Studs Terkel: Weekly Standard ridicules celebration of his birthday

Historians in the News

THE SCRAPBOOK admits it: Sometimes things just fall into our lap, or across our desk, that we couldn't possibly invent. A case in point is this week's announcement that publisher Andre Schiffrin, founder of the New Press, will be celebrating "oral historian" Studs Terkel's 95th birthday on Wednesday, May 16, with a series of fun-filled suggestions on his corporate website.

The literary life just doesn't get any better than this. Admirers of Studs are encouraged to gather in independent bookstores (no chains, please), credit cards in hand, and let the good times roll. You can hear what famous intellectuals think of Studs ("An American treasure"--Cornel West), order free Studs Terkel posters, mix Studs's recipe for gin martinis, listen to Studs's favorite music ("Potato Head Blues"--Louis Armstrong), order a pair of Studs-style red socks ($4.99 plus shipping), and add your voice to celebrity tributes ("Still fighting the good fight"--Victor Navasky).

Best of all, the New Press has chartered a skywriter to fly over Chicago, Studs's adopted hometown, during lunch hour with this message: "Happy 95th B-Day Studs Terkel."

Now, THE SCRAPBOOK enjoys a good party as much as anyone, especially at an independent bookstore, and we like "Potato Head Blues," too. But does a bilious radio DJ who turns a tape recorder on and off, and hires somebody to type up the transcripts, qualify as a "historian," even an "oral" historian? And while we're impressed by Studs's longevity, and love skywriting, it's worth pointing out that 74 of those 95 years were spent extolling the virtues of the Soviet Union, in print and on the air, at the expense of Studs's native country.

No wonder Studs Terkel has won the George Polk Career Award--named in honor of another media icon whose fraudulent past was exposed in the pages of this magazine.

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Michael Green - 5/16/2007

When you consider the Weekly Standard's well-known fudging of any fact that disagrees with its editorial views, it's hard to figure out why anything it has to say receives attention.