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JEAN SHEPHERD “The Village” Part 2 of 3 & (19) ARTSY Garden of Earthly Delights

Greenwich Village is not so much a geographical thing–although it is located geographically. If you were to look at a map you’d have to say it’s in the southern half of Manhattan. And there’s always arguments as to where the Village begins and where it lets off. I would say roughly the Village starts at 14th Street.  Greenwichvillage_map

[Shepherd discusses the boundaries and comments that it varies depending on one’s interpretation. Despite variations in different maps, I’d just shift the whole gray area of this map about 2 or 3 blocks to the east. He comments that people who visit New York City mostly go to Manhattan’s Mid-town–the Times Square area, and that the Village is just one of many of the city’s neighborhoods.]

Greenwich Village is really just a state of mind. The Village probably has more mis-information and glop and romanticism attached to it by outside people, than any other section of any city in the United States. I doubt very much whether there is any other city in the country about which more literature has been written than New York City.

[Shepherd also comments that New York and other “world cities” do not have very much relationship with the rest of the countries they’re in.]

I’ve been connected with the Village, both as a resident, and as a writer, for a long time. 

End of Part 2 of 3

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GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS

The New York Times of Feb 17, 2016 announced in an article that there is an upcoming Hieronymus Bosch retrospective in the Netherlands. I’d love to see it. He’s a weird artist and one of my favorites.

By far, his best-known work is “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a triptych that has hung for centuries in Madrid’s Prado Museum, where I’ve seen it on several trips to Spain.

If you go, don’t ask where their great collection of Hieronymus Bosch paintings is. You may get the same blank stare I got the first time I asked. Eventually I found out that they know the artist as “El Bosco,” and anyway, they’d rather you looked in on their major collections of great Spanish painters: El Greco, Goya, and Velasquez. (They have “El Bosco” paintings, because one of the Spanish kings had a passion for collecting them–they eventually became part of the state’s patrimony.)

hook and eye latch

Persist—ask for El Bosco–and you’ll be directed to an upper floor way down the far end of the museum. I‘ve probably seen ”The Garden of Delights” better—more completely—than the vast majority of viewers. That’s because I’m aware that the narrow side panels close, and to achieve this, I wait until the large room is empty of all but the guard. I approach him with some Spanish cash casually held in one hand and ask if I can see the painting closed. He undoes the hook and eye latch on the lower back of each side panel, and slowly swings them closed.

ARTSY garden closed_

There, in its un-glory, all in grays, is the painted Earth—seemingly before life appeared in all its color, sex, and grotesqueries. This is how Bosch worshipers and tourists first should see this masterpiece (which, when closed, is about seven foot high by six foot wide. Stare at this earth for a while, until your eyes are conditioned to its dull grays. Then ask the guard to open the panels, upon which (after handing over the generous tip), be overwhelmed by the color and the subject matter of the Garden of Eden (left, with God, Adam, and Eve); the main panel with its earthly, sinful delights; then the damnations of Hell in darkness and fire (Wow! far right panel).

The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Hieronymus_Bosch

I had an idea years back. I encountered for sale a large book that contained good color details of the entire work. Wouldn’t it be great (if I had space enough and time) to past up the entire thing and frame it and hang it at home? As the reproductions were on both sides of the pages, I had to buy three copies—one to keep, and two to use both sides of those copies and apply to flat panels and then frame the resultant twelve-foot-high by eight-foot high–what shall we say—social gathering? I bought the books. But it never happened. I still have one copy. I have other books about Bosch and his wacky world.

I understand that the detailed goings-on in this painting are folk sayings illustrated. Back then they had quite an imagination! I have a book by Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death. An article by Thomas B. Morgan in Esquire, comments about it:

According to Brown, the usual interpretation of the painting is not necessarily accurate. Hieronymous Bosch, after all, was a member of a heretical sect known as the Adamites, who practiced “coitus reservatus,” intercourse without orgasm, that is to say, pure forepleasure.” The Adamites’ goal was to recapture in this life the innocent eroticism of Adam before the Fall—the fall into, among other things, the tyranny of a sexuality focused on the genitals. If The Garden of Delights is, then, a portrayal of the Adamite vision, the Inferno scene may have been Bosch’s view of life in the here and now rather than in Hell. And the center section may not be a representation of the kind of sensuality that leads to Hell, but a purposeful portrait of the hope of the Adamites—and of Norman O. Brown.
Garden detail

              Adamite’s Ideal Garden?_right_panel_-_Detail_Inside_the_Tree_Man

   Adamite’s Here and Now?

Gee, I dunno.

If the wrong people had found out about that idea,

Bosch coulda got into a pile o’ poop.

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JEAN SHEPHERD–“The Village” Part 1 of 3

My previous blog about “The Village” focused on what the book, The Village, had to say about Shep’s Greenwich Village. I just re-encountered the audio of Shepherd’s program (reportedly broadcast sometime in 1972) about his connections with the Village. He talks about his various associations with it, but, as related to him as it mostly is, he treats it in a rather objective list as explanation for his affection toward it. Although I wished for a more heartfelt paean, what he has to say is worth repeating in order to get a fair surface picture of Shep-and-the Village. Because portions of the program he devotes to some basic background info, I edit out and rearrange some of this to make it more concentrated regarding issues that fatheads would find of special interest. As always, I don’t change anything and I don’t leave out important stuff. For Shep, follow the bold text.

washingtonSquareArch

Washington Square Arch,

near which Shep held a “mill-in,”

one Saturday afternoon, listeners having made,

at his suggestion (and attempted

to fly there) 3″-5″ box kites .

According to one of the letters I’ve just received—the letter here says, “Shepherd, the trouble with you is it’s obvious that you live in Greenwich Village. Of course that totally warps your view and makes you somehow suspect.” Well, this is one of the most prevalent ides of the outside world RE the Village.

You know I rarely talk about that part of the world. Even though I live in the Village. You probably know that, don’t ya, Herb, that my home is the Village, and I’ve lived in the Village for a long time. And various parts of the Village. I used to live in what is now called the East Village over on 7th Street. And now I live in what is called the West Village. And I also lived in the Village when they just called it the village-Village.

But the curious thing about the Village, I think–which to me is very interesting–it’s one of the few places in America, really, where you can live–you live in an area–it’s almost a state of mind.

End of Part 1 of 3

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JEAN SHEPHERD Drawings Part 5 of 5 (18) ARTSY Dee & Twisted

One Shepherd drawing I’m aware of is unlike the rest in media, appearance, and effect.  (It’s not even done with a Rapidograph.) Done on an eight-by-nine inch sheet of gray paper, it depicts overlapping outlines of cartoon heart-faces apparently drawn with a red-violet felt-tip marker, the simple facial features drawn with a pen.  The hearts form a sequence from left to right, starting upright, but a couple leaning a bit, the final one prostrate, as though in a swoon, the entire effect beyond our full understanding.  Yet the words under them, written with a regular pen, say clearly, “I can’t fight it.  I love you. J.”  Obviously not cold and objective, but heartfelt.  It is a valentine to his wife, Lois Nettleton, and thus private, not meant for public scrutiny.  (Shepherd kept his emotions hidden from the public to such an extent that, in his twenty-one years of New York broadcasting, the only emotions of his so far heard, have been when he was performing in the throws of some maniacally comic, musical interlude, when artfully portraying some fictional event or when disparaging someone in the control room. there was obvious emotion behind his commentaries regarding the Kennedy assassination.

