Studs Terkel and drinking good Scotch
The next morning at 5 AM we climbed in to the car with an intern in tow and drove the 4+ hours to Chicago. We found a phone booth and I called Stud’s house like Kay had told me to so that we could get directions. A gruff voice answered the phone and when I asked for Studs Terkel I was informed that was who I was speaking with and what did I want! I explained that I was Kay’s friend from Bowling Green and he immediately softened. He gave me directions.
20 minutes later I found myself knocking on Studs Terkel’s front door. Now here is the deal, I was a huge fan of his work. I had read a couple of his books and listened to his interviews on tape. I might not have been from Chicago but I knew a lot about the man and knew about all of the amazing interviews he had done over the years. I was kind of scared, kind of in awe, and really nervous.
The door opened and there was Ida, Studs wife. She invited us in and then told us that Studs would be right back. Then she went out to the kitchen. We wandered around the living room wondering what was going on. After about 15 minutes Studs came through the door with two big bags in his hands. He went straight in to the kitchen and then returned to the living room with out the bags.
He introduced himself and then told us that he had just run down to the deli. He figured that we had been on the road for quite awhile to get there in the morning and he figured we hadn’t eaten so he got us food. Ida was going to prepare it and we weren’t going to do any filming until after we ate. I was blown away by this man. What a great thing to do. His next question caught me by surprise…
“So, who wants a scotch?” Here I am at 11 AM in the morning in Studs Terkel’s living room with the man himself and he is offering me scotch! I had come along way from Portland, Oregon.
I declined and said after the shoot. The others looked at me and then quickly did the same.
After a wonderful brunch we went out to his patio and shot the interview. One of the things I saw was why he was able to get so many great interviews. When you were with Studs you had his complete attention. He wasn’t looking around, thinking about other stuff. He was totally focused on you and what you had to say. You were the most important person present. He listened intently, thought for a moment and then answered intelligently. He also talked with his hands and was hilarious. He integrated stories in to his answers, he was so fully engaged in conversation with you that you had to have your “A-game” on to keep up with him. I have been told that he never used notes when he interviewed people. He listened and followed up on what they had to say. I know he must have had questions in mind he was going to ask, but instead of doing an interview he was engaged in having a conversation.
It was a great interview and an even greater education. And when it was all over we all had scotch!
It was a long drive back to Bowling Green and when we got back to our motel Kay had left us a message. Call her as soon as we got back in. So we did and were told to come over right away, she really must see us.
When we got there everything was fine, she just wanted to know what Studs had said about her!
To read more go to http://www.angryfilmmaker.com/dangerous-kay-boyle/my-kay-boyle-journal/ and start from the begining…