Shepherd’s dislike of rock and roll—and specifically of the early Beatles, probably because their great popularity–made them symbolic of it all and makes this encounter of more than usual interest. (We who combine our enthusiasm for Shepherd with our own Beatlemania are thus especially interested in what he had to say about them.) We Shep kooks are a persistent crew, but sometimes it takes us too damn long to make connections. What’s the missing piece here? Why hasn’t it occurred to any of us to ask a simple question about the time the four-plus-one were together: what about group photos of that Fab Five?
There must have been photos taken of Shepherd with the Beatles during that week! The Playboy material and the existing radio shows are just not enough to satisfy my hunger, my lust for more, so when I’d heard that there’s four unpublished syndicated Shepherd shows in which he discusses his time with them, I encouraged the CD producer to market the set. I began doing sketches of what a CD box would look like with a photo—has anybody seen a shot of Shepherd with the Beatles? I can just picture it. That hotel room cluttered with half-empty plates and nearly-empty liquor bottles they’d had to order from the hotel food service because the wild-eyed teenage chicks screaming outside were too fearsome to brave. There’s Shep with his small traveling tape recorder. He holds the mic. The Fab ones sprawled out around him. The historic moment of perceptive queries, quick-witted retorts. All eyes on him because, naturally, at this supreme instant, he is doing the talking.
But other than a possible use on the CD box, so what if there were photos of Shepherd with the Beatles? Is that relevant to the nature of Shepherd’s art, which I claim to be my prime focus? Of course not. Yet, steadfast, resolute, unswerving, dogged monomaniac that I am, trusty computer at the ready, I spring into action. Through the internet I buy two coffee-table books of Beatles photos, sight unseen (titled, Siamese twin-like, The Beatles Unseen and The Unseen Beatles). No luck. Two recent books about The Beatles tours of the British Isles borrowed from the library—not even there!
Not through yet. Tenacious, relentless. More internet research uncovers a Playboy auction of June 2002 that included a “group of thirteen black and white photographs and proof sheets of the Beatles by Dennis Cameron. Shot for the Beatles Playboy interview in February 1965.” Note: Interview in 10/64; published 2/65. Is there a shining grail buried within those proof sheets? Gotta be at least one shot of Shepherd in there!
I email my contact at Playboy and he replies: “There are legal problems connected with the photos that prevent use.” Damn! But why the mystery—it suggests that at least one shot with Shepherd exists but that some SOBs have them locked in a vault. Outraged, misanthropic but dogged, I continue in hot pursuit of Beatle/Shepherd images.
There’s gotta be gold in them there photos that may still pan out! So I leave no trickling stream unexplored, no pebble unturned. Indefatigable. A glimmer that may be gold—an internet used-book store compendium lists the Playboy auction catalog so, once more sight unseen, off goes my hard cash. Breathless. Hanging by my thumbs. Dingdong mailman alert. Grasping the package—my heart goes pitter-pat—all ten clawing thumbs in a free-for-all foofaraw rip off the packaging. Over 200 pages of Playboy memorabilia such as a Playboy Club Key, a plaque-mounted Bunny tail (“Caught Live At The Playboy Club”),
Little Annie Fanny and other cartoon originals, sketches, paintings, photos of varied celebrities, and other seductive collectibles—you name it. Sketches, paintings, photos of firm young body parts attached to seductive young women. And a double-page spread of black-and-white photos of various performers shot for Playboy interviews. Of the Beatles photos taken for the Shepherd interview the catalog illustrates one shot of each Beatle. Fools’ gold. Foiled again!
Failure and uncertainties. Yet a glimmer remains. Maybe someday we’ll get to see all thirteen of the “group of thirteen black and white photographs and proof sheets” and there will be at least one shot of Shep with those other four guys. This grail exists—it’s just a matter of finding it! (That phrase would look good emblazoned on an Excelsior! banner, wouldn’t it?) Who knows when or even if? One can only hope and ponder on fickle fate.
And just now on the Internet I find one of those proof sheets–
that, at a subsequent auction just a few months ago, did not sell!
I capture the image, print it, scan it,
peruse it with a magnifying glass.
NO DAMN SHEP!
I don’t know if I’m getting closer to the grail
or just being toyed with by the f***ing finger of fate.
One silver lining among the uncertainties—
my financial consultant advises me that,
as an author with research expenses,
my Beatles and Playboy purchases
are deductible on my income taxes.