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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.

(photo: trustynick/Flickr)


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2 Comments

Trent,

I can completely respect the perspective, but let me offer mine:

You met him and were welcomed to his home. Though you may not have had a shot of whiskey, you made a series of moments that are indeed... a memory.

On the occasion that you do have a sip/shot of whiskey, remember in fond of this time with such a figure and that:

"I had the opportunity to take a shot with Terkel, but I didn't." I can guarantee you that a story will be asked for and that makes the opportunity not missed, but a chance to reflect and explain a special moment for you.

this simply shows evolution.
i, too, find myself wishing to be one of the old timers and partake in their traditions. then i find myself also wanting to skip back further, to an older time - a more ancient time, even before moonshine! - to indulge in those "primal" traditions like detachment or the still respect of quiet inactivity. perhaps.

apples