America: Personal Conversations with Dennis Wholey, show #128

Dennis Wholey interviews Studs Terkel. Among the topics are Studs' background, his books, racism, and general trends in American politics.

00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins.

01:19Copy video clip URL Wholey asks Studs if Americans are good people. Studs responds that he believes “Americans are generally good people, but also people, not a unique chosen people.” Studs believes people should be proud of their culture. He also adds that he thinks people ought to be entitled to the same rights from the very beginning. Studs does not believe the “playing field” is not even. He believes that the “country cannot be synthesized into one person due to our multiculturalism.”

03:00Copy video clip URL Studs claims the phrase “politically correct” is “phony.” He believes that people are trying to accept the multicultural nature of America and part of that is being “politically correct.”

03:08Copy video clip URL The title comes across the screen, for the introduction of the show. Text is shown giving a few bullet points about Studs as a Pulitzer-Prize winner.

03:55Copy video clip URL Wholey says Studs is “master of oral histories.” He asks what the difference is between interviewing “celebrities” vs. “real people.” Studs analyzes “celebrity” by comparing Albert Einstein to Zsa Zsa Gabor. He says there is “no value to the phrase. A person is known for being known.” Studs says that ordinary working people sometimes are unable to express themselves, but they “have something they want to say.” Studs says he needs to “find someone on their block who can speak for them.”

06:00Copy video clip URL Studs says he works on “hunches.”

06:12Copy video clip URL Wholey asks about “average” people, who have intelligence and wit “and if they can express, can they have that fifteen minutes in the sun?” Studs says not everybody is the same, but generally speaking, there is something in everyone that is not yet tapped. He says that is where great teachers come into play, because they recognize potential in students.

07:50Copy video clip URL Wholey asks about Studs book on race. Wholey asks how Studs gets his interviews and Studs says “Sometimes one person does lead to the next.” Studs describes an interview with a woman, Lucy Jefferson, who had passed away years ago in the Jane Addams projects. Twenty-five years later, her grandson met Studs at Stanford. Studs tells the story about how Lucy Jefferson’s grandson told Studs “we’ve met before, when I was in my mother’s belly.” He goes on to talk about an Italian-American woman “who is wonderful” and “broke the taboo by bringing her black friends into the neighborhood.”

10:30Copy video clip URL Wholey asks Studs how we’re doing on race in America. Studs expresses his opinion that “We’re not doing very well” when it comes to race, because we can’t talk about race and crime without talking about jobs and economics. He discusses the building of the new Sheridan Hotel in Chicago; 10,000 people [overwhelmingly African Americans] are lined up for 1,000 jobs. Studs asks “Where did those 9,000 go?” He adds that “the energy is there, but the jobs are not there.”

12:30Copy video clip URL Studs explains we’re in a “depression” not in a “recession that is receding.” Wholey says that many people who have lost jobs may never have the same caliber job again.  Studs thinks “the American dream was always ‘it’ll be better for my kid than for me.’ Today young people are saying ‘I’m not going to be as well off as my old man.'” Studs says the “gears have been stripped from the motor” and that “there has to be a governmental program more than banking on private enterprise” to help the situation. He hearkens back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Studs adds that he believes industries make the economy frail, because the industries move plans elsewhere and limit job opportunities.

14:00Copy video clip URL Wholey asks if the current situation in the ’90s is similar to the Depression of the 1930s.

14:28Copy video clip URL Studs asks Wholey “Have we learned nothing?” Studs says there was something to be learned from the Depression, and we still have not understood it. He pokes fun at the “trickle down” theory, and says the only thing “that trickled down was a meanness of spirit from the top.” He believes we need more and more community action, and there needs to be a “trickle up” theory.

15:03Copy video clip URL Wholey asks Studs about his childhood, his birth in the Bronx, NY and moving to Chicago.

15:25Copy video clip URL Studs discusses his youth, growing up in Chicago, and his parents. He discusses his mom’s hotel being “his university.” He described it as a “lively place” before the Depression, and “these same guys who were full of vitality, were there on weekdays, they’re out of a job, drinking more.” Wholey points out the similarities to the ’90s unemployment. Studs discusses single parent families and welfare. Studs says one thing that’s been discovered is the “resiliency of black families.” Studs says how most people on welfare are white, “just the ratio is proportionately black.”

17:45Copy video clip URL Studs calls blacks “astonishing” for finding their families after slavery.

18:00Copy video clip URL Wholey asks about Studs as a student. Studs says he was a great debater, and went to law school. Studs said he “became a gangster” on radio soap operas.

19:20Copy video clip URL The describe the TV show “Studs’ Place” as “the first Cheers.” It was completely improvised, but always had a theme.

20:00Copy video clip URL Wholey asks about Studs’ musical tastes. Studs says his brother would go to jazz clubs and Studs would follow him. Studs said of jazz, “It was fantastic, it caught me.” Then he goes on and says how he worked with Mahalia Jackson. He says he also enjoys opera.

21:00Copy video clip URL Studs and Wholey discuss how he came to be a writer of oral histories. “One thing lead to another, and here we are now.” Then talks about his son Paul “finding his own way.” He talks about Paul’s interest in urban planning.

21:52Copy video clip URL Studs remarks that “the guy who interviews the non-celebrated people himself becomes a celebrity.” He goes on to talk about “scrappers”–people over the age of 70.

23:16Copy video clip URL “There’s a freedom in being old,” says Wholey. Studs quotes Janis Joplin, saying “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Studs says being over 70 allows you to “tell off authority and change things for the better.”

24:00Copy video clip URL Wholey talks about Studs being blacklisted. Studs says he was asked to retract what he said and because he refused, he is called “heroic.” He explains that his ego is what prevented him from recanting. He adds that “being blacklisted is not good, however; were it not for the blacklist, I wouldn’t have done this.”

24:30Copy video clip URL Small break, Volkswagen commercial.

24:45Copy video clip URL Wholey asks, “What makes for a good bar?” Studs says “good booze.” Wholey issues thank you’s to the viewers and Studs.

25:15Copy video clip URL Studs says bars used to be a place for a social gathering. As the credits are rolling, Studs discusses his opposition to fencing off neighborhoods and how Chicago can represent the country.

26:00Copy video clip URL Tape ends. Black.



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