Studs Terkel and Mike Royko at Lawry's. The two share a beer and some words about the bars and taverns of their day, specifically the kinds of people who were a part of the bar scene, what those taverns stood for, and how they've changed over the years. Followed by Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick at Lawry's on his former drinking days.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a shot of Tony Judge and Pat Creadon setting up the shoot. A loud tone is sounding for close to ten seconds.
00:08Copy video clip URL Cut to Royko and Terkel as the two are being briefed on what they will be talking about during the program. Royko seems to be in a bad mood, and gets angry when someone laughs at the fact that he is drinking Sharps Beer, a non-alcoholic beer. Terkel, obviously sensing the tension between Royko and the crew, jokes about Royko’s mood by saying, “People ask me about shingles, so I say, ‘I feel cross, and nasty, ill-tempered, like Mike Royko on a good day.'” Royko isn’t amused and continues to relay his irritation upon the crew. Royko expresses his distaste about the premise of reminiscing about his father’s tavern. It is only Terkel that will eventually be able to break Royko out of his shell. Before beginning the discussion, Royko speaks softly under his breath to Terkel about the crew member laughing at the fact that Royko’s beer of choice was Sharps. Terkel does his best to calm Royko down by stating that the laughing did not mean anything. The two then continue with some small talk as they are fitted for microphones.
05:45Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk about the notion of the Chicago neighborhood tavern. Terkel asks Royko what’s the first thing that comes to mind when he hears the word “tavern,” and Royko responds in a very sarcastic manner, “Booze. If you ask me about a butcher shop, I say meat.” However, Terkel prods Royko enough that he relaxes and begins to thoughtfully recount his memories of what the tavern represented in the old days. Royko describes the neighborhood tavern as a “working man’s country club” and that the liquor was “secondary” in a way. He also states the many of the taverns served as a kind of “group therapy” for its clientele.
08:50Copy video clip URL Terkel makes a couple of comments on the changes that have come about in the tavern industry. Royko then illustrates these points by talking about the relocation of many American families to the suburbs after World War II. Royko states that many of those who had moved out to the suburbs lost the feeling of having a true neighborhood bar because they’d have to drive everywhere, whereas in the city, the neighborhood bar was in walking distance. He also states that many of those who had moved out into the suburbs were staying at home to drink much more due to the fact that many of the bars were not in walking distance. He then talks of sports bars and how terrible they are because they aren’t as social as a neighborhood tavern. Terkel also talks a little bit about the negative aspects of the sports bar as well.
11:59Copy video clip URL Terkel asks Royko to talk about the lack of conversation in many bars because of television. Royko states that much of the conversation in taverns was made up of a variety of subjects, specifically politics, in comparison to the limiting conversation in sports bars.
14:07Copy video clip URL Terkel asks Royko about the lack of neighborhood bars in the suburbs. Royko talks about the lackluster ambiance of many suburban bars. Royko believes that the zoning of commercial areas away from residential areas in suburbs makes the tavern experience almost non-existent.
15:43Copy video clip URL Terkel brings in the aspect of the working class communities and what the taverns represented to them. Royko talks about the importance of the locality of the “neighborhood tavern.” Royko eventually ends up reminiscing about his father’s tavern and his own job of opening the side door of the bar on Sunday morning (illegally–Chicago bars can’t open until noon on Sundays) to catch the pre-church crowd.
17:18Copy video clip URL Terkel asks if many women would go to the taverns on weekdays. Royko states that Saturday nights was the most popular night for women to come out to the taverns. The two then talk about the missing social aspect in many bars today. They also talk about those who commute from the suburbs and how they do not get to experience the atmosphere found in most neighborhood taverns. Terkel then asks the bartender for a boilermaker (a shot and a beer). Royko grins painfully.
20:20Copy video clip URL The crew adjust the microphones on both Terkel and Royko. Despite repeated celebration by Terkel and Royko that they completed the interview, the crew asks them to re-do the first quarter of their conversation with each other due to a microphone issue. The two then go through much of the same conversation from before. During a break, Terkel and Royko then begin to make small talk with each other about the subject matter. They then begin to talk with the owner of Lawry’s Bar about the history of Lawry’s. Royko also recalls how his sisters sold his father’s “bathtub gin” out of a lemonade stand. Terkel and Royko then begin to talk about the computerization of the modern bar, specifically through the use of cash registers. Royko states that everything within a bar is a profit center. In the middle of their conversation, the crew re-fits them with their microphones and begins to record them again. Terkel and Royko talk about the tradition of giving complimentary drinks for regular drinkers, plus free first drinks on Sundays. Royko goes into greater detail about his distaste at the technology in modern bars and the lack of free drinks and tabs.
30:59Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about the idea that bartenders could sometimes act as pseudo social workers in the taverns. Royko then talks about the notion of modern bars being a “profit center.” He also talks about the bookie system in taverns in the past. Terkel eventually brings up the family aspect of the tavern. Royko goes into detail about the benefit of being part of the neighborhood tavern business–his father only had a “twenty-second commute to work.” Terkel and Royko then discuss the lack of neighborhood bars today. Royko emphasizes that while the number of neighborhood bars has diminished, many are still around. The two then finish their discussion.
37:05Copy video clip URL Cut to Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick and Mark Levinson talking about a movie currently being shot in Chicago. Both men are former alcoholics; they talk about what it feels like to not be a part of the neighborhood bar scene. One talks about missing the camaraderie that he used to experience at the bar. The other talks about how much time he wasted drinking at the bar. The two reminisce about their time in the taverns and how their alcoholism affected them throughout the years. “A big part of my life was spent in taverns, and I can’t get away from that. … I refuse to live in fear of a drink.” The two go fairly in depth about many of their experiences and it is a very revealing discussion.
57:00Copy video clip URL The tape ends with footage of the bar owner ringing up the non-computerized register at Lawry’s.
58:15Copy video clip URL Tape ends.