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JEAN SHEPHERD–Manifesto-Part 5

This current post is the last of this series of “Manifestos.” The following story was scheduled for near the end of the Keep Your Knees Loose book manuscript. Does eveyrbody like green icing?

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(The sweet green icing flowing down)

A couple of years before Shep died, a number of us Shepherd cuckoos contacted his childhood friends Flick, Dawn Strickland, and Wanda Hickey, and we all made regular pilgrimages to his home, maintaining contact with him despite our shyness and his justified grumpiness.  It helped if we could get songwriters Jimmy Webb and Gene Raskin, and Chicago White Sox first baseman “Banana Nose” Zeke Bonura, to tag along.  I’ll never forget those times we spent with Shep in his later years on Sanibel Island, when the temperature on those cool winter evenings had plummeted to 130 degrees above zero (centigrade), and the crappies were jumpin’ out of the swirling steam.  Just as when listening to his nightly radio broadcasts, we thought those times would go on forever.

Ol’ Shep sometimes entertained guests by serving us highballs of meatloaf and red cabbage, if he could find the recipe.  (I’m telling the truth!  I’m not exaggerating!)

He would tell stories that inevitably began, “I was this kid on the north side of Juneau, see….”  Then he’d go on to relate how, “With both hands tied behind my back [Laughs.] I’d wrestle alligators.”  He referred to these anecdotes as his “Crock Tails.”  If one of his old radio engineers was present at the gathering, he’d fix the guy with narrowing eyes, grab a 6SJ7GT mike and, daring him to cut him off, add, “Or I call these my Tales of Crocks of…” and let the unuttered word hang in the air like the stench of an abandoned latrine.

Inevitably he’d take us to his ham radio room [“shack”], where he’d have us listen while he tapped out some Morse code, and then, on what he called his “Victrola,” he’d carefully put on LPs, one by one, and scat along to “Boodle-Am Shake” and “The Bear Missed the Train.”  He could often be persuaded to get out his jew’s harp and, with his inimitable way with a tune, but straining it a bit, he would render “Escargot” to the consistency of consommé.

It is said that he retained within a crystal case, on the rump-sprung remnant of a red chenille bathrobe, a fragment of broken table lamp in the shape of a woman’s well-turned leg.  This is one of those Shep-myths it’s my duty to expunge from the record—the remaining shard is more likely part of a slender calf, or a hunk of inner thigh.

He would occasionally clear his throat—”HARUMPH!”—and could be heard to mutter, “What a gallimaufry!  Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”  Finally, he would haul out an old wooden crate with a label, tattered and torn, that read, MADE WITH PRIDE IN HOHMAN, INDIANA.  Within, he had a preserved, well-worn knee-handle, nestled on a bed of purest excelsior (you fathead!).

During those days and nights it seemed as though it was always raining.  Maybe that’s why ball-bumbling Banana-Nose Bonura would drop another easy pop fly and Jimmy, nowhere near MacArthur Park, in his stripp-ed pair of pants, would go bounding out into the downpour screaming that he’d “never have that recipe again.”  Yes, the recipe died with Shepherd.  Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’d have our Shep forever and a day.  But Jimmy (“MacArthur Park”), nostalgic songwriter Gene Raskin (“Those Were the Days”), and steadfast writer Gene Bergmann (“Excelsior, You Fathead!”) were wrong–he’s alive.  Fortunately, Shep had baked us thousands of recorded broadcast cookies to savor, whether on our brightest, sunshiny days, or during a deluge.

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 Thank you, cousin Raymond B. Anderson, for content and editorial advice on this entire project, leading to what I believe is a better book.  Thank you to my friend Margaret Cooper, for her eagle eye and sharp mind not only for editorial corrections, in what might have appeared to be only gentle nudges and minor suggestions, but which were important comments resulting in a much stronger result.

Of course Jim Clavin’s continues to be the best source of Shepherd information.  Members of the email shepgroup sometimes post new Shep-related news and respond to my queries, for which I’m grateful.  Contacts from people who were aware of EYF! and my own detective work led to much new material, and I must also thank my able research assistant, Serendipity—hugs and kisses, doll.

Several people have provided powerful jolts of important revelations for our knowledge of Jean Shepherd.  I thank Lois Nettleton, actress and third wife of Shepherd, for her enthusiasm for my first Shepherd book and her offer to invite me to visit her when she returned to the New York apartment she’d shared with Shepherd.  She carefully read the book and wrote extensive notes—notes that provided much fascinating information about her and Jean’s personal and professional life, all of which contributed greatly to Keep Your Knees Loose!  Thank you to director and producer John Bowab, Lois’s long-time close friend and her executor, who gave me two hours of his time in her New York apartment, and who rescued her notes from probably inaccessible university archives and generously gave them to me.  Thank you, Doug McIntyre, for providing me with a copy of Lois’s year 2000 interview with him.  Thank you Barbara Tiedermann Simerlein for the background information regarding Leigh Brown’s early years and for providing many letters from Leigh to her, written during Leigh’s early contacts with Jean.  Thank you Tom Lipscomb for providing much important commentary regarding his friendship with Jean and Leigh.  Thank you, Shepherd fan Mark Snider for providing contact with his brother, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and thank you, Dee Snider, for the great discussion and interview. Thank you also, Dee, for your cool blurb for my Shep’s Army book.

