TV Interview on July 21, 2013 for SHEP’S ARMY
Here’s the complete text of the CBS Sunday morning interview by Dick Brennan with me. Until recently, this could be accessed on the Internet, but now, although the CBS page is there, the video won’t open. Fortunately for me, Jim Clavin, maintainer of the great Shepherd website www.flicklives.com had sent to me a DVD video of the interview, finely presented in a DVD box with his specially created, front-and-back cover:
Dick Brennan, CBS interviewer: He was the comic voice of a generation. Jean Shepherd’s radio show was a nightly tradition for many in the 60s and 70s. A new book is looking at a specific time of his career—his time in the service. It’s called Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, and Boondoggles. With us this morning is the editor, Eugene Bergmann. Mr. Bergmann, thank you for coming in. I was just telling you that my connection to Jean Shepherd is that I produced for Barry Farber, one of the radio greats, who you interviewed for this book, right?
E. B. B. : For the previous book [Excelsior, You Fathead!].
D. B. For the previous book. And he’s a huge Jean Shepherd fan and he used to say, in his North Carolina accent, “I just want Jean Shepherd on my show very night!” So there is one great wanting another great.
What’s different about this book?
E. B. B. : This book is the first book of Shepherd’s stories to come along in a quarter of a century. They were never before in print. They represent stories that he told on the air about his life in the army. Of course–his life–his fictional life in the army. And to me, one of the fascinating things I found out about his life-in-the-army stories when I began researching them and listening more and more and wondering how can I put this book together, is that overall, of all the stories he told, they became almost a chronology that could be referred to as almost Jean Shepherd’s army novel, because they’re not just random stories. They really tell his induction into the army, his early Signal Corps training at one camp in Missouri, then his radar experiences in Florida, and some general experiences, and finally his last days in the army, and his finally getting out. And as he put it, “Thank God I ain’t in the army!”
D. B. : And, you know, no one can say it like Jean Shepherd. He has a very distinct voice, and may be the greatest storyteller ever on radio. Let’s listen to a clip right now of Jean Shepherd.
J.S. :audio: “Okay, you guys, you’re in the army. Alright, you’re in the army.” We have just sworn in. You know that wonderful swearing-in ceremony where Van Johnson talks and the guys cry? The thing where they play “The Star-Spangled Banner”? We didn’t hear anything! And somebody says, “What about the oath?” and the corporal says, “The oath? You just heard it. Get the potatoes out of your ears, mac!”
D. B. : Classic Jean Shepherd. Tell us one of the anecdotes that perhaps you like best from the book.
E. B. B. : Well, let’s see. There are so many. That was one in the book, and it’s about him being inducted in the book, and expecting some kind of major emotional experience, and instead, he was rather disappointed because they said, “Raise your right hand,” and all of a sudden they mumbled something and he’s in the army! Where’s the emotional kick that I was wanting out of this? And he didn’t get it—but he was always complaining about life—that it wasn’t really the way you thought it was going to be, or wasn’t the way it was in army movies with Errol Flynn and all those other people.
D. B. : Do you find it interesting—a lot of people who don’t know Jean Shepherd will know him from one classic movie—A Christmas Story—he wrote it, gets his voice in there, and sort of his own little story as he always tells his story. Do you find it ironic that he’s so well known for A Christmas Story when, in fact, it’s his radio days which everyone else knows him for?
E. B. B. : I think that movie is a really good movie. However, we real Jean Shepherd fans, as you say–purists—understand without question that Jean Shepherd’s greatest claim to immortality was his decades of improvised radio shows. Ah, wonderful!
D. B.:Thank you so much for coming in. The book is called Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters, and Boondoggles. For more information, head over to our website, CBS. Com.
Next Time, Back to Kid Stories.