As for his personal life, the public at large was not even aware that he and Lois Nettleton knew each other, much less that they were married for over six years.)  Though lacking detail and much context, this valentine is humorous and poignant, but with a full meaning that probably died with the sender and recipient, and which remains for the rest of us a puzzle that can only be seen as another part of the artist’s life that will always be in its essence unknown—enigmatic. Another one of the few instances of a personal connection to Shepherd’s life.

JS to LN valentine

Jean’s Valentine to Lois.

For Shep, so unusual and so unexpectedly expressing a feeling,

this is one of my favorite pieces of Shepherd memorabilia.

Surprisingly, considering Shepherd’s need for acclaim and a more exalted status as a significant creator in his time, he seemed to care little for what happened to his drawings.  True, there were those few used to accompany his Village Voice writing, and those that appeared in two books, but that was about it.  He seemed to only sign a few, including some that are in private hands, and the one framed on Lois Nettleton’s kitchen wall, seen after her death, is also signed.  But of the several dozen that she had stored in a closet in the apartment she had shared with him thirty years before, and that were eventually auctioned, only one bears his name.

END PART 5 of 5

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DEE SNIDER & TWISTED SISTER

The following Artsy, inspired by a very good documentary recently watched, is a shorter, revised version of a description previously posted.

A fellow I know casually, Mark Snider, asked me what I do now that I’m retired. I responded that I’ve been obsessed by, and have written about, Jean Shepherd. Mark said that he was a big fan and that his brother, Dee Snider, was also. He said “Dee Snider” as though I should have recognized the name, but I didn’t. “Twisted Sister,” said Mark. “Who’s that?” said I. Mark told me that “Twisted Sister” was a rock band and Dee was the lead singer/song-writer. I said I’d love to talk to him about Jean Shepherd. Mark gave me contact info and I invited Dee to visit me in my Shep Shrine at our house.

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Dee Snider in performance.

Twisted Sister is a glam, hair, heavy metal band most visible in the 1980s, though they still occasionally perform.  Their performance style and the content of their lyrics are akin to that of artfully controlled intensity, but remain not nearly as fierce as that of some other groups, because they are organized and carefully crafted by the sensibilities of their lead singer/songwriter, Dee Snider. They’re best-known song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” is more unsettling in its video than in the lyrics themselves.

Dee Snider’s most impressive singing style is a frequently screaming-as-loud-as-he-can while remaining artfully in tune.  As a seemingly manic primitive, he sports outrageously wild and frizzy yellow hair, red lipstick, blue paint on his cheeks, and tattered sartorial outrage calculated to delight rebellious teenagers and whip most parents into a frenzy of disgust.  Dee’s parents had introduced him to Jean Shepherd’s program while he was still a teenager.

He’d listened with his transistor radio hidden under his pillow. Snider is a very big Shepherd cuckoo and he shares some enthusiasms with Shep, including the thrill of motorcycling.

When a black Hummer pulled up outside our house, a tall, thin man dressed all in black like a motorcyclist got out and I greeted him at the door.  It was Dee Snider in mufti.

Dee, with his yellow hair pulled back under a black baseball cap, the peak turned to the back hiding a good part of the protruding ponytail, now in his fifties and still performing with the band, seems neither extravagant nor berserk.  He’s a regular guy offstage—at least for the three hours we spent together—so even his performance persona has its off-duty mufti.

Dee Snider&eb

Dee Snider and me in my Shep Shrine.

Snider said that, “Jean totally affected my storytelling ability. I think it was by osmosis.  We learn from people we listen to.” He’s gotten many accolades for his storytelling on his radio program and, he commented, “I’m known to have a pretty vast vocabulary, using words and phraseology that others don’t use, and I didn’t know exactly where that came from until I realized, upon this reexamination I’m doing now, that Jean has a massive vocabulary.” About word-usage, Snider referred to lyrics in his song “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” including, “Your life is trite and jaded, boring and confiscated.” As he put it, “Not words your average heavy metal rock song would include. I wasn’t very good in English, but I’m taken with Shepherd’s mastery of vocabulary. His mastery of the English weapon.”  Dee stopped himself: “I was going to say ‘using the English language as a weapon.’ Jean used the language as a weapon, and it’s a powerful, powerful tool—offensive and defensive tool, you know–and when it’s working for you, boy, there’s nothing like it!”

I asked Dee how Jean’s attitudes and world view may have influenced him. Dee:  “Well, you know, I’m definitely all about sarcasm [He laughed]. It’s at the core of my sense of humor and my sensibilities and certainly Jean was cynical and sarcastic—to a fault. Here’s Jean as a mentor and as a teacher to us, the misguided youth, and he’s got our ear. And every night here’s someone, a grown man, with very strong political, personal, psychological views filling our heads with his ideology. And the biggest thing to come away with, I guess, besides the storytelling, is his sort of cynical views and his condescending attitude—he looked down on most people, and I dare say that that is a part of my personality I struggle to keep in check. [We both laughed.]  Because it’s not nice! And we want to be nice. [More laughter.] And it’s wrong to think everybody’s ants and you’re Gulliver.

“But I think also, behind the cynicism, hid a love. I can’t believe it wasn’t there. At the same time he seemed to yearn for some of the simplicity that he experienced in his youth and he seemed to be able to step away from it and appreciate the value that these things had. When I’m in the moment I find it very difficult to really appreciate experience that’s happening. Especially the ridiculousness sometimes, of what’s going on around me. But when I step away, when I get on the mic—what I want to call my biography is Just Give Me the Mic—‘cause I love the microphone, whether I’m singing or talking I seem to be ablenow that I’ve stepped back from it—to analyze it and see it for what it was, for better, for worse, the beauty in it, the ugliness in it, the ridiculousness. I don’t know if I got that from Jean, but I think I did.”

I’d saved some of the more difficult subjects for near the end of our talk. I asked what he thought Shepherd would have felt about Twisted Sister and his stage persona and what kind of dialog they might have had. Dee said that Shep “would have had disdain.”  Of course, we knew that already. He did comment, however, that, “The music Shep was passionate about, jazz, was in its own way, for the Beat Generation, what rock and roll is. A music that challenged the norm.  It wasn’t accepted by the mainstream. It was the new jazz, it was against the grain. He didn’t like change.”

