Millburn High School
Thursday - March 10, 1966
Gail Shapiro and her fiance Gil Wolin, publisher of Business & Commercial Aviation Magazine, both attended this show during which Shep made a big mistake. Here's Gil's story:
Gail alluded to Shep's visit to Millburn High School in the mid- 60s. Well, here's the rest of the story about Shep's 1966 visit to dear old MHS as best I remember it,
I moved to Millburn in 1965. My first friends at MHS quickly introduced me to the illicit pleasures of late nights with Jean Shepherd - far more interesting, humorous, provocative and intelligent then any of the current late night offerings. 10:15 PM most week nights found me buried 'neath the covers, my transistor earplug wire connecting me like some bizarre electrical umbilical cord to the warm and wonderful WORld of Flick, Grover, Dill, the Old Man, and Randy - AM 710 won out over 770 every time!
So when biology teacher, Mr. Blessing supported our classmate Bob Schindler's initial invitation, I was one of many who decided maybe the monthly assembly - usually a venue for arcane archeologists or sugar-coated mindless propaganda like Up With People - might be worth while, for once.
Attached you'll find a copy of the 11/23/65 front page article from The Miller (Millburn's award winning school bi-weekly high rag content newspaper - hence it's survival intact for 37 years) describing Shep's much-anticipated 3/10/66 appearance.
There was no follow-up article the following spring. An unwitting insensitive gaff during his opening moments shocked most of the audience and left even Shep's staunchest fans gasping.
Shep was lead to the stage by the head of the music department, Mr. Chiodo Key-o'-doe") a gentle, much-beloved teacher throughout the school system. Shep walked to the podium amidst rousing applause. As the auditorium quieted, he said "I was almost late - I missed a turn back there, but this old guy with a limp got turned back in the right direction."
The audience gasped - it seems that only that week it had been announced Mr. Chiodo had been diagnosed with a nearly-always-fatal degenerative neuromuscular disease - MS, MD or ALS. Students and faculty were only just adjusting to the news when Shep made this seemingly callous off-the-cuff remark. He lost them right then and there.
As a relative new-comer, slightly introverted long-distance runner, science student and Boy Scout, I was blissfully unaware of such news in the MHS liberal arts world, and in such ignorance thoroughly enjoyed the entire performance. I remember little of the content - much of it now-familiar bits and pieces from his then-past and future late night ramblings and short stories.
I do remember a lengthy riff on high school prom rituals, much of which served as grist for Wand Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. Those unfamiliar with Shep's humor whom he didn't lose in his opening sortie, he soon lost with his graphic (but hysterical) description of teen-age boys popping zits before donning their tuxes, explosions of white pus speckling the bathroom mirror like some mad turn-of-the-century pointillist using sebum-and-silver as his media.
Or something like that.
And one other bit, some reference to pictures of Playboy centerfolds and bunnies being akin to collections of berserk over-inflated flesh-colored beach balls - just the thing to bait the lubricious libido of the average adolescent male.
Enough - you get the picture. It was fun, and I learned of the Chiodo faux pas to late to dampen my enthusiasm. Besides, Shep couldn't have known, though it was perhaps a bit insensitive - it could have been a war wound.
Anyway, the depth of silence of the print coverage of his appearance was matched only by the height of the uproar of in the halls among the students and faculty.
So there was no follow-up, not even a critical review of the performance or damning editorial. Just silence. ||
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