A Celebration of the Life of Studs Terkel, 10-minute version

This tape features a ten minute edited version of the Studs Terkel memorial service that took place on January 30, 2009 at the Chicago Cultural Center. The video offers a brief summary of the night, highlighting some of the stand-out moments of the event. Nearly five hundred people gathered to honor Terkel's memory. Good friends and colleagues share their personal stories and thoughts on Terkel's life and legacy. Terkel's son, Dan Terkell, also shares a few kind words about his father.

00:00Copy video clip URL As the title screen rolls, Chicago Tribune Writer Rick Kogan addresses the crowd and introduces a short clip of Studs Terkel taken from It’s A Living (1974, Videopolis) talking about his love for his work and his desire to gain some sense of immortality.

01:12Copy video clip URL Fade into a shot of Kogan at the microphone. He explains to the audience that Terkel had been planning his memorial for at least ten years. Kogan does a great impression of Terkel, verbalizing what Terkel had in mind for the event. Kogan goes on to label the event a “Studs Terkel production.”

01:57Copy video clip URL Cinematographer Haskell Wexler talks about the importance of Terkel’s work. “And now when I hear politicians talking about serving two streets, Wall Street and Main Street, I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about because there’s only one street, which is our street, which is Studs’ street, which is our street. I think that that’s one of the messages that prevails in all of Studs’ work and in his life as well: understanding who we are and looking into us.”

02:33Copy video clip URL Chaz Ebert reads aloud Roger’s story about Terkel’s confrontation with a burglar and how it reflected his faith in humanity. A thief had broken into Terkel’s home and stole all of the money out of his wallet. As the thief was leaving, Terkel asked him to leave a few dollars for bus fare. The burglar did just that. In asking the burglar for bus fare, Terkel humanized the thief. “By treating him as a human being, you may have had an effect on the way he thought about himself.”

03:25Copy video clip URL Terkel’s longtime physician, Dr. Quentin Young, talks about Terkel’s WFMT interview tapes and refers to them as the “best record of what happened to this country in the 20th and early 21st century.” “Studs had a fantastic opus: many books, different topics, all of them useful and human and progressive. But it was his daily hour-long interview with all kinds of people–I could spend the rest of the evening and won’t, describing the variety of people in sports, in art, in politics, all of whom he interviewed with spectacular skill.”

04:07Copy video clip URL Author and activist Timuel Black begins by saying, “I’ll put it this way: As when people, often black folk some of them, make the comment that the President (before he was the President), said that Barack Obama was not black enough. Well let me tell you, there were probably a few who said Studs Terkel was not white enough.” Black goes on to talk about the need to embrace the “humanitarian conditions of the Studs Terkels.”

05:14Copy video clip URL Publisher Andre Schiffrin discusses Terkel’s interviewing techniques. “He [Terkel] was able to get the truth even when they had been lying to themselves.” Schiffrin also talks about the respect Terkel had for his interview subjects and how it positively affected his work.

06:07Copy video clip URL Author Garry Wills shares a story about Terkel receiving an honorary degree from Northwestern University. Before the ceremony, Terkel was speaking to another honoree, Judge Richard Posner, about his teaching law at Terkel’s alma mater, the University of Chicago. The story is quite funny and highlights Terkel’s humorous nature.

07:18Copy video clip URL Terkel’s former WFMT colleague and collaborator Sydney Lewis tells the story of the first time she met Terkel while working as a waitress at a local restaurant. She goes on to compare him to a musician. She then talks about how much she and many others miss him. “Jamie O’Reilly wrote an e-mail to me and said, ‘I don’t know how to make sense of the world anymore,’ and that’s exactly how I feel. Every day I want to hear what he would have to say about what’s going on. So I feel a little unhinged since he’s been gone and–he was so ready to go, so I’m happy for him–but I’m pissed. Because I was not ready and I know so many of you were not ready.”

09:00Copy video clip URL Dan Terkel gives a final toast to his father’s spirit. “If indeed my dad’s spirit is present in this hall, as I’m sure it is, he’s no doubt lifting a glass in honor of everyone here.” Dan Terkel then closes the night by saying, “I honestly don’t know whether there’s a heaven or a hell. But just in case, I would bet that tail gunner Joe and my father are not in the same place. So here’s to ya pop. Take it easy, but take it.” The camera then pans up to a picture of Terkel and slowly fades out.

10:09Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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