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Summary

Excelsior, You Fatheads
Airdate: January 1966


Show Description
You don't have to be a fathead to enjoy The Jean Shepherd Show. But even if you are a fathead, you might enjoy tuning in to Jean's free-wheeling nightly show of verbal milling-around. Practical iconoclasm, bedtime stories for adults, and Freudian meanderings. A fixture on WOR radio for almost 10 years now, Jean Shepherd is almost as wide-ranging as the topics he discusses - if that is the right word. (It isn't) His medium is talk and he uses the spoken word the way an artist uses paint. Whether he's discoursing philosophically on the ill-fortunes of the Chicago White Sox of his childhood or explaining the significance of Saturday nights in America, Jean makes the listeners not only hear, but see and feel everything he wants them to. Jean was born in Hammond, Indiana 40 years ago and has a background that sounds "average" - a boyhood filled with comic books, radio serials like Jack Armstrong (remember him?), and boy-type stuff like building crystal radios, rooting for the hopeless Chicago White Sox (then a prototype of N.Y. Mets) and, later, trying to cope with the idiosycrasies of teenaged girls. Then came Army service during World War II, several short-lived jobs, some collage, and, finally, the beginnings of what has become the highly successful career in radio. Jean has been called a humorist, a story-teller a raconteur, a monologist. He is all those things, and more. He cannot be pigeonholed and there is no one else working in radio or TV who is quite like him. His popularity can be gauged by the almost fanatical faith of his listeners. He calls them "night people." What are night people? Well we'll say they are people who stay up late at night, and let it go at that. And on Monday through Friday, from 10:15 to 11:00 PM they will be listening to The Jean Shepherd Show on WOR radio; and on Saturday nights, though they may be engaged in other night-people type activities, they will catch at least part of Jean's 10:30 to midnight broadcast from the Limelight, a Greenwich Village coffeehouse and cafe. When he broadcasts from the studio, Jean wastes no time with polite formalities. But at the Limelight, he begins by leading the faithful in what he calls "invective hurling." In this case, the invective hurled is "Excelsior, you fatheads!" The fatheads referred to are, well, fatheads. The term is a catch-all for whatever the audience thinks are fatheads - squares, the boss, an ex-sweetheart or, to the many high school and collage kids among Jean's following, mom and dad, teachers, the "establishment." After this "greeting," which is meant to "warm up" his audience, Jean will launch into one of his favorite subjects - life in small-town America, the mystique of big-league baseball, what it was like to be a teenaged G.I. during World War II. Or perhaps he will merely comment on some newspaper clipping - preferably from The New York Times, a prime source of material - and use this as a take-off point for some caustic criticism on the follies of mankind. On the surface, it's all good, clean fun, but Jean touches quite a few nerves. One of the secrets of Jean Shepherd's success in radio is his ability to sound as if he is talking directly to you. This quality, and the loyalty of his "night people" enabled Jean to bring off one of the most unusual - and profitable - practical jokes in the history of broadcasting. Several years ago, Jean thought it might be fun to attempt to sell a "product" that did not exist. He asked his listeners to go out to their local bookstores and ask for a book called I, Libertine. There was no such book, but Jean's flock responded in such vast numbers that bookstore owners were frantically trying to order copies from puzzled publishers. So Jean and a writer friend wrote the book in a matter of days to meet the demand. I, Libertine, is a paperback spoof of sexy historical novels. The book sold over 300,000 copies. After a decade in radio, Jean's popularity shows no sign of abating. So perhaps all that can be said is "Excelsior, you fatheads!"
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Photos:


January 1966
Page 1

Courtesy: Elaine Blandford


January 1966
Page 2

Courtesy: Elaine Blandford

   
Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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