoyed, besides my children. Back in the early 70s with little people crawling over my feet, I often recall that the only moments of sanity in my days were the times I spent at the sink on the south side of Chicago, listening to this fantastic guy tell his tales. I'm not sure even of the station, might have been public radio, I can't recall. I'm lucky I could find the radio, let alone recall the station each day, but I have laughed so hard that the tears dripped into the dishwater and I almost wet my pants. (Can you believe a sophisticated lady such as myself saying something like that, my kids would be appalled.) Several years ago one of those charming creatures I have been alluding to gave me a video of Christmas Story. Lately I have caught another movie, not sure of the name, perphaps something like "It runs in the family." But I'm not sure that is it. Anyway, now that I have found this page I shall stash it in my favorites, and visit you again. Thanks for all the good info. If you ask me, Jean's views on life are much more true to life than that sappy Walton stuff. A first wave Baby Boomer, Colleen Poncin Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 Note from Bob- "Hey I liked the Waltons too! I think they actually tried to AVOID the sappy stuff!"
From: Mike Stanitski Dear Mr. Kaye: When I was (I believe) approximately eleven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, I came down with a cold or the flu or another one of those stock childhood winter illnesses, and I stayed home from school one day. I was lying on my parents' bed drinking ginger ale and staring at the ceiling, and my mother walked in, handed me a book, and said, "Here. Read this story. You'll like it." The book was "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", and the story she gave me to read was "Duel in the Snow, OR Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid". Needless to say, ever since that moment, I have been infinitely grateful to my mother. I read the entire book, and over the next few years, I made my way through the rest of his books. I went on to study English in college, and I now teach high school English at a private high school in New York State. I can't ascribe all of this to my love of Jean Shepherd, but he's certainly responsible for a lot of my taste in reading and writing. I have read all of his books over and over again, to the point where there are entire passages I can almost recite from memory. When I got dressed for my own high school prom, all I could think about was "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories". I read "Duel in the Snow" to my English classes on the day before Christmas vacation, since many of them have seen "A Christmas Story", but none of them have any clue about the genius behind the story itself. I just recently got online, and today, while I was fiddling around in cyberspace, I typed in "jean.shepherd" on a whim, not imagining that anything would show up. I'm thrilled to have found your website. I suppose I'm an anomalous Jean Shepherd fan; I'm only 27 years old, and I never had the chance to hear him on the radio. I only know him through his books. You're exactly right when you say that he has the ability to make a listener (or reader) feel as though he's telling a story to you and you alone, and that's how I've always felt as a Jean Shepherd fan. Reading Shepherd's stuff as a kid, I always felt as though Flick, Kissel, Schwartz, et al. were as real as my own friends were. The mills in Pittsburgh were closing down in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in some ways, Hohman was not all that far removed. Anyway, thanks for putting together the website. I live in Tarrytown, NY, and I'd love to go see Jean Shepherd at Princeton this year. If anyone knows when he's speaking, I'd appreciate it enormously if you could let me know. Sincerely, Mike StanitskiDate: Tue, 18 Mar 1997
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joel Baumwoll) Stumbled across your Shep page late at night. I was this kid see, and my old man was always giving me the side of his fist when I made too much noise at night. So I used to put my old Crosley under my pillow, hot tubes and all, to listen to Shep's all night show. I remember the crackling sound the old 6sj7's used to make when the Crosley heated up the pillow. But I wouldn't stop. I even became one of his spies. I sent him articles from the silly section of the times. A story from the sports page of a 1940 NY Post I found in a drawer got maybe 15 minutes on one show..It was one of my great achievements in life...better than my college degree. Just bought some old Robert Service books of poems. I read them aloud, remembering Shep's intonations--strange things are done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold... Jeez, I think a good part of my outlook on life and the silliness of the world comes from Shep. I think the Christmas Story is an excellent rendition of what I imagined his world as a kid to be like. Darren McGavin is great. So is Melinda as his mom. I sometimes confuse Flick and his friends for my preadolescent friends in Montclair NJ. Miss Shields is exactly like my 4th grade teacher. Shep once helped my friends and me get into an FDU concert he was doing without paying. We had no money and we hung around the door. He came in and said "there's a suspicious bunch of characters. Come on in", and in we went, as his guests. If you have any tapes of his overnight show--the one from Cartaret NJ that lasted I think from 11 to 1 am and was followed by Long John Nebel--I would love to have copies. These extended ramblings were masterpieces. four or five stories woven together with many diversions all coming back to the main theme by the end. There's no one ever been close to Shep. I hope he isn't too bitter in his old age that he was never as big a star as his ego would have liked and his talent warrented. But he sure had a big impact on a lot of lives. I wonder if he knows that. Thanks for your page.
