A Conversation with Studs Terkel and Andrew Patner

Studs Terkel speaks with Andrew Patner at the University of Chicago.

00:00Copy video clip URL Titles. Andrew Patner introduces some known and little-known facts about Studs Terkel, as they sit in a lecture hall at the University of Chicago in front of an Alumni Association audience in 2004. “Studs has had a… complex relationship with the University of Chicago.” “Mixed, mixed.”

01:22Copy video clip URL Studs relates the story of how he got the nickname “Studs.” The story takes several diversions, as Studs talks about being in a play called “Waiting for Lefty” and his law school ambitions. “I went to law school dreaming of Clarence Darrow and woke up to Antonin Scalia.”

02:44Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Robert Maynard Hotchins. “He was destroyed, but he held forth. He says, ‘Anybody can teach, even a communist can teach too, as long as he knows the subject and doesn’t try to inculcate the students with his own ideology.'”

03:42Copy video clip URL “Guilt by association.” Studs talks about John Ashcroft. “John Ashcroft is 305 years old.” Because Studs sees the hunt for terrorists as like another witch hunt, as in The Crucible. “That [the Salem witch trials] was when the US Patriot Act was first drafted.”

07:49Copy video clip URL Studs talks about failing and passing the bar, and being raised in a hotel his parents ran.

09:08Copy video clip URL Studs talks about the three programs on Chicago TV in the 1950s, and getting in trouble with Joe McCarthy. “I never met a petition I didn’t like.” Studs talks about signing lots of petitions when he was young–anti-lynching, anti-poll tax. “Suppose communists come out against cancer, do we have to come out for cancer?”

13:29Copy video clip URL Studs talks about his friendship with Mahalia Jackson, and how she got him a job doing a program in radio while he was blacklisted. He was asked to sign a loyalty oath, and Jackson stood up for him when he refused. “Mahalia had more guts… than all of them put together.”

16:30Copy video clip URL He returns to the story of flunking the bar. The first test was a quiz-style test, but the second one, which he passed, was essay questions. “You could say ‘Yes, but no and here’s why.'”

19:06Copy video clip URL He talks about playing a gangster in radio soap operas. “It’s hard to tell where soap opera leaves off and life begins.”

20:23Copy video clip URL “I thank the University of Chicago law school for leading me to the blues.”

20:52Copy video clip URL “We’re suffering right now in the country… from a National alzheimer’s disease. We don’t remember what happened.” Studs talks about the New Deal, the Great Depression, and doing the interviews for the book Hard Times.

23:35Copy video clip URL He returns to talking about “Waiting for Lefty” and going to see plays. One thing led to another, and he got into radio and TV acting.

26:44Copy video clip URL Studs talks about the steelworkers strike in Chicago in 1937. Republic Steel refused to recognize the union, even after US Steel and Bethlehem Steel had agreed to. The University of Chicago Board of Trustees called for the firing of Robert Morse Lovett for his involvement. James Weber Lind told Hutchins not to fire him. Hutchins said “No, I won’t [fire him], my successor will.”

30:00Copy video clip URL Studs talks about social workers, and the humiliation people go through when they need welfare.

35:32Copy video clip URL Studs talks about his books. “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Hope Dies Last.” He criticizes the phrase “Greatest Generation” as applied to the generation of WWII, because he thinks it’s an implicit put-down of the generation of the 1960s, the generation that produced the feminist, civil rights, and gay rights movements.

38:35Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Kathy Kelly and the Catholic Worker movement. She was a disciple of Dorothy Day. She planted corn on a missile site in protest.

43:28Copy video clip URL Studs talks about missing the Cubs-Athletics World Series game because he decided to go to a lecture on Gestalt Psychology.

44:58Copy video clip URL Patner talks about listening to Studs Terkel’s radio program “This Train” when he was a kid. Studs tells a story about working for the station and how he could do anything he wanted with the hour.

48:30Copy video clip URL Jokingly: “I don’t know what a website is. I don’t acknowledge the 21st century.”

50:03Copy video clip URL Studs foresees a rising movement of rebellion among the young. He talks about  “the evil of banality,” an inversion of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase on the “banality of evil.”

52:40Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Harold Washington, and his contribution to shaping Chicago, and the very significance of electing a black mayor. “He recognized the importance of the neighborhoods, not just the loop, but the neighborhoods.”

54:04Copy video clip URL He hates the mechanical voices on the phone. “The Vox Humana is my life.”

 

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