Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel, RIP

One of the great advocates for those who work for a living has moved on.

Studs Terkel, born in 1912, died today at 96. I note his passing here because he stood with the hard-luck cases all his life, even when it was widely unfashionable, and never, never flinched:

... McCarthyism was a potent force and Terkel was outspoken politically, with a highly liberal tone. "I was blacklisted because I took certain positions on things and never retracted," Terkel once said in an interview about those times. "I signed many petitions that were for unfashionable causes and never retracted."

He had a hard time finding work, subsisting on small speaking fees and even smaller sums for writing book reviews. His wife, Ida, made enough to keep the family afloat.

I have one more reason for writing about him here. Studs was the centerpiece of one of my favorite show biz anecdotes ....

It seems that in the middle 1950s, when the blacklist was near its crest, Studs was a writer for Pearl Bailey (later the voice of Big Mama in Disney's The Fox and the Hound) on a network radio variety show that Pearl headlined.

The usual oily little herd of blacklist enthusiasts came to Studs and said: "We need you to sign the loyalty oath we have here ..."

Studs looked at the paper and politely told them "No." Whereupon they went to Ms. Bailey, the producer and star of the network show, and told her that Studs had refused to sign their loyalty oath and would therefore have to be fired.

Pearl Bailey told them "No."

Whereupon the group crawled back under their respective rocks, and made no further mention of Studs being fired.

Mr. Terkel remained with the show, American civilization continued to survive, and Ms. Bailey went on being a star. A half-dozen years later, the blacklist was on its way out.

And half a century further on, "Islamo-fascists" have replaced commies as America's "enemy du jour." The more things change ...

So Rest in Peace, Studs Terkel. You've surely earned it.


Aniranter said...

Wow, a backbone!

A beautiful, BEAUTIFUL thing.

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