Regarding fans, Dee commented: “As a performer—and a successful one—I often have people who come up to me and they’re very excited, but they really don’t know me or my band—they really just grasp the surface of what I’m about, but I appreciate their enthusiasm, their excitement, and I don’t expect them to know better.”  He commented that Twisted Sister plays many kinds of heavy metal rock, yet they had very big success with a couple of very catchy—what he called “anthemic tunes”—such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  As he put it, “That’s what we’re known for, and thank God there was something. That’s what really connected with the masses.  Your true, hardcore fans, like you for Jean or me for Jean, may know there’s a greater depth, but the average person, you have to say, ‘Twisted Sister—you know the song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It,’ and they go, ‘Oh, that work?  I know ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It.’ And with Shepherd you have to say A Christmas Story—that’s Jean’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It.’” Yes, totally the way I introduce Shepherd to the unknowing.

stay hungry

And, with his unexpectedly articulated intelligence during the 1985 U.S. Senate hearings regarding labeling albums of possibly offensive lyrics—especially focusing on rock music–he befuddled the questioners.  Thoughtful and articulate in his arguments against censorship, Dee effectively presented himself and his relatively witty and benign Twisted Sister, against the censorious beliefs of Tipper Gore.  (The record industry labeled the albums anyway, leading, as one would have expected, to increased sales of those albums.)

Regarding other aspects of his personal life, I learned that Dee is the spokesperson for the March of Dimes “Bikers for Babies” program, and he chairs a Long Island ride for the cause.  Bikers for Babies!  I never would have guessed.

Ah, Shep, your influence in the culture is vast and often emerges in unexpected places, even into heavy metal.  I enjoy some Twisted Sister performances on CD and DVDs. Though I suspect that as a neophyte, all I have so far is what Dee would call “a surface grasp,” it’s (gulp!) a beginning.  Without you, Jean Shepherd, we might not have had quite the same driving intensity, intelligence, comic sensibility, and delightful mayhem of a Twisted Sister and the same surprising, thoughtful, many-sided personage of a Dee Snider.

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More Than “A Surface Grasp”?

Before we leave Dee and Twisted Sister, let’s think about their loud, slow, insistent melodic line and lyric called “The Price.”  Had Shepherd ever heard it, he might not have been able to get beyond the sound and presentation, as good and appropriate to the song as they are, but the words themselves would surely have resonated with him regarding his ambitions and the arc of his career as he contemplated them toward the end of his life.  It would be difficult to find a song more forcefully and perfectly attuned to the deeper level of the art and enigmatic life of Jean Shepherd.  It is a masterpiece. How inevitable that it’s conceived and performed by one of his most ardent and thoughtful fans.  Here’s the beginning:

The Price

How long I have wanted this dream to come true.
And as it approaches, I can’t believe I’m through.
I’ve tried, oh, how I’ve tried
for a life, yes a life I thought I knew.

Oh, it’s the price we gotta pay, and all the games we gotta play
makes me wonder if it’s worth it to carry on.
‘Cause it’s a game we gotta lose, though it’s a life we gotta choose
And the price is our own life until it’s done.

 “We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!”

Just the other night my wife and I encountered a two-hour documentary about Twisted Sister’s early years. We really like “We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and “The Price,” but we didn’t expect to appreciate the documentary because it only dealt with the group’s formative years. We sat mesmerized. An extraordinary display of the incredible difficulties TS overcame through that first decade! One of the best documentaries we’d ever seen. An internet description of the film:

we are Twisted F.Sister cover

In the mid-1970s, Dee Snider and his Twisted Sister bandmates claimed glitter rock for their own, cross-dressing their way to headlining every club within 100 miles of New York City, from New Jersey bowling alleys to Long Island beach bars. With gigs six nights a week, they were the most successful live bar band of suburban New York, selling out 5,000-seat shows fueled by their no-holds-barred stage presence and aggressive metal set lists. But by the early 80s, they found themselves balancing on a double-edged sword, hugely popular with local audiences but without a national following or a record deal to speak of. When Twisted Sister finally got their big break in 1983, they’d go on to become one of the biggest glam rock bands of the decade, their over-the-top live shows drawing sell-out crowds and their music videos defining an early MTV network.

How had we, New Yorkers—Long Islanders—not known more about them until Dee arrived at my Shep Shrine in black and pony-tailed, his cultured mind and his warm personality all in mufti? What other significant parts of our culture have we been blind to?

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JEAN SHEPHERD–a short chronology, 1960-1999

Among the unpublished chapters in my book manuscripts, I encountered a chronology that, in its concentrated form, might be worth contemplating as a very short description of Jean Shepherd’s activities from 1960 on. It’s not complete or definitive, but should probably exist in some form other than in electronic blips on my computer and CDs.

1960-1977

The relative importance of his early, “night people” adult fans diminished in proportion to the subsequent, much larger student population who listened and who also attended his many high school and college appearances, and his many live talks around the country.  He met Leigh Brown, the cute, young, ambitious chick from the Village in the late 1950s, their relationship developing more strongly when she began working at WOR in the early 1960s.  His live broadcasts from the Limelight Café in the Village on Saturday nights began in February, 1964 and ended in December, 1967.  The basic week-nightly broadcasts were mostly 45-minutes long.  One never knew what sort of subject or mood he would be in and what sort of seemingly incongruent mix he might dish up on an evening, and the variety and quality of the broadcasts remained very high.

Sometimes he would tell a story or comment on the passing scene, read a bit from one of his favorite authors, sometimes play tunes on kazoo, nose flute, or jews harp, or knock out a tune by thumping on his head.  Some programs had all of the above and more.  As he loved traveling, by taking his tape recorder with him he would bring back audio samples and commentaries for his programs from such places as the Peruvian Amazon, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and the Windward Islands.

Several times over the years attempts were made to extend his listening audience by sending tapes of the broadcast programs around the country by syndication.  In one attempt, over 200 new programs were specially taped in 1964-1965, but little distribution was done before the project was lost and forgotten about in a warehouse.  Recently, these recordings, four and eight at a time, had been produced and sold in boxed CD sets. Then, more were released one program at a time at a much more expensive rate per show.

1961-07-25_038_destry_photo

Shepherd performed in several plays in the late 1950s and early 1960s, apparently wanting to concentrate on acting, but his then-wife, Lois Nettleton, noted years later, that as his natural style was improvising his own material, he had trouble remembering scripted lines.  No record exists for any acting after the mid-1960s. Of note, “Asylum,” which never opened, was an original play by Arthur Kopit, not a revival, so that its failure to open is doubly unfortunate for New York theater as well as for Shepherd in particular.

SHEP asylum

Regarding live performances, for most of his career he concentrated on performing his own material.  His attempt at doing his own storytelling by facing into the camera on television was not successful.  He did create, narrate, and usually perform, in nearly two dozen programs of two series of half-hour shows for PBS, Jean Shepherd’s America, in which, for the most part, the small video crew traveled the country filming subjects that struck them as relevant parts of American culture (1971 and 1985).  He also created Shepherd’s Pie (1978), a shorter series of half-hour programs featuring several subjects each, again mostly related to aspects of the culture that interested him.  He created three hour-and-a-half stories based on groupings of some of his originally published stories.  Most of his television work includes Shepherd himself as narrator, and he often appears on-camera.  He also created a number of other individual television programs that appeared from the 1960s on.

