A 1989 documentary on Studs Terkel.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with static and quickly cuts to a title screen.
00:13Copy video clip URL Fade in to a shot of Studs Terkel walking into the CBS television studio in Chicago. Terkel is about to take part in a live interview for CBS This Morning. The narrator describes Terkel’s character as the cameras follow him through the studio before the interview. He seems to be in quite a perky mood.
02:16Copy video clip URL A small intro sequence for the program rolls.
02:37Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Terkel near the corner of Broadway and Lawrence Avenues next to The Green Mill. From the looks of it, it seems to be a cold and dreary winter day in Chicago. As Terkel and the crew stand in the cold, Terkel speaks of his disdain for the suburbs. The next few clips that roll are a number of various shots from around the neighborhood of Uptown, where Terkel and his wife, Ida, have lived for nearly ten years. The footage depicts a fairly poor and run down area while also highlighting its diversity. A number of people of different racial and ethnic descent are seen walking the murky, mucky streets of Uptown, all while Terkel describes the neighborhood as exciting and diversified. There is a quick cut to a long shot of Terkel’s street, which looks noticeably more upscale than the rest of the neighborhood. Terkel displays his aggravation about that fact.
03:49Copy video clip URL The previous shot dissolves into footage of the inside of Terkel’s house. The cameraman gathers some footage of the many large stacks of books Terkel has lying around the house. The crew then follow Terkel as he makes his morning commute to WFMT. Terkel whistles while he walks to the bus stop to board the 146 bus. Terkel comments on some of the new developments popping up around his neighborhood. “You talk about a plague; there’s AIDS and there are developers.”
05:12Copy video clip URL The previous footage transitions into a short clip of Terkel’s performance in the movie, “Eight Men Out.” Director John Sayles sheds some light as to why he chose Terkel for the role.
06:15Copy video clip URL The next shot is of Terkel walking to work in the downtown area. The crew gets a shot of the morning rush as car after car flashes by. Terkel makes an amusing observation about sports cars as he continues to walk to WFMT studios. The shot then dissolves into some footage of Studs at work in the WFMT studio speaking with a Russian musical group.
07:58Copy video clip URL The previous shot transitions into a couple of pictures of Terkel as a child. Terkel talks about his childhood and moving to Chicago. Terkel recalls the story of how he ended up with the nickname “Studs” and recounts his time spent at the Grand Wells Hotel.
09:35Copy video clip URL Quick transition to a shot of Terkel as he enters the Wells-Grand Hotel for the first time in fifty three years. Terkel is in awe as he slowly creeps his way up the long staircase. With each step, Terkel reminisces about specific events during his childhood. He then describes some of the kinds of men that stayed at the hotel while he lived there. He also tells a story in which he helped two detectives apprehend an alleged bank robber who had been staying at the hotel. Terkel then briefly talks about the Depression and how it shaped him as a person. He also talks about some of the lessons he learned from his time spent at the hotel. The crew then follows Terkel out onto Bughouse Square. Terkel talks about his experiences seeing men speak atop soap boxes, and paraphrases a speech given by a man by the name of “One Armed Charlie Wendorff.” Passers-by look on bewildered by the fact that there is an old man yelling and screaming nonsense from atop a soapbox. This is fairly amusing.
14:37Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Terkel quarreling with the tape recorder. The crew follows Terkel as he tries to locate a couple of excerpts from past interviews. In doing so, Terkel has to use some of the more complicated equipment, and is not too excited about it. However, Terkel is triumphant in carrying out the task, making a few humorous observations along the way. Jim Unrath, a colleague of Terkel’s, comments on his ineptitude with current technology.