Thank you, Nadine Metta Bordogna and Charles Bordogna for alerting me to the Jerry Seinfeld comment about Shepherd on Seinfeld, Season 6 DVD set —I use the quote at every opportunity—and thank you, Jerry Seinfeld, for saying it.

Thank you Jeanne Keyes Youngson (“The Vampire Lady”) for telling me about your friendship with Shep and his early New York radio days.  Thank you, Joyce Brabner for attempts to locate Jeanne’s misplaced and long-gone box of tapes from Shep’s overnight broadcasts. Many will recognize that Joyce was co-creator of some of Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor”  graphic novels and that her essay on I, Libertine remains available on the Internet. I discuss in my graphic novel reproduced in my early blog posts, her help on that project.

Thank you, film director Raul daSilva for providing me with a copy of the heretofore undiscovered 1973 half-hour film, No Whistles, Bells or Bedlam, narrated by Shepherd (one gets to see him a bit, too!). Thank you Robert Blaszkiewicz, for permitting me to quote from your column about the JSMIGWTAOPC Tollway (described in an earlier post).   Marc Spector, an associate producer at WOR in 1975 contacted me with his observations regarding Shep’s later period at WOR Radio.  Thanks to Bill Myers for helping to expand on the meager information regarding Shepherd’s Cincinnati radio days.  Thank you, Murray Tinkleman for alerting me to Shepherd’s commentaries in the 1987 PBS program “Norman Rockwell: An American Portrait.” Thank you George Irwin for providing a video portion of the TV panel show “I’ve Got a Secret” showing Shep musically thumping his head.  1960-08-31_022_secret-3

When’s the last time you saw Shep with a jacket,

white shirt and tie–and a crew cut?







Jean Shepherd ended his WOR radio career in 1977 and he died in 1999. Yet his creations continue to be perpetuated through new and older enthusiasts who enjoy his works. Here are some of the major factors helping keep Shep’s vision alive.



Shepherd‘s own books continue to sell.  In addition,

Eugene B. Bergmann‘s books, Excelsior, You Fathead! ( 2005), an overview and appreciation

of Shep’s career, and his Shep’s Army (2013), annotated transcriptions of

Shepherd army stories, continue to sell.

Caseen Gaines‘ book, A Christmas Story-Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic

appeared in 2013 with considerable material on Shepherd.

Several books on radio and on humor appearing in the last decade or so  contain

descriptions and appreciations of Shepherd’s radio work.


A number of schoolbooks for teaching literature each feature a story by Shepherd,

with study comments and hints.

Professor Quentin Schultze of Calvin College has taught courses in the art

of Jean Shepherd and had him as a guest in class.

DISTRIBUTION (audio, video, radio) 

Max Schmid of WBAI broadcasts Shepherd audios  and interviews as often as he can

in addition to  selling CDs and DVDs of Shepherd’s works.

Jeff Beauchamp”s Jean Shepherd Project (no longer extant)

distributed CDs of hundreds of Shepherd broadcast audios.

Sellers on continue to offer Shepherd books, audios, videos, etc.

DOCUMENTARY (in the works) 

Nick Mantis is creating a major documentary on Shep’s world,

interviewing many important sources.


Jean Shepherd acolites gather from time to time to chat, eat, and

exchange enthusiastic comments about him. The most recent “Shepfest” was

at Katz’s Delicatessen on June 24, 20014.

nick at katz 6.24.14

Documentary video-maker at Katz’s.


From time to time–here, there, everywhere  inaccuracies–grubbage–

about our mythic hero continue to pop up, scatter like a dandelion’s plumed seeds,

giving birth to equally erroneous progeny.


Of great importance is Jim Clavin‘s, which is the major source

of information on everything related to Jean Shepherd.

Two other websites (which do not remain current or active) have good material:

Jim Sadur’s “Jean Shepherd Fan Page”

and Bob Kaye’s “The Shepherd Page”

Various internet sites, including  the brass figklagee at, continue to feature Shepherd audios.

Fans communicate regularly through the email site:

and on Facebook through the group: “I’m a fan of Jean Shepherd.”

An internet site features a “comic book” bio by Ethan Persoff & Scott Marshall

of early V. Voice contributor John Wilcock, , including:


My blog,

every third day posts articles and thoughts on everything related to Shepherd:



A variety of writings, interviews, and commentaries continue to appear,

created in print and internet publications (Gene Bergmann,

Donald Fagen, Keith Olbermann, etc.).

Irwin Zwilling, who controls Shepherd’s creative rights,

continues to be engaged on his behalf.


Turner Television continues to yearly broadcast A Christmas Story

to millions of viewers, especially for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve.


