Saturday, September 14, 2013
SHEL SILVERSTEIN AND HIS "TEEVEE JEEBIES"
I was familiar with the name Shel Silverstein before I heard him on the TV. What I mean by "heard" was that I overheard Mr. Silverstein during his guest appearance on the Joe Pyne Show when I was supposed to be asleep in the other room.
It was probably around the summer of 1964, and my grandparents were visiting us out in the San Fernando Valley as they occasionally did. As was the custom during these overnight visits, I gave up my bed for gramps. On this particular night, he was up watching the aforementioned Joe Pyne, one of late night talk show's pioneers, when I heard the words "smut books" from my fold away bed in the living room.
It sounded like Silverstein -- who I knew was a contributor to PLAYBOY magazine from frequent stolen peeks at them in the den of my friend's house -- was trying a first amendment move by showing the covers of a bunch of adult magazines he had "smuggled" in to the show. Whether being serious or for theatrics sake -- I can't remember which -- Pyne refused. Silverstein persisted. In the ensuing chaos, I jumped up from my makeshift bed to get a look at these so-called smut books. If memory serves me right, Silverstein barely got to show them from where he was sitting, and I was left to being content peeking at the PLAYBOY's in my friend's father's man cave for the time being.
Sheldon Allan Silverstein (1930 - 1999) was a bit of a renaissance man. Poet, musician, writer, cartoonist, humorist, and later as Uncle Shelby, a children's book author (!), Silverstein was a long-time contributor to PLAYBOY beginning in the August, 1956 issue. Best known for his scriggly-lined cartoons and his off-the-map travelogues, Silverstein's madcap ideas and writings had an equal dash of counterculture, reflecting hip current events and the avant garde.
The bald, bearded Silverstein was also a songwriter, musician, and he pressed a number of LP's, such as Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball. He was behind the creation of such hits as Johnny Cash's historic tune, "A Boy Named Sue" and Dr. Hook's "The Cover of the Rolling Stone". I heard him sing his song, "The Unicorn", on TV. Silverstein's zany compositions eventually earned him a permanent spot in the song rotation during Dr. Demento's famous show.
As a Monster Kid, I was thrilled to see the occasional still from a monster movie in his pictorial satire series for PLAYBOY. Originally titled Teevee Jeebies, in the July, 1959 issue, subsequent installments were given headings such as, Bride of Teevee Jeebies and I Was a Teenage Teevee Jeebie. Eventually, PLAYBOY PRESS published two volumes collecting the series.
The August, 1962 issue was a surprise. Included was Silverstein's latest, Teevie Jeebies Meets the Wolfman, and was exclusively dedicated to monster movies.
I can't help but to wonder if this is the origin point of the fumetti-style monster photos with word balloons used not much later by numerous monster magazines. These also predate the first issue of MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH (1964), begging the question, could Shel Silverstein's Teevee Jeebies in PLAYBOY have been the inspiration for Stan Lee's Marvel monster satire magazines?