[German television documentary on Chicago] – Studs Terkel interviews

The first part of this video is a German television-produced piece on the city of Chicago. Studs Terkel is briefly featured. The program is completely dubbed in German. There is also a raw interview with Terkel that plays after the program and an interview between Terkel and author Kurt Vonnegut.

00:00Copy video clip URL The video begins with a black screen and a countdown.

00:41Copy video clip URL The piece begins with footage of Chicago from aboard a CTA train. The narrator comes in almost immediately and presumably is talking about the city. The filmmaker follows a Chicago stock broker to the Chicago Board of Trade, showcases Chicago’s architectural luster, visits a local car construction plant, visits the office of Studs Terkel at WFMT, and speaks with many other residents about the city of Chicago.

14:52Copy video clip URL Cut to an interview with Studs Terkel in his office at WFMT. Terkel’s desk is cluttered, filled with numerous stacks of books and papers bound in rubber bands. The interviewers jumps right in and asks Terkel to describe the city of Chicago. Terkel responds eloquently, “Chicago has been described as a city of hands, a manual city, a blue collar city, people who work with their hands. That’s the basis of the city’s beginning.” Terkel talks a little bit about early Chicago, specifically its industrial roots and its architectural prowess. He defines Chicago as a “muscular city.”

16:45Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel whether Chicago has been changed by corporate culture. Terkel explains that Chicago’s industrial world has suffered quite a bit because many of its labor jobs have been either outsourced to other countries or eliminated all together.

18:33Copy video clip URL The interviewer then asks how Chicagoans are adapting to these changes. Terkel responds, “They’re adapting as other people are adapting: not too well. There’s a resign, a feeling of resignation.” Terkel gives an example of a steel worker losing his job and becoming employed at a gas station to exhibit this feeling of resignation.

19:52Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about his negativity towards Chicago. Terkel explains that there are plenty of positive aspects of the city that go along with the negatives. “When I say negative things, I wasn’t saying negative things about Chicago. I was saying it could be a better city than it is.” He then talks about the fact that Chicago is the most “dramatically corrupt city” and that it is in a way, proud of its corruption. Terkel then talks about the many positive aspects of Chicago and states that he wouldn’t live in any other city.

21:37Copy video clip URL The interviewer then asks Terkel what he believes the nineties will bring. He first begins to answer the question by addressing the problems that came along with the Reagan years. He then states that he hopes the nineties will be a “time of more questioning of authority.” Terkel goes on to talk about the possible economic woes that could come with the new decade. Terkel also talks about the current state of race relations in the U.S. The interviewer then asks Terkel whether Chicago is a prime example of a racially disintegrated city. Terkel states that Chicago is a “city of neighborhoods” and that racial polarization is far more dramatically present in this city than others.

25:43Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about the current state of Chicago politics and whether Terkel’s political views help or hurt him in the Chicago broadcasting market. Terkel emphasizes that he is not that prevalent in Chicago media and that he is known as more of a Chicago figure.

27:30Copy video clip URL The interviewer points out that since Chicago is a more politically Democratic city, it may not be following Washington’s lead when it comes to law and ideology. (Washington was in Republican hands at the time.) Terkel then responds, “Well, the line of demarcation between the Democratic party and the Republican party today can fit in Tom Thumb’s thimble when you get right down to it. There’s no difference between them. Are you serious?” Terkel then talks about a few of the scandals within both parties and asserts the need for a new party. He then states that the elder Mayor Daley had always gotten along with Republican presidents in office. Terkel goes on to state that there has been no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties since the Cold War began. The interviewer then asks Terkel of his opinion of current Mayor Richard M. Daley. Terkel states that he is “just a clone,”  that there is “nothing much there,” and that he is just a “traditional party hack.” He then goes on to talk rather highly of former Mayor Harold Washington, who had passed away unexpectedly.

