Hammond-bred humorist Jean Shepherd craved recognition. "The only time he was happy was when people would come up to him and say how great he was," TV producer Fred Barzyk told Shepherd biographer Eugene Bergmann. "Then he was happy."
Were he alive, the inventor of talk radio, best known for "A Christmas Story," might crack a smile.
It's official: Shepherd will be posthumously inducted Nov. 5 into the National Radio Hall of Fame. As spokesman Bruce DuMont puts it, "It's Jean's year."
TV fixture Regis Philbin (fresh from the Notre Dame-Tennesse game in South Bend) will emcee the black-tie gala at the Renaissance Chicago Hotel. The $500-a-plate affair will be nationally broadcast on WGN-AM and WLS-AM. Tickets are available at www.radiohof.org.
Shepherd, who died at 78 in 1999, was hailed a modern Mark Twain for his masterful storytelling during his 21-year stint in New York radio.
Many yarns were at his hometown's expense; he compared Hammond clinging to Chicago "like a barnacle clings to the rotting hulk of a tramp steamer." His Midwest roots were a recurring theme.
He also wrote numerous books, hosted TV specials and narrated the beloved film "A Christmas Story" (1983), the tale of a lad who yearns for a BB gun for Christmas.
Preliminary talks are under way with long-time Shep agent Irwin Zwilling to accept the award on his client's behalf. Organizers also are mulling a list of die-hard fans for induction duties.
Philbin "has always spoken of him highly. Garrison Keillor is another possibility," Hall of Fame president DuMont said.
Ironically, Shepherd loathed Keillor, resenting the younger man's success with "Prairie Home Companion."
Fellow 2005 inductees include late comic legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, ABC News Radio correspondent Ann Compton and Pittsburgh Steelers color analyst Myron Cope. Proceeds will benefit the new Museum of Broadcast Communications scheduled to open next year.