JEAN SHEPHERD– Letters From the Gang
Suellen, a long-time Shep-enthusiast and member of the email group dedicated to the life and work of Jean Shepherd, has posted frequently about her thoughts and experiences regarding Shepherd. Nick is a more recent adherent to all-that-is-Shep. He comes from the Hammond, Indiana area where Shep grew up, and he’s working on a full-scale documentary about Shep’s life and work.
Their recent posts give a wonderful sense of some of the connections to Jean Shepherd that we each have in our different ways. They both have given permission for me to share large parts of these recent emails.
Well, Nick, it won’t be a documentary without including us Shepnuts and our annual (or more often) Shepfests. You have to see it to believe it. Every year (or more often), we gather together, kazoos at the ready, hand made table decorations, various signs and Shep favors, and have a grand old time. One time I dressed my leg up as a leg lamp. Other people have more dignity than I do, but what the heck. We celebrated our tenth reunion in cold Spring, NY, site of the Original Shepfest – a grand gala if there ever was one. I am probably the Least of the fans…if you can call us fans at all. These people are more than fans. They are a literate group of accomplished people whose lives have been profoundly influenced by Jean Shepherd, and in the most positive way. One only has to plow through our archives to see the dedication, knowledge and passion of this group. Of course, you have experienced it first hand by meeting with some of our more illustrious members. A special treat, no?
My connection with Shep was My Old Man, George P. Crowley, a dedicated Model Railroader (OO Gauge, if you please) who introduced me, somewhat reluctantly on my part, as a teen to the world of Jean Shepherd on the radio. I didn’t listen to him as a kid under the sheets, as so many fondly remember doing. I sat at the kitchen table with the Crosley radio and My Old Man and realized: girl though I may be, Shep was describing my experiences growing up! He was talking to ME! I was hooked. Years later, as his books would come out, I’d buy each one for The Old Man. In 1982 I stole them from the house, got them all autographed by Shep at the Clinton Bookstore, including a photo of me and Shep together. After months of fretting (well, My Old Man didn’t fret; he would muse with some concern), Christmas rolled around, and My Old Man got the surprise of his life with four autographed books and a photo of The Man himself, with The Old Man’s daughter. It was a Christmas to remember.
Every July 4th, through happy times and sad, no matter what I was doing, me and The Old Man would gather around the Crosley to listen to “Ludlow Kissel and The Dago Bomb That Struck Back.” I used to love to watch the look in The Old Man’s eyes as we anticipated what we well knew was coming. George has been gone since 1987. But every year, after the fireworks and the 4th of July revelry, I sit by myself, listen to Shep and his famous 4th of Jul y story, and know The Old Man is still there, somewhere, enjoying sharing it with me.
All of my Shepherd material, the books, photos, memorabilia, the magazine articles, everything was lost in Superstorm Sandy. Slowly I’ll replace the books, maybe find some magazine articles and other stuff, but nothing will replace the autographed copies where Shep, after having met me, inscribed each book, “To Poor George…”
Thank You Suellen!
What a wonderful story! Bless your father too!
I have heard about the annual Shepfest. I want to attend and bring my camera and document the event and many of the group’s stories. I really would like to know everybody here in the group and the connection they have made with Shep. (By the way, being from Hammond we call him Jean, I don’t feel I have earned the right to call him Shep … yet!).
I already have some fascinating interviews about Shep but only from those that knew him from working with him in one form or another. But I know that the real inspiration that Shep left behind is from all those that listened to him mostly during his WOR days and from attending his live performances. Sure Jerry Seinfeld is a super mega star but to hear him say 5 feet in front of me that Jean Shepherd taught him nearly everything he knows about comedy, really blew me away. Or that Hugh Hefner had the confidence in Shep to send him off to Europe to follow this group of guys that call their musical band the Beatles blows my mind. When I first really listened to Jean Shepherd myself on my way to New York, I was blown away!
He nailed it every time! Irwin Zwilling told me (on camera) that Jean Shepherd was always right no matter what the issue may have been. He also described that Shep, like a great athlete, could slow down everything and see things and study them better than anyone.
There is so much I can write and say but for the moment, I just want to say Thank You for sharing your story. I know I am just scratching the surface as there is so much yet to discover as well as uncover.