Wed May 16, 2007
By Deborah Cohen
American original Studs Terkel, the author and oral historian who for decades gave a voice to working men and women, turned 95 on Wednesday. But don't worry about his memory. He's sharp as a tack. In fact, he's the one doing the worrying -- about what he describes as the memory loss of a country he suggests may be more interested in the transgressions of celebrities than more substantive affairs such as thepolitics of the Bush administration, which he characterizes as a "burlesque show." ... Terkel's latest book attempts to connect Americans with their past, touching on themes where he staked his claim -- labor, war and race. ...Terkel, a pro-union voice who was blacklisted during the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s McCarthy era, bubbles with strong opinions and surprising bursts of energy for a man who had heart surgery at age 93. He sits upright in his easy chair, dressed in his trade-mark red-checkedshirt and matching red socks, sawing the air for emphasis. In less than an hour, he ranged over topics from President Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada to Enrico Fermi and the creation of the atomic bomb to "Medium Cool," the film by Haskell Wexler that chronicles Chicago during the tumultuous summer of 1968 when protests against the Vietnam War included bloody clashes in the streets at the Democratic Convention. ..."I have great faith in the people, provided we give them the news," said Terkel, who thinks the American media has moved too far to the right. ... "If I did one thing I'm proud of, it's to make people feel that together, they count," he said.