Studs Terkel, the legendary radio personality and interviewer, died today. Nearly four years ago, I took my first production trip for SOF — and what a way to start things out — with an interview in his Chicago home. At the time (he was 92 then), he had taken a fall and thus was primarily confined to his bed, relocated to the first floor in the center of his living room.
We were prepared for an elderly man who may not have a lot of energy to make it through an hour. What we got was the same old dynamo that I’d seen and heard so many times. He was alive, and his vivacity energized all of us. I regret having to relinquish this original character.
During that hour, I remember three things vividly: his definition of being an agnostic, which he defined as “a cowardly atheist”; the way he spoke about his wife as a living presence in his life, even though she had passed away some time before; this towering figure shook hands with me and asked me to repeat my name several times so that he could register it and acknowledge my presence. For part of a crew (and a Web lackey at that) invading his home, this made me feel welcome — and special; and, I write this with a regret that pangs my heart, I didn’t take him up on his offer to have a snort of whiskey before the interview — even if it was before noon.
Oh how I wish I would’ve raised my one glass to him. I’ll raise it tonight instead.