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Summary

Champ Talker & Chicken Cleaner
Airdate: Sunday - June 1, 1969


Show Description
What would you say if I told you there's a fellow on radio in our town who once was responsible for a nonexistent book making the best-seller list and, without any reason at all, caused thousands of persons to mill around aimlessly on the streets of New York? Also, that he's a scholar, a humorist, a wit who while in the Army, with another soldier, cleaned 400 chickens during one tour of KP. Oh, yes, I know, You'd probably voice the sentiments of that legendary but no longer existent, rube who, on seeing an elephant for the first time, exclaimed: "There ain't no such animal!" Well, boys and gals, you'd be wrong. For I dined with just such a phenomenon, one Jean Shepherd at La Scala, which requires no great exercise of your imagination to guess is an Italian eatery. And as for Jean himself, I am divulging no secret when I tell you that you may hear him from Monday through Friday at 10:15 p.m. and Saturday at 10:05 p.m. on WOR-Radio. There, he has been holding forth as a talking star since 1957. 'I, Libertine' A sturdy, vibrant, enthusiastic maverick, with a profile friendly enough to qualify him for the title of "Mr. Joviality," this native of Chicago spent his boyhood in Hammond, Indiana. To the younger generation, especially the collegiate set, he is an idol. He represents to them the height of sophistication; but his earthy Midwestern background serves as a solid base for his humorous flights. There was, for instance, that book episode... "Some years ago," he told me, "I became annoyed over the blind faith of so many Americans in all sorts of lists; the best of this' and 'the best of that.' So, for fun, I began to plug enthusiastically on the air a novel that wasn't even in existence. Title? 'I, Libertine.' "Well, sir, soon thousands of persons descended on book stores asking for it. The clerks were driven crazy. They couldn't find it listed in any of the catalogues; they called publishers in vain. But despite that, I, Libertine' made the best-seller list! "I had proved conclusively just how ridiculous such compilations are. The Wall Street Journal ran a story about it and even Pravda in Moscow commented on it." No Disk Jockey "What about that milling-around episode?" I asked. "Just more evidence of crowd psychology," Jean explained. "You see, I am primarily a talker, a humorous monologue man, who comments on the follies of humanity. I'm not a comedian or comic in the usual sense of those words, but, as far as broadcasting is concerned, a radio essayist. "Now I suppose the management people of broadcasting stations were puzzled by this. I fitted into no standard classification; therefore they called me a disk jockey and insisted I play records. I hated this; so one night I simply refused to put on any more platters and was cut off the air. "I had told my listeners of what might happen and asked them to support me by taking to the streets and demonstrating in my behalf. I know it sounds fantastic, but thousands of persons suddenly appeared near the old Wanamaker store and just milled around for hours and hours. Many in the crowd, of course, had no idea of what it was all about." That Jean would go to this extent in his fight for the right to talk is no surprise to those who know him. For he, like Barry Farber, also of WOR, is a veritable verbal geyser, spouting with atomic force a stream of explosive, incandescent words. Anyway, peace finally prevailed and Jean was soon restored to his post, now to shine as a conversationalist on WOR, even though some puzzled radio men insisted on regarding him as a "disk jockey who doesn't play records." Now he came into a new eminence as a prime philosopher, humorist and, above all, as a story teller - a sort of "gentile Myron Cohen." And much to his satisfaction, one might add. For this was certainly less arduous and more profitable work than cleaning Army mess hall chickens, a task which he still remembers with a shudder. Oh, Those Chickens! "I was in the Signal Corps and landed as one of' a transient group at Camp Wood, New Jersey. There a mess sergeant assigned another soldier and me to clean and remove the innards of 400 - yes, 400 - chickens," he recalled. Furthermore, this sarge, who probably was a descendant of either Nero or the Marquis de Sade, informed the unlucky pair that they would have to complete the job, no matter how many hours it required. "We did," Jean told me. "And since then I haven't been able to look a chicken in the eye. You notice that's one thing I didn't order tonight." It would be impossible for anyone who knows Jean Shepherd to imagine that a man of such versatile talents would confine his activities to a radio studio. And he doesn't. For he is the author of a successful novel, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," the writer of scores of magazine articles, an actor, the winner of the Playboy humor-satire award, a guest on TV shows, a movie writer, a playwright and a teacher of courses at New York University. Lack Excitement Too, Jean is one of the country's most in-demand lecturers in colleges, and recently gave an acclaimed one-man show in New York's Town Hall. No, Jean is definitely not a Johnny-One-Note guy. But when it comes to broadcasting, his great love is still radio. "It has an intimacy, an appeal to the imagination television lacks," he commented. "What is your opinion of radio-TV today?" I asked. 'Too few persons in our field appreciate its romance," he answered. "The sales department men especially, regard it simply as a business. They lack the sense of excitement that many of our performers have." "Suppose you suddenly came into possession of a radio station? What would you do with it?" I asked. Sense of Humor "First of all, I'd do my best to recruit people who have a genuine love for other people and who, above all, have a sense of humor. Also I'd involve my station in things of importance happening in our town," said Jean Shepherd. So, as you see, this broadcaster is not only a versatile and thoughtful man, but also" a lively conversationist during a meal. But if you should ever invite him to your home for dinner, don't serve him chicken!
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June 01,1969
Champ Talker and Chicken Cleaner

    
Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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