Geeeezzz Bob, GREAT page! I thought I was the only one left in the world that could appreciate Jean's talent. I guess I've been lulled into this belief through my geographic location, actually not too far from Hammond. I'm in Kalamazoo, MI. Probably the geographic equivalent of "I, Libertine". I went to high school in Madison, NJ. during the early sixties.....class of '65. Needless to say, even at the early stages of my developement, Shepherd was a God of sorts with most of my gang. It was not a cult or fan club, just a group of guys and an occasional girl that "Knew" about Jean Shepherd. There was no way to describe him to anyone...you just had to know about him and listen. "Listen to Shep last night?" was a password of sorts among my contemporaries. I'm sure you recall the sixties as vividly as I do. Viet Nam, Kennedy, The Beatles, The Worlds Fair in NY, the pressure to go on to college, booze, pot, and more than I can recall. In the middle of all this was a guy who could take you to a place in your mind that had been all but forgotten......your childhood. Shep actually pioneered the "Inner Child" without laying any claim to it. He should sue the damned psycologist claiming discovery. He was doing guided tours of the inner child before anyone knew there was one....kinda like Uncle Carl with...."Geeezzz, I didn't even know there was a Bolivia!" In any event, thanks for the page. Next time I'm in NYC I'll try and see if you're playing and catch your show. Best Regards......Jack Pearsall
Date: Sat, 08 Feb 1997 22:02:29 -0500 From: Leonard Spivak <email@example.com> Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com I am 62 years old. I first started to listen to Jean Shepherd when he had an all-night radio show on WFIL I think in Philadelphia where I lived. It was maybe 1948 or 1949 and I was 15 or 16. His persona at that time was much different than it later became. He broadcast from the coffeeshop of a Sheraton hotel in West Philadelphia. When I got a driver's license I used to go see him broadcasing live in the hotel coffee shop while I ate a hamburger or steak sandwich. Besides his improvisational monologues he played a lot of wonderful jazz in those early modern-jazz days. It was quit obvious from his program that he was a true intellectual with very high standards and excellent taste in things like music, literature, automobiles, HIFI equipment, film, etc. Extermely sophisticated and knowledgeable about many things of great interest to me as a bright adolescent in 1948. He even looked fastidious and esthetic in his appearance at that time. And his manner, delivery and subject matter were much quieter and more serious than it later became on his shows on WOR. After Philadelphia he went to a clear channel radio station in Chicago which I could pick up late at night on the table radio I had in my bedroom. Of course I also used to hear him on WOR when he went to New York. I suppose it was around 1956 or 1957 when he was fired from WOR. A friend and I drove to Carteret New Jersey on his last night on the air. The station engineer and Shepherd's girl friend were real nice to us, but after the show, Shepherd was in a truly paranoid state of mind and seemed to feel we were there to mock him or enjoy his anguish rather than symphasize with him. I can well understand how he felt at that time. Anyway I believe there never has been or will be anyone like him in a mass intertainment medium in the USA, maybe anywhere. By the way, did you know he had a sustaining TV show on Sunday mornings in Philadelphia in which he tried to do visually what he did on radio?
Dear Mr. Kaye: Several months ago, as a web newbie, I searched in vein for a Jean Shepherd page or any reference to him. I found none. About two weeks ago I saw that Marc Fisher had written about him in a Washington Post article. I was delighted to find your page, even if by accident. I am one of many ex-New Yorkers whose high school years were influenced by Mr. Shepherd's late night ramblings. I met Jean Shepherd two or three times, in the 1960s, but these meetings were uneventful. I would love to trade Shepherd radio tapes with you but alas, I have none. I have a couple of his PBS stories on video tape and one of his record albums. I have a dozen or so "Vic and Sade" programs. Shep used to speak about Uncle Fletcher's radio antic. What I can most easily share is a real life encounter in Hammond, Indiana in 1968. It was not with Jean but with two of his featured players. Names and places have not been changed except by faulty memory. What follows is a condensed version of a story I wrote called, naturally enough, "Flick Lives!" I worked in Chicago during the first half of 1968. The company put me in a pleasant residential hotel just east of the Illinois Central tracks, near the lake. For enjoyment, I spent too much of my time drinking and chasing women on Rush Street. Being an MG sports car enthusiast, I also joined the Chicago Centre of The MG Car Club. At the February MGCC gathering I met a young man, a few years my junior, who lived in Hammond, Indiana. His name was Kevin and he aspired to own an MG of any vintage. My newly-acquired 1948 MG TC was still in storage in England. I told Kevin that he could go for a ride when it arrived, in a month or two. In early April I received a call that the car had passed through customs in New York. I flew to LaGuardia Airport and took the bus to Manhattan. From the East Side airport bus terminal, I took the subway as close to West Side piers as I could get. On the way, I noticed some red graffiti inside a subway station declaring that "Flick Lives." This reassured me that I was in New York again. At the pier, I inspected the vehicle and paid the customs agent a small sum. I then filled the car with gas, and drove west through the Lincoln Tunnel. After an overnight stop in Pittsburgh, I arrived in Chicago without incident. A week after my return, Martin Luther King was dead. Chicago braced for civil unrest and I was uneasy about the whole thing, especially living close to the predominantly-black South Side. I called Kevin and asked him if he wanted a guest for the weekend. He said "yes" excitedly. Friday, after work, I nervously drove south, looking for people on the overpasses. There had been stories about rocks and bricks being dumped on motorists. Hammond was calm. It might have been on another planet. That evening we talked about cars and Hammond. I told Kevin and his parents about Jean Shepherd and his boyhood stories. The family had ever heard of Jean Shepherd. Like so many people of the period they thought she was a country singer, which of course, she was. I tried to give then a sense of the master's shtick but was unsuccessful. By lunchtime Saturday I had driven Kevin all over the empty back roads of Hammond. We skidded around corners on out of the way dirt road. Most of the time, the windscreen lay flat on the bonnet. The railroad tracks were particular fun as the body and chassis went in separate directions. When we got hungry, he suggested we stop at Arby's. As I parked in their lot, a Rolls Royce parked close by. As we entered the restaurant, I noticed that the Rolls driver, dressed in a business suit, was eyeing my car. Inside the restaurant we ordered and took our seats. We failed to notice the Rolls driver who had approached the table. "Excuse me," said the man in the suit, "Is that your car?" He pointed to the MG. "Yes," I replied and shook my head. "Must be fun," he said. "It is," I answered, "but it's not very reliable. The starter died the day after I bought it." "My car is nothing but headaches too," he lamented. "Right now I have a gas tank leak." "Do you want to trade?" I asked jokingly. "We can make it an even swap. You don't even have to fix the leak." "It's a tempting offer," he said and paused. "You're not from around here are you?" "My friend is, but I'm just visiting. I'm from New York." "Maybe you've heard of my brother? His name is Jean Shepherd and he has a radio show." My jaw dropped. Kevin had no clue. "Randy?" I asked hesitatingly. "That's me. I guess you know Jean." Randy told us how he was selling insurance and doing quite well. He confirmed that few local people knew of his brother's career. "Mom is still lives in town." "Does she still wear that rump-sprung chenille bathrobe, with the spot of egg on it as she peers out the back window over the great inverted bowl of the Midwest?" Randy laughed. "Flick is still around too. He runs a bar on Kennedy Boulevard." Then it was true, I realized. "In God We Trust,..." Shepherd's recent and most successful book, was set in a bar. It was a series of stories tied together with small talk between the author and the bartender who was an old friend. The fictional bar was in Homan not Hammond. After lunch I took Kevin home and asked for a telephone book and a map. It was a simple trip to Flick's Tavern. I had to go. Flickinger's Tavern was plain, inside and out. Business was slow that Saturday afternoon. I ordered a draft beer from the bald-headed man behind the counter. He looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s. As he filled the glass, my eyes wandered over to the cash register. The sign was there: "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Next I looked around for a photo. I expected to see a photograph of Jean and Flick shaking hands but here was nothing. "Are you Flick?" I asked. He nodded. "This sounds strange but feel like I know you or at least knew you when you were growing up." "Why is that?" asked with a straight face. "Jean Shepherd has a radio program in New York City. He tells stories about you, Schwartz, Brunner and his Uncle Carl." "Really?" "He really does," I said. "You childhood is public knowledge." I mentioned a few of the incidents, most of which he confirmed. One or two he denied or corrected. "You're a bit of a celebrity, yourself. I've seen your name written on subway walls." I wanted to add "tenement halls" but I restrained myself. Flick's reactions told me that not many New Yorkers drank here. I changed the subject. Slowly, a question had been growing inside me. It was now bursting to get out. I needed to know the answer. "Why don't you have any pictures of Jean behind the bar," I asked. Unfazed, Flick answered me directly, "Because he never gave me a copy of his book." There was no anger in his tone. He just stated the fact. There it was in a nutshell. Flick knew what was important. Shepherd had used him for years and never gave him a copy of the book, not even a paperback! Solid, Midwestern values are not altered by fleeting fame.
Bob, I'm sitting here in my office with a smile on my face....just tickled to have found your page by accident. As people stop by my office, I tell them all about your page and Jean Shepherd and what he meant to me in my life. I too, share all the same experience as your other respondents. I spent the 60s in Philadelphia in the dark listening to the distant signal from WOR and moving my radio around to pick up the best signal. I don't have any personal encounters, but have wonderful memories. My first true love (Mike S.) and I always listened in our separate bedrooms and talked the next day about the show. When we had our very poignant teenage breakup at 17, we made each other promise to always listen to Jean. Much later after I was married and divorced, I found out that Jean was going to be at Princeton. My ride backed out on me at the last minute and a friend convinced me to let a French guy who he was entertaining for work, drive me up to Princeton. It was a very scary drive through the small streets of New Jersey at 90 mph. Once there, the concert was wonderful. I was in heaven. Jean told his story about going to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time when he was stationed at Fort Dix. He told about meeting the girls on the boardwalk and the all-you-can-eat meal and then of course the ride on the Salt-n-Pepper shaker and the resulting fiasco. The poor French guy did not get any of the humor and all the way home I had to try to explain to him the story. The next day he convince me to accompany him to Atlantic City to see the amusements. Anyway, it is so nice to finally "meet" some people on the internet who are my age. Most things I read are from people the age of my children. Thanks again for putting this together. Maybe someday my first true love will see this and get in touch with me. I've always told my children about Jean and have told Garrison Keilor fans that Garrison has nothing on Jean. Thanks, Carole R. Bell
