Shepherd may do more shows on TV
Sunday - March 21, 1982
Some may not be in agreement, but to fans, the time has clearly come to hear more about John's Lunch, the Bluebird Tavern and the glories of highway I 95.
In case these don't mean much to you, it should be explained that they are landmarks in the kindly humorous, sometimes exaggerated world of Jean Shepherd.
After a few years Silence on the small screen, Shepherd was heard from again last week in "The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters," a program on the "American Playhouse" series.
There was more of Shepherd's world in the program: Father who was always going to the "office," Mother who contributed all the wash rags m the house to a chain letter plan, Wilbur Duckworth who is the school band's drum major, with "the soul of a true Nazi," and Ludlow Kissel the neighborhood alcoholic, to name a few characters.
FOR THOSE whose appetites were merely whetted by the show, there may be more Shepherd in the future.
In a recent telephone interview, he explained that he had been in a meeting that very morning discussing the possibility of reviving "Jean Shepherd's America," a series of 13 programs he did on public television in the mid 1970s.
"I'm kinda uncertain (about doing the show). We may do it if we can raise the money," the writer/actor declared "Those 13 programs cost over $1 million to do"
In print there is a fresh supply of Shepherd stories currently out in a book titled, "A Fistful of Fig Newtons"
CLEARLY A CASE of "you can take the boy out of the Midwest but you can't take the Midwest out of the boy," Shepherd hails from Hammond, Ind. where his brother Randall Shepherd works in the Borden Dairy wholesale division. Brother Randall possesses, in his sibling's view, a "sullen sense of humor."
Moving from Hammond, the writer Shepherd got started in television at WLW-T, Cincinnati, from 1953 to 1954, working on the "Rear Bumper Comedy Show."
From there he moved east, landing on New York's radio station WOR where he is credited with coining the phrase, "night people."
"It swept the world," said Shepherd, "but it is not taken to mean people who work at night. That was not my original meaning but rather people whose lives begin at night.
"I also originated 'day people.' They are the ones who believe in the office and love sending memos (preferably to night people)."
ASKED FOR any other favorite phrases, he came up with "creeping meatballism," or making a virtue out of mediocrity. "Creeping meatballism" was notable for being used in one of President Eisenhower's news conferences during his administration.
In Shepherd's mind it still applies, particularly in the corporate world. "Look at Chrysler," he said.
From radio, Shepherd branched out to writing and performing. "I still perform. I do colleges. I'm going to Princeton next." Shepherd explained. "I started out as a standup comedian on stage. I hate to give that up to sit in front of an IBM typewriter. Performing is like a narcotic. Performing at colleges is exciting. You can do things on stage you couldn't get away with in a nightclub.
"You can have Captain Ahab doing commercials and drinking instant coffee while he looks for the great white whale. A nightclub audience wouldn't know who Captain Ahab was, but the kids love it."
DID HE THINK the Midwest has changed over the years?
"I'm one or those guys who take the curious position that I don't think the country has changed,'' Shepherd declared. The Midwest hasn't changed. It's just got more traffic. We tend to think so (that the country has changed) because we watch TV. TV doesn't reflect life. Countries don't really change much - oh, maybe over 400 - 500 years. The changes are mostly cosmetic. Narrow lapel suits are back and they give the illusion that everything has changed.
"It's one of the great myths. I don't know where it comes from. For instance I tell college audiences that its generally thought that everyone in college is having an incredible sexual time when everything's still the same." Except he gets howls of laughter from the college students with the remark.
A RESIDENT of Manhattan in the wintertime. Shepherd does most of his writing in his house in Maine. It's on the next lake away from the one used in the current theatrical film "On Golden Pond," around 50 miles north of Augusta.
"The whole state's like air conditioning," he said in praise. "Someone turns it up in the winter time."
Although he has become a Manhattanite, Shepherd hasn't lost his Midwest accent.
"It's held me back for years," he said ruefully. "I should talk like Richard Burton" ||
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