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Studs Terkel at Politics and Prose

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:28 pm

As I mentioned before, last night I played hookey from work and drove down to Washington, D.C. to hear Studs Terkel at the Politics and Prose Bookstore, in conversation with Bob Edwards. (Photos below; click thumbnail for larger version.)

To say the man is a firebrand is a considerable understatement…I think Bob knew he was in trouble when Studs introduced him instead of the other way around…it was pretty clear Studs was holding court. He noted that both he and Bob were born the same day of the year (May 16th), although the years are a bit different; Studs was born in 1912, and Bob…wasn’t. Studs commented that he believed the country was suffering from “National Alzheimer’s Disease” in that students aren’t taught enough history to avoid making the same mistakes over again, and he had some…sprightly things to say about the current administration. He had an interesting list of the three greatest men of the 20th Century - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Henry Wallace (Vice President during FDR’s final term and former Secretary of Agriculture). After discoursing on Mr. Wallace for a bit, he suddenly turned and said, “Bob … whaddya think?” To which Edwards replied, “You’re just workin’ me so hard…”

Bob Edwards, left, chuckles at the stories of Studs Terkel

Edwards made an interesting announcement at the talk after mentioning XM Satellite Radio’s The Bob Edwards Show and the two interviews he’s aired with Terkel (on July 27, 2005 and October 12, 2005):

Edwards: There is a weekend version of our program called Bob Edwards Weekend which is distributed by Public Radio International to public radio stations and will be heard here on WETA beginning May 14th, three o’clock, and I’m very excited about that! Between the opera and All Things Considered.

Bob finally got the chance to “introduce” Studs to the audience, and in listing the man’s accomplishments over the last ninety-plus years, asked him about his career in Old-Time Radio:

Edwards: There is a third Studs Terkel that fascinates me, and that’s Studs the actor…of motion pictures, of live television in the fifties when television was new, and in the great days of radio when there were radio dramas. And you would play, inevitably, a gangster.

Terkel: I’m from Chicago!

Edwards: You told me there were three kinds of gangsters…and they were…?

Terkel: There was the bright gangster, the middle gangster, and the dumb gangster. And who do you think I played? Always! … Chicago was the home of far more than New York and Hollywood put together. The Guiding Light was about a young mininster and his trials and tribulations…Woman in White, as you can guess from the name, was about a nurse…same program! … But they all were the same scripts; so I’d get killed on Woman in White, as I deserved, before the second commercial! I’d get killed…run off the truck … and then I’d find myself on … Guiding Light - same role!

The SRO crowd at Politics & Prose

Bob complimented Studs’ ability to eventually get back to the point; “he goes off on these great digressions, but he always remembers where he was. I forget, but he remembers and he comes back and nails it and finishes the story.”

Studs was asked by an audience member about his first name:

Terkel: That comes up…I always say wistfully…very wistfully…I wish what you think it was…

After some more audience questions, it’s time to stop the conversation, and for Studs to start signing books. Heaven knows, he’s certainly written enough! I really think these two guys should take this show on the road. Talk about an easy gig for Edwards…he could ask, “So, Studs, what do you think?” then head out for coffee.

Afterwards, I got a chance to briefly visit with the Bob Edwards Show crew before I left to come home, and I have to now make a public apology to Geoffrey Redick; with Tish Valva and Andy Danyo present, it was difficult to remember he was there. They may be young enough to be my children (not grandchildren, darnit!!!) but I am only human and so become distracted by such bright and attractive young women. Sorry, Geoffrey.

This conversation was recorded by C-SPAN cameras for the Saturday night series, American Perspective. Keep an eye on the show over the next month or so, and you can join those of us who attended. Of course, you’ll have to pull your own espresso…

Bob Edwards listens attentively

Studs Terkel gestures emphatically

Studs signing one of his many books

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4 Responses to “Studs Terkel at Politics and Prose” »


  1. Russ G. Says:

    Must be nice to live where there are so many interesting opportunities and discussions! (I’m not complaining, mind you. I appreciate you bringing us in the hinterlands the ~news.~


  3. Nostalgic Rumblings » Studs Terkel on The Bob Edwards Show Says:

    […] And if you didn’t see it back in April, this space has a report of a visit by Studs Terkel and Bob Edwards to the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. […]


  5. Nostalgic Rumblings » Another trip to Politics and Prose… Says:

    […] I played hooky again yesterday…and believe me, it takes something to get me out of my bunny slippers and on the road for a four-hour drive. But yesterday, instead of working, I took a drive to my favorite inside-the-beltway coffee shop…er…bookstore (hey, there’s very little more relaxing than sitting downstairs sipping the perfect cappuccino and smelling all those delightful books right on the other side of the doorway…) Politics and Prose. You should remember this bookstore from my previous visits (I’ve posted about the trip down to see Studs Terkel), and if anything’s changed the coffee is even tastier. […]


  7. Nostalgic Rumblings » Acclaimed author Studs Terkel dies at 96 Says:

    […] This makes me especially grateful I was able to meet Studs in Washington, D.C. some years ago. The guy was amazing. […]

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