Chuck Shepherd

Chuck Shepherd, editor of "News of the Weird," has been collecting peculiar stories for almost 20 years.

News of the Weird was born one day in the 1970s when I was sitting around in Washington, D.C., with my buds Bob Maslow and Kevin Walsh, taking turns complaining that life at its essence was really, really boring, and that that realization caused some people to get desperate. The news sometimes detailed the exploits of the desperate (though in that era, usually in the "fillers" that followed news columns that didn't quite reach to the bottom of the page).

We accumulated examples. Newspaper clippings got saved, posted, and circulated, helping us to realize: underqualified criminals were legion; bureaucracies reached results that no one participant ever intended; cultural customs (domestic and foreign) appeared so goofy as to resemble bad science fiction; ordinary middle-class people briefly and inexplicably lost total control, sometimes just for a few moments. Especially, there was abundant proof that everyone (as in "every single person") has a dark side of sorts (with some sides darker than others), perhaps a fringe obsession or fetish, or a quixotically themed button just waiting to be pushed.

A "zine" (View from the Ledge) was created (long before zines were cool).

Mailing lists were compiled as kindred spirits around the country and around the world discovered our quest.

Then, in 1988, the editor of D.C.'s alternative newsweekly, Washington City Paper, made a career-jeopardizing decision and published a column of my news, which then grew like so much journalistic kudzu, first to other alternative newsweeklies, and then, in July 1989, to the mainstream press after being acquired by the big-shot Universal Uclick, which at the time distributed Doonesbury, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes. Perfect fit.

I had a day job then, and for 4-1/2 years handled News of the Weird on the side, but the latter responsibility grew to be so daunting that, well, the day job had to go. I moved from the District of Calamity to Florida, from one den of iniquity to another, and never missed a beat.

You all know about the F State, but I knew I had relocated properly when SF Weekly in San Francisco commissioned a long story about men obsessed with getting their junk cut off for no reason other than to look better (according to them), and for the meat of the story, so to speak, the reporter interviewed presumably the three most articulate practitioners he could find, and that's how a flagship newspaper in a city on the cutting-edge of sex came to feature one Californian but two Floridians.

Chuck Shepherd's regular biography:

Day Jobs: business-school faculty, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; government lawyer-bureaucrat, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, White House (Carter Administration); trade journal editor; radio operator, U.S. Air Force, including 362-day/4-hour/19-minute tour, Republic of Vietnam, 1968-69.

Other Jobs: law practice, Washington, D.C. (criminal defense); journalism law teacher, University of Maryland; basketball statistician, Washington Bullets (1974-91); high school basketball referee; night club revue producer.

Schoolin': University of Texas at Austin (B.S.); American University (J.D.); George Washington University (M.B.A.)



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