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Last Update: 11-20-2016

Down in Death Valley

Jean Shepherd's America - Season 2

June 4, 1985

"DOWN IN DEATH VALLEY" Flower, the burro, shares center stage with Ol' Prospector Shepherd as he wanders along the trail of the 49ers and encounters mirages (is that the Sheik of Araby?) and cacti .
Fan Comments
[ Courtesy: Pete Delaney - 09-18-2016 ]
Wedged between two brilliant shows is an episode that is a complete embarrassment as Jean portrays ol' Luke, a prospector, who is abandoned by his mule and forced to walk across the scorching desert, all for two belts of Jim Beam bourbon at a saloon. It's boring and repetitious and marks the only time in the series that the video images of America do not involve and fascinate the viewer. Far worse are two bits involving Luke's heat induced fantasies: The first features Shepherd's stereotyped version of an Arab sheik, the other an unfortunate portrayal of Rommel, that astonishingly includes Nazi salute.
Additional Comments:
In the 1985 Press Kit Shep wrote a small piece The Devil Has All the Best Lines by Jean Shepherd I'm not one for fantasies. In fact, I can't honestly say that l've ever consciously had one. As a kid, I never fantasized that I was Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle or Humphrey Bogart. Sure I admired them. But fantasizing that I was them? Never. But there are things that we all secretly would like to have done-or have been had time and circumstances allowed. I wonder how it would have felt to have been a knight during the reign of Richard The Lion-Hearted, or a buHalo hnnter on the Great Plains in the days of Cochise. I've always seen television, at least my television, as a kind of magic wand. You can go places and do things that nobody in his right mind could ever pull off. For example, who among us has never wanted to visit Death Valley? Now there's a romantic name. Death Valley Soottyl The 20-mule team! .All of that. Well, why not go? And not just as a visitor, but as a participant. So, in my new public television series, I played the role of a grizzled prospector struggling across the salt flats under the blazing sun, my only companion my faithful burro Flower. Who wouldn't like to do that? And what red-blooded male hasn't always secretly wanted to turn a few laos at Indianapolis - the Brickyard- the home of the legendary 500? Why not? So seated in a magnificent million-dollar Dusenberg, in another of my new shows dressed in the costume of an early Indy race driver, I raced against the heroic "Duke" Nalon, a real race driver of the Indy's glory days. What a gas! How 'bout playing the, with cape and sinister Palm Beach hat, visiting night time New Orleans for a little recreation and a field trip to see how sin is progressing on earth? We did, and 1 can tell you l began to feel that I was typecast as Satan by the end of the shoot. I loved it. As George Bernard Shaw said, "The Devil has all the best lines." Fantasies? No. Television is magic, and I love it.

Production Information:
Studio / Network: WGBH - Snow Pond Productions
Director: Fred Barzyk
Asst Director:
Producer: Olivia Tappan, Leigh Brown
Executive Producer:
Running Time:
Where Shep Made Reference To This Subject
Links to Further Information:
• Season 2 Press Kit

May 1985
Article from the 1985 Jean Shepherd's America press kit which appeared in West Michigan magazine

Courtesy: Steve Glazer