Home » General subjects. Excelsior, you Fathead! » JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 5

JEAN SHEPHERD — KENNEDY assassination Part 5




All in Jean Shepherd’s words:

I think that one of the great problems that lies in America today in connection with the presidency and I can’t tell you how deeply I feel this is our current trend and it’s been going on for some years in this country, to lay the blame for all economic and social conditions at the feet of the president personally….

I have a feeling today that the only difference between the liberals and the right-wingers is that the liberals read the headlines from certain newspapers and the right-wingers read the headlines from other newspapers. Hardly any of them read the stories….

Tonight I have a feeling inside of me that is a great sense of—apprehension, I suppose you might say—a kind of feeling of—I hate to say fear because it’s not that clearly defined. It’s kind of a free-floating thing—that the strange unreasonableness, the fanaticism—that brought about this unbelievable weekend—is not only still around but is slowly beginning to grow in this land….

You know, one of the things that I think that this thing taught us is [we’re] a nation of just walking-around men—just people trying to do the best they can. I wonder how many fanatics, watching the events of the last two days on television wondered whether they were right—wondered whether maybe something in their thinking was wrong. That it’s not that easy to solve problems. You don’t just shoot somebody, you don’t just demonstrate and that’ll take care of it. This is a subtle thing that’s happened to us and you know, I have a feeling that we will not know. In fact I wonder whether Americans ever will, and that includes me. I’m certainly not letting myself out—ever will now the full ramifications of what happened to us for the last four or five days….

[didn’t get job he wanted=went down and shot Garfield.] Perhaps this is because Americans and part and parcel it might be one of the more evil byproducts of the democratic system. That the democratic system often not only fosters individualism. It not only fosters things like idealism, but it also fosters selfishness. That many people confuse license with liberty.

We believe here in American and it comes up in every election—that if we elect the right man, somehow, all of the problems that are dogging the nation will be taken care of.

That it’s looking for that right man—that right man. Well, what you’re doing then, of course, is ignoring the fact that many of the problems that face America—and face all peoples all over the world are not necessarily solvable. They really are not. And if they are solvable, they can only be solved buy that long, slow, grinding passage of time and evolution. This is a very unpopular idea. A very unpopular idea. And one that could get you shot if you mentioned it. Nevertheless, this is faced by every president….

Today, more and more, we are beginning to believe in passion as a substitute for reason….I think there’s something growing in this country that is neither left nor right. It is the growing me-ism. And it’s a new kind of a political force. It’s the new, militant a-political man. He is a militant in his righteousness, who feels he is right. Who feels that he is more moral than all other people. Who feels that his inherent beauty—has caused him to transcend these poor people who believe in one system or the other.

Now this is perhaps a new kind of anarchism that’s growing, but eventually I have the feeling that in a few short years it will become a genuine political force.

usa flag of jsa



nyt 11.21.13


November 20, 2013


This is the final post in this JFK series.




  1. Shragi says:

    Years ago I heard a show where Shep tells the story of Dr. Tushmacher, a dentist, who builds a custom wrench in his garage to pull out a stubborn tooth but which ends up pulling off the patient’s head.
    Since then I’ve wanted to listen to that episode again but I cannot find it.
    Would anyone happen to know which episode this was?

  2. The remarks you put in bold above are prescient and insightful. While I am not a student of social commentary, I cannot recall anyone else making observations such as these in the ensuing decades. Now, of course, we are up to our chins in this soup, so it seems obvious. I recall something a client said to me when we were discussing market research (he was an engineer). He said “I don’t need research to tell me there is a 100 db signal out there. I can hear it. I need research to tell me there is a 10 db signal out there that will become 100 db.” Seems to me that is what Shepherd was doing here.

  3. Stu Tarlowe says:

    On another note, here’s something that may be of interest:

    Hallmark’s “A Christmas Story” tree ornament this year is “I shot my eye out”, featuring Ralphie coming up with the story of how a falling icicle (rather than a BB from his Red Ryder carbine) hit him in the eye and broke his glasses:

    I spoke today with my old friend (and colleague from the days of “underground” FM radio) Art Hadley, who did the voicework for the ornament.

    Art is by no means a Fathead but, thanks in part to his long-time friendship with me, is more than passing familiar with Shep (I lent him some of my Shep tapes many years ago). He told me that there has been a good deal of “negative feedback” about the ornament from customers, but the comments are not critical of his voice or his delivery; rather, folks are objecting to the fact that it’s NOT Shep’s voice. Art said he was cautioned “to not sound too much like Shep, in order to avoid issues of copyright infringement”.

    My own take on Art’s reading is that, while he captures Shep’s flavor, it reminds me more of Rush Limbaugh than of Shep (especially in light of Rush’s current on-the-air reading of excerpts from his latest book, “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims”).

    But then, I’ve long heard echoes of Shep in Rush Limbaugh, in speech patterns, tone and mannerisms. Unfortunately, to the core Fatheads who populated the erstwhile Shep Yahoo Group (and whose collective political bent makes them knee-jerk, de rigueur Limbaugh-haters) the mere suggestion of such was tantamount to apostasy.

  4. Interesting Stu. Given that people who buy this ornament probably expect the audio to have been taken from the film soundtrack, I can understand some of them being disappointed that it is a “crummy commercial” rip-off. Ironically, Hallmark would likely never have paid Rush his fee for doing the VO, so it is funny that your friend Art seems like an imitation of Rush. So you could say this is a case of Art imitating art imitating art.

    BTW, I appreciate Rush’s on-air talent. He is a master at using his voice to tell a story to engage his audience. It’s no insult to say that he may have learned some of this from listening to Shep.


  5. What would Shep have said about Nelson Mandela? For me, he is proof that great things can be achieved by the will of the human spirit rather than the force of arms. Shep’s nihilism might be tempered by that man.

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