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JEAN SHEPHERD–Play “Misty” For Me. Part 1

Let’s talk about cuckoos. Most well-known people encounter them. Shepherd seems to attract more than his share. I broached the subject in my EYF!, starting on page 184:

“Fan” after all, is a derivative of “fanatic.” The peculiar showed up, as they tend to do in a performer’s life–Shepherd seemed to attract a large share of especially strange people. The older brother/mentor feeling and the direct communication that Shepherd  inspired attracted some listeners who had excess enthusiasm. Possibly odd loners who had trouble connecting to real people in their lives found Shepherd’s special intimate style attractive and they “glommed” onto him.

Of course most listeners to Shep weren’t/aren’t cuckoos. Remember that, in fact, the most famous “listener” called in during Jean’s overnight broadcasts in early 1956 and eventually married him–actress Lois Nettleton, who, based on my knowledge of her, was an extremely rational and sensitive person–with a genius IQ. A few years later, when she discovered aspects of his “secret life,” I understand that she simply changed the locks on their apartment door and he was finished. Bobby Fischer, strange and neurotic chess-champ, was another kind of brilliant acolyte of the Shepherd persona, and they became friends–Fischer’s recent biographer confirms these facts as Shep related them. Oddball genius Andy Kaufman was a fan. Shepherd’s earliest comments about cuckoos that I’ve heard is in a 1965 broadcast in which he comments in part:

I would like to tell you–all you nuts out there. A special message to the nuts who are with us tonight. If you have suppressed calling, you know–I understand that it’s not easy being a nut and I understand that suppressing you nuttiness is one of the most difficult parts of being a nut….There ain’t gonna be no more nut calls tomorrow night. okay?”

Several other cuckoo-contacts I’m aware of, as described in my book, are from the early-to-mid-1970s. Again from EYF! a report from Barry Farber is that a thirteen-year-old girl was so infatuated with Jean-on-the-air that when he responded innocently to her fan letter, she fantasized that he visited her at night. Look ’em up. Here’s a bit more:

Shepherd on the air in 1972 asked, “Have you ever wondered why I have a funny look in the eye, when this stuff keeps coming in over the transom?”  As general manager of the station, Herb Saltzman remembers, “They showed up, and we ended up having, I believe, to put a security guard into [WOR’s offices].”

From a broadcast in the Fall of 1970, closely related to what he discussed in his broadcast about ‘Play “Misty’ For Me”:

Once in a while you’ll have the misfortune to actually run into one of these people in person at a show, see, and they’ll be a lot of people coming up–you know, they want to talk to you about things–autographs or whatever it might be, see.

I’m not talking about just Shepherd. I’m talking about all kinds of people. By the way, it might surprise you to know there are other listeners to my show other than you, friend. Which always surprises people. But you’ll go to some place in person, and somebody will come up and say, “Hello!”

And you say, “Oh, hello.”

“Well–ah–hello!” they’ll say. “I’m Clarisse!”

And you say, “Oh, yes, well, hello, heh, heh, glad to meet you. My name is Jean Shepherd. Is there–“

Girl says, “What do you mean? I’m Clarisse!”

You’ll say, “Yes, well–well, is there anything I can do for you, Clarisse? Do you want–“

“But I’m, [bewildered tone] I’m Clarisse!”

And you’ll say, “Do I know you?”

“Of course. I’m Clarisse!”

By that time, of course, the guards, wherever they are, are beginning to edge forward, see, because they can recognize the cuckoo eye. The cuckoo eye is usually a kind of watery eye, where one eye spins faster than the other in its socket.

The foregoing is but a calm introduction to the most incredible and scary Shepherd broadcast I’ve ever heard–that’s dated January 28, 1975–thought to be a rebroadcast of the audio originally broadcast in 1971, at about the time “Misty” came out–a program that must make one rethink what Shepherd had to say about truth/fiction in the past. On that, in part, I said in my last post about “foibles”:

That what Jean Shepherd said and wrote could not be relied on as real-world-literal-truth is well substantiated.  This could be caused by any combination of the following: conscious creation of an artistic fiction as he said above in reference to In God We Trust; conscious deception in order to give a false image of himself; faulty memory.

What other possibilities are there? In that scary broadcast we are faced with a serious issue– as he describes having seen Clint Eastwood’s movie “Play ‘Misty’ For Me” and he discusses how it relates to his true life. Shep, is what we’re hearing real truth?

play misty DVD cover

Stay tuned for the shocking continuation.

_______________

[I seek any/all info regarding cuckoo-threats against Shep.]

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2 Comments

  1. mygingerpig says:

    I recall Shepherd talking about how people confuse his persona with the real person he is. He said something like “They think they know me because they listen to my program. But they have as much in common with me as a kid playing baseball has with Mickey Mantle. I am a professional doing what I do.” He went on to say that these listeners felt that could just sit down with him and talk about stuff. He made it clear he had no interest in talking to them nor was there anything they had in common to talk about. To a kid who adored Shep as a kind of mentor, you could see how this could be pretty devastating and possibly angering.
    Joel

  2. mygingerpig says:

    I hasten to add that this is not unique to Shepherd. I think every celebrity suffers from this false familiarity with their public persona. Some deal with it well and others not so well. Shep seems to have handled it well, saving his cutting remarks for interviews that his fan base was not likely to hear. I think the interviews he did with Studs Terkel are revealing about his views on his work, nostalgia and lots more. Might be worth a blog by itself.

    http://www.flicklives.com/index.php?pg=200&ID=19720221G

    Joel

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