Jean Shepherd

Jean Shepherd

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Jean Shepherd'
Start a new discussion about 'Jean Shepherd'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Jean Parker Shepherd (July 26, 1921 – October 16, 1999) was an American raconteur, radio and TV personality, writer and actor who was often referred to by the nickname Shep.

With a career that spanned decades, Shepherd is best known to modern audiences for the film A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark...

 (1983), which he narrated and co-scripted, based on his own semi-autobiographical stories.

Early life


Born on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, Shepherd was raised in Hammond, Indiana
Hammond, Indiana
Hammond is a city in Lake County, Indiana, United States. It is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The population was 80,830 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Hammond is located at ....

, where he graduated from Hammond High School
Hammond High School (Indiana)
Hammond High School is a public secondary school located in Hammond, Indiana. It is part of the School City of Hammond district.-Vision:Hammond High School provides students with the opportunity to develop attitudes, knowledge and skills suited to their individual needs so that they may be...

 in 1939. As a youth he worked briefly as a mail carrier in a steel mill and earned his Amateur Radio
Amateur radio
Amateur radio is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication...

 license, sometimes claiming he got it at 16, other times saying he was even younger. Shepherd was a lifelong White Sox
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

 fan.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Shepherd then had an extensive career in a variety of media:

Radio career


Shepherd began his broadcast radio career on WSAI
WSAI
WSAI is an AM radio station broadcasting out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Its studios are in the Towers of Kenwood building next to I-71 in the Kenwood section of Sycamore Township and its transmitter is located in Mount Healthy.WSAI is known as "Fox Sports 1360," including The Dan Patrick Show and The...

 in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1948. From 1951 to 1953 he had a late-night broadcast on KYW
KYW (AM)
KYW is a class A AM radio station on 1060 kHz licensed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. KYW is owned by the CBS Radio unit of CBS Corporation, and has broadcasted an all-news format since 1965. The station's studios are located on Market Street in Center City Philadelphia, and it transmitters...

 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after which he returned to Cincinnati for a show on WLW
WLW
WLW is a clear channel talk radio station located in Cincinnati, Ohio, run by Clear Channel Communications. The station broadcasts locally on 700 kHz AM...

. After a stint on television (see below), he returned to radio. "Shep," as he was known, settled in at WOR
WOR (AM)
WOR is a class A , AM radio station located in New York, New York, U.S., operating on 710 kHz. The station has a talk format and has been owned by Buckley Broadcasting since 1987, after the station was sold by RKO. The station has conservative, or right-of-center hosts.Its call letters have no...

 radio New York City, New York on an overnight slot in 1956, where he delighted his fans by telling stories, reading poetry (especially the works of Robert W. Service), and organizing comedic listener stunts. The most famous of the last involved creating a hoax about a non-existent book, I, Libertine
I, Libertine
I, Libertine was a literary hoax that began as a practical joke by late-night radio raconteur Jean Shepherd. Shepherd was highly annoyed at the way that the bestseller lists were being compiled in the mid-1950s...

, by the equally non-existent 18th century author "Frederick R. Ewing", in 1956. During a discussion on how easy it was to manipulate the best seller lists, which at that time were based not only on sales but demand, Shepherd suggested that his listeners visit bookstores and ask for a copy of I, Libertine which led to booksellers attempting to purchase the book from their distributors. Fans of the show eventually took it further, planting references to the book and author so widely that demand for the book led to it being listed on The New York Times Best Seller list. Shepherd, Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon was an American science fiction author.His most famous novel is More Than Human .-Biography:...

 and Betty Ballantine
Betty Ballantine
Betty Ballantine is a publisher who, with her husband Ian Ballantine, formed Bantam Books in 1945 and Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. Their son Richard is an author and journalist specialising in cycling topics.Ballantine received a Special Committee Award...

 later wrote the actual book, with a cover painted by illustrator Frank Kelly Freas, published by Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books is a major book publisher located in the United States, founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine with his wife, Betty Ballantine. It was acquired by Random House in 1973, which in turn was acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998 and remains part of that company today. Ballantine's logo is a...