I stumbled upon your Jean Shepherd page and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I must admit to being a recent convert to the Church of Jean Shepherd and am glad to know there are others who like to share their love of his work. I don't have any Shepherd encounter stories. My father passed away soon after turning me on to Shepherd's work. When my dad was in the hospital, my family and I spent a lot of time by his side. For the last few weeks of his life, my dad was in a coma so our days were sad vigils. However, a curious, wonderful thing happened. My father's friends kept bringing me Jean Shepherd books they said would cheer me up. Prior to this time, my only knowledge of Shepherd was "A Christmas Story" and a few Playboy and Esquire articles my dad had shown me. "A Fistfull if Fig Newtons" and "In God We Trust.." did indeed cheer me up and helped me get through what otherwise was a terrible time. Anyway, keep up the good work and thanks! - Jeff Merritt Winston-Salem, NC
Bob, I can't tell you how delighted I was to find your page. I too grew up listening to the master at night on WOR in the 60's. I also seemed to remember he had two program segments separated by a five minute news update. I was such a fanatic I had an encased speaker setup I placed under my pillow, the extension wire of which I dilligently soldered into the radio speaker terminals. I still have a burn scar on my finger from this project. The radio never quite went back together properly either. It was one of the first "transistor" models, a unique mix of black and white ivory plastic resin molded pieces designed to snap together. I broke the tabs during the dissassembly. Sounds strange, but it was the only way I could listen without my brothers and sisters complaining "it was too loud" all those late night hours. Shep sent us looking for strange things. Scut Farkus' Black Maria top story rallied a keen interest in a group of us "ShepHeads" to search for a "top killer" capable of destroying other tops. We never quite found one but we did manage to inflict a series of head and body injuries. I got the idea to drill out a lighter weight top and fill it with lead to increase its mass. The result was a series of welts on various limbs and a large black and blue "egg" on a friends forehead as we experimented with different high speed trajectories for the modified top. It never spun again and eventually ended up in the trash amid screams from my distressed mother. Marbles were less dangerous, and we got lots of them, but never seemed to know how to play marbles. I think we found rules once and quickly abandoned the idea as boring. Never could be as exciting as the late night descriptions. Seeking greater danger and excitement, one summer we modified an estes rocket by placing firecrackers inside it with a fuse mechanism designed to ignite the gunpowder. This experiment put us under severe scrutiny all summer from a series of adults who were the recipients of the debris but could never quite prove we did it. This success was followed by a fall experiment with a modified design, a pipe with a stubby little rocket meant to fire through it. This device was called the "bazooka", and was co-inspired by Shep's dago bomb and a Sargeant Rock comic book. The accidental launching of the device inside the science classroom during a lab period brought this initiative to rapid termination and an immediate suspension from school. Do you remember the story of Blimpie (??!??), the town drunk who everyone pitched in to buy a pre-fab home for. The story goes (if my memory serves me right) that the pieces came in on box car. The men in town spent all day unloading and spreading the parts over a large field, each piece having a distinctive tag with a part number and reference locater of some type. The event was held with kegs of beer to keep the men nourished as they unloaded materials from the box car. Every unloaded car was followed by more beers, slaps on the back and good natured congratulatory conversation on the good deed the town did by pitching in to finance the structure. Blimpie (if that was his name) revelled in the moment, almost tearful with joy. And then it began to rain. Pouring rain. The ink on the parts tags (parts were spread out over a mile, and the sun was setting over the field, as Shep described the scene) began to run off, and as everyone scurried drunkenly for cover, the final scene had Blimpie crying amid a field of parts which could no longer be recognized. I don't know if I got the story right, as my memory of it is well over 25 years old. I didn't see any references to another film, the summer version of a Christmas Story entitled "Ollie Hopnoodles Haven of Bliss", a collection of vignettes about summer vacation and associated activities. It was the same cast as in the Xmas classic. I am very anxious to get my hands on any recorded material, which I have been searching fruitlessly for years. Alas, I have nothing to offer but blank tapes, but I would really appreciate any help you can in helping me to get some recordings from the master. Please let me know how we can arrange this if possible. If not I understand, these are certainly busy times. At any rate, thanks for the wonderful page and memories. I'll toast Shep with a Bloody Charlie tonight, which is one of my favorite drinks (I love the extra olive). Glenn Schwartz