Although his short stories told on the air were so good and so popular, it seems that only a concerted effort by friends Shel Silverstein and Lois Nettleton had convinced him to write them out and submit them to Playboy.  (He had felt that the human voice was the most direct, and therefore best, medium, for telling tales.)  The first story appeared in June, 1964 and the last of the twenty-three in August, 1981.  He also wrote one humor piece for the magazine. Despite his antipathy toward the Beatles in particular and rock-and-roll in general, Playboy sent him to the British Isles in 1964 for their Beatles interview, which appeared in February, 1965.  Playboy gave him a “humor of the year” award four times.

Most of his short stories and some of his articles were published in his popular books.  He inevitably created odd and funny titles for his stories and books.  Although some of the names in his stories refer to actual people of his childhood, Shepherd’s short stories are mostly fiction.  (For example, Flick’s family insisted that he had never had his tongue stuck to a pole.)  Shepherd claimed that the themes of some of these tales were metaphorical.  For example, he noted that the BB gun story was an anti-war tale.  One might also find an anti-war message in his story of waring tops, “Murderous Mariah.”  Over the years, Shepherd wrote scores of articles for many diverse periodicals, and did forwards and introductions to books that related to one or another aspect of his wide-ranging interests regarding American culture.

Shepherd loved radio, but its importance in the culture began to decline in the 1950s with the coming of television.  His creative interests in other media expanded and his WOR Radio work ended April Fools Day, 1977.  Despite his love for New York City, he and Leigh Brown moved to a condominium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  In 1984 they bought a house on Sanibel Island, Florida, where they lived, becoming increasingly isolated, even from friends, for the rest of their lives.

sheps maine house

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JEAN SHEPHERD Truth? Opinion? Fiction? Part 1

JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM

Truth and the lack of it are inevitable when studying and deliberating much regarding Shep. Of course there is uncertainty in all of life, but much uncertainty in the world of Shepherd seems to come from two causes.

One is that he did a lot of faking on purpose–his stories are told with such an air of verisimilitude that we can never know the whole truth and nothing but the truth about much of them. He also faked such things as his age, and he held back so much of his real life, such as the fact that he’d been married four times. He faked much more and, surprisingly, sometimes his memory failed him, such as saying that he’d come to New York in 1958 (especially when the I, Libertine, firing-hiring-Sweetheart-soap capers, and jazz concerts such as “Jazz Under the Stars” and Loew’s Sheridan happened in 1957 in NYC).

Another cause of fiction is that so much of what is stated about him is based on erroneous material that is repeated constantly on the assumption that what one believes (because one encountered  something said or written), is true.

When I first checked out Wikipedia years ago, I was shocked at the amount of error in it regarding Shep. I fixed much of it but one can never know how much has crept back in the moment one’s back is turned. (I don’t know who or why someone posted a second comment about my EYF!)

Recently, while researching a Shepherd subject, I thought I’d check Wikipedia again to see how the world of Shep facts and fictions is going. Without implying that I know it all and am never wrong–I hadda fix some stuff againhttp://www.wikipedia.org

⇐≈⇒

what is truth

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JEAN SHEPHERD and the Female of the Species

I try to avoid psychoanalyzing Jean Shepherd–or anyone else. (My Excelsior, You Fathead! indicates some bits about Shep’s attitudes, but mostly these are described by those who knew him, rather than through my own interpretations.) But–after perusing a new book about Shakespeare’s evolving attitude toward women as seen in his plays–I thought it of interest to attempt to objectively describe some aspects of Shepherd’s life and works as it relates to what might be interpreted as his changing attitude toward women.

Shepherd, in his talk and writing, infrequently deals with the female of the species, so the following is not suggested to be any kind of encompassing description–much less a conclusive analysis–it’s just some observations that might have some connection to Shepherd’s way of being and his creative works.

His kid stories mainly relate to young boys at play, and a few of his teenage stories do relate to dating. His army stories infrequently relate to encounters with women. One, in my Shep’s Army concerns a sexual encounter (implied). Another story, about when he was stationed in Ft. Monmouth, NJ (a very short stay, I imagine) relates to he and a buddy encountering a sad woman–I don’t remember the details and don’t like the story much. Not much else.

Some of the material and thoughts here are based on comments found in Excelsior, You Fathead! Chapter 13, “Tiny Embattled Minority.”

MOM AND SOME EARLY “LOVES”

mom in A Christmas Story

Fictional mom in A Christmas Story

022_093_Dawn_Strickland_cropped

020_Esther_Albery

 

_Dorothy_Anderson

 

 

 

Some really young females in Shep’s early life–

Dawn Strickland, Esther Jane Albery, Dorothy Anderson

[Dawn Strickland cropped from  photo courtesy Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.]

Mom is traditional, nurturing, hard-working over the kitchen sink and cooking the conventional meat loaf. Conventional both in fiction and as one might gather about her when Shepherd speaks of his “real” mother. Soon after he graduated from high school, his father left the family  forever by driving off with a young female co-worker in a convertible.

Shepherd told various stories of his experiences (mostly in fictional form) with grammar-school and high-school girls, sometimes on dates, some of whom he had a crush on. He reportedly wrote love letters to Dorothy Anderson while he was in the army in his early 20s.

Years later (1959), in Shep’s theater piece “Look, Charlie,”  it’s said that, in a very old-fashioned image of female-as-underling/slave girl, he scripted actress Lois Nettleton, his girlfriend at the time, to feed him grapes as though he were a Roman emperor and she a servant:

lois in look charlie0003

Lois, as subservient hand-maiden,

presumably as seen in the theater piece,

depicted in Shel Silverstein’s

hand-drawn program

for “Look, Charlie.”

In those early days, Jean Shepherd seemed to have a very traditional image of girls and women. His early marriages seem to show him with a similar attitude.

HAUSFRAUS

Only recently has it been confirmed that Shepherd had been married very early on. Nothing much is known of this brief and well-hidden marriage except for this:

Shepherd_[Mattoon,_1st_mc]______

Credit: Steve Glazer

Jean Shepherd’s second marriage was to Joan Warner, mother of his two children. (Joan does not want to be interviewed regarding her former husband–I’ve tried several times.) Evidence from some general comments and actions by Shep suggest that she had traditional ideas of what marriage should be. Here they are, the happy couple:

505_Shep_Family_1953

Shepherd had some general comments to say about adult women/wives. One comment related to a husband whose wife arm-twisted him into doing some work on their house– because of his digging around the house foundation, the end of the house sank. In another similar instance, the digging under the house demanded of the wife resulted in unearthing a den of rattlesnakes. He seemed to be suggesting that doing what a wife nagged one to do could result in horrible disasters.