. Among his close friends in the late 1950s were Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein
Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein , was an American poet, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of children's books. He styled himself as Uncle Shelby in his children's books...

 and Herb Gardner. With them and actress Lois Nettleton
Lois Nettleton
Lois June Nettleton was an American actress of film, stage, and television. She was Miss Chicago of 1948 as well as a semifinalist at that year's Miss America Pageant.-Early years:...

, Shepherd performed in the revue he created, Look, Charlie. Later he was married to Nettleton for about six years.

When he was about to be released by WOR in 1956 for not being commercial, he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap, not a sponsor, and was immediately fired. His listeners besieged WOR with complaints, and when Sweetheart offered to sponsor him he was reinstated. Eventually, he attracted more sponsors than he wanted—the commercials interrupted the flow of his monologues. Ex WOR engineer, Frank Cernese, adds: The commercials of that era were on "ETs"—phonograph records about 14" in diameter. Three large turntables were available to play them in sequence. However, Shepherd liked the engineer to look at him and listen when he told his stories. That left little time to load the turntables and cue the appropriate cuts. That's when he started complaining about "too many commercials"!. He broadcast until he left WOR in 1977. His subsequent radio work consisted of only short segments on several other stations including crosstown WCBS
WCBS
WCBS may refer to:Assets of CBS* WCBS , a radio station licensed to New York, New York, United States* WCBS-FM, a radio station licensed to New York, New York, United States...

. His final radio gig was the Sunday night radio show "Shepherd's Pie" on WBAI-FM in the mid-1990s, which consisted of his reading his stories uncut, uninterrupted and unabridged. The show was one of WBAI's most popular of the period.

In later life he publicly dismissed his days as a radio raconteur as unimportant, focusing more on his writing and movie work. This distressed his legions of fans who fondly remembered nights with Shepherd on WOR. He once made such comments during an appearance on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder
Tom Snyder
Thomas James "Tom" Snyder was an American television personality, news anchor and radio personality best known for his late night talk shows The Tomorrow Show, on the NBC television network in the 1970s and 1980s, and The Late Late Show, on the CBS Television Network in the 1990s...

. This contrasts with his frequent criticisms of television during his radio programs.

In addition to his stories, his shows also contained, among other things, humorous anecdotes and general commentaries about the human condition, observations about life in New York, accounts of vacations in Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 and travels throughout the world. Among the most striking of his programs was his account of his participation in the March on Washington in August 1963, during which Dr. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream
I Have a Dream
"I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination...

" speech, and the program that aired on November 25, 1963—the day of President Kennedy's burial. However, his most scintillating programs remain his oftimes prophetic, bitingly humorous commentaries about ordinary life in America.

Throughout his radio career, he performed entirely without scripts. His friend and WOR colleague Barry Farber
Barry Farber
Barry M. Farber is an American conservative radio talk show host, author and language-learning enthusiast. In 2002, industry publication Talkers magazine ranked him the 9th greatest radio talk show host of all time. He has also written articles appearing in the New York Times, Reader's Digest,...

 marveled at how he could talk so long with very little written down. Yet during a radio interview, Shepherd once claimed that some shows took several weeks to prepare. On most Fourths of July, however, he would read one of his most enduring and popular short stories, "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb that Struck Back," about a neighborhood drunk and his disastrous fireworks escapades. In the 1960s and 1970s, his WOR show ran from 11:15 pm to midnight, later changed to 10:15 pm to 11 pm, so his "Ludlow Kissel" reading was coincidentally timed to many New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 and New York local town fireworks
Fireworks
Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. The most common use of a firework is as part of a fireworks display. A fireworks event is a display of the effects produced by firework devices...

 displays, which would traditionally reach their climax at 10 pm It was possible, on one of those July 4 nights, to park one's car on a hilltop and watch several different pyrotechnic displays, accompanied by Shepherd's masterful storytelling.

The theme song used on his long-running radio show was "The Bahn Frei Polka" by Eduard Strauss
Eduard Strauss
Eduard Strauss was an Austrian composer who, together with brothers Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss made up the Strauss musical dynasty. The family dominated the Viennese light music world for decades, creating many waltzes and polkas for many Austrian nobility as well as dance-music...

