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Home » General subjects. Excelsior, you Fathead! » JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 2

JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 2

Shepherd reportedly burst into the Village Voice offices, where he wrote a column for them, excited. He’d just heard that, “Wouldn’t you know! It was a Fair Play for Cuba guy who did it!” The Voice‘s Jerry Tallmer described Shepherd as being very excited that “it wasn’t some right-wing fascist but a nutcase of the left.” Barry Farber remembers that right after the Kennedy assassination, “We didn’t go on the air for four days. I didn’t want to–I was too affected. [Shepherd came in, saying] ‘For crying out loud, finally have something to talk about–they took us off the air!’ “

Actress Lois Nettleton recalls Jean Shepherd’s reaction when President Kennedy was killed. She and Jean had been married since December 1960.  jean and lois c.1962

Jean and Lois circa 1962

She and her mother and Jean were together in Manhattan: “Those three days I guess it was, when everybody was watching.  The three of us watched that whole thing and Jean was absolutely absorbed.  We even went down, walked around, went over to St. Patrick’s and saw all the people sitting on the steps and everything.  And he was—he had a very emotional side—very strong feelings, but I think you have to know that if you know his work.”  Nettleton commented that she and Jean had been strongly pro-Kennedy, and Jean had said in his radio eulogy that he had “been a Kennedy man” because of Kennedy’s intelligence and wit, among other characteristics. After Kennedy’s funeral, when Jean got back on the air, he gave his masterpiece of a eulogy.

Back on the air, Shepherd broadcast his beautifully composed elegy in which he described how the mood of the country had been changing to an unsettling dissatisfaction with the world, and that this mood-change probably contributed to the tragic events. He ended  by saying, “It was a terrible weekend. And I’m not so sure that we’re not in for a few more in the next hundred years.” Very unusual for him, he concluded by doing the equivalent of signing his name to the eulogy, just saying, “This is Jean Shepherd.”

As on so many occasions, Jean Shepherd, as indicated in this

last paragraph above, predicted accurately.

And it’s not just in other countries.

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9 Comments

  1. Frank in NC says:

    As I read this and listened to the show from the next Monday I kept wondering what Shep had planned for the evening of the 22nd and whether he was able to use it at a later date or if the moment was gone and it was lost forever.

  2. It is interesting that the two times we heard Shepherd drop his on-air persona completely were the Kennedy assassination program and the March on Washington. There are many instances where he made observations about society or events, but they did not occupy an entire program, not did they reveal as much of his personal feelings as he did on these occasions. It is as though Shepherd the actor or performer stepped in front of the curtain and Jean Shepherd the person spoke to his audience.

    • ebbergmann says:

      Well put, Joel. I also feel that the March and the JFK programs were so different. In another kind of program he did come across more as a straightforward person rather than as a performer–on his programs describing his travels, where, I believe, he was more up front about expressing what he had just experienced.

  3. True, Gene. The African adventure is one that comes to mind. He was both an observer and chronicler of the experience. He conveyed a sense of wonder and excitement and didn’t go for humor or try to dress up the story to make it exciting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The LBJ and Jack Benny tribute shows come to mind.

  5. I am not aware of them. Are they available on an archive somewhere? Perhaps gene can post a link.

  6. Anonymous is right…I listened to the LBJ program and it too is a very personal commentary, and a fascinating one at that. And right in the middle of the monologue Lester Smith bursts into the newsroom to tell Shep as much as the audience that Gene Foreman had knocked out Joe Frazier in Jamaica and was now the heavyweight champ. Shep got very excited by the news and went off a bot on Foreman, incorporating him into the Johnson “eulogy” as only he could. It is a great show. Now to find the Jack Benny tribute…

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