December 29, 2007

Touch and Go: A Memoir
Studs Terkel

The One, The Only – The best party of any year is the Community Media Workshop’s annual Studs Terkel Awards for Journalistic Excellence. The venue has shifted over the years as the gathering crowd has grown – from Andy’s Jazz Club to the Cliff Dwellers Club to the swanky Arts Club before its current location in the Chicago Cultural Center’s breathtaking G.A.R. Hall and Claudia Cassidy Theater – but the basic evening has remained the same: rabble-rousers mix with the rabble itself, three or four local journalists are honored for working in the Terkel tradition of spotlighting the so-called “ordinary,” and Studs Himself rises to the podium, even now when he's just a few years shy of his 100th birthday, to offer the evening’s closing stem-winder. Touch and Go is a stem-winder itself, filled with nearly a century of stories and complete with the rogue charm of my most vivid memory of Studs. This occurred a handful of years ago so Studs was perhaps 90 years old; the Community Media Workshop had hosted the awards ceremony at the Arts Club and it was late enough now that the speeches were finished, the buffet dinner was eaten, desert plates were cleared and the jazz trio was wrapping up. Cane in hand, Studs charged toward one of the bar tables and ordered cognac. The bartender politely told Studs there was no cognac available. Studs, even then near-deaf, leaned closer and asked again, in a louder voice, for a nightcap of cognac. When the bartender shouted his reply, Studs’ red face lit with a wide grin. “What’dya mean you don’t have cognac?” Studs roared. “For Christ’s sake, this is the Arts Club!”


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