A few years ago, Gene Bergmann‘s one man play “Excelsior!” enjoyed

a very limited run off-off-off-Broadway.

In recent years, around the holiday season, a live theater version of

A Christmas Story, travels widely in towns and burbs.

Starting in 2013, A Christmas Story, The Musical appeared on Broadway.

Both theatrical versions of the film portray Shepherd as narrator/commentator

in on-stage performance.


 From time to time Shep receives some well-earned tribute

such as induction into the Radio Hall of Fame (posthumously),

The Paley Center for Media–Jerry Seinfeld tribute (posthumously),

and even while he was alive →  🙂  ← such as being given an honorary doctorate,

as seen below (pay no attention to his pants and sneakers).








JEAN SHEPHERD– Letters From the Gang

Suellen, a long-time Shep-enthusiast and member of the email group dedicated to the life and work of Jean Shepherd, has posted frequently about her thoughts and experiences regarding Shepherd. Nick is a more recent adherent to all-that-is-Shep. He comes from the Hammond, Indiana area where Shep grew up, and he’s working on a full-scale documentary about Shep’s life and work.
Their recent posts give a wonderful sense of some of the connections to Jean Shepherd that we each have in our different ways. They both have given permission for me to share large parts of these recent emails.
Gene B.
eb from facebook
suellen photo
Well, Nick, it won’t be a documentary without including us Shepnuts and our annual (or more often) Shepfests. You have to see it to believe it. Every year (or more often), we gather together, kazoos at the ready, hand made table decorations, various signs and Shep favors, and have a grand old time. One time I dressed my leg up as a leg lamp. Other people have more dignity than I do, but what the heck. We celebrated our tenth reunion in cold Spring, NY, site of the Original Shepfest – a grand gala if there ever was one. I am probably the Least of the fans…if you can call us fans at all. These people are more than fans. They are a literate group of accomplished people whose lives have been profoundly influenced by Jean Shepherd, and in the most positive way. One only has to plow through our archives to see the dedication, knowledge and passion of this group. Of course, you have experienced it first hand by meeting with some of our more illustrious members. A special treat, no? 
My connection with Shep was My Old Man, George P. Crowley, a dedicated Model Railroader (OO Gauge, if you please) who introduced me, somewhat reluctantly on my part, as a teen to the world of Jean Shepherd on the radio. I didn’t listen to him as a kid under the sheets, as so many fondly remember doing. I sat at the kitchen table with the Crosley radio and My Old Man and realized: girl though I may be, Shep was describing my experiences growing up! He was talking to ME! I was hooked. Years later, as his books would come out, I’d buy each one for The Old Man. In 1982 I stole them from the house, got them all autographed by Shep at the Clinton Bookstore, including a photo of me and Shep together. After months of fretting (well, My Old Man didn’t fret; he would muse with some concern), Christmas rolled around, and My Old Man got the surprise of his life with four autographed books and a photo of The Man himself, with The Old Man’s daughter. It was a Christmas to remember. 
 Every July 4th, through happy times and sad, no matter what I was doing, me and The Old Man would gather around the Crosley to listen to “Ludlow Kissel and The Dago Bomb That Struck Back.” I used to love to watch the look in The Old Man’s eyes as we anticipated what we well knew was coming. George has been gone since 1987. But every year, after the fireworks and the 4th of July revelry, I sit by myself, listen to Shep and his famous 4th of Jul y story, and know The Old Man is still there, somewhere, enjoying sharing it with me. 
All of my Shepherd material, the books, photos, memorabilia, the magazine articles, everything was lost in Superstorm Sandy. Slowly I’ll replace the books, maybe find some magazine articles and other stuff, but nothing will replace the autographed copies where Shep, after having met me, inscribed each book, “To Poor George…”
nick photo
Thank You Suellen!
What a wonderful story! Bless your father too!
I have heard about the annual Shepfest. I want to attend and bring my camera and document the event and many of the group’s stories. I really would like to know everybody here in the group and the connection they have made with Shep. (By the way, being from Hammond we call him Jean, I don’t feel I have earned the right to call him Shep … yet!).
I already have some fascinating interviews about Shep but only from those that knew him from working with him in one form or another. But I know that the real inspiration that Shep left behind is from all those that listened to him mostly during his WOR days and from attending his live performances. Sure Jerry Seinfeld is a super mega star but to hear him say 5 feet in front of me that Jean Shepherd taught him nearly everything he knows about comedy, really blew me away. Or that Hugh Hefner had the confidence in Shep to send him off to Europe to follow this group of guys that call their musical band the Beatles blows my mind. When I first really listened to Jean Shepherd myself on my way to New York, I was blown away!
He nailed it every time! Irwin Zwilling told me (on camera) that Jean Shepherd was always right no matter what the issue may have been. He also described that Shep, like a great athlete, could slow down everything and see things and study them better than anyone.
There is so much I can write and say but for the moment, I just want to say Thank You for sharing your story. I know I am just scratching the surface as there is so much yet to discover as well as uncover.