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Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 26 July 1921South Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 16 October 1999Sanibel Island, Florida, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameJean Parker Shepherd
Nickname Shep

Mini Bio (1)

Raised in Hammond, Indiana, Jean Shepherd went on to work in the steel mills and was a veteran of the Army Signal Corps before entering the arts. In the 1950s, he began a long career as a radio personality telling stories of his youth, commenting on current topics and performing silly songs. While at WOR-AM in New York, he also broadcast live night club acts from the Limelight in Greenwich Village. He wrote for Playboy and other magazines. His articles were published in a series of books including "The America of George Ade", "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters", "A Fistful of Fig Newtons" and "The Ferrari in the Bedroom". During the 1970s, he did two series of humorous programs as well as several American Playhouse (1981) episodes for PBS. In 1983, he wrote his first feature film, A Christmas Story (1983), putting together many tales of his semi-autobiographical character "Ralphie". A sequel, "My Summer Story" (aka It Runs in the Family (1994)) was made in 1994.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Sadur <jsadur@keyflux.com>

Spouse (3)

Leigh Brown (2 March 1977 - 16 July 1998) (her death)
Lois Nettleton (3 December 1960 - 1970) (divorced)
Joan Laverne Warner (9 September 1950 - 1957) (divorced) (2 children)

Trivia (28)

Provided the voice of the Narrator/Father character in the "Carousel of Progress" attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.
He had his own show at WOR-AM in New York for twenty-two years (ending in 1977).
Inspired the deejay character in Jack Kerouac's novel 'On the Road'.
He was the inspiration for Jason Robards' character in A Thousand Clowns (1965).
Peter Finch's famous rant in Network (1976) was inspired by Shepherd's radio diatribes.
Early in his tenure at WOR, he and his listeners decided to play a prank on the New York Times best-seller list; he suggested that they go to bookstores around the city and start asking for a book that didn't even exist; the listeners suggested the title (I, Libertine!), an author name (Frederick Ewing), and even gave this fictitious author a fairly detailed biography (former British civil servant, lived in South Africa, spoke on the BBC about 18th-century erotica, was married to Marjorie "a horsewoman from the North Country"). As his radio listeners included airline pilots who traveled overseas and press agents who fed information to leading gossip columnists in the city, The phony book and its phony author were soon a hot topic in transatlantic publishing circles, appearing on best-seller lists, getting mentioned in Earl Wilson's syndicated gossip column, and even getting Banned in Boston. Finally, one of his listeners, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal persuaded him that it was time to let the rest of the world in on the joke - by then, the book was such a big deal that Ballantine Publishing asked Shepherd to actually write a book called I, Libertine!, and with the help of science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, he did. Needless to say, the Times didn't take kindly to having been fooled, and when they reviewed the book, they implied that Shepherd had misled his fans into asking for the book, when in fact the listeners were part of the hoax from the very beginning.
Steve Allen, who listened to Shepherd on WOR, suggested him as his replacement on Tonight! (1953) (first of "Tonight Show" series) in the late 1950s. NBC went with Jack Paar instead, deciding that Shepherd was too caustic and unconventional to host a network show.
Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 566-568. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Was a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator with the call sign K2ORS. Following his death, another ham took over Jean's call sign to honour his memory.
He provided all the voices for the Sesame Street (1969) skit, "Cowboy X" (circa 1972).
Shepherd helped John Cassavetes raise money to film Shadows (1959) by having John on his show as one of his rare guests in February 1957. Shep was so committed to the project that he loaned his assistant Ellen Paulos to Cassavetes to help with the film. The thankful Cassavetes expressed his thanks in the opening credits of the movie. A title reads: "Presented by Jean Shepherd's Night People." (The Night People were members of what the New York Times in the late 1950s called the "cult" of Shepherd listeners.) Shepherd also appears in a crowd sequence in the film, smoking a cigarette.
The theme song used on his long-running radio show was "The Bahn Frei Polka" by Edouard Strauss. The particular version he used was recorded by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.
He was a life-long, die-hard Chicago White Sox fan.
"Red Ryder Nails the Hammond Kid", the basis for the 1983 movie A Christmas Story (1983), was published in the December 1965 issue of "Playboy" Magazine, which traditionally was billed as the "Gala Issue". Due to his popularity, Shepherd's stories often appeared in the December, Xmas-themed issues (1964, '65, '67, '68 and 1970), which was fitting for the man who wrote the screenplay for the most popular Xmas movie since It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Twenty-five of his stories were published in "Playboy Magazine" from June 1964 through August 1981. After the publication in May 1973 of his short-story "Lost At C", only one more Shepherd story appeared in "Playboy", "A Fistful of Fig Newtons" in August 1981. Shepherd won four "Playboy" Writing Awards for Humor/Satire, for "Leopold Doppler and the Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot" (October 1965), "The Return of the Smiling Wimpy Doll" (December 1967), and "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories" (June 1969), all cited as First Place winners in their respective years (1965, '67 and '69), while "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss" (July 1968) won a Second Place award in 1968.
Columnist for the "Villiage Voice" weekly newspaper in New York City, called "The Night People Column", in 1956 and '57.
Along with Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, he won a 1984 Genie Award for Best Screenplay for A Christmas Story (1983).
Five time winner of "Playboy" Magazine Best Writing Award for Humor/Satire. Shepherd was a mainstay of the magazine in the 1960s and early '70s. He conducted the magazine's interview with The Beatles that appeared in the February 1965 issue.
Posthumously inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame on November 13, 2000. Shep's longtime friend Irwin Zwilling accepted the award on his behalf.
Awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Indiana University in 1995.
In 2002, his home-town of Hammond, Indiana named the new Community Center in Dowling Park the "Jean Shepherd Community Center". On April 7, 1981, he had received the city's second annual Hammond Achievement Award, which was given in the name of the citizenry.
In 1976, the International Platform Association awarded him its Mark Twain American Humor award, which is given in honor of one of our most famous IPA members. The award is presented to "Mark Twain's Successor As America's Most Delightful Entertainer, Gentle Depictor of the Virtues and Weaknesses of Humanity with Humor's Paintbrush.".
"Jean Shepherd's Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss" received a nomination as Best Movie or Miniseries at the 10th annual ACE Awards.
Was named "Jazz Personality of the Year" for 1959 by "Metronome" Magazine.
Is mentioned in the "Dictionary of American Slang" in the entry for "Night People", which is defined as "People who work or live at night, sleeping during the day" and "Noncomformists". The dictionary goes on to credit Shep: "Pop. by N.Y. City disk jockey and social commentator Jean Shepherd, c.1956".

In his early years of radio on WOR in New York, during his late night broadcasts, Shep referred to his listeners as "Night People" often explaining how they differed from "Day People". The phrase caught on an credit for the phrase was given in the Dictionary of American Slang.
Subject of the song "Jean Shepherd" on the album "There Goes the Neighborhood" by Jim Testa.
Shepherd had two children, a son Randall and a daughter Adrian, by his first wife, Joan Warner, but according to them, had virtually no contact with them after he divorced their mother. In fact, Jean Shepherd's last will and testament falsely stated that he had no children.
Mr. Shepherd was a life long Chicago White Sox fan. He is the on screen host and narrator for the made for video film, THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX: A VISUAL HISTORY (1987).

Personal Quotes (2)

Can you imagine four thousand years passing and you're not even a memory? Think about it, friends. It's not just a possibility. It is a certainty.
I don't make the news, I just report it.

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