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Studs Shows Up With His Pal Nelson

One Sunday afternoon in 1975, a group of ten young video experimenters had finished an editing a version of the first “It’s a Living” documentary, based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book, “Working.”

Studs came over to Videopolis, on Clark Street (now the Metro), the space we had been working in, to see the videotape for the first time.

We were nervous about how he’d react. Nothing like it had ever been done on video before. …and the way Studs did audio/oral history was the inspiration and model for how we were creating this new form of Chicago video.

To everyone’s surprise, when Studs walked in he was with his pal, Nelson Algren.  Fortunately for all, we had wine, beer and various other relaxants available.

We hooked up the monitor and played it. “It’s a Living” was based on the idea of showing what people do all day and how they feel about it…just like the book.  The “show” included segments with three of the people who were in the book, three others whom we chose somewhat randomly, and Studs himself.

I think it was the first time he saw himself on a candid videotape.  Needless to say, he loved it.

And then Nelson started to go after Studs.  The video that’s is what happened right after the screening. Black and white, unlit, but so revealing of both of them.


Join us for a screening of  “It’s a Living” on Friday, May 9 at 8pm as part of “Let’s Get Working: Chicago Celebrates Studs Terkel.”

- by Tom Weinberg, founder of the Media Burn Independent Video Archive (, which collects and presents more than 300 hours of footage with Studs Terkel.