This is a full one camera unedited interview with Studs Terkel, who speaks about his life, politics, history, and America.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape opens with a closeup of Terkel making small talk with the crew.
00:35Copy video clip URL Interviewer starts by asking Terkel to begin by offering his personal background information.
00:40Copy video clip URL Studs calls his life an “accretion of accidents,” saying that in law school, he “dreamed of Clarence Darrow and woke up to Anthony Scalia.” He spoke about his desire to get a government job, and talked about being offered a job by J. Edgar Hoover and then having it taken away due to a law professor’s negative image of him.
5:24Copy video clip URL Tekel talks about the erasure of history, and his idea that we suffer from a “National Alzheimer’s Disease.”
05:47Copy video clip URL Terkel discusses his entry into the labor movement and how it got him into acting and theater, which led to radio and then television. He then speaks about his television show Studs’ Place and how it was totally improvised. Terkel says his show was cut due to the McCarthy era politics of that time. He denies that he was a hero by standing up to the establishment, and calls it his ego instead.
09:28Copy video clip URL Terkel tells the story about how he got introduced to WFMT by hearing a Woodie Guthrie song on the air, calling the station, and asking for a job. Only later did he discover his gift for interviewing people.
11:12Copy video clip URL Interviewers discuss lighting in the room and make adjustments to the lighting in the room for taping. This occurs for several minutes.
14:45Copy video clip URL Interviewer asks about Terkel’s family’s philosophy and influence. Terkel discusses the influence of his brothers and parents. He talks about growing up in the men’s hotel at Wells and Grand in Chicago. The combination of the written word and the oral tradition are gifts Terkel got from each of his two older brothers. He talks about the reality of family issues and poverty during the Depression, race, and the role of government and “family values.”
19:20Copy video clip URL Terkel denies having a particular mentor in his career or life.
19:44Copy video clip URL Terkel notes that he gained the most inspiration from the “New Deal guys” or those who worked the streets during the Depression. He speaks of those who stood up for working people, particularly politicians. He notes how “everyone is middle class” and that “it’s a state of mind.” He talks about the GI bill and the development of the concept of the “middle class” and suburban life not being just for the wealthy.
23:54Copy video clip URL Interviewer asks about whom he admires. He immediately responds with George McGovern, who ran many bomb missions during the war and then later spoke out against Vietnam and recognized those who were on the fringes of society. He speaks of the perversion of the English language in American politics, saying, “We call the right ‘center’ and we call the ultra-right ‘conservative’ but you lean slightly left and you’re called a terrorist.”
25:35Copy video clip URL Terkel says that former Atorney General Ramsey Clark was the closest thing to Abraham Lincoln. He speaks of Clark’s change and transcendence, which gave him hope in humanity. He speaks about how the United States has fought more battles outside its own soil than any other empire in history. He also notes his opinion that Ralph Nader “challenges the big boys and comes through.”
27:35Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about the contribution his writing makes to society. He says he hopes to use peoples’ own words to educate others about “what it’s like to be that other person,” or what it was like during the Depression or during World War II.
31:20Copy video clip URL Terkel calls Frederick Douglass the American historical figure who influenced him most. He also mentions Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Stevens, Bob La Follette, and Gene Debs.
33:40Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about “What is a hero today?” and criticizes images of heroes in film today. He speaks about people who work for a living with a sense of independence as heroes. He speaks about the perversion of language and ethics in society. He goes on to talk about Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and how it was an amazing work and was read by a massive audience. He also talks about of participatory democracy of the sixties, quoting Joan Nestle who said, “The sixties are a favorite target of those who take delight in the failure of dreams.”
38:23Copy video clip URL He speaks of the Declaration of Independence and how it emphasizes how ALL men are created equal. He speaks of hope, saying, “Without hope there is no point” and that he is not optimistic, but has no choice to have hope. He cites Jesse de la Cruz, a founder of the United Farm Workers movement with Cesar Chavez in Fresno California, who said that “Hope dies last.”
40:00Copy video clip URL Terkel speaks of the lack of a national coalition. He says the deck is stacked, that talk shows are slanted, and that the Democratic Party is a joke, except for certain individuals who are very good. He criticizes the use of funding for military installations instead of public service, and notes the need for those in power to find a new enemy, and that new enemy is terrorism. He also points out that the Department of Defense is really a Department of War, but the name was changed because “you can attack war, but you can’t attack defense.”
43:43 Discussion about possibly stopping to take a drink of water or juice.
44:20Copy video clip URL Terkel speaks about the American Dream. He notes that slave ships landed in 1619 (one year prior to the Mayflower) in South Carolina. He then documents the immigration of various groups coming to pursue the American dream. He notes that we are exporting the worst aspects of our popular culture all over the world.
48:06Copy video clip URL Studs asks for a copy of this video.
48:30Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about the nomadic America, citing Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath as his favorite American novels. He talks about Einstein’s discoveries and the creation of the atomic bomb. Terkel relates that Einstein said that since then, everything has changed except how we think. Terkel interprets this as the concept of the global village.
51:50Copy video clip URL Speaks about the idea of revelation and transcendence through the story of C.P. Ellis, who was the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, and had an amazing story of transformation. Terkel calls this a hopeful story “of possibilities, of transcendence, of unstacking the deck.”
55:51Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked, “What one question would you ask all Americans?” He responds, “Do they question authority at all?” or “Do you question majority opinion?” He goes on to tell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus as an example of majority opinion going against truth.
59:24Copy video clip URL Speaks about his new book, Coming of Age, referring to those who are 70 and older.
1:00:20Copy video clip URL Interviewers thank Terkel and he asks for a copy of the tape and a ride to get to the ear doctor.
1:01:20Copy video clip URL Tape ends.