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JEAN SHEPHERD–Confessions of a Shepologist

A CHRISTMAS STORY & some of my other truths

When I began writing the manuscript of my Excelsior, You Fathead! I wasn’t sure how to start my introduction and how I should deal with the movie A Christmas Story. You see, I hadn’t cared very much for it, having only seen it once years before–it wasn’t the same as Jean Shepherd’s radio broadcasts. Yet I knew it had to be a decent part of the book because it’s a part of his legend. Because of this, and because I therefore felt it important and useful as well as appropriate to open with such a prominent part of Shep’s legacy, I began the introduction:

intro 2
Yes, indeed I knew

where much of his current fame resided.

That was written in about 2003. Subsequently, having watched the movie well over a dozen times just for the pure pleasure of it, I enjoy it tremendously and promote it whenever I can. I’ve written about it on this blog, and my introduction to the book A Christmas Story–Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic is an extended essay. For me, among the totality of his creative work, it is only surpassed by his radio-studio broadcasts.

When I began working on EYF! in early 2000, I got out my file folder of Shepherd material. ( A rather thin file–now, over a decade later I’ve got bookshelves and closets full of Shepherd-related files) As for Shepherd’s short stories–another confession. I found in my thin file the torn-out first story Shepherd published in Playboy, June, 1964: “Hairy Gertz and the 47 Crappies.” I think it was the only Shep story I read at the time, probably because- it was not like Shep on the radio! After the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s I had a lot of catching up to do when I realized (thanks to the New York Times obituary) that he was gone–my oldest and closest friend who had done so much to form me and entertain me way back in my late-teens and twenties, whom I had neglected for so many of my adult years.

NETWORK

Regarding the movie Network, with its famed scene of the TV broadcaster Howard Beale, in a version of Shep’s invectives, telling his listeners to yell out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” I’d seen that bit a dozen times over the years. But I can’t remember seeing the whole movie–until a couple of months ago when my wife and I watched it. We were both caught up in it. I especially enjoyed the extent to which Beale/Chayefsky railed against the culture–of American in general and of TV in particular. I also recognized how Chayefsky’s attitudes and Shepherd’s could be similar in subject matter, but Chayefsky’s projections were much more fierce, with a scathing brutality as a forecast of what might happen based on current trends. Shepherd’s lampoons I consider to be much more lighthearted and not up to the level of  his stories and other radio material.

Go for it, Howard!

I was especially stunned to see him

shot to death live-on-the-air.

WOW!

It’s Paddy Chayefsky all the way!

Great, but that ain’t Shep,

who mostly wished to  stay on the sidelines

observing, reflecting in his stories–

or slyly mocking.

PLAY “MISTY” FOR ME

I don’t know why I never paid attention to this movie in regard to Shep. I’ve never even been aware of anybody else mentioning it regarding Shep, so I had no clue. What I may or may not have known about it, I was undoubtedly put off by the apparently consistent violence of Eastwood’s movies–joy for sadists and masochists alike. Only the recent reference to it by Jim Clavin of http://www.flicklives.com, when he received the audio of Shep’s “Misty” broadcast and passed it along to me, got me involved. Then I realized that I’d have to force myself to watch the horrific, bloody movie–I’m obligated because of shepology. My wife says it’s “just a movie”–that “just” is something we’ll have to talk over one of these days. I’ve now forced myself to watch it and I’m perusing the paperback novelization-based-on-the-movie for any other clues to Shep’s world.

play misty.with knife“Misty”

Not Shep’s usual subject matter.

TALK RADIO

I’ve seen clips from it recently and now I’ve read some  about it. Brrrr! Not Shep’s style of radio to be sure. I felt obliged to some day soon see this damn, rotten, fantastic flick! Finally saw it. Powerful! Grim. Not like the Shep we know. Even more to come about it.

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