The Studs Terkel Centenary: Chicago Celebrates Legendary Studs Terkel

The Studs Terkel Centenary: Chicago Celebrates Legendary Studs Terkel

May 16th marks the 100th anniversary of Studs Terkel’s birth and an occasion to memorialize one of the most prolific writers and cultural critics in the history of Chicago letters. As an author, broadcaster and oral historian, legendary Chicagoan Studs Terkel celebrated the lives of ordinary Americans. Some of Terkel’s many friends and fans are hoping to return the favor with a series of events marking the 100th birthday of a man whose work is a chronicle of the 20th century.

The Studs Terkel Centenary, a group headed up by Terkel’s friends, including Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Kogan, on Saturday will rededicate the Division Street Bridge, which was named after Terkel 20 years ago. On Wednesday, The Newberry Library will host a birthday party featuring guest speakers who will share stories about Studs. Terkel’s friends will ensure that his memory lives on with a day of Studs-only programming on WFMT-FM on his birthday, with performances of passages from Terkel’s 2001 book Will the Circle Be Unbroken? at Steppenwolf Theatre next week and by phoning in personal anecdotes about Terkel to a hotline set up by Chicago’s Hull House Museum.

A Tribute: Remembering Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel: The Human Voice (StoryCorps)

Remembering Studs Terkel: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

The New York Times reported that Chicago’s legendary Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the enthusiastic host of a popular nationally syndicated radio show on WFMT-FM in Chicago, died at his home at the age of 96.

In his oral histories, which he called guerrilla journalism, Mr. Terkel relied on his effusive but gentle interviewing style to bring forth in rich detail the experiences and thoughts of his fellow citizens. For more than the four decades, Studs produced a continuous narrative of great historic moments sounded by an American chorus in the native vernacular.

Division Street: America (1966), his first best seller, explored the urban conflicts of the 1960s. Its success led to Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970) and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974).

Mr. Terkel’s book The Good War: An Oral History of World War II won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. In Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (1977), Terkel turned the microphone on himself to produce an engaging memoir. In Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992) and Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It (1995), he reached for his ever-present tape recorder for interviews on race relations in the United States and the experience of growing old.

In 1985, a reviewer for The Financial Times of London characterized his books as “completely free of sociological claptrap, armchair revisionism and academic moralizing.” The amiable Mr. Terkel was a gifted and seemingly tireless interviewer who elicited provocative insights and colorful, detailed personal histories from a broad mix of people. “The thing I’m able to do, I guess, is break down walls,” he once told an interviewer. “If they think you’re listening, they’ll talk. It’s more of a conversation than an interview.”

Readers of his books could only guess at Mr. Terkel’s interview style. Listeners to his daily radio show, which was first broadcast on WFMT-FM in 1958, got the full flavor as Studs, with both breathy eagerness and a tough-guy Chicago accent, went after the straight dope from guests like Sir Georg Solti, Muhammed Ali, Mahalia Jackson, the young Dob Dylan, Toni Morrison and Gloria Steinem.

The entire New York Times article can be read here.

Rick Kogan has written a detailed article in The Chicago Tribune, which can be read here.

Studs Terkel’s website at The Chicago Historical Society can be accessed here.

Studs Terkel’s (1970) WFMT-FM radio interview with me (Patrick Zimmerman) can be heard here. Parts of this radio interview later become a selection (pp. 489-493) in Terkel’s acclaimed book, Working:

Audio: Part I of The Radio Interview

Audio: Part II of The Radio Interview

Studs Terkel: Remembering His Life and Times

Conversations about Studs Terkel (2004)

Studs Terkel: About the Human Spirit (2002)

Studs Terkel: The Pioneering Broadcaster

Music Audio: Mavis Staples/Hard Times

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The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

The Ugly Little Table is an engaging short film that tells a bittersweet tale about the ordeals of a homely-looking little table. When the little table is seemingly mysteriously abandoned in front of a city apartment building, none of the neighbors passing by knows what to do. Initially, the little table is an unwelcome sight, and everyone tries to ignore it. They’re confused by it and resent its presence. But as time goes by, the neighbors start using the ugly little table in various ways, each becoming attached to it. Suddenly, one day the little table disappears, just like the fate of our childhood imaginary companions. At that point, the neighbors’ former attachments to the ugly little table are transformed into new-found affectionate attachments to each other.

The Ugly Little Table: A Neighborhood Imaginary Companion

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Photo of the Day: Ethereal Piano

Photo of the Day: Ethereal Piano

Photography by: Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

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The Tropicana’s “Folies Bergere” Gives its Final High-Kicking Can-Can

The Tropicana’s “Folies Bergere” Gives its Final High-Kicking Can-Can

The final feathers have fallen on the Tropicana Hotel and Casino’s Folies Bergere in Las Vegas. At the final performance of the Folies Bergere on Saturday night, the Parisian topless revue dancers gave their last high-kicking can-cans. The large audience came to say its goodbye in style, with original cast members of the show and recent hires cheering wildly from the audience for each little bit of choreography by their younger counterparts.

The curtain came down lavishly on the Tropicana showgirl revue, which is said to be the longest-running showgirl review in America. The Tropicana Folies Bergere show was coming close to its 50th Anniversary on Christmas Day when it suddenly got its pink slip two months ago. Tropicana executives had decided not to reinvest in a new edition of the casino-owned revue, but they did not let their jewel go without one last chance to sparkle. The “Folies” died of slow starvation over the years, as management and ownership changes stalled major reinvestment in the production that in time had become more and more dated in the Cirque du Soleil era of Las Vegas.

The Tropicana’s “Folies Bergere” Gives its Final High-Kicking Can-Can

Slide Show: Tropicana’s “Folies Bergere” Gives its Final High-Kicking Can-Can

(Please Click Image for Slide Show)

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Photo of the Day: These Birdies Hit All the Right Notes!

Photo of the Day: These Birdies Hit All the Right Notes!

Like a bird on a wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my own way to be free.

Photography by: Joseph O.Holmes, NYC

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I Get Wet: A Love Story for the Ages

I Get Wet: A Love Story for the Ages

I Get Wet is a short film that was co-written by an amazing afterschool class of elementary school children at the Grace Church School in Lower Manhattan and Benh Zeitlin. Benh Zeitlin directed the award-winning Glory at Sea, a film that was set in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Zeitlin is a member of the acclaimed film collective Court 13, which is a renowned ensemble group of collaborative filmmakers and performers.

I Get Wet begins as a dark tale of school bullying, about an 8 year-old who is constantly being tormented by a secret gang of girls in his elementary school. It turns out to be an adorable short film about a little boy, his best friend Super Dog and the strains placed on their close friendship because he didn’t want to be stuffed into a trash can every single day for the rest of his life. However, by the end of the film, I Get Wet reveals itself to be a true love story for the ages.

I Get Wet: A Love Story for the Ages

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Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue is an animated short, which was named to the Top-Ten Shortlist of Friends of the Earth’s 2008 one-minute film competition. Green to Blue is a stop-motion animation that was made to promote global warming awareness. Elizabeth Klein, the film’s creator, explained that, “I made this stop motion to promote global warming awareness. Sometimes the simplest messages are the most powerful, so I’ve tried to present a child-like view of a serious problem.”

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

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