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|Enigma and Brickbats||19|
|Foibles: The Real Jean Shepherd||23|
|Part I||Formative Years||39|
|1||Tough to Be a Kid: Growing Up in the Midwest||41|
|2||"Hang Loose, Son. Don't Let 'Em Do It to Ya": Army Life||63|
|3||When I Was a Tadpole: Early Radio||71|
|Part II||Heritage and Endowment||81|
|4||I Can't Tell a Joke: Roots||83|
|5||Cracks in the Sidewalk: Close Observations||105|
|Part III||The Great Burgeoning||117|
|6||Night People and All That Jazz: Earliest New York Radio||119|
|7||And I Was Just Beginning to Taste It!: (A) Man of the World||161|
|8||And I Was Just Beginning to Taste It!: (B) Dealing With Other People||173|
|Part IV||The Tools in Hand||193|
|9||Bahn Frei: Sounds||195|
|10||Hurling Invectives: Words||209|
|Part V||Encounters and Contentions||219|
|11||Keep Your Knees Loose: Shep Philosophy||221|
|12||Only in America: His Country||249|
|13||Tiny Embattled Minority: Us vs. Them and Shepherd vs. Almost Everybody||259|
|14||Eye Contact, Ear Contact: Engineers and Others||285|
|15||The Money Button: Making Dough||303|
|Part VI||Refinements and Conversions||315|
|16||My Novel: The Written Word||317|
|17||Who Listens to Radio Anymore?: Later New York Radio||345|
|18||I'm an Entertainer: Other Media||375|
|Part VII||Summing Up to a Boodle-Am Shake||407|
|19||These Guys Can Play at My Funeral Any Day||409|
|Appendix A||Annotated List of Interviewees||465|
|Appendix B||Listening to, Watching, and Reading Jean Shepherd||469|
Posted January 9, 2008
My own experience with and love of Jean Shepherd began with my brother's love of his radio show and books, and I was lucky enough to have listened to the very tail end of Shep's WOR career. It's funny, though, how much more I thought of him as a TV personality, I guess from watching 'Shepherd's Pie' and the crazy kazoo-rendering of 'Jersey Bounce,' and a writer, from reading all his books and some of his 'Car and Driver' articles. No matter which way you slice it, however, Shep definitely was a great influence on my philosophy, and that's why I was overjoyed to find this life history. Is it a biography? No, as Jim Clavin points out, especially due to the dearth of post-'Christmas Story' Shep history, and I think that's what prevents me from giving it five stars, as well as somewhat of a lack of authorial subjectivity [even though you can't fault Eugene Bergmann for his candid portrayal of Shep's cantankerousness]. Still and all, it was wonderful to revisit, even if only briefly and cursorily, the life of a man, an American individualist the like of whom is all but extinct these days, a New Jersey/New York icon, and, truly, one of the funniest and most ingenious entertainers I can think of. We miss you, Shep -- excelsior, indeed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
This book is not a biography. It is an in depth study of the many faces of Jean Shepherd. A storyteller in the first person, it was often thought by his fans that he was telling us stories of his real childhood experiences. Shep claimed none of it was true, but we've learned that Shep was a master of disguise in this respect, cleverly weaving fact and fiction in a way so that the audience was drawn unknowingly into that same fictional world as if we were a part of it. Gene Bergmann presents us with a perspective of Shepherd that only a true fan could. Having listened to Shepherd during his 'feckless youth' Gene has now gone back to re-listen to hundreds of the surviving recordings of Jean Shepherd's WOR radio shows, and interviewed dozens of people who were in some way associated with Shep over the years. From his years of research he has compiled a book which begins with the 'Formative Years' when Shep was just getting into the business and takes us through Shepherd's career stopping along the way to look behind the scenes at the Shepherd we never saw or heard. Gene clarifies some of the mysteries that surrounded Shep, things that many of his fans had often wondered about, and he brings to light many new things we didn't know. Using excerpts of Shep's own words, and the interviews he did with others, Gene weaves these together with his own thoughts to present the Shep fan with a deeper understanding of the man we all listened to in our beds at night telling tales of childhood, the Army, or travels around the world. Jean Shepherd was notorious for always talking, not just on the radio, but also away from the mike whether it was by the water cooler, a restaurant, or a party. Yet with all the talking he did there was much we never knew about him. Gene uncovers many of those enigmas that kept us shrouded in mystery over the years. If you are a Shep fan this is a must read. If you're not, you missed a lot and need to catch up.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
