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The Fred W. McDarrah iconic photo of Jean Shepherd represents the way I–and probably  most Shepherd enthusiasts–imagine him to be. Despite all the varied photos of Shep over the years, it’s the one as I always imagine him–the once and future Shep. It’s why that photo adorns the cover of my Excelsior, You Fathead!

classic shep imagePhoto by McDarrah, un-posed (he told me), but cropped here,

taken while Shep was broadcasting 11/30/1966.

It would be interesting to hear the broadcast

of that date, but I’m not aware of an audio.

The Sunday New York Times of January 26, 2014 has  most of a page devoted to a feature, “Album,” with photos by McDarrah. The occasion is an exhibit of 130 images at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea from 1/30 to 3/8/2014. The short text by John Leland, accompanying the captioned images, says in part:

If we had known that the scrawny guy at that Greenwich Village folk club might some day amount to something, we’d have all been there, cameras in hand, to document the event. But we didn’t so we weren’t. Fred W. McDarrah, on the other hand, made it a point to be there. When Bob Dylan first performed in New York; when Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg held court at house parties in Greenwich Village, or Andy Warhol at his studio, the Factory; when hippies or the gay liberation movement found their voices; when downtown New York was the incubator for the cultural movements that shook the world. Mr. McDarrah, who died in 2007, was the first photo editor and for decades the only staff photographer of The Village Voice. He had a front-row seat for multiple revolutions….

Probably not known to most, but of significant importance for the historical record of Jean Shepherd, McDarrah took the finest image of Shepherd (at work on the radio, no less!)  Also of interest is the photo he took of Shepherd on his opening night broadcasting from the Limelight, February 15, 1964. When I saw this image (inexplicably for the first time) being sent back from my publisher to McDarrah with me as the intermediary, I immediately called McDarrah and offered a hundred dollars for the right to use it in my book. He accepted–here it is:mcd. limelight.2

Of possible interest to some, other than the cover image, all images within a book are paid for by the book’s author. Which is one reason why a couple of photos I’d have liked to include did not make it–because of the multiple-hundreds required by the photo-rights owners. (My publisher had told me that one shouldn’t have to pay more than $50 per image.) The multiple image of Shep from Playboy almost didn’t make it–the four-page contract for its use prescribed a fee of hundreds of dollars. I responded that it was a shame that I couldn’t afford it–Playboy was such an important part of Shepherd’s writing career and Playboy might indeed, reap benefit by readers encountering the credit line for it in the book. The response I got was that, if money was the only problem, I could use the image for free. Yes, money had been the only problem. I found that although the multi-portrait of Shep  had originally included five portraits melded together (See image in my book), the photo as published in Playboy cropped the far right images out.

Many provided images for the book for free, and I credited them in the book’s acknowledgements. But several organizations denied use for any amount and several wanted hundreds. (See in my acknowledgements, for them, my group-disacknowledgement.) I’d have liked to have used the smiling-Shep image in front of a CBS microphone, but not for their outrageous fee–especially as I find it absurd that one encounters that image’s use in numerous locations on the internet (I wonder if all the users paid or have been sued), with its ignorantly implied suggestion that CBS was Shep’s home base. I’d have liked to have used it as it’s such a good shot of him, and my caption would have explained that in his broadcast career, CBS was such an extremely minor, side issue.

cbs photosDo not even peek at these images!

(CBS photos: Not by Fred W. McDarrah)

Besides, “CBS was such an extremely minor, side issue.”


A few years ago I bid for and won on ebay, a good photo print of Shep by McDarrah dated November 30, 1966 but, as his heirs might object. I won’t reproduce it here.

Below is a scan of the signature on the back of that print:mcdarrah signature______________________


I’m pleased to receive this email from McDarrah’s son, Timothy:

”Loved this. As part of the Kasher show, there is a

display case of books that had my dad’s photos on the cover.

Your Shepherd opus is front and center.”