Regarding the entire idea of a permanent commitment such as marriage, Shepherd seemed negative.  In what one might be forgiven in interpreting as a comment on clinging women, Shepherd on a broadcast commented that some people were the hulls of ships while other people were the barnacles that clung to their undersides.

In an earlier post I suggested that Shepherd wanted to be free and able to do just exactly what he wanted without being tied down to a little house with a lawn and a picket fence, and that this may well have caused him to leave the family he was married to and seek freedom and further fame in the Big Apple.

Lois Nettleton, in an early interview after Shep’s death responded to a comment by saying that he had strongly disliked family get-togethers: “Oh, hated them!”

WOMEN’S LIB AND EQUALITY

Shepherd sometimes had strong opinions about women’s lib. On July 31, 1960 on his program he said:

“I’ll tell you–most chicks today want to be treated as though they are tender flowers–and they prefer to act like King Kong. You see there’s that neat split–you want me to pick up your handkerchief while you are kicking me in the duff–with a pair of hobnailed boots. Now which do you want? Now I can do either, and can take either.”

Maybe he’d just had a bad day, but there are other Shepherd quotes in a similar vein.

Shepherd’s third wife, Lois Nettleton, was a very intelligent, very independent woman. She wrote that she felt that they were both independently successful in the entertainment field and were a good match for each other. She may have agreed to playing the subservient woman in a scripted part in “Look, Charlie,” but it doesn’t seem her general style. She believed in and assumed that she had total equality with Jean.

jean and lois c.1962

Mr. and Mrs. (Lois) Jean  Shepherd, early 1960s.

5.lois

Lois Nettleton a few years later as a Hollywood star.

Lois commented, “To me, our marriage was an ideal pairing of two famous career people who didn’t need to lean on each other, who enjoyed getting to know more about each other each day. Who made no demands, were flexible, and loved getting back together again after long absences.  Glamorous, exciting!  Very naïve of me—but actually very good for him in many ways—even after divorce, which he tried to avoid, he wanted to keep the relationship.”

leigh,shep 1977 Leigh Brown taking dictation from Jean.

1983-mm-dd_005_at_the_movies_shep_leighLeigh Brown touching up the star.

When Leigh Brown and Jean first became friends, he was married to Lois. Leigh became obsessed with Jean’s mind–and with his genius on the radio. She would do anything to have him. And eventually she managed to separate Jean from Lois. According to WOR General Manager Herb Saltzman, she began at WOR as a gofer and “She bought into the myth [that he was a genius].” She had seemingly given up all her early ambitions in order to be with Jean. But, little by little, she became Jean’s editor, agent, producer, co-creator (to some extent). By the time his career in radio was about to end, she could hold her own with his dominating personality. At the time that Jean left his radio career, they had been living together for some time, and in 1977, they married.

By the time Leigh Brown died in 1998, she had seemingly become a major force in Jean’s professional as well as in his personal life. Laurie Squire, their coworker and close friend for decades, puts it (quoted in my EYF!): “They were Jean Shepherd. She sublimated, but she had a very--I can’t emphasize enough–she had a very strong personality.  And I think he admired that….Quite a temper. She could hold her own! The power behind the throne. He was the creative genius. She knew how to operate in the real world.”

From those who knew them well, it seems as though Jean could not live without her. He died the year after she died.

I’d say that by the end, she and he were equals.

She had made them so.

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Why Create? & ARTSY (5) Raven Rattle

Why do people exert the considerable energy required to create stuff? Why did Shep?

What follows are my thoughts/interpretations of why Shepherd did what he did, in part contributed by my own attempts at self-interpretation. Any comments and additions are welcomed.

Left-Brain-Right-Brain

Looks great, doesn’t it!

Relates to left-brain/right brain.

(I made the mistake of checking the googled source:

it’s about ads and marketing. Wooden cha know!)

SELF-EXPRESSION

For me, there is a great enjoyment I have in giving expression to my ideas and feelings. This is irrespective of the possible quality of the result. From following Shepherd, I believe without doubt that he got great joy in self-expression. I believe that most artists in all fields enjoy expressing themselves. Some claim that this amounts to an obsession. Sometimes I feel this–I don’t want to stop for food or sleep.

PURE ESTHETIC PLEASURE

There is pleasure in creating something that one considers to be “a work of art.”

PURE ENJOYMENT OF PROVIDING INFO/EDUCATION/ ENTERTAINMENT

Shepherd, along with most other creators had this joy.

The above categories involve “self-actualization,” the being at one’s

best/highest level that humans are capable of.

See Abraham Maslow–including my post on his work.

PURE EGO

This ain’t so bad. All of us need some of this, and artists tend to have it to a very high degree. It may even help them achieve all the other attributes listed here.

YA GOTTA MAKE DOUGH

This ain’t so bad. Most all of us gotta do this–unless born rich or happen to fall into it. One of the issues most artists have in life is how to balance the need to create with the necessity to make money to obtain food and lodging and a few goodies.

I don’t know how Jean Shepherd could have balanced art and money in any other way than he did. He might have continued–until he died–with his great art of improvised radio work at the sacrifice of more money and renown–but this would probably have driven his ego mad. I think that one of my heroes, Norman Mailer, determined and succeeded in promoting himself to the crass, real world in ways that for him, allowed him to write even his lesser writings in ways that, on some level, also produced work that had artistic as well as monetary value.

money

♥  ♥   

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Raven Rattle

I’m fascinated by raven rattles. These are objects used in ritual ceremonies by Northwest Coast Indians. They are carved with a raven and several lesser figures on or incorporated into it, using the typical, stylized shapes of Northwest Coast art. Ravens are usually depicted with something in their beaks. This is a “box of sunlight,” which the mythological trickster-bird opened and gave to humans (in a similar way to Prometheus giving light–fire/knowledge–to humans in the Greek myth).

The main part of the body is the raven. On its back there is usually a red-colored, naked human with his tongue out, being given (at the tip of the giver’s tongue,) some important attribute. Sometimes the giver is a bird, sometimes a frog, etc. On the bottom side of the rattle, carved in slight relief, is a bird’s head with large eyes and various abstract shapes in typical Northwest style.

ARTSY rattles.museum0005

Vancouver Museum exhibit.

When I was designing “Chiefly Feasts,” a large temporary exhibit of Northwest Coast art that would travel to several other museums in the U. S. and Canada, I flew and drove to see and consult at other museums, with Allison and our young son. I’ve seen many actual raven rattles in museums such as the American Museum of Natural History, Chicago’s Field Museum, Vancouver University Museum Victoria.

ARTSY. Chiefly F. by eb

My design sketch for one section of the exhibit.

For several years, every time I walked through the Northwest Coast permanent hall of the American Museum of Natural History where I worked, I’d stop and look at the good one on display. When our museum did a temporary exhibit brought in from another museum, I had the chance to hold a fine example during set-up time.

ARTSY rattle & eb

When I had more brown hair than white.

I’m holding it upside down

as one does during a native ceremony.