. The particular version he used was recorded by Arthur Fiedler
Arthur Fiedler
Arthur Fiedler was a long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a symphony orchestra that specializes in popular and light classical music. With a combination of musicianship and showmanship, he made the Boston Pops one of the best-known orchestras in the country...

 and the Boston Pops.

Print


Shepherd wrote a series of humorous short stories about growing up in northwest Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 and its steel towns, many of which were first told by him on his programs and then published in Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

. The stories were later assembled into books titled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is a book of short stories by Jean Shepherd .It was first published by Doubleday in New York in October 1966....

, Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: and Other Disasters, The Ferrari in the Bedroom, and A Fistful of Fig Newtons. Some of those situations were incorporated into his movies and television fictional stories. He also wrote a column for the early Village Voice, a column for Car and Driver
Car and Driver
Car and Driver is an American automotive enthusiast magazine. Its total circulation is 1.31 million. It is owned by Hearst Magazines, who purchased prior owner Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. in 2011...

, numerous individual articles for diverse publications, including Mad Magazine
Mad (magazine)
Mad is an American humor magazine founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952. Launched as a comic book before it became a magazine, it was widely imitated and influential, impacting not only satirical media but the entire cultural landscape of the 20th century.The last...

 ("The Night People vs. Creeping Meatballism", March/April 1957), and introductions for books such as The America of George Ade, American Snapshots, and the 1970 reprint of the 1929 Johnson Smith Catalogue.

When Eugene B. Bergmann's Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd was published in 2005, Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents...

 reviewed:


This prismatic portrait affirms Shepherd's position as one of the 20th century's great humorists. Railing against conformity, he forged a unique personal bond with his loyal listeners, who participated in his legendary literary prank by asking bookstores for the nonexistent novel I, Libertine (when publisher Ian Ballantine had Shepherd, author Theodore Sturgeon, and illustrator Frank Kelly Freas
Frank Kelly Freas
Frank Kelly Freas , called the "Dean of Science Fiction Artists", was a science fiction and fantasy artist with a career spanning more than 50 years.-Early life, education, and personal life:...

 make the fake real, PW called it "the hoax that became a book"). Storyteller Shepherd's grand theme was life itself... Novelist Bergmann (Rio Amazonas) interviewed 32 people who knew Shepherd or were influenced by him and listened to hundreds of broadcast tapes, inserting transcripts of Shepherd's own words into a "biographical framework" of exhaustive research.

Television and films


Early in his career, Shepherd had a television program in Cincinnati called Rear Bumper. He claimed that he was recommended to replace the resigning Steve Allen
Steve Allen (comedian)
Stephen Valentine Patrick William "Steve" Allen was an American television personality, musician, composer, actor, comedian, and writer. Though he got his start in radio, Allen is best known for his television career. He first gained national attention as a guest host on Arthur Godfrey's Talent...

 on NBC's Tonight Show
The Tonight Show
The Tonight Show is an American late-night talk show that has aired on NBC since 1954. It is the longest currently running regularly scheduled entertainment program in the United States, and the third longest-running show on NBC, after Meet the Press and Today.The Tonight Show has been hosted by...

. Shepherd was reportedly brought to New York City by NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 executives to prepare for the position, but they were contractually bound to first offer it to Jack Paar
Jack Paar
Jack Harold Paar was an author, American radio and television comedian and talk show host, best known for his stint as host of The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962...

. The network was certain Paar would hold out for a role in prime time, but he accepted the late-night assignment. However, he did not assume the position permanently until Shepherd and Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs was a Hungarian American comedian and actor.Kovacs' uninhibited, often ad-libbed, and visually experimental comedic style came to influence numerous television comedy programs for years after his death in an automobile accident...

 had co-hosted the show.

In 1960 he did a weekly television show on WOR in New York, but it did not last long. Between 1971 and 1994, Shepherd became a screenwriter of note, writing and producing numerous works for both television and cinema. He was the writer and narrator of the show Jean Shepherd's America, produced by Boston Public Television station WGBH
WGBH-TV
WGBH-TV, channel 2, is a non-commercial educational public television station located in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. WGBH-TV is a member station of the Public Broadcasting Service , and produces more than two-thirds of PBS's national prime time television programming...

 in which he told his famous narratives, visited unusual locales, and interviewed local people of interest. He used a somewhat similar format for the New Jersey Network
New Jersey Network
The New Jersey Network, or NJN, was a network of public television and radio stations serving the U.S. state of New Jersey. NJN was a member of the Public Broadcasting Service for television and the National Public Radio for radio, broadcasting their programming as well as producing and...