Jean Shepherd(1921-1999) was a humorist who has left us artistic productions in the radio, TV, motion picture, and print media. Author E.B. Bergmann postulates that Shepherd's life and art are inseparable. He reports that Jean Shepherd observed, questioned, and then commented on life in a positive way. Shepherd often experienced great joy and excitement in what he saw. There is a better than even chance that anyone reading this review has seen the movie, A Christmas Story (1983). This is the one about the kid that nearly shoots out his eye with the BB rifle he receives as a Christmas gift. Do you remember? Well, Jean Shepherd wrote that movie. You probably enjoyed it. Most people do. It's humorous, isn't it? Remember the scene in which the father wins a lamp shaped like a woman's leg as a contest prize? It becomes his most prized possession. He thinks it's great, but we suspect that his wife believes it to be in very bad taste. The father's excitement over that lamp is an example of a foible, which is a quirk or eccentricity. Shepherd was a master at identifying foibles, especially those characteristic of Americans. He used them extensively in his art. Humor and reality are inseparable in Shepherd's view of art and life, and what is hoped for or planned is never as relevant as what actually is! Shepherd started his career making observations on the radio. His early shows were composed of seemingly endless 'streams of consciousness' spoken over a background of jazz music. Bergmann heard some of those radio programs, and made tape recordings of them. For the book, he typed out word for word transcriptions of shows from his own collection, and from representative programs collected by others. These radio transcriptions, taken from shows over a twenty year period, form the matrix of the book. They are the 'glue' which holds Shepherd's life story together, since these recorded observations represent the core of his life view. Bergmann intertwines the radio narratives with other source material. These include interviews with people who knew Jean Shepherd, Shepherd's own writings, and interviews with the artist himself. It's obvious that Bergmann loves his subject. At one point he talks to Shepherd as if he is still very much alive: 'But, Jean Shepherd, you made your art so inextricably a mix with your persona - your life - that no hammer, pliers, saw or sword could undo such a Gordian knot.' To this I say EXCELSIOR! Read this book. You will not be disappointed!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
Back in the late 60's and early '70s, Shep was the AM Buddha who showed my wiseguy friends and me the path to enlightenment. We tried to observe, think, and tell stories like he did--something our teachers and parents weren't thrilled to see in 12-year-old kids, but it was too late. Shepherd's lessons have stayed with me for many years and I still rank them among the greatest gifts I've ever received. Almost a year after learning that a book on Shep's life was forthcoming, I finally have my copy. 'Excelsior, You Fathead' is a like discovering an old attic steamer trunk crammed with family treasures. Each page brings back overpowering memories and peels away another layer of complexity from the guy I always thought of as 'Ralphie'. The writing is beautiful and I enjoyed the clever approach Bergmann took in weaving the three Shepherd personas into a single biography. Read 'Excelsior' once to learn everything you never knew about the voice of the Night People: his family, his relationships, his pet peeves. Then read it again to fully appreciate the man's wit and genius.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 1, 2005
Jean Shepherd was one of the reasons why I pursued a career in radio. 'Shep' was a true talent, one who could do anything and do it very well. He was a far more than just a radio personality. Well versed describes Shepherd as he was a humorist and a writer of both literary print and film. He created 'theatre of the mind' and not only was he vastly overlooked but to this very day he is still ahead of our time. Shepherd fan and author Eugene Bergman has created a labor of love with this must have read for anyone who admired the works of Jean Parker Shepherd. It is not a biography in anyway rather the opposite as many of Shepherd's friends, co-workers and fans (like myself) provide a glimpse of the man and how he truly was a master of many crafts. He was so much more than just the guy who penned the now Christmas classic 'A Christmas Story.' He was pure genius, a rare talent and he is sorely missed. Kudo's to Gene for capturing the talent and spirit of Jean Parker Shepherd. Excelsior! Brian Pearson Deacon Grooves Media ChicagoWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.