shepquest

MY BOOKS ABOUT JEAN SHEPHERD

SHEP'S ARMY: BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES, Opus Books. Nearly three dozen of Shepherd's army stories never before in print introduced and transcribed. Foreword by Keith Olbermann. (published August 2013)

EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE ART AND ENIGMA OF JEAN SHEPHERD, Applause Books (published March, 2005)

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Shep’s Army CBS TV interview in 2013

TV Interview on July 21, 2013 for SHEP’S ARMY

Here’s the complete text of the CBS Sunday morning interview by Dick Brennan with me. Until recently, this could be accessed on the Internet, but now, although the CBS page is there, the video won’t open. Fortunately for me, Jim Clavin, maintainer of the great Shepherd website www.flicklives.com had sent to me a DVD video of the interview, finely presented in a DVD box with his specially created, front-and-back cover:

Dick Brennan, CBS interviewer: He was the comic voice of a generation. Jean Shepherd’s radio show was a nightly tradition for many in the 60s and 70s. A new book is looking at a specific time of his career—his time in the service. It’s called Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, and Boondoggles. With us this morning is the editor, Eugene Bergmann. Mr. Bergmann, thank you for coming in. I was just telling you that my connection to Jean Shepherd is that I produced for Barry Farber, one of the radio greats, who you interviewed for this book, right?

E. B. B. : For the previous book [Excelsior, You Fathead!].

D. B. For the previous book. And he’s a huge Jean Shepherd fan and he used to say, in his North Carolina accent, “I just want Jean Shepherd on my show very night!” So there is one great wanting another great.

What’s different about this book?

E. B. B. : This book is the first book of Shepherd’s stories to come along in a quarter of a century. They were never before in print. They represent stories that he told on the air about his life in the army. Of course–his life–his fictional life in the army. And to me, one of the fascinating things I found out about his life-in-the-army stories when I began researching them and listening more and more and wondering how can I put this book together, is that overall, of all the stories he told, they became almost a chronology that could be referred to as almost Jean Shepherd’s army novel, because they’re not just random stories. They really tell his induction into the army, his early Signal Corps training at one camp in Missouri, then his radar experiences in Florida, and some general experiences, and finally his last days in the army, and his finally getting out. And as he put it, “Thank God I ain’t in the army!”

D. B. : And, you know, no one can say it like Jean Shepherd. He has a very distinct voice, and may be the greatest storyteller ever on radio. Let’s listen to a clip right now of Jean Shepherd.

J.S. :audio: “Okay, you guys, you’re in the army. Alright, you’re in the army.” We have just sworn in. You know that wonderful swearing-in ceremony where Van Johnson talks and the guys cry?  The thing where they play “The Star-Spangled Banner”? We didn’t hear anything! And somebody says, “What about the oath?” and the corporal says, “The oath? You just heard it. Get the potatoes out of your ears, mac!”

D. B. : Classic Jean Shepherd. Tell us one of the anecdotes that perhaps you like best from the book.

E. B. B. : Well, let’s see. There are so many. That was one in the book, and it’s about him being inducted in the book, and expecting some kind of major emotional experience, and instead, he was rather disappointed because they said, “Raise your right hand,” and all of a sudden they mumbled something and he’s in the army! Where’s the emotional kick that I was wanting out of this? And he didn’t get it—but he was always complaining about life—that it wasn’t really the way you thought it was going to be, or wasn’t the way it was in army movies with Errol Flynn and all those other people.

D. B. : Do you find it interesting—a lot of people who don’t know Jean Shepherd will know him from one classic movie—A Christmas Story—he wrote it, gets his voice in there, and sort of his own little story as he always tells his story. Do you find it ironic that he’s so well known for A Christmas Story when, in fact, it’s his radio days which everyone else knows him for?

E. B. B. : I think that movie is a really good movie. However, we real Jean Shepherd fans, as you say–purists—understand without question that Jean Shepherd’s greatest claim to immortality was his decades of improvised radio shows. Ah, wonderful!

