WBEZ | WFMT http://www.wbez.org/tags/wfmt Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Studs Terkel's assistant remembers him fondly http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/studs-terkels-assistant-remembers-him-fondly-111050 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scorpsss.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;The first time I met him (Studs Terkel) was right after I got to Chicago,&rdquo; Sydney Lewis says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;I was waitressing at a nightclub and Studs was in my section. And it was very busy. It was very crowded and I was trying to get a drink order. And he started asking me questions: Where was I from? How long had I been in Chicago? What did I think of Chicago? And finally I said to him, &lsquo;Mr. Terkel, I read <em>Working</em>. And I loved <em>Working</em>. But I AM WORKING! What do you want to drink?&rsquo; So that was our first interaction and that sort of defines our relationship over the years.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I had that first meeting with him and then I went applying for a job at WFMT and eventually I ended up becoming the program department administrative assistant,&rdquo; she says.&nbsp;</p><p>And over the next 25 years, Lewis got to know Studs and his wife Ida very well.</p><p>Lewis admits to feeling a little lost without him. She looked to Studs to explain the world to her, like a lot of people in Chicago, she says. She relied on him for that because he cut to the human issues involved each and every time.</p><p>&ldquo;When anything&rsquo;s happening on the news, I just long to know what he would say,&rdquo; Lewis says.</p><p>&ldquo;You could hear him coming down the hallway,&rdquo; she recalls of their days together at WFMT. &ldquo;He was always talking. He never shut up. I used to tease him and go, &lsquo;How do you get good interviews?&rsquo; Because I mean, logorrhea, he just would go on and on and on. Raving about some horrible political decision or some war somewhere or joblessness or poverty. Or very excited because he had a guest coming in and he was looking forward to talking to them.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;I always felt like he had kind of a three-tiered mind: One part of it was talking to you, one part of it was working on the program or a book or whatever he was working on. And another part of it was looking at the whole world.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;I jokingly describe myself as his nanny, but that was somewhat my role. I would know who he would want to hear from. And what kind of authors were not up his alley&hellip;So I was good at filtering for him. And grabbing the mail, coffee for the guests.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;But you know there&rsquo;s the immensity of what he brought and there&rsquo;s the human being&hellip;He needed to be reminded that he wasn&rsquo;t the only person on the planet sometimes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would fight, I would yell at him sometimes. The worst time was when I was quitting smoking and I was really irritable.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He had this habit. He&rsquo;d come down the hallway. Everyday he&rsquo;d say,&lsquo;Whaddya hear? Whaddya say, kid?&rsquo; You know where that&rsquo;s from?&rsquo; I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Jimmy Cagney!&rsquo; &lsquo;Yeah!&rsquo; You know, 325 days a year this would happen. It was his little ritual. And I was really grumpy when I quit smoking. My colleague Lois could see him. He would approach. And I was in a little alcove. And he would peer around it to see what kind of mood I was in. And at one point he went to Lois and said, &lsquo;What happened to her?&rsquo; And Lois said, &lsquo;Oh she&rsquo;s just quitting smoking.&rsquo; And he went, &lsquo;Ohhh! OK!&rsquo; He was used to me playing with him. We were very playful together.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;After his heart surgery&hellip;.This was probably the first heart surgery, so Ida was still alive. The doctor comes out. Looking like hell. He&rsquo;s really tired and he&rsquo;s just, &lsquo;Man, they don&rsquo;t make &lsquo;em like that anymore.&rsquo; When Ida and I came down to see him, he was sitting up in a chair, having a little soup. He thought one of the monitors was a TV screen. So he&rsquo;s saying, &lsquo;Can we get the ball game on? Can we get the ball game on?&rsquo; He offers me soup, &lsquo;Would you like a little soup?&rsquo; I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;No that&rsquo;s OK. You need the soup.&rsquo; And just to tease him I leaned forward and said, &lsquo;Who&rsquo;s the president?&rsquo; And he looked up and he went, &lsquo;Taft?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So here&rsquo;s a guy after like eight hours of open heart surgery and he&rsquo;s offering to share food with you, wanting to see the ball game and making jokes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, like the doctor said, &lsquo;They don&rsquo;t make &lsquo;em like that anymore.