Meatball Hater Jean Shepherd Is Stirring New York
Saturday - September 15, 1956
Last Update: 05-10-2015
NEW YORK (INS) - California has Frank Sinatra, Tennessee has Elvis Presley, and New York has meatball harer Jean Shepherd.
Not since the bobby-soxers swooned over Sinatra has there been such hysterical mass reaction to a personality. The histrionlcs rival even those accorded Elvis.
Talks Between Platters
Shepherd doesn't sing - he just talks his way into the emotions of his listeners while spinning an occasional record. But no one suspected (least of all his radio bosses) how much disc jockey Shepherd meant to his sheep until the day he was tossed off the airwaves.
Rumor had it that he got the sack because of an impromptu commercial plug for a soap manufacturer. But he said:
"That's not true. The real reason was because the people higher up thought I was too highbrow and too uncommercial!"
When the doting flock found their high priest had been given his walking papers they roared their disapproval via telephone, telegraph and fan letters.
Now, Shepherd is not only back at his old stand on New York's WOR, but he'll be heard coast-to-coast seven nights a week over the ABC Network beginning Oct. 22.
Meanwhile he's filming an anti-meatball. "Stream-of-Consciousness" movie calculated to turn "squares" into "night-people.
The "Stream-of-Consciousness" angle plays a big role in Shepherd's total effect on radio listeners.
"It's a very peculiar show," he admitted. "I guess you might call my approach a new form of verbal literature.
"But It's not a highbrow show and I don't consider myself as intellectual. I used the same thought processes that anybody else use - whether he's an intellectual or a slob.
Irony, not Satire
A national magazine recently listed Shepherd as one of the top five satirists in the nation, but he brushed this off with:
"It isn't so much satire as it is irony. And 90 percent of my show is based on humor."
The disc jockey, a smallish, brown-haired man in horn-rimmed glasses, says his strange powers of communication stem from his early psychological studies at the University of Indiana.
"l had the usual ambitions to be a writer,' he declared, "but I finally drifted into the radio."
The Freudian-inspired DJ was heard regularly over Cincinnati's station WSAI for four years and Philadelphia's station KYW for two years before he decided to head to New York two years ago.
"When l left Cincinnati the same thing happened just as it did in New York the other day when I went off the air. It's just because the people listening in feel emotionally involved and that my life is part of theirs."
Explains 'Night People'
Because Shepherd's show is aired in the late hours of the night, his listeners are tabbed as "night people."
"But by 'night people.'" Shepherd insisted, "l don't mean people who work at night. I mean people who are more concerned with Ideas than they are with things.''
Shepherd doesn't pretend to be any different from anybody else. He even worked his way through college by firing blast furnaces and he played football in school.
"If that isn't normal," he said, "what is?"
The trouble with most people, he figures, is the fear of admitting what they are.
"People would be better off to admit they're slobs - and to realize that everybody else is a slob too. You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see John Foster Dulles changing a tire in the rain."
The former Chicagoan who wrote a book called "I, Libertine," to air his rebellion against the "day people's" world, observed that one of the curses of our age is "creeping meatballism."
"It's everywhere," he complained bitterly, "in three-tone cars, Ed Sullivan, and the Book-of-the-Month Club. Meatball stalks the land!" ||
|Not Determined yet|
|Engineer and others in Booth