D. B.:Thank you so much for coming in. The book is called Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, and Boondoggles. For more information, head over to our website, CBS. Com.

Next Time, Back to Kid Stories.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories– End of first dating story.

Okay, ya got the picture.  Alright, I’m this kid, see, and the sap is flowing.  And I’ve already got the sense of guilt that all fourteen-year-old kids have got.  Guilt about all kinds of things.  Terrible thoughts that would go through my head.

I’ll never forget one time when Esther Jane Albery went up to the front of the history class.  She had on a flowered dress and she was silhouetted against the light.  Incredible.  I have never lost my wonder about it either.  I don’t think most men ever do.  It was unbelievable.  Right out of my head an awful thing suddenly popped out, it had twenty-six legs, had a big black moustache, and was chewing tobacco.  This thing, this thought, came out, spilling all over the place.  It was the first time a thought like that went through my head, and I swatted at it like a fly.

I was flabbergasted—we were studying Richard the Lionhearted and all of a sudden I was looking at Esther Jane Albery in a way I’d never looked at her before!  Oh!  Whew!  It was spring.

More dating stories to come

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Dating and (145b) ARTSY Ubu [part 2 of 2]

Another thing about it that has to be said parenthetically.  That the sun was very bright.  And the wind was very windy in those days.  And the tumbleweeds tumbled.  They really did.  And streetcars roared, and the lake boomed on the shore.

And living beside a Great Lake when spring comes is a very exciting thing.  It’s not quite like it is living next to the ocean, because the ocean, you know, tempers the season in a way the Lakes don’t.  The Lakes are very cold in the springtime.  And the ice that grips that part of the country had broken and cracked away a few weeks before, and now it is alive again!  And you can feel the hot wind coming up from the south and it hits that cold air hanging over the Lake and it would be beautiful—just cataclysmic June thunder showers that would come from where those two pieces of air are hitting.  And it would all come right down where we lived, right there at the dividing line.

And on one side there would be dogwood and tulip trees blooming.  (The state flower of Indiana is the tulip tree.)  So there would be tulip trees hanging over there in the dunes, and the dogwood climbing up the side of the hills, and those big, fantastic thundershowers would come roaring down.  It’s springtime, my god, it’s really spring!  You knew it.  Things were moving—you could hear it.  Always.  Another thing you could hear in the springtime is the very beginnings of frogsongs—I cannot describe to you the sound of the frogs at eight or nine o’clock at night in June in Northern Indiana.  Just like the whole earth is singing and making this one, long, warbling note just going on and on and on.

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@

My Ubu Raw

[Pardon the appropriate/objectionable word on the cover and elsewhere. There are five sheets plus a final page with its instructions and special applicator for completing the art project at its appropriate end.]

(Note that TV has recently shown several poop-related ads: hemorrhoid ointment; toilet paper; odor reducing spray for “#2” to none of which I have yet adequately accustomed myself. I still consider them, on the public media, questionable displays of tastelessness.) 

Despite these recent public displays of scatollogy, to preclude potential public agitation in the streets, highways, and byways of the Internet, and though I feel that Art and related Artsys should be allowed much wider latitude and longitude, I  sadly, hereby, perform an act of self-censorship (forgive me the unforgivable self-indulgence–it’s been a humdinger):

Backside of Box

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

The publishers [New Directions] are grateful to

Gaberbocchus Press, Ltd.

Intro/translation=Barbara Wright:

….Ubu was conceived as hideous, grotesque, with a pear-shaped head, practically no hair and enormous, flabby stomach; the embodiment of cupidity, stupidity, brutality, ferocity.

[Jarry]….then for two days no one saw him. Two of his friends went to see what had become of him and found him lying on his straw bed in a state of indescribable filth, paralyzed in both legs and unaware of what had happened. He was taken to hospital where he became rapidly weaker. And on the 1st November, 1907, he died, at the age of 34. His last request was for a toothpick.