16:42Copy video clip URL Terkel interviews Pastor John Garcia Gensel of St. Peters Church in Manhattan. Terkel first greets the Pastor before the show begins. Pastor John is a jazz enthusiast and big supporter of the jazz community in New York. The two talk a little jazz before the shot transitions into Terkel talking about his fascination with music, specifically jazz and blues. He also talks about how the effects of the Depression influenced him into wanting job security. He briefly recalls his time in the civil service industry and explains how he fell into acting and performing. A compilation of pictures from his time in theater and early radio rolls as he talks about his experiences with the two. The shots then transition into an interview with Terkel’s wife, Ida. She describes their first meeting in great detail. The narrator of the piece describes the events leading up to their marriage in 1939, Terkel’s time in the service, and his love for jazz and blues music. He talks about his relationship with musicians Big Bill Broonzy and Mahalia Jackson. He specifically recalls his time spent with Jackson and his excitement over her talent.
21:42Copy video clip URL Terkel visits Jackson’s favorite spot near the church where she used to sing in the forties. Terkel makes a couple of amusing observations about the stretch of highway that rests where the church once stood. Terkel’s sense of humor really comes out in this short segment.
22:13Copy video clip URL The previous shot dissolves into a few short clips from the show “Studs’ Place.” The narrator discusses the history of the show and the actors involved. Terkel recalls his time on the show and what the television audience thought of the show. There is also a short interview with Beverly Younger, who acted on “Studs’ Place” with Terkel. She talks about the fact that each show had a certain theme or lesson to be learned. Terkel then discusses his thoughts on the show being canceled in 1952 and his suspicion that it was because of his Hollywood blacklisting. Terkel’s friend, Herman Kogan of the Chicago Sun-Times, talks about Terkel’s blacklisting. Terkel scraped by for a little while, only making small appearances and doing book reviews in order to provide for the family. But eventually, he ended up at the doors of WFMT. Terkel recalls how he became a staff member at the station. Norman Pellegrini, Terkel’s boss at WFMT, discusses Terkel’s introduction into the station as well.
29:39Copy video clip URL Mike Royko, the renowned columnist at the Chicago Tribune, talks about Terkel, explaining that to him Terkel has reminded him of actor Spencer Tracy ever since appearing in “Eight Men Out.” Terkel then discusses his fascination with the color red. His wife Ida points out that she has to drag him to go out and buy new clothes. Terkel also talks about his affinity for cigars. The crew then films him around his cluttered office and speaks to his administrative assistant, Sydney Lewis. Terkel goes on to talk about the extensive amount of research he puts in before interviewing. His wife, Ida, makes the funny observation that Terkel keeps the large stacks of books he reads before interviews on her side of the bed. The close-up of the books beside their bed is quite amusing. The piece then transitions over into an interview between Terkel and playwright David Mamet. Jim Unrath comments on Terkel’s superb interviewing technique. The crew follows Terkel as he says his goodbyes to his interviewees. He then speaks very fondly about Nelson Algren and his works. He also reads an excerpt from “Chicago: City On The Make,” by Algren, a passage which Terkel truly loves. The narrator talks about some of the other radio documentaries he had been involved in over the years, including one on the 1963 March on Washington.
38:38Copy video clip URL The narrator begins to discuss Terkel’s beginnings in print work. Andre Schiffrin, head of Pantheon Books, talks about Terkel’s work with the publishing company. The narrator takes the viewer though a brief time line of Terkel’s published work. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Vernon Jarrett, a long time friend of Terkel’s, comments on Terkel’s importance in the literary world. There is also some footage of Terkel signing autographs on the street in Chicago for some excited fans.
42:44Copy video clip URL Royko talks about his affinity for spending time with Terkel and how it makes him feel more youthful. The narrator describes Terkel as a highly energetic individual in high demand. However, there are times when Terkel spreads himself too thin. Terkel reveals this fact as he sits at his desk dealing with his many affairs. Pellegrini talks about how meticulous, yet unorganized, Terkel can be about his work. Terkel’s good friend Judy Collins comes to the studio for an interview. The crew follows him to an anti-nuclear movement event. The rest of the piece is compiled of a few of the many interviewees in this piece that share many pleasant words about Terkel. The video ends with some footage of Terkel talking about his career and the future may entail.
49:06Copy video clip URL The credits begin to roll.
50:12Copy video clip URL Tape ends.