[It’s A Living raw #17]

Raw footage for "It's a Living." Studs Terkel is interviewed in the sound booth at WFMT.

0:00Copy video clip URL Bars and tone, black.

1:24Copy video clip URL Studs talks to Judy Hoffman in the sound booth at WFMT. Terkel discusses the overwhelming number of books he has to read in order to do the interviews for his show. He will not have people on his show whose writing he does not respect and “if you respect the person, you read his work, her work.”  He discusses a story he loved by Grace Paley contained in the book, “Bitches and Sad Ladies,” a collection of literature by and about women.

4:45Copy video clip URL Terkel describes the balance he has on his show, which is not just a show about writers, but is “my hour. In that sense I’m autonomous.” He has full control over the content of his show.

6:35Copy video clip URL Studs lists his upcoming projects, specifically a PBS show called “Assignment America” on which he is a host, along with Maya Angelou and others. His discussion about a desire to do a program on Albert Szent-Gyorgyi leads to a discussion of his animosity towards President Ford and the Vietnam War. “I see Ford replacing Nixon in this way… Nixon would have denied it [CIA overthrow of the Chilean government], because he lies as a matter of reflex, he lies as natural as he breathes. He’d have lied, said ‘Oh no, we never did.’ Ford says ‘Yes we did! And we’ll do it again!’… Uriah Heep was replaced by Lenny in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Except for one difference: Lenny, the retarded big guy from ‘Of Mice and Men’ was kind-hearted, was gentle, wouldn’t harm. I’m not sure how kind-hearted Ford is… A malevolent Lenny.”

10:58Copy video clip URL Studs moves on to the tools of his trade: a tape recorder and his curiosity. “A tape recorder can be used any number of ways. Nixon used a tape recorder, I use a tape recorder… A tape recorder is like magic. You just talk, as I’m talking right now, and then later on someone transcribes it. And then you see it all on paper, even the hesitancies, too. Because I want the pauses, too. Because the pause might tell me as much as the spoken word… The sound of the voice tells you a great deal sometimes too. Often you have a black person laughing at a certain moment in describing his or her humiliation… But it’s not a happy laugh, it’s laugh that’s a safety valve… A tape recorder can do that, whereas your memory alone may deceive you, may fail.” He says he would be lost without his transcriber Cathy Zmuda. “She is a great wit.” He references his non oral history writing, a book about jazz and a play – “it’s pretty ugly, but it’s mine.” Talks about his sensitivity at the fact that the only books he is acclaimed for are his collections of oral history, nothing of his own writing. “What is a writer? I made these three books, I didn’t write them.” “I’m a talker, I know that.”

18:51Copy video clip URL The videomakers ask Studs what he likes to be called (ie an archivist, an oral historian, etc). “I like to be called a disc jockey. Because I started out as a disc jockey.” Outlines his early career, including his time studying law at the University of Chicago (“Law school was one of the great mistakes of my life. I went in dreaming of Clarence Darrow and I woke up to Julius Hoffman… It was a mistake.”), his time in the WPA writer’s project, his childhood at his parents’ men’s hotel, and his road to becoming a disc jockey.

26:16Copy video clip URL Studs describes being on a sort of a “gray list” during the McCarthy era.

26:29Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Chicago-style TV of the 1950s. “[TV] was not the powerful sales instrument that it is today. It was a new invention.” He says that writers and directors were offered great freedom in those days, because there was no advertising machine riding on it. He names the three shows that were the nexus of this “Chicago style”: Garroway at Large; Kukla, Fran, and Ollie; and Studs’ Place. He talks about Win Stracke, Chet Roble, and Beverly Younger, the co-stars of his show, and describes the process of creating the improvised live show. “People thought there really was a Studs’ Place. People would ask me where it was. I’d say, ‘It’s in your dreams.'”

31:42Copy video clip URL Back to HUAC. “I signed a lot of things. And I wouldn’t apologize. I was a premature integrationist… And I wouldn’t apologize. You mean you’d apologize for the few good things you did in your life?” He was out of work because of this, and he heard Rita Jacobs at WFMT play Woody Guthrie on the radio and started working for them. On his career: “It’s all accident, an accretion of accidents. I told you my dream was to be a civil service employee.”

34:29Copy video clip URL End.



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