Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel: 1912 - 2008

Let's take a break from the mind-numbing election cycle to note the passing of a giant.

Louis "Studs" Terkel was classic progressive-liberal whose career stretched from the New Deal to the eve of one of the most historic elections in our nation's life. He passed away peacefully at home on Halloween, after taking a fall earlier in the month.

Born in New York to Jewish immigrant parents, his family moved to Chicago when he was 8. After getting a law degree from the University of Chicago, he worked for the WPA writing and performing on radio.

Though best known now for his oral histories (a format he pioneered) of ordinary people in such books as "Division Street: America," "Working," "The Good War" (for which he won a Pulitzer prize), and "Coming of Age," during the 1940's and 50's he starred in "Stud's Place," an unscripted TV show produced in Chicago. His politics made him a target by the House Un-American Activities Committee and he was relegated to radio (I wonder if Chicago would be considered "fake America").

The secret to his success was in large part due to his gift of capturing the stories of ordinary folks on tape and presenting those stories to the world. Though he never prepared his questions ahead of time, he was considered a master interviewer.

For more on this remarkable man see the following articles:

Read selections from "Working" on Google Books.


The Whited Sepulchre said...

"Working" is pure, undiluted greatness.

Dan Brekke said...

There was a period there in Park Forest when we did not have a television. The substitute was WFMT -- the only station I ever remember my dad tuning into (as opposed to being held captive to WLS, WCFL and such like by the likes of us). There were some great things on WFMT, but the greatest was this talk-show guy who was on every morning -- Studs Terkel. One of my memories of Chicago -- he was always there.