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Alfred Jarry

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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–Dating and (145) ARTSY Ubu [part 1 of 2]

PART 10. REARING ITS LOVELY HEAD

As a cake of human yeast and a young bud on a thorny rosebush of life, Shepherd succumbs to urges of sexual awakening.  In biology class, sharing the dissection of a frog with a lovely young thing, he dates an uptown Pearl; pursuing another “chick,” he encounters an impediment of turkeys a la Ford; on a much-anticipated first date with a young Swedish beauty, he drinks fly soup; and, not expecting one consequence of high school graduation, he scraggs with the best of them.

Bud On That Thorny Rosebush

I’m this kid, see.  One day it’s June.  It’s going to be June for a lot of you, as it always has been for kids for centuries over.  And it was once June for me too.

It was June, and I had just finished my freshman year in high school.  I was veritably a bud—on that thorny rosebush of life.  Ready to pop those petals out and to reach for the sun!  To drink in the elixir, the veritable dew of passion and of existence.

There I was, crammed with my head full of isosceles triangles.  I had just finished a year of algebra and I was very good at quadratic equations.  Very good.  Mr. Suttlemeyer was very proud that I made it.  I was beginning to absorb this thing—what it was about—this education.  And now it was spring.  June.  It was the Depression.

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UBU ROI

My artists’ book, “Ubu Raw,” done in two formats in 2002, is a tribute to Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play, Ubu Roi. The play is an outrageous stinker, a surrealist masterpiece.  The artist’s book’s first version is fitted into a hinged plastic box 5” X 7” X 1 /7” and the subsequent edition of one is housed in an elegant wooden cigar box 6 1/8” X 9 ¾” X 1 7/8” (These wood boxes, in many sizes and styles, can be found at ebay. At the moment there are 4,384 for sale.) I chose the lines from the play and designed/printed the selections. My printed illustrations are pasted on corrugated cardboard sheets. Note the cardboard backs for numbering the sheets, made by cutting into the cardboard on one side forming numerals, then removing that top layer.  (The current paragraph is meant to convey info for some, and for everyone, to lull [amusing-sounding word] into the illusion that the following material is of no offense.)

I am not responsible for Ubu’s terminology: pardon my and Jarry’s French. Any connection between Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1896), my Ubu Raw (2002), and life in these United States, is a bizarre and lamentable coinkadink.

(Jarry’s drawing of Ubu.)

Ubu’s first line in the play is Merdre,

Which, with the extra “r” is, in English, [S—t].

King Ubu (Ubu Roi) by Alfred Jarry,

Translated by Patrick Whittaker 2007.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ubu-roi : The title character, Pere Ubu, is a gluttonous, greedy, and cruel individual who slaughters the royal family of Poland in order to ascend the throne. Willing to sacrifice anybody to accomplish his ends, Ubu ultimately proves himself a coward when he is forced to do battle with the king of Poland’s surviving son. The play’s scatological references, pompous style, and bastardized French caused the audience to riot when it was first produced in 1896. It was later championed by the Surrealists and Dadaists in the 1920s, who recognized in Ubu roi the first Absurdist drama.

My cousin Ray was fascinated by the play—he and his wife and I saw an off-Broadway puppet version of it. I became interested in it also–and encountered an artists’ book, hand-lettered-and-illustrated edition by the female half of an accomplished husband/wife team in the experimental book creation and publishing business:

Two Pages From the Extensive Ubu Comic Book (1970)

by Franciszka Themerson

END OF PART 1 OF 2

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JEAN SHEPHERD, Rat Catcher, and ARTSY Torvill & Dean, John Curry 2 of 2

So that Monday I get myself some rotten liver at Oshenslauggers.  I take it to work and by nightfall, my god, I had forty or fifty rats!  And by the end of the week I got maybe seventy-five rats one day.  I walk into the tin mill assorting office and Chester looks up and says, “You know, you’re even better than Stanley.”

I say, “Aw, nothing to it.”

Herman calls out, “Yea, he’s pretty good!  He’s damn near as good as Stanley.”

I walk out to the tin mill floor that day, tall and straight.  I walk up to Sophie and I say, “Sophie, how about going over to the Red Eagle with me after work.”

