This is the third and last volume of my “graphic novel,” Excelsior. The holy grail of early New York Shepherd overnight broadcasts has still not emerged (although a well-known jazz authority several years ago claimed he had some. I wonder if they have flaked to pieces or ended in a dumpster yet.) I had great plans for volume four!
Recently a box o’ tapes did see the light of day. Jean’s third wife, Lois Nettleton, who had been recording his broadcasts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, had labeled a small box “antique dolls,” so they were not discovered until her executor opened the box several years after she died. He contacted me and I picked up the tapes from his NYC apartment. So we now do have a few more examples of Shep’s long-form extemporaneous talk from his November and December Saturday and Sunday night shows that followed the “overnights,” which had lasted from January to mid-August 1956.
“As you clamber up the icy slopes, reaching forever, reaching,
grasping eternally, forever, at that shifting cloud of reason,
that chimera that seems to just drift out of your reach
each time you grasp for it. And it moves further
and further away. Excelsior! –Jean Shepherd
What happened in Volumes 1 & 2:Go read ’em and find out! This whole 3-part gallimaufry is the caper of misplaced 1950s tapes of radio humorist Jean Shepherd. For dyed-in-the-fleece Shepherd cuckoos the box ‘o tapes is the HOLY GRAIL.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Jeanne who had the tapes.
Gene who wants the tapes.
Joyce who may find the tapes.
Harvey whose example inspired this graphic novella.
‘We assume many of you out there have been searching endlessly, have been searching throughout all of your time and existence for that great white light of truth and beauty which lies at the end of the golden rainbow of existence. Hot dog! Well, tonight, you may just find it.’ –Jean Shepherd, December 11, 1967
March 25, 1977
Tonight’s show has a sinister overtone
which may prove offensive if not downright
disturbing to may of you deep-typ
thinkers out there….
I turn on this television set. It goes gwaaaawaaad,
awaaaaay–you know how the sets go, and the
picture flops over about twenty-eight times
and suddenly it stops.
I’m lookin’ at it. Oh my god NO!
Out of my ancient past–Count Dracula!
I’M LOOKING AT DRACULA!
Now I wanna tell you sumthin’ about
this Dracula bit. I was affected very heavily
at the age of about nine by watching
And I can’t honestly tell ya that I’m ever
scared by a horror movie. But horror
movies to me have a peculiar
fascination because of the
way they do things….
Kent State Archives
Subject: Re: Youngson collection
Unfortunately. after an extensive search, we were unable to find the sound recordings of Jean Shepherd.
The end of the trail, I guess. I am sure they put forth their best efforts. I’m sorry this didn’t work out. And thanks for Volume II of your comic book. Do we start shaking down vampire museums in Transylvania now, or what?
And we can always hope that some long-forgotten jazz musician (one of the only types of Shepherd listeners who had private tape recorders in those legendary days) had recorded, and has kept, that elusive audio Holy Grail.
As we stride into the future with our Excelsior banners still held high, we predict that our planned trilogy will conclude with a gloriously triumphant Volume 4. Look for it!
Jean Shepherd on Bubbles
“…and a goal, perhaps, a point. We have to have a point to pass. And look–one thing you got to learn–don’t, for crying out loud–don’t catch up with that–with that electric rabbit–this week. I mean, it’s only a two-furlong race, and you catch up with that electric rabbit and all you’re going to do is to get a shock, that’s all, right down in your fanny. That’s no good. So keep that old dream going, you know? I’m forever blowing bubbles. Bubbles in the air. How high they fly. Never reach the sky [Shepherd is reciting these song lyrics slowly, pensively. Concluding theme music comes up under his voice.] And like my dreams they fade and die. I’m forever blowing bubbles. Bubbles in the air. They fly so high–nearly reach the sky. And like my dreams they fade and die.
This program was sent to you by the International Dream Bubble Bath Corporation of the Western Hemisphere….”
“He really formed my entire
comedic sensibility–I learned how to do
comedy from Jean Shepherd.”
JERRY SEINFELD – Comedian
“I don’t think any sense of humor is funny.
Rarely. Jean Shepherd is funny.”
ANDY KAUFMAN – Comedian
“What I got from him was a wonder at the world
one man could create. I am as awed now
by his achievement as I was then.”
RICHARD CORLISS – Time Magazine
“It’s hard to imagine my growing up without Shepherd.”
BILLY COLLINS – U. S. Poet Laureate
“Ain’t no one ever gonna come close to what the man
accomplished…In the dark…with a microphone,
a kazoo, and 50,000 watts!”
VIN SCELSA – Radio Broadcaster
(For making sure we are all centered)———->
eb c. 2006 (With an editorial assist from Raymond B. Anderson)
Harvey Pekar died July 12, 2010
THAT’S ALL, FOLKS!
(Innumerable posts to follow. Look for ’em.)