Shep Lives On! What a great find this page is! I stumbled across it this morning when, after many months of browsing, I ran out of search ideas. Out of the dark recesses of my caffine-numbed brain stumbled Jean Shepherd. My God! I can't believe I haven't looked before! In response to the gentleman in your Shep Experiences page who was afraid that "the Shepherd phenomenon will die out with the pre and early baby boomers." As a 26 year old, I'm here to proclaim, "Shep lives on!" Yes, a new generation of Shepherd fans lives on, due mainly to his films. That's where I got turned on. It all started with "A Christmas Story." Soon, I quickly hoarded as many of his books from the library as I could. Growing up in a small Ohio city, I could relate to his stories. His works have changed my life greatly. I quickly fell in love with his story telling ability and his use of language (which is superb). I was entering community college and stumbling through the under-brush, slightly off my career path. Under the encouragement of my mother, I took a creative writing class. It changed my life. I transferred to Bowling Green State University in Ohio and majored in creative writing. My style copied his for a while, but I found myself developing my own voice along the way. Just the other day I was paging through some of these early works and will begin writing again (my career as a copy writer and graphic designer have taken up much of my time now). Probably the greatest gift I have ever received was from an ex-girlfriend. One Christmas she had a bookstore search for all his books in hardcover. They're on my bookshelf next to the well-thumbed, dog-eared paperback copies. A gift I will pass on to my children someday. After reading the accounts of his radio exploits, I realize that I have missed a great body of his works! I would love to hear these if possible. Perhaps someone with a writable CD somewhere will read this and make a "Shep On CD" available. This would be great! Knowing Shep is somewhat of a "gear-head," I wonder what his reaction would be to the World Wide Web? Somehow, I know he'd come up with a way to turn this new technology on itself. Perhaps we can come up with new twist on some of his old radio stunts? Image Shep Online! If AOL could get Shep to do a weekly, online discussion, I'd join in a heartbeat! Well, I've rambled enough. I am puzzled by the "Excelsior" closing to many of the fan letters though. Was this his sign-off? Just curious. I'll be visiting your site again soon. Hope you can keep it updated. If you need any ideas for additions to your site, let me know. I'm also rather handy with web page design if you need any help there. Thanks for being on the web, Andy Rigo
Here's a well-written, quite humorous letter from someone who I have been lucky to trade with: Dear Bob: Received the tapes last week. Thanks so much for sending them. I'm having a hard time restraining myself from just going through them all in one continuous JS orgy. I have to remind myself to treat this little treasure like fine wine, sipping slowly, considering, reflecting... Well, I know I should do that, but I've always had trouble with my self-restraint functions. There was always something extremely appealing to me in his voice, especially the radio program voice as opposed to the higher-pitched performance/nightclub voice, and I've missed hearing that over the years. The timbre is somehow an avuncular combination of wiseness and wiseguy, but at the same time is classic without being stentorian. I'm going to have to look up what I just said, actually. I learned a lot from listening to Shepherd. His was the only broadcast progam of any kind in my entire life for which I actually took notes. Still have them. I suppose that's fairly anal-retentive, but I learned something about poetry, and some arts and sciences that I didn't know before - and subsequently was moved to learn much more about. I also developed a third eye that provides an on-going perspective on my life and surroundings. It's helped me through tough times, I'd say - and it scares the bejesus out of small children, which is also useful. The day your tapes came, was scheduled for a big meeting with our just hired legal eagles. (Starting yet another company. We'll be bettering the lot of humanity immediately. Stay tuned.) The tapes were on the table when we sat down - it turns out the chief legal eagle grew up in NY and listened to JS every night in bed while falling asleep. It was terrible to see the coveting and longing in his beedy little eyes when he saw the tapes. It broke my heart. Now I'm copying both yours and mine for him. It will be interesting to see if there is any effect on the bastard's bill. We spent a while describing JS to the younger mid-westerners at the table who had never heard of Shep. They didn't seem to get it. Seems to me that NPR really should be pitched to run JS every night. The youth of America need a healthy dose of iconoclasm and fun. Thanks again. Ed
From: "R. D. FIELD" Boy, do I remember. But only bits and pieces. First time I heard him I think I was about 14 or 15. I woke up at about 2 AM- hot summer night- couldn't get back to sleep. Turned on the radio. Heard this guy saying things I never heard on the radio before. Played lots of jazz. This was in Philadelphia on (I think) WPTZ in 1956 or '57. Jean was on all night, but I think he started at midnight. So I didn't hear him much- couldn't stay awake that long. Next I heard him on 'OR, and I think this also was pre-1960. In fact I'm sure it was because a friend and I set out to meet him in '59 or '60. Went to New York, hung out at the front of the 'OR studio, and waited for him to come out after his show. Never did come out. Probably went out the side. We waited till 1 and then gave up, defeated.. Jean was, by far, the best spinner of tales I have ever heard- and I am sure he will have no equal in my lifetime. He would read "The Bobsy Twins" and it was great. I remember him reading the dictionary. Played great jug band tunes. One story sticks in my mind because I never heard the end of it. His uncle was under the hood of a car, drunk, trying to fix it. Last I heard he was upchucking onto the engine. I was driving to Mexico at the time and lost the signal. The best shows, in my opinion, were those he did weeknights 10- 12 midnight. It really hurt when he was switched to weekends- Sunday night was great, but I lost four other nights. And the Saturday morning show, for me, had a very different feel. Surely wish I had the smarts to tape his shows. I wonder if 'OR has them in its archives R. D. Field From: Billy Bob <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To say that Shepherd influenced my life would be an