She says, “Where’s Stanley?”

I say, “The hell with Stanley.  I’m movin’ in.  Ya goin’?”

She says, “Well, if you put it that way, yes.”  And she did.

After all, I am one of the truly great rat catchers to come out of Inland Steel.  Better than Stanley.  Even today, kids are being measured against me.  I am a legend.

[END OF PART 9]

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JOHN CURRY

John Curry won the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal.

The fundamental basic of ice skating is an obscure form called “school figures.” It involves precision of movement, and represents an important element in learning to skate well. It used to be a part of high-level competitions, shown on TV in a short segment. But, probably because it was not “exciting” for the mass public, and virtually impossible to adequately depict on camera, it was eliminated. Apparently, Curry was its master. He commissioned modern dance choreographer Twyla Tharp to create a piece for him. She called the 7 ½ minute solo-program, “After All.” The New York Times writer described it as “a luminous study of edge work, in which a skater’s shifting weight emphasizes inner and outer edges.” That, with the patterns inscribed by the blades on the ice, is “school figures.” When I first saw Curry perform “After All,” because of its mostly simple skate-blade movements, I saw it as a tribute to school figures, the basic origins, the wellsprings of skating, and as a statement of defiance against its downgrading in the figure-skating world. It showcases Curry’s superior skill:

John Curry and Twyla Tharp.

“After All”

Images From What Seems to be

the Only Internet Sources Available.

(“After All” and Curry’s other work embody unsurpassable purity and elegance.

That such smeared video renditions of “After All” is all that seem available

on the Internet is an ironic travesty.

That John Curry died of AIDS, nearly penniless, at 44, is a tragedy.

I strongly suggest avoiding the sad details of his final time on Earth.)

Comments upon his death in 1994

“I think he brought the purest form of ballet to the ice,” Peggy Fleming, [1968 Olympic Gold] said of Mr. Curry. “He was a real purist, totally devoted to the art of skating. He also had the technique and athleticism to make that art look effortless. It was a wonderful blend of what skating is about — art and sport. It’s a huge loss.”

Dick Button, men’s Olympic champion in 1948 and 1952, said yesterday in a statement that Mr. Curry was “the finest and most intelligent all-around skater I’ve ever seen. He skated with a combination of superior athleticism, solid technique, classical line and musical sensitivity. And he was choreographically inventive.”

Bill Jones, author of Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry: “Figure skating’s gibberish lexicon, with its lutzes and loops, meant nothing before John Curry took to the ice. In five hypnotic minutes gliding across the ice, he transformed a discredited Olympic event into a glorious art form.”

How Dare I Discuss Motion and Music in a Static Blog?

None of the Elegance in Actual Motion Above is Available for this Blog,

But all of the Above can be Seen on YouTube.

• 

Movement and Music are the Most Emotionally Satisfying Arts (for me).

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JEAN SHEPHERD, Rat Catcher, and ARTSY Torvill & Dean, John Curry 1 of 2

So I go back out by the tracks and start walking my trap line.  The first three traps, nothin’.  The fourth trap where we throw the waste has been sprung!  No rat.  And no cheese.  Son of a gun!  I put more bait in there.  By god, I couldn’t believe it, I’m walking on the trap line and I get over by the Coke machine and I caught a rat!  I take the rat into the office.

Chester yells, “Get that thing outa here.  Don’t bring them rats in here!  What’re ya bringing a rat in here for?”

I say, “I want to show you I caught a rat.”

“Don’t bring it in here!  Throw it back in the garbage!  Get it outa here!”

I walk out with my trophy.  Well, that first day, I caught six rats on my trap line.  Six rats.  And I kept careful score.

The next day I come in.  This time I’m all excited.  Somehow this stuff started to get to me.  So when I come in, eight o’clock in the morning, I’m not messing with Sophie.  I start laying my traps.  It’s like a game.  By noon I had caught seven or eight rats.  I’m beginning to get used to where them babies are.  And by that night I must have caught twenty or twenty-five rats.  I keep score.  I mark down on a pad how many I catch and where I catch ‘em.  Back of the Coke machine: two; back out by the number two cardboard cutting machine: three.