A conservator will tell you that the white gloves

are to protect the artifact.

From books, magazines, catalogs, I collect photos of raven rattles by the score.

ARTSY rattles.AMNH,etc0002

Clockwise from lower left: At auction, $30,000-50,000;

Three views of a specimen at AMNH; For sale at a gallery.

In my belief, many I’ve seen are not well carved. I imagine that a good one would go for many times what I ever could afford. As much as I try to collect real stuff, a few years ago I encountered a replica for sale on ebay, thought it compared very well with photos of really good ones, and bought it for $125. The seller, owner of a NW-Coast gallery, had commissioned a half-dozen, made by a family of Indonesian carvers!

A major issue for me is: I’d rather have an authentic one carved by and used by the actual people of the Northwest Coast. But considering all the inferior specimens, actually distastefully/poorly carved authentic ones I’ve seen (even those beyond what I might one day be able to afford) would I really want such a poorly done job facing me nightly? Other than its aura of authenticity, it would be one that fails in all the visual attributes that make raven rattles in the ideal such a joy to behold. My Indonesian replica is better made than most authentic ones I’ve seen—it gives me an esthetic pleasure I’d never get from a badly carved authentic one that visually offends me. Faced with the reality, I’ve denied my ideal principle. I’m very pleased to view nightly in front of me in our living room, my Indonesian replica.

ARTSY rattle.mine0005

MY RAVEN RATTLE

ARTSY ARROWS0010

 

JEAN SHEPHERD and Frank Sinatra & ARTSY (4) Art of the NYT Book Review

What do Shep and Ol’ Blue Eyes have in common?

jean and lois c.1962

Jean Shepherd and Lois Nettleton

4.lois and sinatra dirty d

Frank Sinatra and Lois Nettleton

Yes, but what else? My wife comments that some of my favorite creative people (Hemingway, Picasso, Mailer, Dylan, Shepherd, and Sinatra) have this in common: they could be not very nice people (to put it mildly). Probably the majority of people familiar with those  names are not familiar with the ways in which each in his own way could be so self-centeredly cruel.

[Regarding creativity, how many know that Picasso wrote and that both Shepherd and Mailer drew?]

Recently, my interest spiked by an HBO two-part special on Sinatra, I encountered a short but succinct book by Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters (1998). The intro concludes thusly:

….Now Sinatra is gone, taking with him all his anger,cruelty, generosity, and personal style. The music remains. In times to come, that music will continue to matter, whatever happens to our evolving popular culture. The world of my grandchildren will not listen to Sinatra in the way four generations of Americans have listened to him. But high art always survives. Long after his death, Charlie Parker still plays his version of the urban blues. Billie Holiday still whispers her anguish. Mozart still erupts with joy. Every day, in cities and towns all over the planet, someone discovers them for the first time and finds in their art that mysterious quality that makes the listener more human. In their work all great artists help transcend the solitude of individuals; they relive the ache of loneliness; they supply a partial response to the urging of writer E. M. Forster: “Only connect.” In their ultimate triumph over the banality of death, such artists continue to matter. So will Frank Sinatra.

Read the following, with Shep’s–or Hemingway’s or Picasso’s, or Mailer’s–name substituted for Sinatra’s, understanding that I recognize that there are differences in the correspondences:

Now [Shepherd] is gone, taking with him all his anger,cruelty, generosity, and personal style. The [words] remain[s]. In times to come, that [voice] will continue to matter, whatever happens to our evolving popular culture. The world of my grandchildren will not listen to [Shepherd] in the way four generations of Americans have listened to him. But high art always survives…. In their work all great artists help transcend the solitude of individuals; they relive the ache of loneliness; they supply a partial response to the urging of writer E. M. Forster: “Only connect.” In their ultimate triumph over the banality of death, such artists continue to matter. So will [Jean Shepherd].
shep portraitsinatra

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A scrawled masterpiece by Marta Monteiro

BorderCover02_489

Seeing the cover of the New York Times Book Review of January 17, 2016, I nearly passed it by as a nothing space-filler. But I began to look at it a bit more carefully. I became fascinated by its graphic sophistication masquerading as a childish scrawl.

Picasso is quoted as saying that it had taken him decades to learn to draw like a child. This childlike drawing contains a plethora of visually and intellectually fascinating details. My interest in fine art, my training as an industrial designer, and my career as an exhibit designer all train me to see and understand. I feel visually and mentally invigorated just thinking about this piece.

WHAT?

The image shows many people, from the back, wending their way past a title and its list to their right, and the section title: BOOK REVIEW. The colors are, roughly, red, white, grayish blue, and black. The color areas are nicely balanced in zigzag arrangement throughout, starting with the most realistic depiction of the red sole of a man’s shoe at the bottom, expressing his and the entire crowd’s movement. Major red items continue a bit higher up on the far left with a woman’s head scarf; move up to half of a man’s red jacket; centered to the right, a woman’s red coat; further right is a red scarf and coat; one continues the zigzag movement to the center. A red-jacketed man whose red-soled shoe repeats the motif from the bottom of the crowd, but, on the other foot, as though the two feet are part of the one entity—the crowd–re-emphasizing the crowd’s forward motion. Above, a girl’s red coat; to the right a round red hat; left a red coat; the zigzag continuing, diminishing in size with a number of small red spots: all, with smaller red strokes moving the eye up into the far distance. One can as easily follow the rough zigzags of blue, black, yellows, and a couple of greenish tans.

Most of the solid color areas follow the shapes of the clothing, but yellow and blue sometimes serve both as parts of objects and as extensions beyond their objects, becoming parts of the abstract zigzag patterns that help move us up into the distance at the top of the page. A good part of the blacks also serve as outlines, helping define objects, such as the many black-textured scribbles that amusingly define a great variety of hair styles, and, on the lower left in the white of a man’s coat, a long jagged line (seeming by itself to be an arbitrary stroke just for composition’s sake), defines a sleeve and its wrinkled connection to the coat’s shoulder. Check out for yourselves other color and shape areas to see how they assist the overall graphic composition.

NYT book cover

Halfway up on the left, a blue-textured smudge seems to be a couple of far-off trees. The man with the checkered jacket holds on his head a red-outlined flat box, graphically, roughly echoed by the black-outlined cooler to his left, and much higher up and further away, a blue-outlined arc-shaped container on a head, and above that, another outlined box on a head. The tiny shapes in the furthest distance are somewhat recognizable as people, then further up, abstracted into pure color blobs beyond our recognition, but we know what they are. They become even more anonymous than the closer members of the human throng.

Near the bottom right, a blue shape with a pattern of vertical black lines denote a coat with sleeve, and the wearer’s large white bag on his/her back serves as background for a very sketchy man’s head and shoulders with scribbled blue sweater, scribbled black hair, and yellow outline of head and ears. He is almost the nearest to the viewer and, being transparent, lets us see beyond him, giving us a psychological sense of being maybe at the back of, but definitely a part of, the moving crowd. (Graphically illustrating this “psychological sense” because, when we are in a crowd moving, we sometimes don’t see some parts of those around us and then sometimes those pieces of the crowd are revealed in the shifting movement—yet, seen or not, we know that they are all there.) It is as though humanity, en masse, including ourselves, travels up the page and far beyond our ken.