understatement. As a kid in Westchester County in the 1960's I listened *every* night for years on end (on a crystal set mostly - my Mom took away my transistor set, cause I kept falling asleep and running down the batteries). He got me interested in ham radio, which got me interested in electronics, which is why I'm now an Electrical Engineer. My sardonic sense of humor is undoubtedly due to him, too. The images presented in his shows are still prominent in my memory thirty years later. Certain things invariably remind me of Shepherd's shows: Sears & Roebuck prefab houses; bowling; tongues sticking to cold lamp posts; noseflutes (I got mine, and a Jew's harp, and a flying bird); Hammond/Homan; steel mills; snapping the waist band on a brand new pair of Jockey shorts; Palisades Amusement Park and Doxie Clam dip and countless other items... I was fortunate to see him perform in Princeton, during one of my Dad's alumni reunions - I also got to say hello in the parking lot beforehand (I'd had it staked out for hours), but I was just a kid, and didn't have the presence of mind to say anything more than "Uh, are you Jean Shepherd?" Every few years I pull out "Wanda Hickey" & "In God We Trust", and laff my ass off - and as I've gotten older I've realized how skilled he is in capturing the true spirit of humanity, at its best and worst. I just got rid of a half dozen reel-to-reel tapes of his shows last summer (arghhhhh!!), but live in hopes that someone, someday will issue them (or better yet, play them on the air late night)! Same for "Jean Shepherd's America". And "The Phantom of the Open Hearth". Alas, I'm afraid we'll have to wait for Video-On-Demand and Audio-On-Demand, because there's no mass market for this type of programming... Thank you for such a great page. John Burne Bozeman, MT
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 From: (Roger F. Klingman) Subject: Shep Excelsior! Just stumbled on your Jean Shepherd page...great job. It's amazing how similar the fan stories are, and I'm no different. As a 12-year-old in Huntington, LI, listening to Shepherd on WOR. This was just after he returned in the 10:15-11:00 p.m. slot. For a while, before the days of the Limelight broadcasts, he had a Saturday morning show on WOR. On one of those shows, he urged all his fans who happened to be at Jones Beach to head for one specific area and, when they got there, to build a giant human pyramid. Somewhere I still have a reel-to-reel air check of a piece he did on the nature of boredom. I remember (and wish I had on tape) the show on which he read The Hunting of the Snark, concluding with the observation: "And that, friends, ain't Uncle Wiggily." It was Shepherd who introduced me to the work of George Ade (anybody know where a copy of the Ade volume he edited can still be had?). For a brief time, Shep also had a show on WOR-TV. If memory serves, it aired on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., for half an hour, just ahead of a half-hour slot occupied by Long John Nebel. I believe this lasted for just part of one season. While his work since WOR has been notable--A Christmas Story is certainly a classic--it's those nights on radio that stay with me. He has no equal among those on the air now.
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 21:55:45 -0400 From: Douglas Swift <DGSwift@pwrtc.com> I couldn't believe it, an actual Jean Shepherd page. I feel like the Old Man, beholding a battling Luke Appling quilt. Shepherd is also first in my heart. I grew up and live in Indiana, and I can report that like Shepherd's infulence, George Ade, he is not honored here. I live close to the Calumet region and driving through East Chicago or Hammond on a snowy day is like living one of his stories. People think I am nuts when I tell them that I like to drive through the Steel towns. I have never heard his radio show, the NPR catalog sells some tapes but I never seem to have cash and the catalog at the same time. I think I have read everything he has written though. Great page keep up the good work.
DougDear Bob, Just found your site this afternoon, and I am thrilled. I thought I was the only person who still had teenage memories of Shep on WOR radio. I, as I see many other people, share those same wonderful memories. I remember tucking my head under the sheets and blankets, my dad yelling out to turn off the damm radio. (and I also remember sleeping through the first few periods in High School every morning... him and Long John, what a pair!) I even became a ham operator, it had to be cool, Shep was one! Regards, Rick Portes
email@example.comDate: Mon, 03 Jun 1996 16:51:29 -0400 From: Harry McCracken Just a quick note of thanks for your nifty Jean Shepherd page. I am one of Shep's latter-day fans, being too young and Northwestern to have heard him on WOR. In fact, I've yet to hear any of his radio broadcasts, as tantalizing as they are! I have, however, seen A Christmas Story (my first encounter with the man), and I have his books and a good selection of his TV programs. (For me, he would have attained a hallowed place among American humorists simply for writing such masterworks as Scut Farkas and the Murderous Mariah, even if he'd never been a broadcaster.) And I've seen him perform live twice: once in the mid-1980s, and last Friday at his 31st annual Princeton concert. The best tribute I can pay to his Princeton gig is that I drove 270 miles to get there, attended the concern, then turned around and drove 270 miles back -- and it was worth it. Shep started out with some barbed comments about Friends, Seinfeld, and other modern entertainments, then went into an unforgettable riff on his first job, as a rat killer at the steel mill. He was at once politically incorrect, outrageous, and nostalgic and gracious, and the audience loved it. (Incidentally, how old is Shep anyhow? I've seen his birthdate reported as 1921, but he certainly didn't look or sound like a 75-year old. The mind was as sharp as ever, the voice as wonderfully rich, and the cackle as pointed.) -- Harry McCracken Boston, Mass.Date: Thu, 23 May 1996
