Home » Comments about Shep » JEAN SHEPHERD–Play “Misty” For Me. Part 2

JEAN SHEPHERD–Play “Misty” For Me. Part 2


play misty DVD cover


I’ve just heard what seems to be a recently discovered audio–probably originally from 1971– in which Shep discusses in some detail his having seen the movie “Play Misty For Me,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood (1971). It’s about a late-night disk-jockey on a small radio station in the late 1960s.

  Hear Shep show here: ←

Shepherd’s discussion is a far-ranging one regarding his early days in radio as having almost always been on stations with 50,000 watts (top notch!); describing neurotic notions caused by the nature of modern media such as radio especially, notions which he refers to with what he believes is his own coinage, “the media neurotic.”

Misty DJThe DJ on the air playing “Misty”

Shepherd describes the DJ in “Misty” as one who doesn’t play the Top-40, and that he has a very personal kind of radio monolog. (Already this sounds a bit like Shepherd himself. Is this movie another Shep-inspired concoction?) A woman calls frequently, asking the DJ to play “Misty.” She manages to meet him and they have sex. She then becomes jealous of his regular girlfriend, she murders several people, and she tries to murder him. [I’ve just seen the movie for the first time and find that she seriously injures one person and kills a cop, threatens to kill the DJ’s girlfriend after binding her up, and tries to kill him, wounding him several times with a knife before he, defending himself, accidentally pushes her so that she falls over the balcony to her death.] Shepherd says that most people who see the movie would just feel that it’s a fiction–a horror movie and not like something that could really happen. He wants us to realize that what happens in a horror movie–such as in “Misty”–is something that can happen in real life. (He is leading up to his revelation about someone who stalked him.)

Film critic Roger Ebert comments: 

“The movie revolves around a character played with an unnerving effectiveness by Jessica Walter. She is something like flypaper; the more you struggle against her personality, the more tightly you’re held. Clint Eastwood,….He is strong but somehow passive, he possesses strength but keeps it coiled inside. And so the movie, by refusing to release any emotion at all until the very end, absolutely wrings us dry. There is no purpose to a suspense thriller, I suppose, except to involve us, scare us, to give us moments of vicarious terror. ‘Play Misty for Me’ does that with an almost cruel efficiency.”

play misty.with knifeThe DJ and his listener

Shepherd says:

Well, I am not going to say any more about that except to say that–that there are very close parallels in that film–not only close parallels but actual repetitions of actual events–that have happened to me–in this business….

Now it’s long been my feeling–working in media–it’s long been my feeling that we’ve created a new kind of psychosis in our time….A new kind of mental problem. The media sicky….

Shepherd tells a fragment of an extraordinary story about himself in which a woman was obsessed with his radio persona and ended up killing six people. Are we to believe this? Curious people want to know. Quick, somebody, track down every such murder story–Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York–that made the newspapers. Later in the program he continues the story, locating it mainly in Cincinnati.

He tells this as actually having happened to him. (Not to be confused, apparently with his kid stories and army stories, because he is connecting it to his whole real world as a radio person who has really experienced this.) After some commercials, as he returns to his monolog, he refers to what he is describing as a “story.”

Alright, lets get back to life here. You know, I–I–I have–I have–mixed feelings about this media neurosis. And I don’t often tell stories–I suppose you might say–or a–I suppose they’d be stories–about what’s actually happened to me personally–in media. Very rarely hear this.


What are we to make of this?

What seems to make this  a real–true–true–occurrence–

is that this whole telling about

“Misty” and media neurosis and his own problems with cuckoos–

is that it all seems

to have discombobbled Shepherd–

he is awkward rather than smooth,

he nearly stutters, he repeats–

he does not seem able to keep his “story” under control.

It seems as though the movie of a crazed listener

stalking a DJ

has hit him

very close to home.

Radio presents a curious set of conditions to the neurotic. First of all he often believes he’s the only one that is getting this. Now, a normal person wouldn’t think that way. But the neurotic we’re talking about, remember, he’s crossed the line of reality. And–or she–it’s most generally–in this case it was a she. She’s crossed the line of reality and she believes that this thing that’s coming out is for her, and it’s only for her….

Incidentally, for your benefit, there have been two attempts on my life. That’s no joke. If you’re here to say I’m laughing–these are serious.

One of them involved a knife–much like in the movie that you saw. And in fact, curiously enough that knife almost looked exactly like the one she used….

Play Misty for Me - knife

It was a big, twelve-and-a-half-inch bread knife…and the incident occurred right here [laughs] on Broadway at 1440, on a Saturday morning. Every bit as frightening as the moment when the girl attempted to stab Clint Eastwood….

A woman was attacking me from behind and I had no knowledge of it–didn’t see it. But an elevator operator happened to be standing there at that point and he saw her charging at me with a twelve-and-a-half-inch bread knife ready to plunge into my back. He floored her, he just left his feet and knocked her flat. And there was a hell of an uproar, the knife was skidding across the floor, and she screamed, “You can’t do this to  my life. You can’t do this to my life!” 

What was I doing to her life? Well, she was hearing on the radio. And the show had become, in her neurotic way, bound with her life. She would build her whole day on listening to this show….whatever I would say would seem to be about her. About her….It seemed that I was privy to her life. You notice that most other media are not connected with the daily life…. But there is in radio. It’s an instantaneous medium. So you begin to believe “he’s like me, he’s living my life.”

Shepherd is connecting it to his whole real world as a radio person who has really experienced this. This is not just a matter of Shep’s art of radio story-telling. This seems to be a matter of what really happened to Jean Shepherd.

Does he call it a “story” so that we may not quite take it as real truth?

Is his confused manner for real or is it so good an act that he convinces us truly?

I do not know.

I  want to know.

In the last portion of the broadcast he goes into some detail about the young woman in Cincinnati who, through listening to him on the radio writes him strange letters and eventually turns up during a broadcast he’s doing in a “night club.” She puts on the stage a very disturbing present for him during the show.


Stay tuned for Part 3



1 Comment

  1. mygingerpig says:

    That is a creepy story. Shepherd’s style encouraged a sense of one-to-one intimacy, especially in the late night hours. We felt like he was talking to us. So it is not difficult to imagine that a borderline person would develop a sense of connection with him. I recall Sharon Stone saying that she wondered what would happen if she stopped her Limo and got out and said to the “fans” who were clutching at the car and screaming her name “OK what?”

    I was a big fan of a singer Blossom Dearie. I bought most of her recordings and loved her style. She appeared weekly at the Ballroom, and one night, during intermission as she sat at a table selling and autographing CDs, I walked up to her to tell her how much I enjoyed her singing. She looked right past me and hardly acknowledged my statement. She was so cold that it turned me off listening to her warm and intimate singing performances, now I knew that they did not represent her personality but her persona. I was hurt, irrationally. Had this happened to a cuckoo, as Shep called them, they might have wanted revenge.

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