By the end of the week I can hardly wait to get to work every day.  Then I hit the jackpot.  Fantastic day.  I catch almost forty rats.  That night I’m back at home sitting at the kitchen table, feeling on the top of it all.

My old man says, “What’s got into you?  You look like you got a heavy date tonight.”

“I had a good day at work.”

“What happened?”

“I caught thirty-six rats today.”

“Thirty-six rats in one day?”

“Yep.”

“That’s not bad.”  He says, “Listen, I got a tip for you.  You know what rats really like?  We have them down at the plant.”

“What?”

“Rats like nothing better than rotten liver.  Get rotten liver down at Oshenslauggers and you’ll catch more rats than you can believe.”

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SHALL WE DANCE?

Skating and art—

How dare I mention motion and music?

I know nothing about ice skating but I know what I like and why.

For me, ice hockey is a sport (producing the most impressive athletic agility), figure skating is an art, but sometimes the word “sport” is conflated with ice skating—probably because, to accumulate a more massive audience, commercial interests promote it as such, and the “sports-like” twists and turns—“toe loops,” “axels,” “lutzes,” etc. are given the biggest applause. These recent decades, the most twists per leap of various kinds are most highly regarded.

For me, the problem is that most figure skaters skate around—as though winding up—and then do a multiple twist, then go back to artless skating around, winding up for the next spectacular athletic adornment. That is a perversion of the art of figure skating. Only a very few skaters flow out of one move and go immediately into additional artistic moves, segueing into another fancy turn. The difference is a showing-off of athleticism versus the creating of a continuous artwork. My wife and I still watch some ice skating on TV, but the form, for me, has been corrupted through a commercial elbowing-out of the magic of the highest human level of skating that is art.

To compare, Fred Astaire dancing alone and with Ginger Rogers, in their 1930s movies, were superb artists. Astaire, it’s said, insisted that while he was dancing, camera work had to show his entire body—his dancing body was his art. One of the most amusing and astute comments on Astaire/Rogers is that she did the same as he…:

(The non-dancing banality of the remaining parts of their movies were but useless dross.) The cleverness of Busby Berkeley’s dancing geometrics in 1930s movies, was a crowd-pleasing, optical tickling of the eye—Op Art’s mediocre visual tricks.

ICE SKATING

The categories of performers are: men singles and women singles; pairs consisting of a man and a woman skating together; ice dancing, in which a man and a woman performing together are restricted in various ways such as–both usually doing the same moves in synchronistical manner, and the two remaining as a single visual unit. Ice dancers Torvill and Dean (1984 Olympic and World Champions. I gather that Dean did their choreography.), and solo skater John Curry (1976 Olympic and World Champion), for me, fused, assurance, elegance, and physical perfection without equal–they were the highest level of art on ice.

John Curry: “I think that over the years individual skaters have been truly sublime. People like Torvill and Dean have definitely helped prepare the public for the kind of work our company is doing. It’s fascinating that what most captured public attention during the winter Olympics were performances that didn’t have any of the usual thrills and spills, but were simply pieces of movement on ice — done, of course, so beautifully and so well.”

Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean

One aspect of figure skating on television that I have always disliked is the TV commentators constantly speaking over the music and video with their description of the athletic and technical performance when I’m trying to absorb the art/quality of the skating. (It’s as though, in a ballet performance, a voice over the music was constantly describing the action.) But, in a sublime moment, the commentators having seen practice sessions and knowing what an extraordinary performance was coming, Torvill and Dean appeared for their competition piece, “Bolero,” and the typical, polluting audio commentary gave way to the full glory of art–the music began and the skaters skated with not a word of ruinous, technical/athletic commentary! The quality of the skating and choreography were the best ever seen on television. With “Bolero” they went on to win the World’s and 1984 Olympic gold medals. In other fine works, “Mack and Mabel,”  which evoked the emotions of a sweet but stormy romance, and at the World Championships in 1983 they danced a circus number with music from “Barnum.”