 TV show Shepherd's Pie. On many of the Public TV shows he wrote, directed and edited entire shows.

He also wrote and narrated many works, the most famous being the feature film A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark...

, which is now considered a holiday classic. In the film, Shepherd provides the voice of the adult Ralph Parker. He also has a cameo role playing a man in line at the department store
Department store
A department store is a retail establishment which satisfies a wide range of the consumer's personal and residential durable goods product needs; and at the same time offering the consumer a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in all product categories...

 waiting for Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

. Much to Ralphie's chagrin, he points out to him that the end of the line is much further away.

Ten years later, Shepherd and director Bob Clark returned to the same working-class Cleveland neighborhood to film a sequel, It Runs In The Family (later known as My Summer Story
My Summer Story
It Runs in the Family is a 1994 film that follows the further adventures of Ralphie Parker and his family from the holiday hit A Christmas Story...

) released by MGM in 1994, with an entirely different cast from the previous film. The PBS series American Playhouse
American Playhouse
American Playhouse is an anthology television series periodically broadcast by Public Broadcasting Service in the United States.It premiered on January 12, 1982 with The Shady Hill Kidnapping, written and narrated by John Cheever and directed by Paul Bogart...

 aired a series of television movies based on Shepherd stories, also featuring the Parker family. These included Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss is a television comedy film written by Jean Shepherd and directed by Dick Bartlett, based on the 1968 short story by Shephard...

, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, and The Phantom of the Open Hearth.

Live performances and recordings


On Saturday nights for several years, Shepherd broadcast his WOR radio program live from the Limelight Cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

, and he also performed at many colleges nationwide. His live shows were a perennial favorite at Rutgers to wildly enthusiastic standing room only crowds, and Fairleigh Dickinson
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Fairleigh Dickinson University is a private university founded as a junior college in 1942. It now has several campuses located in New Jersey, Canada, and the United Kingdom.-Description:...

 Universities. He performed at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 annually for 30 years, until 1996.
He performed before sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 and Town Hall. He was also emcee for several important jazz concerts in the late 1950s. Shepherd improvised spoken word narration for the title track on jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 great Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus Jr. was an American jazz musician, composer, bandleader, and civil rights activist.Mingus's compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third stream, free jazz, and classical music...

's 1957 album The Clown
The Clown (album)
The Clown is an album by Charles Mingus recorded and released in 1957 on Atlantic Records as SD-1260. It is the follow-up to 1956's Pithecanthropus Erectus and features the improvised narration of Jean Shepherd. A deluxe edition of The Clown was issued in 2000 on Rhino featuring two bonus tracks...

. Eight record albums of live and studio performances of Shepherd were released between 1955 and 1975. Shepherd also recorded the opening narration and the voice of the Audio-Animatronics
Audio-Animatronics
Audio-Animatronics is the registered trademark for a form of robotics created by Walt Disney Imagineering for shows and attractions at Disney theme parks, and subsequently expanded on and used by other companies. The robots move and make noise, generally in speech or song...

 "Father" character for the updated Carousel of Progress
Carousel of Progress
The Carousel of Progress is an attraction located at the Magic Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort, currently operating under the name Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress...

 attraction at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom Park is one of four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort located near Orlando, Florida. The first park built at the resort, Magic Kingdom opened Oct. 1, 1971. Designed and built by WED Enterprises, the park's layout and attractions are similar to Disneyland in Anaheim, California...

.

Music


On some of his broadcasts he played parts of recordings of such novelty songs as "The Bear Missed the Train" (a parody
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of the Yiddish ballad
Ballad
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...

 "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
"Bei Mir Bistu Shein" is a popular Yiddish song composed by Jacob Jacobs and Sholom Secunda for a 1932 Yiddish musical, I Would If I Could , that closed after one season...

") and "The Sheik of Araby". Sometimes Shepherd would accompany the recordings by playing the Jew's harp
Jew's harp
The Jew's harp, jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp, trump or juice harp, is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world; a musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC...