I’d never heard of artist Marta Monteiro, so I googled images of her work and found many that I liked. Yet my favorite is the finely designed sketch of migrating humanity gracing the cover of the Book Review.

[Among elements I’d failed to note earlier is that the vertical box, low, left, is diagonally oriented to help the zigzag move up toward the right, where several people, facing diagonally leftward, dramatically form a visual element with the red-outlined box on the head, in all, strongly aiming the direction back toward the center in the zigzag design.]

 I emailed my original comments–above the centered diamond shape–to Ms Monteiro (where she is located in Portugal)  and she graciously responded:

Dear Eugene Bergmann,

thanks so much for your interest on my work and your kind words.

I usually say that I communicate more successfully using images than words. When I try to use words they fail on me all the time but images don’t. So I wish I had the time to do a quick drawing about how happy I felt when I read your e-mail.

Everything you wrote is on that image. The childlike approach to drawing, the zigzag of colors and shapes and the (sometimes) abstract design of figures/people. All descriptions are really accurate and I couldn’t have said it better….

ARTSY ARROWS0010

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JEAN SHEPHERD Travel-Where/When, & Homilies 1 of 2

WRITING AND TALKING ABOUT TRAVEL

Traveling is one of Shepherd’s favorite activities, and the previous posts about his wide range of sites visited should give some sense of this. From the following list of original radio audios used for the transcriptions, one will note that the sequence I’ve used is not a chronological one–I organized by what I thought made an interesting variety of stuff to read.

SOURCES FOR JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO AUDIOS

Of Jean Shepherd’s comments regarding his enthusiasm for travel, all originating in his radio broadcasts on WOR Radio, some come from my original transcriptions found in Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd (Applause Books, March, 2005).  Several originate in additional audios subsequently encountered.

There are several sources of Shepherd audios.  Most come from Max Schmid’s WBAI-FM broadcasts and his commercially available cassettes and CDs of this material.  Many, originating from Max’s material, are also found on the internet’s iTunes/podcasts/brassfiglagee, where they came from Jeff Beauchamp’s no-long-extant Jean Shepherd Project.  A short written comment by me about the Beatles trip comes from the Program Notes of www.RadioSpirits.com  CDs, composed of syndicated shows virtually unheard before the early 2000s.

Note that broadcast titles are not “official,” but are those given by the person providing the material, lo these many years ago.  Dates of the broadcasts are those provided by the recorder of the broadcast, and though considered rather standard, they might not be definitive.

In the majority, travel episodes found in these posts come from a single radio broadcast or from a series of broadcasts extended over several days.  In a few instances, Shepherd’s comments found here in a particular chapter might come from isolated comments made by him on some broadcast made later.  Note that the audios we have for the Lebanon visit of 1958 date from radio reminisces in 1973 and 1974.  He did, however, write a bit in his Village Voice columns soon after he returned in 1958. (Bits of these have been included in the travel posts.)

A couple of broadcast audios were forwarded to me by Jim Clavin of www.flicklives.com. and a couple of others by a Shepherd enthusiast who wishes to remain anonymous.  Although some of the audios can be found in more than one source, listings here are based on the version I used for this book: Clavin; iTunes; Schmid; Syndicated.

March on Washington: 8/29/63   Schmid

Maine Deciding to be Beautiful: 9/15/66 Schmid

The Middle East: 2/25/73, 3/4/74 Schmid; 1966 6/6, 6/7, 6/8 Schmid;  1966    6/9, 6/11 iTunes;

1966 6/10  Clavin

John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Shep 11/2/64, 11/7/64 iTunes

Irish Blood in Me 3/17/67 Schmid;  3/17/72 iTunes

The Last Time I Saw Paris 6/15/66  Schmid

Around the World With Shep 4/4/72, 4/5/72 Schmid;  4/10/72, 4/13/72 iTunes

Australia 1965    4/14, 5/8, 5/13, 5/18  iTunes1969 9/17  iTunes

Amazon and the Headhunters 1965 9/2/ 9/16 9/17, 9/18 iTunes9/7v Schmid

Nigeria 3/21/63, 2/22/63, 3/23/63  Anon4/29/63, 8/5/66, 1976 Clavin7/4/63 Schmid

?/64 or ?/65 Syndicated

Sailing the Windward Islands  12/10/75 iTunes

Maine is a Foreign Country 6/17/65 Schmid

Tourists? Travelers?

not so funny when happenedthe art of traveltourists w.typewriters

 

 

 

A coupla books about travel

In doing some research about the act of travel. I encountered various books and articles describing the pleasures of travel. A number of them describe, as Shepherd later did on his programs, the difference between a tourist (A person who encounters superficial aspects in the places he/she passes through), and traveler, as Shep prided himself on being.

I encountered the works of Paul Bowles, and by cherry-picking his 1949 “Novel”–or not-a-novel, The Sheltering Sky, I found some of the comments that give Bowles credit for perceptive ideas about traveling. If Shepherd had encountered these perceptions (as I would guess that he had), I would expect that he would have agreed with them and maybe incorporated some of them within his own sensibility:

“[A]nother important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

“Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home.”

“The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment. And perhaps even more than that, it’s having the ability to recall such moments in their totality, to contemplate them like jewels.”

WHY WE TRAVEL—By Pico Iyer  Saturday, Mar 18, 2000  SALON.COM

http://www.salon.com/2000/03/18/why/

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate….

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle….

But for the rest of us, the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head. If a diploma can famously be a passport (to a journey through hard realism), a passport can be a diploma (for a crash course in cultural relativism). And the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal….

Thus travel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a truly foreign place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that we’d otherwise seldom have cause to visit….

So travel, for many of us, is a quest for not just the unknown, but the unknowing; I, at least, travel in search of an innocent eye that can return me to a more innocent self….

Travel, then, is a voyage into that famously subjective zone, the imagination, and what the traveler brings back is — and has to be — an ineffable compound of himself and the place, what’s really there and what’s only in him….

 THE ART OF TRAVEL by Alain Botton, 2002.

“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest—in all its ardour and paradoxes—than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside the constraints of work and the struggle for survival….[travel] whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia or human flourishing.”

Here, repeated from the beginnings of my travel posts:

Shepherd would probably be pleased to find a link between himself and his revered forebear in a sentence from Twain’s preface to The Innocents Abroad. Shepherd might have written it for his own travel tales:  “I offer no apologies for any departures from the usual style of travel writing that may be charged against me—for I think I have seen with impartial eyes, and I am sure I have written at least honestly, whether wisely or not.”

With his own distinctive brand of wit, Shepherd shares with Twain

his sharp-eyed observations and a penchant for truth.

