One of the great joys of my life was being able to meet Studs Turkel when i was 13 years old at the Chicago Historical Society, and i’m so happy that i actually knew who he was and what he meant to this city. This City misses him already.
I was at a Border’s store in Beverly and he was there. This was maybe two or three years ago. And I think there were other opportunities to pay the old man a visit. Now I never will, but I will have time to peruse his work that I never got to know.
I had the great good fortune of interviewing Studs at his home a few years ago when he was honored by the Lincoln Academy and I’ll never forget his great personal warmth and wonderful sense of humor. He was wearing his trademark checkered shirt and smoking a cigar as he sat in a rocking chair beneath a picture of his friend, the late poet Gwendolyn Brooks. He was very generous with his time but mentioned several times that he needed to get back upstairs to his office to continue working on his latest book at the time “And They All Sang, the Adventures of Eclectic Disk Jockey.” I asked him about his deadline for finishing it and he just sat back and laughed and said, “Deadline? Kid, I’m 92-years old. I’M the deadline!” He was a true American orginal and a class act all the way.
I’m sure he’s got his tape recorder going and has some questions he’s been meaning to ask St. Peter about admission standards. And I imagine Charlie Nicodemus is curious as to who got the contract for the Pearly Gates.
When I was a young man, my crew of drunken aspiring writers would always end up at the Goat or Riccardos just to see who was hanging out. Invariably, Royko was, but he was unapproachable, unless you were a pretty girl, and he wasn’t in a dark mood.
On occasion, you’d see Studs enjoying a martini and cigar, looking and talking like somebody out of Runyon.
Very friendly, Studs would sometimes chat up a member of our crew, and give his opinion on the question of the day. Over the years, I’d see him pick up a cigar in the tobacco shop at the Wirtz building at Wacker and Michigan.
I’m covering the trick-or-treating right now, but after my little one goes to bed, maybe I’ll wander down to the Goat and see who’s hanging around. My guess is Kogan will be there telling stories.
For you budding historians, the Chicago History Museum is in the midst of archiving 40 some years of WFMT interviews by Studs.
The living room of the house where I grew up had all his books. My parents were huge fans and made sure that I read his work. “Working” and “Division Street America” had a clear and undeniable impact on me.
He will be missed.
As much as anyone, he was the Spirit of Chicago, the embodiment of it’s tough but expansive heart. Truly the end of an era and no one in sight to take the mantle. Glad that he captured so much of the city and the state in his books and interviews. I hope to do a tenth of what he did in his life before I go.
Met him last year at Indelible Ink, a salute to Mike Royko on the 10th anniversary of Royko’s death. Only saw him and spoke to him for a couple seconds, but it was like standing in front of Bill Shakespeare or Twain or Kerouac. He signed my book. It was awesome. He was awesome. Never will see the likes of him again. Ever.
I hope he gets the job up there of making Royko laugh. What a terrific pair of minds and talent.
- Captain America - Saturday, Nov 1, 08 @ 10:28 am:
I’m in Cedar Rapids to help nail down Obama’s landlside victory - just read about ST’s death this morning. NY Times hard copy realy did I nice obituary - I didn’t realize that our local legend was so renowned nationally.
The book Working changed me in such a positive way. I was working for AFSCME, organizing in Las Cruces, NM, and my boss gave me the book. It is a book that will forever have an impact on my life, and I wish tht I could of met him.
Rest in Peace