30:16Copy video clip URL The interviewer states that she believes that a working class town like Chicago would have more liberal ideas in both the social and political world. Terkel then combats her statement and goes on to talk about some of the struggles of race relations in the political world. He then goes on to shed some light on America’s notion of being indubitably the strongest nation on the planet. “You see there’s a romantic notion, I’m a victim of it too, that because you’re blue collar, you’re liberal, which actually the opposite may be the case. We’re conditioned so long to the macho idea: we’re the best, we’re the biggest, our country. Blue collar watches TV and hears this stuff.” Terkel then talks about the war in Vietnam and its effect on the mindset of the nation. Terkel’s body language changes during this portion of the interview. Before, he had been leaning back in his chair, casually yet forcefully offering his insights, while now, he leans forward towards the camera in an almost pouncing-like manner, as if he’s about to attack the interviewer and crew with an onslaught of insight about the subject.

35:43Copy video clip URL There is a quick two second break in the tape.

35:45Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about the term “yuppie” and what he means by it. Terkel talks about what he means by using the term and states that the younger generation “represents the reversal of the American dream. … The American dream always had the father or mother saying, ‘It’s going to be better for my kids than it is for me. That’s why I came here. That’s why my parents or grandparents came here. It’ll be better,’ and so it’ll be better. The kid is saying–the non-yuppie kid–the majority of the young are saying, ‘I’m not going to be as well off as my old man. Will I have the job he has as a construction worker or a carpenter?’ So that’s the interesting thing.” Terkel goes on to state that the word “yuppie” is an overused word and says that he is waiting for the younger generation to “break through.” He goes on to talk about the irony that younger people are anti-union and tells a story about a young couple who was anti-union. He then talks a little bit about the environmental movement.

41:02Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about the notion that the younger generation is only interested in making money. Terkel states that to some extent that notion is true. He states that the money making mindset stems from the last two Republican administrations in office, Reagan and Bush Sr. Terkel and the interviewer go on to discuss the positives of the younger generation. Terkel states that he was too pessimistic about the younger generation and emphasizes the importance of grassroots movements.

45:21Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about the 1960s and what brought so many people together during that time. She also asks Terkel what would it take to get younger people to come together today. Terkel states that the Vietnam War was the key factor in bringing people together in the 1960s, but that he doesn’t know what it would take to bring people together today. He then talks about the fact that during WWII, America was the only country to not be invaded or bombed. He then talks about the negative effects of war and reflects his thoughts with some succinct and powerful statements. “So what does it take for us to understand what we did in the Persian Gulf, or did in Vietnam? All we know is we didn’t win, we lost. Why were we there? … Must someone suffer the actual horror to understand horror? I say it doesn’t have to be by this time.”

47:21Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about the American spirit of independence and how compares it to the European spirit. Terkel responds, “I don’t think we’re [Americans] unique in that respect. I think it’s part of the myth that’s been built up about American sense of independence.” Terkel then talks about the free press in the U.S. and talks about the concept of self-censorship. “Our press, our TV, our radio, our media censor themselves. They know what to ask, what not to ask. For years they never ask about where will the cuts be in the military. They never touched that. That means you’re unpatriotic or you challenge national security.” Terkel goes on to say, “Americans are a good people and they have a sense of bigness about them because of the nature of the landscape itself. … At the same time we also believe this myth that we are a special kind of people: we’re not. We’re a people living in the world.” Terkel then states that no one country is the center of the earth and that people have to recognize that we are all human. He ends his point by paraphrasing Albert Einstein. “Einstein said everything in the world has changed, everything since the atom was split, except one thing: the way we think. And we have to think in a fresh way, or else there’s catastrophe. I’m with Einstein. Good enough for Einstein, it’s good enough for me.”

51:05Copy video clip URL The camera person gathers some footage of Terkel in his office on the phone. While on the phone, Terkel seems to be having a conversation about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

53:40Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Terkel interviewing Kurt Vonnegut for his WFMT program. In the interview the two talk about a variety of topics including: censorship, the Gulf War, and the negative affects of Vietnam. The interview gets cut short because of the tape ending.

59:38Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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