Bolero

End part 1 of 2.

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JEAN SHEPHERD more rat catcher and (143) ARTSY Bill & Billy

The great Stanley.  I never saw this character!  The great Stanley again!

“Look,” he says, “I’ll get you some of the stuff.  Stanley had his own way,” he said.  “What do you want?”

I say, “Gee, what do rats eat?  How about some cheese, some old hamburger, or something like that?”

He calls out, “Okay, Madge, fix up some of that stuff that Stanley used to use.”

Stanley had his own bait!  So she goes in the back and about five minutes later she comes out and what does she have?  “This is what Stanley invented.”  I’m working under the great Stanley.  Stanley would take old hamburger, stuff that’s gotten gamey, and he would have this woman grind up old cheese ends and mix them together and make little balls out of it.  She comes out with a plastic bag full of these little balls.  She says, “The older they get the better they are.”

“Okay.”

I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I go out with my little bag of bait.  I walk down by the tracks and I set a couple of traps.  I put one under a big cardboard cutting table and I put one in the back where they throw out all the garbage, and I walk up and down and put one back of the Coke machine.  I put out all fifteen of them, so I come back into the office and I say to Chester, “All my traps are out.”

He says, “Don’t bother me with it!  That’s your job!  Don’t tell me your troubles.  I got my own troubles!”

What am I supposed to do?  I hang around a bit.  The best thing to do is to stay out of their sight.  I go out, I look at Sophie.  She’s flipping the tin.

“How are you, Sophie?”

She says, “I’m alright.”  Flipping the tin.  She’s looking at me and she says, “Say, can I ask you a question?”

I say, “Yeah, baby.”

“Where’s Stanley?”

Stanley!  “I don’t know where Stanley is.  He got transferred to the main office.”

“If you see him, tell him Sophie has been asking for him.”

Stanley’s not only the greatest rat catcher that the tin mill ever saw, but he’s also making it with the chicks.

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BILL & BILLY

Bill’s “Snarky Parker”–1950 & Billy Stewart–1956

I’ve recently become aware of two extraordinary musical “performers.” One of whom hadn’t crossed my mind in over sixty years and who had only performed to my ears and eyes for one television season when I was about 12 and he was made of wood. The other I only encountered at age 79.

[Oh, the 1950s were a strangely quirky time!]

Snarky Parker–1950 video

One of my fondest memories of television (in addition to staring at the early-in-the-day test patterns), was in 1950, a goofy guy pounding away rinky-tink on an old upright piano.

He was a puppet named Snarky Parker. (I later found out that he was a creation of the great, early TV puppeteer, Bill Baird.) It was a 15-minute daily program called Life With Snarky Parker, and it had a little story line each day, but the only part I remember was when Snarky began the program playing  the piano, looking and moving suspiciously like song-writer Hoagy Carmichael, creator of “Stardust,” “Georgia on my Mind,” “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” and many others. Somehow, Bill and Hoagy combined here (with a casually balanced cigarette) in an ARTSY stunner.

Hoagy played in several films, including with

Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

But quirky Snarky remains stuck in my mind.

Billy Stewart

 Our alarm clock-radio wakes us up to mostly contemporary pop/rock music every morning. One day I heard a very unusual creation of sounds in an odd interpretation of “Summertime,” but, as usual, the performer’s name wasn’t announced. I YouTubed “Summertime” and found a TV video in monochrome green, with someone I never heard of—Billy Stewart, lip-syncing his 1956 recording.

1956 on a 45 RPM

His performance is one of the most fascinating pieces I’ve ever heard. He uses his voice and his mental agility as a quirky musical instrument, doing a take-off of the song that in this rendition, for me, is a jazz masterpiece. It grabs me by the ear and engulfs me in ARTSY amazement.

