Back in 1966, when Jonathan Sanger was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications, he made a film with his classmate Al Tedesco, called Channel Cat in the Middle Distance.
It was a 20 minute film about Jean Shepherd and was both narrated by him (thru taped interviews) and performed by him with college dates, filming his office and studio at WOR in NY when he was performing, and following him around a few spots in NYC including The Limelight.
The title of the film comes from the title of a chapter of the same name in a 1960 book called "Explorations in Communication" - edited by Edmund Carpenter and Marshall McLuhan.
The film opens with the opening theme and chatter of one of Shep's radio shows playing during the opening credits. It then changes to views of various signs for various stores and theaters in Manhatten. We see the Morosco Theatre entrance and Shep comes walking into the shot, reaching up and patting the phrase "Capital of Fun City" on the Morosco sign. We then follow Shep walking past more signs and eventually to the Limelight. Here we see him backstage getting ready for the show, and then see some rare footage of him on stage. Unfortunately the audio of the show is not there, only the narration of the Club manager(?).
Back out on the street we follow Shep again with him stopping in front of an Olivetti store and typing something on a display typwriter. This sequeys into a booksigning event for "In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash" where Shep is seen making a grand entrance and then signing books and even arms. Back at the typewriter, Shep smiles as he finishes typing and walks away. (So what did he type?)
Next we see Shep pass the Carnegie Recital Hall. We catch him backstage at an unknown location to do a live performance and see various shots of him performing, including playing the Jews Harp and Head Thumping. During this segment Shep defines the meaning of "Channel Cat and the Middle Distance"
Back out on the street we see Shep wandering again passing the sign for Presto Irons which blew actual steam.
Next stop is Sterns for another booksigning. This time he appears with a groundhog since it is groundhog day. Not to be upstaged, the groundhog is caged while Shep signs books for a long line of fans.
Horn and Hardart is a must stop on this tous as Shep goes in and sits upstairs looking down at the crowds purchasing their lunches at the Automat.
Shep passes a travel agency and we see him on the beach at night entering a tent to smoke a pipe and tell the "Fable of the Bohemian" by George Ade.
Then it is on to 1440 Broadway - home of the WOR studios where we see Shep in his office working with Leigh Brown taking notes. We get a small glimpse of all the stuff he has accumulated.
Time for work and Shep heads to the Studio where Mario, his engineer waits. They are joined by Leigh who sits near Mario to monitor an produce the show. Here we watch as Shep performs and you may note that some of the shots with Shep in the white shirt look familiar. Fred McDarrah took his famous poster shot on this day and many others some of which are seen at the end of the documentary.
Show's over - closing theme and we see a collage of stills from the documentary and of McDarrah's photo shoot ending with the poster shot.
Jonathan Sanger is a producer and director, known for Vanilla Sky, The Elephant Man, Flight of the Navigator, and much more work in film and on TV. He is the father of David Sanger, a well established visual effects producer.
Former WOR engineer and friend of Shep Herb Squire adds these comments:
The WOR photos show the show originating from Studio 3. It was a live broadcast. The studio switcher on the right side of the General Electric (transistorized) console shows that it was on the air on WOR 710. This must have been done after WOR-FM started their stereo contemporary music format on July 30, 1966. The switcher shows that Jean's show was not being simulcast on WOR-FM.
Mario Sfogliano was the show's engineer that night. Mario was one of the younger engineers on staff at that point. He started at WOR in 1964. He retired from WOR several years ago.
It was interesting to see the old studio 3 on the 24th floor of 1440 Broadway. The equipment was updated beginning in 1964 and the interior of the studios and control rooms were redone in late 1967 a few months after I started working at WOR. Jean did most of his broadcasts from studio 3. He did wind up using other studios for some of the pre-taped shows depending on recording schedules.
I still remember the old Western Union clock on the studio 3 wall. The wood housing, which had been painted over a few times over the years, still had a label that read, "Eastern War Time," if you looked at the right angle.