One of the greats goes.
LOUIS 'STUDS' TERKEL | 1912-2008 He was walking anthology of all things Chicago
The Pulitzer-Prize winning author, television pioneer, theatrical actor, long-time radio host, unrepentant leftie and friend of the little man, died peacefully at his home on the North Side of Chicago this afternoon.
He was 96.
"He had a very full, eventful and sometimes tempestuous life ," said his son Dan. "It was very satisfactory"
Studs — calling him "Mr. Terkel" always seemed overly formal — was a character. He liked to wear a red-checked shirt, a rumpled suit and had a stogie jammed in the side of his thick-lipped mouth. He enjoyed a martini well into his 90s.
Though his dozen books were national best-sellers — Division Street America, and Working and The Good War — Studs was best known to many Chicagoans as an interviewer who hosted a talk show on radio station WFMT from 1952 to 1997.
He was born in New York City, ironically enough, on May 16, 1912 and christened Louis Terkel. When he was eight, the family moved to Chicago, where his parents, Sam and Anna, ran the Wells-Grand Hotel.
He later said that while he was "legally born" in New York, he came alive when he moved to Chicago.
Studs spent his youth among the odd collection of hotel guests, some seeking work, others avoiding it. He credited his unusual residence with sparking within him an interest in the personal stories of regular people.
He graduated from the University of Chicago School of Law, though he never practiced.
Studs instead turned his energies toward the theater, appearing in 1934 in the groundbreaking Clifford Odet's play "Waiting For Lefty.''
During the Depression he worked on the Federal Writers' Project and performed in radio soap operas, usually portraying a gangster.
It was around this time that he adopted the nickname "Studs" after James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy.
While still a struggling actor in Chicago in 1939, Studs met and married a social worker and activist named Ida Goldberg. The couple had one son, Dan Terkell, who later added an extra "l'' to his last name. Ida Terkel died in 1999.
After he served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, entertaining troops, Studs began a pioneering broadcasting career in television and a 45-year long association with WFMT.
"Studs Place,'" an NBC program airing from 1950 to 1953 helped establish Studs as a nationally-known personality. "Studs Place" was a loosely-plotted comedy set in a fictional Chicago barbecue joint. But Studs' past came back to cut short his future in television — his socialist activities of the 1930s were seized upon by witch-hunting anti-communists who pressured NBC to drop his TV show, despite solid ratings, and Studs was blacklisted and unable to find steady work for the next several years.
"To give you an idea of the fear," Studs told the Sun-Times in 1976, "an important soap opera producer once asked me to do some test scripts. I did them, but the sponsor said, 'No, we can't use him' The producer berated me, as if it were my fault, 'How come you didn't tell me?' That's how deep the fear was."
Unable to find work in television, Studs eked out a living making speeches.