Jean Shepherd (A Christmas Story) and Lois Nettleton (The Golden Girls)

One Jean is the Lebanese friend of Dorothy and the other Jean wrote A Christmas Story!

The Real Jean & Jean Shepherd

Did you know that Lois Nettleton (who coincidentally played the memorable Jean on The Golden Girls episode called, Isn’t It Romantic was married to Jean Shepherd, who wrote the much beloved movie A Christmas Story?

Lois was from the Chicago Southside Suburb of Oak Park, IL & Jean (Shepherd) was from neighboring Northwest Indiana suburb of Hammond, IN (which was A Christmas Story’s story setting).

In a series of blog posts, Gene Bergmann has shared an album of images he’s put together and preserved in a loose leaf binder, of many of the items Lois had saved from her relationship with Jean. You can check the Shep-and-Lois Album at ShepQuest. Bergmann wrote a great portrait on Lois as well.

The Real Hometown Of “A Christmas Story”

For those who don’t know, the real Christmas Story Home is in Hammond, Indiana. Those of you who have already watched the sequel, that suprised everybody this year, called A Christmas Story Christmas, know. The movie was set in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana which was a disguise for Shepherd’s hometown: Hammond. Hohman is one of Hammond’s busiest downtown streets. I don’t know the reason why Ohio got all the glory and got to be the place where the 1983 movie was filmed, but thankfully that matter is a little better settled.

And I recently learned that Hammond, Indiana is finally taking advantage of its special connection to the classic movie with a A Christmas Story à la Disney Land exhibit that has been running for a few years. So don’t go to the Christmas Story House in Ohio, revisit the classic A Christmas Story, with a window displays exhibit, special events, & photos with Santa (with the slide!) in Northwest Indiana. A Christmas Story Comes Home runs mid-November through December 30 if you can’t make it this year.

“The Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond opened “A Christmas Story Comes Home” exhibit Sat. Nov. 12th, 2022, which runs through Dec. 30th, 2022, presented by The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.”

Read more about the experience at Panorama Now Magazine

Learn about the foundationg of THE INDIANA HOME THAT INSPIRED A CHRISTMAS STORY, literally.

Wanna know something else spooky? Betty White, one of the stars of The Golden Girls was from Oak Park too!

Lois

Since Lois is less known than Jean, here’s a great summation of her life and career from Gary Silverman in August of this year, in tribute of what would have been Lois’ 95th birthday:

Lois June Nettleton (August 16, 1927 – January 18, 2008) was a film, stage, radio, and television actress. She received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won two Daytime Emmy Awards.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois to Virginia and Edward L. Nettleton, she was raised by her maternal aunt’s family. She attended Senn High School, and Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now DePaul University). She was Miss Chicago of 1948 and a semifinalist at the Miss America 1948 Pageant. After performing to favorable reviews with Geraldine Page in repertory theater at the New Lake Zurich Playhouse (Lake Zurich, Illinois) in 1946 and with the Woodstock Players (Woodstock, Illinois) the following year, her professional acting career began in 1949. She understudied Barbara Bel Geddes in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and appeared on television in a production of “Flowers from a Stranger” on Westinghouse Studio One on the CBS network in 1949.

She performed in dozens of guest-starring roles on television shows. Early roles included The Twilight Zone (episode “The Midnight Sun”, 1961); Naked City; Route 66; Mr. Novak; The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (episode “The Dark Pool”, 1963); The Eleventh Hour; Hawaii Five-O; Dr. Kildare; Twelve O’Clock High; The Fugitive; The F.B.I.; Cannon; Bonanza; Gunsmoke (starring in 1961 as the title character in season 7, episode 12’s “Nina’s Revenge,” where she played an abused wife driven to murder after finally finding love); The Virginian; and Daniel Boone. In 1973, she appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Lou Grant’s new boss, Barbara Coleman, who was attracted to Lou. She appeared in the pilot episode of The Eddie Capra Mysteries in 1978, as well as hit TV miniseries, such as Washington: Behind Closed Doors and Centennial, as the murderous Maude Wendell.

In 1987, she portrayed the role of Penny Vanderhof Sycamore on the TV series version of the Kaufman and Hart comedy play You Can’t Take It with You with Harry Morgan and Richard Sanders. She was a regular celebrity guest on various versions of the game show Pyramid from the 1970s through 1991.

Nettleton won two Emmy Awards during her career. She won one for her role as Susan B. Anthony in the television film The American Woman: Profiles in Courage (1977), and for “A Gun for Mandy” (1983), which was an episode of the religious anthology Insight. She received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for the Golden Girls episode “Isn’t It Romantic?.” That famous episode is widely known as ‘the lesbian episode.’ Dorothy says: “She is not like Danny Thomas. She’s not Lebanese Blanche, she’s a LESBIAN!”

She also received Emmy nominations for her work in the TV movie Fear on Trial (1975) (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special) and for a recurring role on the series In the Heat of the Night in 1989 (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series). Nettleton appeared in a 2006 Christmas TV movie special titled The Christmas Card.

A life member of the Actors Studio, Nettleton made her Broadway debut in the 1949 production of Dalton Trumbo’s play, The Biggest Thief in Town. She appeared in a short-lived off-Broadway production of Look Charlie, which was written by her future husband, humorist Jean Shepherd. It opened for three performances in late December 1958 and closed after several more the following February.

She received critical praise for her performance as Blanche DuBois in a 1973 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Nettleton was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Amy in a 1976 revival of They Knew What They Wanted. Other stage credits include Broadway productions of Darkness at Noon and Silent Night, Lonely Night. She continued to act onstage into her 70s. Her final stage performance was in 2004, in an off-Broadway play, How to Build a Better Tulip.

Nettleton was the first caller to Jean Shepherd’s late-night radio program on WOR, later becoming his third wife. She became a regular guest, known to listeners as “the Listener.” They appeared together in Shepherd’s off-Broadway theater piece Look, Charlie!, which opened in December 1958. They married on December 3, 1960, in Tarrytown, New York. It has been reported that they divorced in 1967. She never remarried or had children.

Nettleton made her last public appearance in August 2007 at the Twilight Zone Convention in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Five months later, in January 2008, she died in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 80 from a brain tumor. She was interred in New York City’s Saint Raymond’s Cemetery.

A highly fictionalized version of her appears in James Ellroy’s 2021 novel Widespread Panic.

She had an elegant, warm, magical quality that will likely be loved as long as there is an audience.

Gary Silverman August 6  

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