Studs Terkel speaking at St. Ignatius College Prep in February of 2000. Terkel discusses a variety of topics including: the general lack of historical knowledge among many young Americans and his days in early Chicago television and radio. Terkel takes a number of questions from the audience as well. The audio is poor throughout the entire video.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with static.
00:05Copy video clip URL Title screen.
00:13Copy video clip URL Fade in to a shot of Studs Terkel walking out onto a stage set up like a living room. Terkel takes a seat at his chair as the host for the night, Bob Watson, introduces him to the audience.
03:00Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to speak. He offers his thanks to Bob Watson and St. Ignatius for having him. He then tells a story about the first St. Ignatius student he’d ever met. He breaks the ice with a few jokes, including one about himself becoming preacher. He then goes straight into talking about the Sixties and the resilience of the decade, saying that the Sixties was the one time when young people worked for something outside themselves.
06:17Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk about his observation that many Americans have no knowledge of past, referring to this as a “national Alzheimer’s Disease.” Terkel talks about the fact that many younger people are anti-union. He tells a story about a “yuppie” couple with whom he used to ride the bus every day. The two were anti-union, which he felt displayed a complete ignorance of history. Terkel recalls this hilarious instance in which he argued with the couple about union and labor work.
10:47Copy video clip URL Terkel recalls an amusing experience he had doing a bit part in the movie, “The Dollmaker.” He also talks about his early days in Chicago television, specifically on the show “Studs’ Place.” He goes into detail about many of the people involved in both the television show and the movie. Terkel also talks about the effects of the technological age on both society and himself. He states that he thinks that there may be a “point of no return” when it comes to new technological development. He reinforces this statement by talking about an instance on the monorail train at the Atlanta airport. It is an entertaining anecdote that receives a good amount of laughter from the crowd.
18:41Copy video clip URL Terkel tells a story about the most interesting interview he has ever had. He tells the audience it was an interview between himself and a man by the name of C.P. Ellis, the former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, NC. He recounts the story with much vigor and compassion. Terkel fully commands the crowd’s attention as each word of the story bursts out of him and enthralls the audience into a collective lull.
26:51Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to take questions from the crowd. A woman asks what his two lines in the the movie “The Dollmaker” were. Terkel recites his two lines and then talks about his early radio work as a “dumb gangster” in radio soap operas. Terkel goes on to talk about Chicago and what makes it unique, as the city of the skyscraper and steel. He also makes the observation that most cities are no longer unique from one another, and expresses his concern about the homogenization of American cities.
31:00Copy video clip URL A woman from the audience asks Terkel whom he would choose as the most influential person of the twentieth century. Terkel talks about Einstein and the important role he played in society. He then talks about George Bernard Shaw, calling him one of the most important playwrights of our time. He also talks about how we as a society are afraid of aging. He then speaks a little bit about politics, and how this country was founded not only on freedom, but also on thought.
37:01Copy video clip URL A woman asks Terkel whether he is working on any books at the moment. Terkel talks about his current projects and some of the foundations of oral history.
38:55Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked what his favorite piece of architecture is in Chicago. Terkel discusses his love for the Auditorium Theater, but admits that he does not have a favorite.
40:25Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about his thoughts on what the younger generation can do to pull themselves away from the computer and television and actually get out in the world and do something. Terkel responds by discussing his thoughts on participatory democracy, the formation of a better sense of community in the world, and the need to constantly be inquisitive.
43:28Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about the books he would recommend young people to read. Terkel truly doesn’t have an answer, but talks about some of the books that strongly influenced him growing up. He also talks about the competition in school settings and how it does not positively affect the young.
46:23Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about his thoughts on Saul Bellow and the recent birth of his new baby. Terkel jokes, “Well, I give him credit for that.” He states that he and Saul Bellow never really saw eye-to-eye and switches the topic to Nelson Algren. Terkel then tells the audience a funny story about a time in which his name got him in a little trouble.
48:31Copy video clip URL A young audience member asks Terkel for his opinion on what one Chicago event, person, or idea most shaped the world. Terkel talks about former governor John Peter Altgeld and how he pardoned the victims of the Haymarket Affair of 1886.
50:30Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about his participation in an ESPN program and talks about his favorite sports figure of all time. He speaks fondly of Babe Ruth and refers to him as the “symbol of baseball.”
51:58Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked who he thinks is the most influential politician of the twentieth century. Terkel states that he believes Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most important politician of the past century. He discusses the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Works Progress Administration. Terkel goes on to talk about the importance of “big government” during the Great Depression. He says that those who condemn “big government” have forgotten how this country was saved by big government at that time.
56:15Copy video clip URL An audience member asks Terkel about the new 1930s-themed movie, “Cradle Will Rock.” Terkel gives his thoughts on the movie and talks a little bit more about the Works Progress Administration.
57:41Copy video clip URL An audience member asks Terkel about what he thinks of actor Angus Macfayden’s portrayal of Orson Welles in “Cradle Will Rock.” Terkel admits that he was not very impressed. He then begins to talk about the fact that he is technologically inept.
01:00:16Copy video clip URL Bob Watson asks Terkel to talk about his archiving project at the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). Terkel briefly explains what he has been up to as a scholar-in-residence at the CHS.
01:01:41Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about what questions have been on his mind about contemporary American society. Terkel discusses the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and how corporations have taken over most major media outlets. He says that fewer and fewer people are gaining power and more and more people are powerless.
01:04:16Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about the WPA and possibly reinstating that program today. Terkel explains that he would be very much for that, or a program like that, and goes on to talk about the current health care system in the U.S. He notes that we are the only major industrialized country in the world without a national health care plan. He also condemns the privatization of goods in society and the use of sweatshops among many corporations.
01:07:12Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked how he prepared for his radio interviews. Terkel states that when he had authors come onto the show, he most definitely would have read their book. Terkel sincerely admits that he cannot “fake it” and that he has to respect his guests and always research their work.
01:09:11Copy video clip URL A audience member wants to know what kind of advice from Terkel’s generation could transfer over to the millennium generation. Terkel responds by reinforcing the need to always question authority, no matter what generation you may be a part of, and to receive wisdom through that questioning. Terkel emphasizes the fact that the young have always been the ones questioning things. He closes by stating what his epitaph will read: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.” Watson then thanks Terkel for coming to St. Ignatius and gives him a school sweatshirt as a sign of gratitude.
01:12:06Copy video clip URL Tape ends.