Selections from the Program Guides. Recorded in 1964-1965 for syndication by Hartwest Productions but “lost” for decades, over 250 programs surfaced and began being marketed by www.RadioSpirits.com, starting in 2005. These CDs of nearly unheard (because nearly un-broadcast), recorded Jean Shepherd programs began appearing. I’ve written the program notes for all nine of the four-and-eight CD boxed sets so far released. (I receive no remuneration beyond the original fee I received for some of the latter of the nine.) Here’s a short selection of those comments.
(The Hartwest syndicated material is now in the hands of: http://www.filmsaroundtheworld.com/Jean Shepherd Radio.php and is being sold at the price of $14.99 per program by them and by www.amazon.com. They are produce-on-demand and have no program notes. (I’ve had no input on these). I bought Volume 4 because I wanted to hear what he had to say about his cooking. The rest I’d like to hear but not at that price.)
-Radio Spirits-from the program notes set
The X Random Factor
These syndicated programs are quality Shepherd, with all the style and verve of his live broadcasts. The listener might note a few minor indicators of something a bit different, none of which is in any way negative. You’ll hear that his “Bahn Frei” theme music on these Hartwest programs does not have the mysterious Shepherd “Ahhhh” at the very end that was a fixture of his shows for over a dozen years—the syndicated show music ends purely as Eduard Strauss intended. In addition, very frequently over the years Shepherd used fragments of usually quirky music to set a mood, to talk around, to play with—either in words or to accompany with kazoo, jew’s harp, nose flute, or head thumping. In the syndicated shows heard thus far, he seems to have more carefully pre-sketched (but not in any way scripted) the nature of each particular show. And within that sketch, he appears to have more diligently chosen and orchestrated into the whole, excerpts of a less quirky music, which also provide more of a focus to the general tenor of that program.
-Radio Spirits-from the program notes set
In “Foretelling the Future,” Shepherd philosophically—and oh so humorously—refutes the widely held beliefs that life and commercial products are always improving and predictable. He has fun denying the idea of progress. Related to that, his ever-present belief is that predicting the future does not work because our ideals and ideas do not jibe with reality. Human illusions, foibles, and impenetrable human complexity abound—all of these confound the “experts” in their attempts to pin down the future. What joy Shepherd has in life’s absurd unpredictability: “That jagged, peculiar, Yorkshire pudding of existence, the raisins and the grapes and the oysters and all the rest of it. The lobsters and the clams and the cabbages and the kings. All floating like some enormous mulligatawny stew.…” Listen—participate with Shep in his delight in all of life. Shepherd knew that we all have various personal styles and foibles within us, and he did not exclude himself.
Part 2 to come.
(I’ve written what’s below in as artsy a manner as I can.)
For years on the air, Jean Shepherd occasionally spoke negatively about dogs—especially about how owners would let them defecate on the sidewalk and not scoop the poop. I don’t think he’d ever owned a dog at that time.
In one of his books, he wrote and published a burlesque titled “S.P.L.A.T!” Writing as though in a dream and being interviewed on TV (a medium he demeaned) by “intellectual” celebrities of the day such as Steve Allen and David Susskind (both of whom he demeaned in the burlesque), he was asked about the meaning of the name of the organization he represented. After several pages of snide prevarication, he responded: “It stands for Society for the Prevention and Limitation of Animal Turds.”
Our previous dog died years ago, and we decided to wait a while before getting another. Within a very little while (about a week), I suggested that we go to the North Shore Animal League (“just to look,” as I put it.)
We asked if they had any puppies. The young fellow brought out two pups in arms from the same litter, one small, short-haired and brown, the other dark tan and longer-haired. I pointed to the longer-haired one: “That’s the dog for us.” Allison and I and our sons Evan, ten, and Drew, eight, each held him and checked him out. We filled out the paperwork and brought him home.
Evan, Drew, and Augie as Pups
We adopted him on August 1 and Allison named him August, aka Augie, Augustus, Augie Doggie Bergmann. Augie slept in bed with Allison and me for the rest of his life. For the last year or two, we realized that Augie was really getting old—he’d had to have many of his teeth pulled, he was almost blind and deaf, and sometimes walked into things. We lifted him off our bed in the morning and lifted him onto our bed at night. During the day, mostly, he slept and I spent time on the sofa holding him close. He began eating not three, but only two cans of what our vet recommended–Mighty Dog. As an appetizer, with each meal, we gave him several heaping tablespoons of vanilla yogurt along with the Mighty, which we heated a bit to increase the aroma.
Now almost eighteen (yes, 18), Augie’s health had deteriorated. He would wobble on his feet, pace back and forth and stare into space until we put him on the sofa for another nap. We didn’t know if the pacing was a sign of distress. One early evening he collapsed. Allison, Evan, and I rushed him to a 24-hour emergency pet service where they examined him, tested, and X-rayed him. The vet said the pacing could be dementia and that with steroid shots, we could keep him alive for maybe a week or a month. In the consultation room Augie was totally unresponsive, and for the first time ever, we heard him whimper and moan. We agreed that the time had come and we cried and held each other after we gently stroked Augie.
Last photo of Augie Doggie Bergmann
with my hand caressing him.
(Photo by Evan Bergmann)
After Allison, Evan, and I left the pet emergency care facility, my text message to son Drew, now living in Colorado, reported: “We said goodbye to Augie and are driving home crying.”
1981 dedication in A Fistful of Fig Newtons by Jean Shepherd:
“To Leigh and Daphne—Who share my bed, my board, and walks along the sea. May they never regret it.”
(Most people who read that dedication must think that Shep lived, walked by the sea, and bedded two women.)
In 1982 Daphne, Leigh’s dog, appeared in Shepherd’s PBS drama, “Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters”
In 1988, Shepherd’s film Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss,
features the family dog, Fuzzhead (played by Daphne).
Daphne (aka Fuzzhead)
I think that between the early 1970s and 1981,
Shep fell in love with Daphne the Dog.