From: "John J. Grimes" Dear Bob, Idling the evening away, I happened to have one of those random jolts of memory, and searched for Jean Shepherd using metacrawler, which led to your site on the web. Very entertaining reading, and it brought back many memories, which are amazingly similar to yours. In my case, I was a kid of maybe 12 or 13, and would huddle under the blankets listening to WOR on Sunday night (if I remember correctly), and being mesmerized by Jean's stories, and practical jokes with the radio. One such joke that stands out in my mind was a night when he had his listeners put their radios on the window sill, and proceeded to play a pre-recorded "family fight", the climax to which was the wife saying "I just can't take anymore, I'm going out the window!"....at which point a horrific scream was heard, followed by the sounds of something impacting into a collection of trash cans. If I remember correctly, the NYPD received numerous calls regarding a suicide. Then there was the "pay the toll of the guy in back of you when you're driving into NYC over the bridge tomorrow" stunt, (tied up traffic for miles the next day), and kite-flying in Central Park at 4AM, etc, etc. I grew up in the Bronx, and am now in Connecticut, but will soon be retiring to a little town in North Carolina. But, those days of listening to Jean in bed at night will stay with me even there. Thanks for the memories, Bob. Sincerely, John J. Grimes
Date: Fri, 17 May 96 13:27:42 -0700 From: Stan Croydon Shep got me through adolesence and helped me survive a family of right winged religious fanatics! He made me understand what the real world was like, at least his, and I loved every minute of it. Since listening to radio was taboo, on Sundays, I didn't get to hear as much of him as I wished. I do recall lots of Saturday noontime shows, however. I loved the Volvo commercials (it's amazing the company turned out so well), the request to wave a white hankerchiefs out your car window to identify "fellow sufferers" (remember the poor guy who got the traffic ticket) and especially stories from his time in the Signal Corp. I lived about one block away from Ft. Monmouth, in N.J, and could identify with many of his stories. I've got three of his books, a couple of his albums, most of his PBS stories and naturally, the Christmas Story. But the one thing I probably cherrish most is a clip from Sesame Street. In case any of you didn't have kids in the appropriate age range, Shep was "Cowboy X" in the "series" of 26 alphabetic pieces Sesame Street always ran during the 60's to teach kids their alphabet. Everytime I was around and heard his voice turn up, I'd always sit down to watch, listen and remember. It may still be there for viewing as far as I know. When I went off to college in Cleveland, I periodically would try and get WOR on my radio late at night, but obviously, their signal wasn't strong enough. Their signal was probably the equivalent of the WOR TV signal, one Shep always used to say was broadcast though a "smoked glass". It really angered me to learn a few years later after I had moved to the Washington, D.C., area, that the PBS station in D.C. carried rebroadcasts of his WOR shows. By the time I found out, the show was being taken off the air. I don't know how I ever would have made it though the last 35 or 40 years if it wasn't for fond memories of Shep. Maybe it was because I always remembered his urging to "keep your knees loose and give them a low sillouette!" Thanks again, Stan Croydon
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 Hi! I saw your web info on Jean Shepherd and was especially intrigued to read that you had a tape of Shep and Long John together. I would love to hear it if that is at all possible. Nebel was unique. He suckered me twice--once with the hilarious pitch he did for the hard-core porn film "It Happened in Hollywood," then again with the Kelco Trot Calculator. The first time he read the copy for "It Happened in Hollywood," he was simultaneously censoring it and unsuccessfully fighting to keep from totally cracking up. That reading, with his uncontrolled giggling, became the ad that ran night after night. The ad was so good I had to go see the movie, which wasn't anywhere near as good as the ad. The movie, in fact, was disgusting. Then there was his sales pitch for the Kelco Trot Calculator, a slide rule for calculating betting at the trotters. According to Nebel, this device was designed by a former NASA scientist and had been thoroughly tested. I was in graduate school at the time, supporting myself by driving a cab three days a week, and the prospect of being able to phone in a few bets to cover the rent seemed pretty good to me, so I bought one of these things and opened a phone account with OTB. The first week was fantastic--I cleared about $200--but apparently, it was only beginner's luck, because for the next several weeks I just kept breaking even. Long John was perhaps the greatest carnival barker ever to be allowed on the radio. Regards, Neil Litt
Date: Tue, 14 May 96 From: Paula Ptacek Bob: What a pleasure to come across your homepage for Jean Shepherd. I didn't know there were so many of us out here. I started listening when I began dating my husband -- a major Shepherd fan. My husband was from Hempstead, and I was from Westbury. We didn't have much money, but we could afford gas, and so many nights we would just drive through Old Westbury's long curving tree lined country roads, and listen to Jean. How it brings it all back. Being in love for the first time, holding his hand, driving through the night, the radio dial goldenly glowing in the dark, and that rich, deep, voice making us laugh and even sometimes making us think. I remember he told one story about his Mom that made me go home and see my own Mom in a totally different way -- she became a person -- not just Mom. Wow. My husband and I were really lucky a few years later -- we got to go to a Jean Shepherd book signing. After waiting in line for a long time when we got up to the table and asked him to sign the book "To Cyril and Paula" Mr. Shepherd said "Cyril -- what an elegant name." We still have the book and wouldn't part with it. Or any of our Shepherd memories. Thanks.
Dear BKAYE--I feel like I am writing to myself! Your Shep page made me laugh. I remember growing up in the 50 & early 60's & hearing Shep on the radio late at night. He was wonderful. He was also on Channel 13 for a while, although I don't remember the exact time. Later, as an adult I came across the books he wrote and subsequently read everything I could get. Those books are now out of print and hard to get. Unfortunately I thew them down the library shoot in our town when I was trying to control the volume of books in the house. His writing had a quality about it that made it very comfortable to read. It was almost as if you were there, as a neighbor. I was never quite sure what was "real" & what was fiction. Anyway, kudos to you for keeping his work alive! BK
Did you know that Shepherd and Leigh Brown (his long time agent, producer and 3rd wife--since divorced, I think) appear in the Christmas Story movie? Jean is the grumpy bearded guy in line with Ralphie waiting to see Santa in the big department store. In February of 1993, the papers reported on a kid in Akron who, after seeing the movie, took up his friends' "dreaded double-dog dare," and stuck his tongue to a cast-iron fire hydrant: "'He couldn't really talk when we got there, but he was crying pretty good,' said Akron fire department paramedic Doug Fela." What I found so captivating about Jean Shepherd's old radio shows was his amused fascination with the foibles of man: the fumbles and phoneiness, pomp, grandeur and absurdities. He expressed an infectious sense of spirited engagement in the grand soup of life. He was also often hilariously frivolous. He "switched on bulbs in the heads of a whole generation by simply explaining America" to them. [New York Times, (Feb. 28,1982) review by M. Jackson of Fistful of Fig Newtons.] FYI: There is a long, interesting biography with photo in the reference work "Current Biography Yearbook, 1984, pp. 376-379, available at public libraries. Cheers, Dennis
Bob, your Jean Shepherd page brought back many wonderful memories of my own youth on Long Island. Not far from you, in fact, in East Rockaway. I too listened to Jean Shepherd and his "invectives" under the covers and laughed out loud with my radio tuned to 710, WOR. Remember how he used to say the longer the station break, the smaller the station. "Serving the great north west with 250 watts of high engery power from atop Mount Watchamacallit over looking beautiful downtown Podunk, This is WWWW, Podunk." And as if to overstate the obvious, than go this his own legal ID, "WOR, New York." What more need be said. I am now in radio myself and a few years ago had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Shepherd on the air. What a guy. From: Mitchell Lebe Organization: CBS Inc.
From: Bill Jaker It's amazing how many people remember Jean Shepherd's WOR radio show, and seem to all remember it for the same reasons: bonking on his head, hurling invectives, gathering us all into the warmth of the glowing tubes. He had a tremendous influence on me during my impressionable youth, though I'm not sure exactly how. I remember one Sunday when he asked us to put the radio on the windowsill, turn up the volume full blast when he told us, and then he'd hurl an invective into the night air. To be sure that nobody would know what was going on, Shep promised that he'd then pretend to be Martin Block spinning a record on "The Make Believe Ballroom". So I set my little Emerson on the sill and at a whispered cue, cranked up the volume as far as it would go. "Get out of here and take that stupid cat with you!!!!!", he bellowed, and then a whisper again "ok, ok, turn it down. Well now, friends, this is Martin Block in the Make Believe Ballroom..." Just that moment, my father walked into the room to fnd out what all the commotion was. "I don't know, Dad. I'm just sitting here listening to the Make Believe Ballroom". By then Shep had put on a pop record and my father just shrugged and walked out. It worked. It really worked! Nobody else on the radio would try that trick, and nobody else could get away with it so smoothly. When I was a student at Adelphi University the campus station did an interview with Jean Shepherd. Unfortunately, the tape seems to have been lost (I went back a few years ago to try to find it) but in the interview Shep tells all about himself in a fairly straighforward way: growing up in Hammond, Indiana, across State Line Blvd from Chicago, doing play-by-play hockey and other sports on WLW -- he never was a disc jockey -- coming to New York originally to go into television, which was not really his medium. A few years ago I met K2ORS at the Dayton Hamvention and told him how his programs made me feel like he was a special friend. "I had five million listeners," he responded, "and each felt that he was the only one." Not true, of course, as anyone who showed up for a "mill" and rather than milling went slightly wild. I'm glad the 'net is getting some old Bumble Puppy players back together with Jean Shepherd.
Of course you'd turn out to be a jazz man. I backed into your home page via your most welcome Shep page. Of course that's what shep did on the radio--create jazz improvs with word and memory, riffing and eventually returning to themes as only the best jazzmen can. He taught us the miracle of wordplay and for those of us who grew up in New York City, he taught us what the rest of America was. I ended up writing, you ended up making music, but those nights under the covers marveling at Shep certainly helped get us here. Do you know whether any WOR air checks are available either commercially or otherwise? I have only a few minutes here and there that I taped as a kid. Foolishly, I never bothered to do it in any systematic way. I was always fascinated with the way he weaved those preposterous General Tire ads into the stories (WOR was then owned by General). Anyway, I'd appreciate any info. Many thanks. I'll try to check out your music on my next visit to my local jazz emporium. any recordings you suggest I search for? By the way, I write about the arts and politics for the style section of the Washington Post. Do let me know if you have any forthcoming gigs in the DC area. best, Marc Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org