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500 Flock to Ballroom For Shepherd's Speech
Airdate: Friday - February 27, 1959

Last Update: 01-29-2017

Show Description
Jean Shepherd, a self-styled idealist, spoke for ninety minutes yesterday to more than five hundred amused, bemused and enthused representatives of "the cream of American youth." Appearing in the Grand Ballroom on behalf of a fraternity cancer drive, Shepherd let his talk range from comments on the Beat Generation to observations on the "great American audience." "Americans have' become audiences," he explained, "audiences even to their own lives, while the 'beats' have rejected reality. Theirs is a complete acceptance of fantasy." Rarely sticking to anyone line of thought ("I don't talk on topics"), Shepherd drew laughs with a scathing attack on "telethon people" and knowing nods of agreement when he lamented on "our world of fantasy." "These telethon MC's hold a crippled kid like they're trying to sell a bottle of 'coke," he said. On fantasy: "Even war has become unreal to, us. But during the second world war I got caught in an air-raid on the African coast. When it was all over there were guys floating face down in the water. It suddenly stopped being an Errol Flynn movie." Standing with his hands jammed into, his pockets, or gesturing with arms open to make a point, Shepherd spoke continuously for nearly forty minutes. Then, the sad-faced humorist called for questions. He was in complete command as he answered, commented on and criticized the questions for another fifty minutes. "Don't people who listen to you have to agree with you?" asked one student. "Not at all," replied Shepherd. "You wouldn't say that if you'd read my mail." A question on the theatre brought this reply from Shepherd: "The theatre today is much worse than the radio soap opera ever was. It can't decide if it wants to say things or have theatre parties. Take the biggest hit on Broadway right now;" he continued. "JB is a badly written, pretentious bore." Shepherd appeared to enjoy speaking to, the responsive crowd and admitted that he never would have talked at Yale or Princeton, the way he had spoken at the College. "People will listen here much easier," he said, "They don't need jokes." His visit, sponsored by Tau Epsilon Phi, was Shepherd's third to the College in as many years. In the fall of 1957 he appeared at a "Beat Army" soccer rally, and the year before he came to push the sale of his book.
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