“New Faces” in which Shep appeared.
Interesting that Shep is in “New Faces” of 1962, when he’d been around and very active in radio, live performance, mostly off-Broadway theatrical plays, and jazz in New York since 1955. Maybe he felt that he needed the widespread boost then, when he was about to abandon acting in mostly small play productions.
Drawing in ad by Herb Gardner
In a broadcast, Shepherd comments that in the late 1950s there were many live entertainments, called “revues,” with short skits and other performances. He performed in a couple of them. Akin to the series of New Faces productions and to his Look, Charlie, cobbled together with Shel Silverstein, Herb Gardner, and Lois Nettleton and which they performed on the Lower East side on Monday nights in late 1959 and early 1960. Some sources only list 3 performances, but they also performed a couple of times in early 1960. (Mondays are usually dead nights for theater, the playhouses usually closed, and thus available for productions done on the cheap.) The Red Onion Jazz Band, according to Frank Laidlaw, one of its members, sat apart from each other on the stage, facing in opposite directions—a spotlight would shine on each member as Jean, in his monolog, cued them. They accompanied Jean, Shel, and others on a number of songs, including some with Jean head-thumping and playing the nose flute. Jean’s improvisations, woven between the other performances, presumably held it all together. He reportedly hurled many invectives.
Shep head-thumping, as drawn by
Shep Silverstein in the show’s program.
It’s said that, among other pieces in the show, as a Roman emperor, Shepherd was fed grapes by Lois Nettleton, his romantic interest beginning in the late 1950s. Did this master/servant girl image, presumably concocted by Jean, strike Lois as a strange depiction of loving partners? To end the show, Shepherd came out and shouted, “Stop! Stop! What is this? This is total insanity!” and according to a Shepherd fan, he “walked down the center aisle and invited everyone in the audience to join him for coffee across the street at Ratner’s Delicatessen.” I remember Jules Feiffer was in the rear of the theater. Shep said, ‘Jules, they don’t believe me.’” Shepherd fan, comic Andy Kaufman (who was about ten years old when Look, Charlie was performed), years later, after his own Carnegie Hall performance, in apparent and unspoken tribute, invited his audience out for milk and cookies.
Andy drinking milk during his
outing with his audience.
(If he got it from Shep, Andy should have acknowledged him for the inspiration. Just as I hereby acknowledge Lisa Rogak’s book, A Boy Named Shel for the “Stop! Stop!” quote, and www.flicklves.com for the fan quote.)
It’s said that all the performances of Look, Charlie were recorded, but as of now, no audio has surfaced. One more damnably elusive, legendary grail for which to search and pine.