, nose flute
Nose flute
The nose flute is a popular musical instrument played in Polynesia and the Pacific Rim countries. Other versions are found in Africa, China, and India.- Hawaii :In the North Pacific, in the Hawaiian islands the nose flute was a common courting instrument...

, or kazoo
Kazoo
The kazoo is a wind instrument which adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes into it. The kazoo is a type of mirliton, which is a membranophone, a device which modifies the sound of a person's voice by way of a vibrating membrane."Kazoo" was the name given by...

, and occasionally even by thumping his knuckles on his head.

Ham radio


Shepherd held the ham radio
Amateur radio
Amateur radio is the use of designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication...

 call sign K2ORS. He was very active on ham radio until his death. When operating as an amateur, he was known to use his middle name, Parker. He was listed in the Amateur Radio Callbook and for a number of years, while married to Lois Nettleton, his address was 340 East 57th Street in New York City. His last residence in NYC was on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village where he lived for many years. He is also credited as the voice for the ARRL's
American Radio Relay League
The American Radio Relay League is the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the USA. ARRL is a non-profit organization, and was founded in May 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim of Hartford, Connecticut...

 tape series Tune In the World with Ham Radio. This series of tapes helped many young people become ham radio operators.

Fact and fiction


It is unknown to what extent Shepherd's radio and published stories were fact, fiction or a combination of the two. The childhood friends included in many of his stories were people he claimed to have invented, yet high school yearbooks confirm that many of them did exist. His father was a cashier at the Borden Milk Company. Shepherd always referred to him as "my old man." During an interview on the Long John Nebel
Long John Nebel
Long John Nebel was an influential New York City talk radio show host.From the mid 1950s until his death in 1978, Nebel was a hugely popular all-night radio host, with millions of regular listeners and what Donald Bain described as "a fanatically loyal following" to his syndicated program, which...

 Show—an all-night radio program that ran on WOR starting at midnight—Shepherd once claimed that his real father was a cartoonist along the lines of Herblock
Herblock
Herbert Lawrence Block, commonly known as Herblock , was an American editorial cartoonist and author best known for his commentary on national domestic and foreign policy from a liberal perspective.-Career:...

, and that he inherited his skills at line drawings. This may well have not been true but Shepherd's ink drawings do adorn some of his published writings, and a number of previously unknown ones were sold on www.ebay.com from his former wife Lois Nettleton's collection after her death in 2008.

The 1930 Federal Census Record for Hammond, Indiana indicates that Jean's father did work for a dairy company. His actual occupation reads "cashier." The 1930 census record (which misspells the last name as "Shephard" when searching) lists the following family members: Jean Shepherd, age 30, head; Anna Shepherd, age 30, wife; Jean Shepherd, Jr, age 8, son; and Randall Shepherd, age 6, son. According to this record, Jean Sr, Anna, Jean Jr, and Randall were all born in Illinois. Jean, Sr's parents were born in Kansas. Ann's parents were born in Germany.

Marriages:
Jean Shepherd was married four times. A brief first marriage, about which virtually nothing is known, has been confirmed by Shepherd's son, Randall and by Shepherd's third wife, Lois Nettleton.
  • Joan Laverne Warner: September 9, 1950–1957 (divorced)
    • Son: Randall Shepherd born 1951
    • Daughter: Adrien Shepherd born December 16, 1957.
  • Lois Nettleton
    Lois Nettleton
    Lois June Nettleton was an American actress of film, stage, and television. She was Miss Chicago of 1948 as well as a semifinalist at that year's Miss America Pageant.-Early years:...

    : December 3, 1960–1967 (divorced)
  • Leigh Brown: March 2, 1977 – July 16, 1998 (her death)


Jean Shepherd had two children, a son Randall and a daughter Adrien, but publicly denied this. Randall Shepherd describes his father as having frequently come home late or not at all. Randall had almost no contact with him after his parents' divorce.

Shepherd's life and multimedia career are examined in the 2005 book Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd by Eugene B. Bergmann (ISBN 0-55783-600-0).

Influence


Shepherd's oral narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 style was a precursor to that used by Spalding Gray
Spalding Gray
Spalding Rockwell Gray was an American actor, playwright, screenwriter, performance artist and monologuist...

 and Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor
Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor (born August 7, 1942) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio...

. Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist...

 in Understanding Media wrote that Shepherd "regards radio as a new medium for a new kind of novel that he writes nightly." In the "Seinfeld Season 6" DVD set, commenting on the episode titled "The Gymnast" Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld
Jerome Allen "Jerry" Seinfeld is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and television and film producer, known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the situation comedy Seinfeld , which he co-created and co-wrote with Larry David, and, in the show's final two seasons,...

 says "He really formed my entire comedic sensibility—I learned how to do comedy from Jean Shepherd." Furthermore, the first name of Seinfeld's third child is "Shepherd."

Shepherd was an influence on Bill Griffith's Zippy comic strip as Griffith noted in his strip for January 9, 2000. Griffith explained, "The inspiration—just plucking random memories from my childhood, as I'm wont to do in my Sunday strip (also a way to expand beyond Zippy)--and Shep was a big part of them".

In an interview with New York magazine, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen says that the figure from his solo album "Nightfly" was based on Jean Shepherd.

Though he primarily spent his radio career playing music, New York Top 40 DJ legend Dan Ingram
Dan Ingram
Daniel Trombley "Dan" Ingram is an American Top 40 radio disc jockey with a forty-year career on radio stations such as WABC and WCBS-FM in New York...

 has acknowledged Shepherd's style as an influence.

Shepherd spent his final years in relative seclusion on Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is an island located on the Gulf coast of Florida, just offshore of Fort Myers. In 2000, it had an estimated population of 6,064 people...

, Florida, with his wife Leigh Brown. She was also his producer at WOR, and played many roles in his varied career. As Shepherd attained a rotund figure in his later years, Leigh would refer to him as "ma pamplemousse," or, "my grapefruit." He died on Sanibel Island in 1999 of "natural causes." In 2005, Shepherd was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. In Hammond, IN the Community Center is named after him.

An article he wrote for the March–April 1957 issue of MAD Magazine, "The Night People vs Creeping Meatballism", described the differences between what he considered to be "day people" (conformists) and "night people" (non-conformists). In the opening credits of John Cassavetes'
John Cassavetes
John Nicholas Cassavetes was an American actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. He acted in many Hollywood films, notably Rosemary's Baby and The Dirty Dozen...

 1959 film Shadows the credits read "Presented by Jean Shepherd's Night People".

Watch


Listen to


The voice of the father in Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress.

Filmography

  • America, Inc. NET Playhouse (1970) (TV)
  • Jean Shepherd's America (1971) (TV)
  • No Whistles, Bells, or Bedlam (1972) (Rochester Institute of Technology) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307234/
  • The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976) (TV)
  • The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (1982) (TV)
  • The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1983) (TV)
  • A Christmas Story
    A Christmas Story
    A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark...

     (1983)
  • The Great American Road-Racing Festival (1985) (TV)
  • Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
    Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
    Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss is a television comedy film written by Jean Shepherd and directed by Dick Bartlett, based on the 1968 short story by Shephard...

     (1988) (TV)
  • My Summer Story
    My Summer Story
    It Runs in the Family is a 1994 film that follows the further adventures of Ralphie Parker and his family from the holiday hit A Christmas Story...

     (aka It Runs in the Family) (1994)

External links

  • Jean Shepherd Historical Preservation Website
  • http://www.ilostmyeye.comJean Shepherd Festival in Hammond, Indiana
    Hammond, Indiana
    Hammond is a city in Lake County, Indiana, United States. It is part of the Chicago metropolitan area. The population was 80,830 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Hammond is located at ....

    ]
  • The Night People vs Creeping Meatballism Mad
    Mad (magazine)
    Mad is an American humor magazine founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952. Launched as a comic book before it became a magazine, it was widely imitated and influential, impacting not only satirical media but the entire cultural landscape of the 20th century.The last...

     32 (March–April 1957) article by Jean Shepherd, illustrated by Wally Wood
    Wally Wood
    Wallace Allan Wood was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work in EC Comics and Mad. He was one of Mads founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he...

  • Jean's ham call on QRZ.COM
  • Ralph Gardner's One Ralphie to Another