- Category : Entertainment-News-journalist-Anchor
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 2
American multi-media performer and writer, a humorist in the Midwestern tradition of Mark Twain, a fluent storyteller and raconteur on radio for over two decades. Author of several books as well as articles for a diverse range of magazines, he produced a television movie and television series, and the screenplay for the MGM classic movie, "A Christmas Story." He hosted numerous radio shows. His vignettes of childhood were extremely popular in print and in live performances. He gained an immense cult following which remains after his death.
Jean Parker Shepherd was the elder son of Jean P. and Anne (Heinrichs) Shepherd. His father was an office manager for Borden Dairies, where his younger brother, Randy, eventually went to work. Jean grew up in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago. He attended public schools and graduated from Hammond High School in 1939. During his teens he worked as a mail boy in a steel mill. He began his radio career at 16 hosting weekly sportscasts for a local radio station. That job led to juvenile roles on network radio in Chicago.
During World War II he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Afterwards, he studied acting at the Goodman Theater School in Chicago and engineering and psychology at Indiana University. In 1949 he left Indiana University before graduation to take a job at a radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. From there he moved to a station in Philadelphia, but after a year returned to a larger station, WLW, in Cincinnati. In addition to his work on radio, he hosted a popular late-night comedy, "Rear Bumper," on WLW-TV.
His work on "Rear Bumper" earned him consideration as the replacement host for Steve Allen on the Tonight Show on NBC in New York. That job never worked out, but he stayed in New York to begin a 21-year association with WOR-AM. His fictionalized, relatively plotless recollections of childhood in the 1930s and 1940s won him a cult following among the teens of the 1950s and 1960s. Marshall McLuan once called Shepherd "the first radio novelist."
Shepherd’s first book was "The America of George Ade," 1961, consisting of selections of Ade’s essays that he edited. New York Times bestseller, "In God We Trust - All Others Pay Cash," 1966, contained fascinating total recall of minute details of adolescence with his chum Flick. It was so realistic that he had to call the newspaper to ask that the book be moved from the nonfiction to the fiction column of the list. His most popular story, "Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories," told of a prom date run amuck. "The Ferrari in the Bedroom" was published in 1972.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Shepherd starred in numerous Off-Broadway plays, hosted jazz concerts sponsored by the "Village Voice" (for which he was then writing) and presented stand-up comedy at nightclubs. Among his television productions, "Jean Shepherd’s America" was popular and aired for three seasons on public television beginning in 1969. Shepherd also wrote the script for the made-for-television movie classic, "A Christmas Story." He carried his story-telling talent to Carnegie Hall, which he sold out, and to numerous one-man shows at college campuses, corporate conventions and meetings. Among his favorites were a series of appearances each year at Princeton University in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1981, Shepherd was the proud recipient of the second annual Hammond Achievement award from his hometown of Hammond, Indiana.
He performed his last concert in 1996. He continued to work on a new film project in his last years, even though his health was failing.
Shepherd was a stocky, robust man with blue-gray eyes, pleasant regular features, pliable facial expression and a flat Mid-western voice. His usual appearance was casual bordering on eccentric. He was a photographer, a pen-and-ink artist, an amateur radio operator, a collector of nineteenth-century religious art, a gadget expert, a private pilot, and a sports car enthusiast. He lived in an apartment in Manhattan and on three acres in rural Washington, New Jersey, where he liked to fish. He summered in a cabin in Portland, Maine and wintered in Florida.
His first marriage, to a University of Cincinnati graduate, was brief. His second, to actress Lois Nettleton in 1961, ended after six years. In March 1977 he married Leigh Brown, his agent, his producer and the assistant to whom he dictated his stories, articles and books. The couple had no children.
Leigh Brown died in 1998. Shepherd, who had been ill for several years prior, died of natural causes on 10/16/1999 at 3:20 AM. in Lee Memorial Hospital near his Sanibel Island, Florida home.