Friday, October 31, 2008

Take it easy, but take it

Studs Terkel has died at the age of 96.

Not least since he was a specifically Chicago institution -- one that my mother remembered listening to going back to the 1960s and spoke fondly of -- and since I too spent a few years as a public radio broadcaster (WNIU...this is a long time ago) I feel a special connection.

Studs is hard to summarise for the uninitiated.

A few starting points:

The Chicago Historical Society
Gary Younge's Interview

And the conclusion of the Chicago Tribune story from today:

He seemed keenly aware, however, that the shadows were closing in. To touch his arms was to feel a living skeleton. He displayed a mind still sharp with its ability to recall names and dates and places from his lengthy and storied past. But he was facing the future too.

"Remember those old Ivory soap commercials, 'Ivory Soap, 99.44 percent pure?' Well I am 99.44 percent dead," he said, sitting in the sun-soaked living room of his house. The place was, as always, a wonderful mess of papers, tapes, books, letters, photos and visitors that so pleasantly cluttered his life.

"The most fun I've ever had doing a story was interviewing Studs in that living room," says WMAQ and WTTW television anchor/reporter Carol Marin. "He was unique."

He was in that living room last year when he said with zest that when he "checked out"-- as a "hotel kid" he rarely used the word "dying," preferring the euphemism "checking out" and its variants--he wanted to be cremated. He wanted his ashes mixed with those of his wife, which sat in an urn in the living room of his house, near the bed in which he slept and dreamed.

"My epitaph? My epitaph will be 'Curiosity did not kill this cat,'" he said.

He then said that he wanted his and Ida's ashes to be scattered in Bughouse Square, that patch of green park that so informed his first years in his adopted city.

"Scatter us there," he said, a gleeful grin on his face. "It's against the law. Let 'em sue us."

That's the spirit.

Goodbye, Studs.

[UPDATE] Ed Vulliamy's recollections at the Guardian are well worth reading.

1 comment:

The Wife said...

Have just come across the following interview with Terkel from shortly before his death (via a post on Bill "ooohh, the terrorist" Ayres):

Sarah Palin, "Joe McCarthy in drag" - did he say "you betcha", too?