The following I find fascinating because it applies to travel, as well as to national and international affairs, and to every other other thingamabob we encounter in the world:

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” –D.Rumsford (a former public figure)

 The next blog post includes various Shepherd comments on traveling.

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JEAN SHEPHERD and New Jersey & ARTSY (2) Venus

Jean Shepherd loved

to hate New Jersey.

“New Jersey–the most American of all states. It has everything from the wilderness to the mafia. All the great things and all the worst, for example Route 22.”  –Jean Shepherd

 Most everybody who lives in New York City and vicinity loves to hate that country-bumkin-and-gas-refinery-state. We all hate “Jersey drivers” and disparage those gigantic summer insects we refer to as “Jersey Mosquitoes.” (Yes, I know that Jersey-ites call ’em “Brooklyn Mosquitoes.”) As Shepherd prided himself on being a cosmopolitan, sophisticated city-guy, this may have been part of why he disparaged New Jersey frequently on his broadcasts. When he was doing his faux-run-for-emperor, he promised to set up gigantic fans along the Manhattan side of the Hudson River in order to blow the Jersey odor away from The City. He said that, while in the army, he spent some time in Fort Monmouth, NJ.

WORK

When Shepherd first moved to New York and began broadcasting on WOR from 1 to 5:30 AM,WOR, to save money, the station kept the 1440 Broadway studios closed and had him broadcast from their transmitter in Cartaret, NJ.  He claimed on the air that he would race his Porsche down the Jersey Turnpike to get to work and once said that he’d accidentally driven the Porsche into the transmitter’s cooling pool there.

HOME

1955 to 19?? New Milford, NJ. This was the period when he had just moved to the New York City area. Dates may or may not represent his actual, continuous residence.

1977-1984? Lived on a three-acre farm in Washington, NJ. It’s said that, when their apartment in the Village was ransacked, the police suggested that Shep and Leigh Brown move away, so this may have been when they moved to Jersey. Leigh was brought up in Jersey and had ridden horses on a farm there, so this may have been at or near where they lived for a time.

PASSING THROUGH AMERICAN CLUTTER

Jim Clavin’s www.flicklives.com describes a Jean Shepherd television special this way: “On October 19, 1984 ‘Jean Shepherd on Route 1’ premiered on New Jersey Public Television. Shep sits in the back seat of a limo and discusses such things as drive-in theaters, the George Washington Bridge, traffic circles, diners, road signs, junkyards, bars, Route 22, and the art of shaving.”

route_1_022_shep

Shepherd in limo discussing Jersey.

Shepherd: “This is the road that is truly the road of American clutter. We have right now, for your edification and your artistic enjoyment, a picture of American grubble at its most beautiful development, its fullest. The vines are rich and growing along this stretch of road. Everybody in his soul—at least in his American soul, has a Route 22—that extends right out of New York City into New Jersey. It’s the true bastion of the slob road in America in full-flower. And it’s got it all goin’.”

Shepherd delights in making fun of Jersey’s Leaning Tower of Pizza and the Margate Elephant:

creation of pizza

“Creation of Pizza” mural at Leaning Tower of Pizza Restaurant.

elephant photo

 

 Lucy, Jersey’s most famous hotel.

 elephant buttmargate elephant plaqueDid Shepherd know that Lucy is now a historic landmark?

Shepherd did a program featuring  the Margate Elephant.

PRINCETON APPEARANCES

Shepherd performed at Princeton University 30 times, giving New Jersey a yearly thrill. Gatherings of Shep-enthusiasts, called “Shepfests,” occur from time to time. Shepfest #4, 11/9/03 took place in the Triumph Brewing Company micro-brewery in Princeton:

shepfest04_032-ShepfestFall03pt1

Some Shepfest participants in Jersey.

CLINTON APPEARANCES

Shepherd appeared several times at New Jersey’s Clinton Museum, giving live performances.

.1977-10-06_022_Clinton_Concert_Ad

NEW JERSEY RESTAURANTS

Jean Shepherd loved food and sometimes talked about it on his show. Lois Nettleton, his wife from 1960 to about 1967, said that he was a gourmet cook and that after one of his great meals, she was happy to clean up and do the dishes. In the late 1980s, Shepherd wrote the intro/foreword to a book. One wonders if he delighted in or disparaged New Jersey restaurants. As of now, here is all we know about it:The New Jersey Restaurant Guide  w/ Ruth Alden, 1989. Hdl Pub Co. ISBN #10: 0937359459

Further Shepherd commentaries on the great state of Jersey will be welcomed.

im from New Jersey

(Actually, I’m from Queens–eb.)

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The Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are probably the best-known artworks in the world. And they are thus, probably the most cliché images of what art is in the world. I suppose they represent, to many people, “the beautiful.” A recent column by a very intelligent and learned and witty fellow who writes for the Wall Street Journal commented that people go to museums to look at beautiful things. Considering the nature of much modern art, isn’t that idea strange? Isn’t it strange that an ancient statue with its arms busted off is so glorified?

venus_de_milo

I believe that in part this is because its silhouette is so compact—and thus has such visual strength, and a sense of primitive elegance. (In my attraction to the tiny Japanese traditional sculpture called netsuke, I almost exclusively prefer the pieces that don’t have parts sticking out of them—much better are pieces that are compact and powerful in their essence. Besides, considering their traditional use as part of one’s apparel, parts sticking out would easily break off.) Imagine the Venus de Milo with its original arms, as some have done:

Venus_de_Milo arms

I doubt that I’d give it even a second look. It certainly would not be glorified as it is today–armless. It would still be “classic” historically, but would not be as highly regarded. We’d pay it little if any attention. What is “classic” anyway? As classic as is a classic portrait of Santa Claus. Having spent most of my life as a lapsed Lutheran, I still much enjoy the Christmas season, and I much prefer the traditional, classic Santa Claus. At home we always have a classic Christmas tree (I insist on a real one) and set out the nativity crèche my wife loves so much.

But sometimes I like to fool around designing a card.

Decades ago, when I made the card, the surround was white.

It has aged badly–is yellow the new white?
SantaVenus closed SantaVenus open

Santa de Milo card closed                                                     Santa de Milo card when open

with round cutout showing Santa’s head.                       showing entire image.                             

SANTA DE MILO

                                                                      by Gene B. 19??

Maybe such universally admired images we think are so classic deserve to be played with once in a while so that we are shocked into a new/fresh way of thinking about how much we adore their classicism.

monalisa moustache

MONA LISA WITH MOUSTACHE

by Marcel Duchamp

“One fun way of exposing students to famous works of art and studying the essential identifying features of the piece (style, subject matter, art material, technique, use of art elements/principles) is through remixing. An art parody, a type of remixing, often takes a famous artwork, recreates many of its elements, but through changes and additions, results in a comic effect or mocking of the original. Sometimes the parody is meant to send a political statement; other times it’s purely for entertainment.”  –Melissa Enderle

ARTSY ARROWS0010

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