Home » BOOKS » JEAN SHEPHERD–Obdurate Acts, Extenuating Circumstance–& Road Not Taken (8)

JEAN SHEPHERD–Obdurate Acts, Extenuating Circumstance–& Road Not Taken (8)


Thinking about Shepherd’s important moments and decisions in his life.

How did he get to where he became.

Some repetition and a continuation to not really a conclusion

in enigmatic, unsatisfactory endings–that can only continue.


Why–was he happy with his choices–what might he otherwise have done?

This is a difficult area and one which I usually avoid, because it is to a large extent speculative, and based–inevitably–on incomplete/inaccurate information. But maybe by doing little more than listing some milestones, one might get some clues about the Jean Shepherd enigma.

shep at 6 closeup

Photo courtesy of

Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.

I believe it of value to note and define, what to my mind are important points of Shep’s life and career. Some relate strongly to his creative world. Surely there will be some disagreements in this list. (It should be noted that, although years of publication are given, some of these activities/creations obviously were in progress at least in the previous year as he worked on the project.)

•   •  


Moves to New York City, the center of the artistic/intellectual life he desired. It leads to almost all of his important creative achievements. At some early point in his life in NYC, he becomes involved with many of its artistic activities, including connections to: Greenwich Village and the Village Voice; relationship with Lois Nettleton; his reported introduction by Shel Silverstein to Leigh Brown.


•   •  


This is the period I describe as “The Great Burgeoning.” It includes what I can think of as crucial and innovative parts of his professional life: Overnight, improvised radio from January to August 1956; Village Voice connections; connections to the modern jazz world including emceeing important jazz concerts,  narrating Charles Mingus’ “The Clown,” and writing periodical columns on jazz; creating his I, Libertine book hoax; promoting John Cassavetes’ Shadows; editing and writing intro to his George Ade book. (From the front page of the Voice, the first image shows left to right: Shep, Lois Nettleton, Anne Bancroft.)

v,voice obie photo

the clown cover


shadows title credit

•   •   


Convinced (according to Hefner by Shel;  Lois said convinced by herself and other friends) to transcribe and edit his improvised stories and get them published (Playboy and in books).

IGWT cover

•   •  


Creation of first season of the television series

Jean Shepherd’s America.


•   •  


Co-creation and narration of movie A Christmas Story.

ralphie glasses

•   •  

(1977?) 1984-1999

Moving to Florida. Shep had numerous times expressed that New York City was his true home because of its vitality, artistic ambiance–why did he move? Finances? Lessening of his intellectual interests? Other?


•   •  


Creation of second/final season of the television series

Jean Shepherd’s America.

usa flag of jsa

•   •  


Leigh Brown, helpmate, supporter, and love of his life, dies.

leigh,shep 1977

•   •  •   •   •  •   •   •  

10/16/1999–into the future

Shep dies. Tributes and remembrances flow from many sources.


•   •  •   •   •  •   •   •  

(As always, I’d appreciate any and all comments,

including additions, subtractions, corrections,

and further thoughts.)

KYKL bottle cover

Excelsior & seltzer bottle

More to come




  1. Tom says:

    Regarding the speculation about why Jean moved to Florida: Given past comments regarding his health status and physician appearance, perhaps he could no longer take a cold climate (e.g. diabetes = poor circulation). Also, the island where he lived is somewhat remote and private and seems like the perfect way to avoid being seen by the public. Or was it Lee’s choice?

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughful posts. Any chance of doing one or two on Shep and the Mets? Two stories come to mind – one is a recollection of when Shep’s plane happened to fly over Shea during the last game of the 1969 World Series. The other, a work of fiction, when the Mets couldn’t pitch their way out of an inning, exhausted their bullpen, and eventually had to trot their whole bench out to the mound. “Yes, folks, Bud Harrelson is coming in to pitch!”

    • Steve says:

      Apropos of Tom’s comment, Shep first moved to Fort Lauderdale in about 1977, and then to Sanibel Island in about 1984. Here is what Shep told a reporter in Florida for the Sun Sentinel in April 1985:

      “Shepherd, after all, is the guy who moved away from Fort Lauderdale to Sanibel Island late last year because he thinks Broward County is turning into the Bronx.

      “I mean it,“ he says. “In a few years, this area is going to resemble nothing so much as the Bronx. It`s especially true as you drive west — State Road 84 is a forest of cranes and cement derricks.

      “I was telling some friends, Florida may become the first state to achieve what they all aspire to — paved from end to end, east to west. A whole block of concrete in the shape of Florida. They flatten it, level it, pour the concrete and in comes J. C. Penneys.“

      Shepherd, 53, who [also] has homes in New York and Maine as well as Florida, sees life as a series of cruel, if darkly amusing, surprises — most of them perpetrated upon the young.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: