Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) was once described in Cue magazine as "a philosopher without portfolio, a wit who never tells a joke." Shepherd was, to a generation of metro New York youth -- mostly guys, and the types never voted "Mr. School Spirit" -- a bastion of charismatic iconoclasm. From the late 1950s to the late '70s, he practiced the art of the intimate, humorous monologue on WOR-AM radio, usually for 45 minutes a night. No in-studio guests, no listener phone calls. The show was entirely based around the mesmerizing transmissions from one man's imagination. Shep was a seminal influence on many present and former WFMU air staffers.
Shep reminisced about his hapless days in the Army signal corps, and about his boyhood in Indiana's Great Lakes industrial wasteland, immortalized by the imaginary town of "Hohman." Shep's domain, said Herb Gardner, was "a world of long trolley cars, itchy wallpaper, tin-foil collections, creative sitting, lumpy letters and empty Ovaltine cans." Though he rarely discussed current events, Shepherd offered wry observations about the national scene. "Shepherd is merely a vehicle," said satirist Paul Krassner, "for communicating to us not only that the emperor has no clothes on, but also that we are all naked emperors."
Shep evoked New York's beat scene during the 1950s, spinning first-hand vignettes of Kerouac, Mingus, Feiffer and Ginsberg. Upon first arriving in NYC, he wrote for the nascent Village Voice, and later for Playboy, Krassner's The Realist, and Car & Driver. His best-selling books included "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash"; "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories" and "The Ferrari in the Bedroom." He wrote and narrated the perennial film classic "A Christmas Story," and scripted and hosted the PBS-TV series "Jean Shepherd's America."
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