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Unusual Once-Over In "Shepherd's Pie"
Airdate: Monday - January 24, 1977

Last Update: 01-12-2017

Show Description
EWING TOWNSHIP - Tomorrow night you can turn on your television set and for 30 minutes watch a tribute to abandoned drive-in movies, an expose of traffic circles and an all-bass band playing "Jersey Blues." It's all done with the good humor of storyteller Jean Shepherd, whose new show goes on the air at 9:30pm Tuesdays, and 10:30pm Thursdays on New Jersey Public Television's four channels. The pleasure of station officials was quite obvious last week during a press preview of the new weekly program series, "Shepherd's Pie." For a long talent search had culminated when the nationally known humorist signed a contract to host the magazine-type format. But now a new quest is on, with Linda Scott, associate producer, scouting the state for interesting people, places and things. Shepherd owns a farm in Northwestern New Jersey. He won't say where. And he laughs at some of the ubiquitous landmarks of the Garden State - the N.J. Turnpike, miles of traffic and traffic circles. With a tinge of a smile, he opens his first show with, "Yes, Jersey, my Jersey. Every struggle of life here in Jersey must be a likeness of Heaven, because if you live in Jersey, you have to think of Heaven as celestial." Then he takes off on a segment dealing with traffic circles that is a subtle jibe at traffic engineers. Film strips show cars inching into the traffic lines attempting to maneuver, while Shepherd narrates an hilarious dialogue. He calls some of the moves the Burlington Bash, the Lodi Lurch, the Hoboken Hobble, the Vineland Veer and the Hackensack Hesitaton. When the video clips end, he describes them as the Detroit Ballet. But then, af if to appease any offended viewers, he says, "I think Jersey's a great state. There's nothing like Jersey culture." Shepherd's Pie is to be a show of leftovers, of bits and pieces of life as it goes on every day. Its star is a man of many faces - American humorist, broadcasting personality, novelist, actor, writer and producer, but the series will be a team effort. "We hope to involve the whole state in our talent search," says executive producer Calvin Iszard. Yet much of the tone will be set by Shepherd who claims to have broken into show business in the second grade when he played a molar with a big cavity in an oral hygiene pageant. "From that debut there was no place to go but up," he says. Although he says he doesn't particularly care for television, he has made a living from it. He calls it a temporary medium and says he is more interested in films because they last, like novels. Shepherd, in an egotistical, but nice way, fields questions from the press. He says it just seems logical that he more unusual you are, the more successful you can be, an the more eccentric you can be, the less competition you have. To him, the normal world has lost its meaning because he feels he has lived so long in the rarified atmosphere of eccentricity. "Remember," he says, "one man's eccentricity is another man's commercial hit." Shepherd's alliance with New Jersey Public Television started last fall after he bought a farm here and did a few promotions for the company. From that brief encounter came the idea for a travelling show on New Jersey. "Its a little hard to describe," Shepherd says of his new show. "We are working toward a new television style, very personal, very impressionistic." Meeting him is like finding a picture of a hero in a novel. You have a mental image of this person whose voice you've heard over the radio for years and then all of a sudden, there's a body to go with it. He's forty-ish and wore a blue suit with matching checkered open shirt and white beads. He's not very tall and on the paunchy side. His ego sticks out and you feel the confidential tone of a man whose voice is broadcast to 40 American cities - five nights a week. He sipped white wine and accepted a whip cream pie and bantered with his fans. Yous can tell he knows the show is good. His appearance was a nostalgia trip for many. "Oh, Mr. Shepherd," said one woman, "I've been a fan of yours for years and I'm so glad to meet you." And that line was repeated on and on as people ogled the star with the radio voice and the home spun humor.
Fan Description
[ Courtesy: Mark Adams - 01-12-2017 ] The show took place at the Drew University Pub (Madison, NJ) on May 8, 1977 just a couple of months after his last WOR radio show. We were in the middle of final exams and I was finishing up my junior year. A good friend produced and recorded the show and I've been after him for 40 years to dig up the tapes. He recently moved, ran across the tapes, and FedEx'ed them to me from California just last week. As I recall, the show started late afternoon and the bar was closed... just set up as a coffeehouse. The fire laws allowed a maximum capacity of 200 people, but I think that the crowd averaged 150-175 students and faculty with students coming and going to study. It felt very similar to the Limelight show that my parents took me to see in the mid 60s. My favorite part of the show is the Q&A session at the end. The obnoxiously loud whistling was my own. ;-)


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