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JEAN SHEPHERD more rat catcher and (142) ARTSY Night Notes

I’d never seen this Stanley but already I’m working under his legend.  It’s terrible to replace a great performer.  Can you imagine a poor guy who had come along to fill in for Mickey Mantle?  He sits down at the end of the dugout and the crowds are hollering, “We want Mickey!  We want Mantle!”  They ain’t hollering for George or Fred, who’s just come up from Rochester to replace him.  Here I am, I’m not the great, legendary Stanley, so I say, “What do I do?”

Chester says, “What do you mean, ‘what do you do.’  You catch rats.  That’s what you do.”

I say, “Where are the rats?”

“They’re out there by the tracks, down there by the shipping dock.”  He says, “There’s rats around the back.  You know what these damn girls do?  They eat their lunch and they throw all the bread crumbs and junk around.  These rats come in here. The place is full of ‘em now.  It’s your job to catch rats.  Go find Stanley and ask him where he caught ‘em.  Stanley knew how to catch rats.”

There I am.  I’m on my own now.  I say, “Alright, where do I get the bait?”

“Go down to the commissary and ask ‘em for bait.  Stanley didn’t bother me with this stuff!”

We have a commissary down at the end of the mill, so I go there and there are all these guys eating.  I walk in and I’m looking around for Mr. Roberts who I used to deliver mail to.  I tell him I want some rat bait.

“You want what?”

“I want rat bait.”

“Rat bait?  What are you going to do with rat bait on a mail route?”

“I’m working for Mr. Gotch down here at the tin mill assorting office and I need some rat bait.”

“You’re replacing Stanley!”

I say “Yea.”

“That kid was fantastic!”

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NIGHT NOTES

For decades I’ve kept a 3” X 5” white pad and a pen with me wherever I go. I often write a note regarding such things as grocery lists and other superficial stuff. Most importantly, I make notes about important (to me) ARTSY stuff, sometimes in  the middle of the night–when I grab pen and pad from my nightstand and, to avoid disturbing my wife, I write my note in the dark—in hopes that I’ll be able to read it in the morning:

Allison once asked me what I write in the night and I explained it to her.

In October of 1997 I’d encountered a New Yorker cartoon

that perfectly described the situation:

Occasionally, waking up in the dark, I’ll want to write a more extended note as I recently did. So I have to get up, get a big pad, turn on the dining room light, and write at the table. Most recently a dream had concerned theater, comedy, and book collecting—things connected to my ARTSY life. One of the most absorbing and enjoyable dreams I can ever remember having. I’m not sure how ARTSY it is, but here’s what I wrote:

Not such a great dream—

but, being about an Off-Off-Broadway play,

a comedy, and a used book store

(such as the dozen on lower Fourth Avenue

I used to haunt many Saturday mornings

as a youngster),

gee whiz, it is a bit Artsyish.

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JEAN SHEPHERD Special A CHRISTMAS DOG post

MEWWY CHWITHMUTH!

JEAN SHEPHERD–A Christmas Story again!

The 1983 movie is still, by far, my favorite, and I gather that most others feel the same. Here’s the opening part of the New York Times 12/18/17 review of the TV musical version shown 12/17/17:

From left, Maya Rudolph, Andy Walken, Tyler Wladis and Chris Diamantopoulos in Fox’s “A Christmas Story Live.” Credit Jordin Althaus/ FOX

Judging by last year’s “Grease” telecast and this year’s “A Christmas Story,” the Fox network seems to like everything about live television except the “live” part. A game cast, lively score and sturdy source material made Fox’s big holiday spectacular “A Christmas Story Live!” a pleasant enough way to pass a mid-December Sunday evening. But the presentation throughout was a letdown — like getting pink bunny pajamas for Christmas instead of a Red Ryder BB gun.

Director Bob Clark’s original 1983 movie followed a winding path toward becoming a yuletide staple. Based on the radio monologist Jean Shepherd’s stories of growing up in a small town outside Chicago in the 1930s, “A Christmas Story” disappeared from theaters quickly, only to find an audience on TV for its honest, funny take on how children process holiday stress.

I did enjoy the Broadway version when it opened on 11/19/2012. I think they did a good job:

Poster on the Side of the Lunt Fontanne Theatre

With Dan Lauria as Shepherd

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