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/studs-terkels-assistant-remembers-him-fondly-111050 Farewell to the mad Russian: Yuri Rasovsky http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-06/farewell-mad-russian-yuri-rasovsky-96153 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-06/1322321453_371f45a9c6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-06/Yuri Rasovsky.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 184px; height: 220px; " title="">This morning the Associated Press reported on the death of Los Angeles-based radio producer and director Yuri Rasovsky, who died on January 18 at age 67 of esophageal cancer. He was a smoker, at least during his younger days here in Chicago, and perhaps it caught up with him. Yuri was most associated with his award-winning National Radio Theatre, which began life on our colleague station, WFMT, as Chicago Radio Theatre. But Yuri’s roots before that were in the early days of Off-Loop Theater.</p><p>I met Yuri at the Kingston Mines Theater Company on Lincoln Avenue in 1969 or 1970. Or maybe it was nearby, at Johnny Weiss’s Belden Tavern, over a hard-boiled egg and a 30 cent stein of beer. I listened to him boast of his sexual escapades during his time in the military, when, as an Army private, he successfully seduced the older wives of his superior officers. Still in his twenties then and several years my senior, Yuri couldn’t boast good looks; but he was supremely confident, charming and totally shameless when it came to women (and just about everything else).</p><p>Yuri and I acted in a few Kingston Mines shows together, most notably the still-remembered production of <em>Catch-22</em>, directed by Gary Houston. We were also in Del Close’s improvisation workshop at the Body Politic (now the Greenhouse Theater Center), and Yuri also acted in <em>Turds in Hell</em> with the Godzilla Rainbow Troupe.</p><p>Only he wasn’t Yuri Rasovsky then, he was Ira Rasoff, his given name. Always a showman, sometime around 1972 he decided to Europeanize his name and become the mad Russian he would have been back in the Old Country, if he’d been born there. Think a Jewish Rasputin; that’s who he would have been. He also decided to Europeanize my name. He took to calling me “Johann” and referred to me as “a Sephardic Galitzianer” because Abarbanel is an ancient Spanish Hebrew name (a Sephardic name) but my grandparents came from the Ukraine, which made them Galitzianer Jews.</p><p>All the time, we talked radio, radio drama, radio plays and radio theater which simply didn’t exist in the United States any more, not since all the soap operas switched to TV. In my case, I’d lived in London as a student and studied with producers and directors of radio drama there (it’s still a big thing). I don’t know how or why Yuri loved it. Eventually, we both began to experiment seriously with producing radio plays, and we both ended up with WFMT as a partner.</p><p>I was there first, producing at wide intervals a half-dozen radio plays in the early-to-mid 1970’s. I produced plays by Ray Bradbury, Tom Eyen, Lonnie Carter and Robert Patrick among others, working on the cheap with a couple of small Illinois Arts Council grants and donated studio time at the old Streeterville Studios (we could work all night, when the studio generally stood empty).</p><p>Yuri followed a few years later, as WEMT was eager to have a unique radio drama presence. Eventually, his Chicago Radio Theatre became the great success of National Radio Theatre because Yuri had one ability I did not have: He could raise money. He persuaded national sponsors to bankroll his weekly drama series and was able to pay himself a living salary. Hey, confidence and shamelessness have their advantages.</p><p>Somehow, I thought that if I proved the merit of my work, WFMT would come up with money. Yuri knew better. WFMT appreciated that what we did was special, and loved the awards we won, especially when National Radio Theatre won the highest honor in American broadcasting, the Peabody Award (previously, one of my productions had won a Prix Italia-- although not first place--one of Europe’s most prestigious broadcasting awards). Yuri and I were producers in the true theatrical sense: We raised the money and put on the show, too. He was much, much better at it than I ever could have hoped to be. I greatly admired what he did, and I was jealous as hell!</p><p>Now the Mad Russian has gone to the Great Transmitter in the Sky, where he can talk radio with the real greats of the field: Marconi, Sarnoff (whom Yuri will call Sarnovsky), Ed Murrow, Jack Benny, Franklyn MacCormack and Studs Terkel (whom I wanted in one of my radio plays, but WFMT firmly said “No!”). I can’t say goodbye to this long-ago colorful and creative colleague and friend, so I’ll just say, “Until next time . . . this is Jonathan Abarbanel signing off.”</p></p> Mon, 06 Feb 2012 19:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-06/farewell-mad-russian-yuri-rasovsky-96153