Garrison Keillor Looks Ahead as 'Prairie Home' Enters 39th Season
This is part one of a two-part interview.
Thanks to Garrison Keillor, people around the world know that Minnesotans are strong, good looking, and above average.
Keillor's "A Praire Home Companion" just launched its 39th season on public radio, but he also just turned 70, and some wonder if Keillor's days reporting the news from Lake Wobegon might be coming to an end soon.
Every week, nearly four million people anxiously wait to hear the words Keillor crafts. He's usually still writing, still creating, the day before a Saturday show. Last Friday, he tapped away in his tiny dressing room, inside the home of "Prairie Home"--St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater.
"It's a responsibility that becomes heavier the older you get," Keillor explained, in a rare interview. He says he's always asking himnself, "what are you giving them that's worth their while. This is--I don't want to waste people's time."
He admits he's a perfectionist. "The reason that you keep going with a show like this is dissatisfaction," he says. "And you think, 'I really, I can see how this could be done better'."
Of course, after decades in the public eye, and the public's ears, Keillor's Minnesota fans think he got it right long ago.
And nothing seems to slow him down. When asked about the stroke he suffered in 2009, and how his health is now, he replies, "I don't know. I guess I'm fine. I should go down and ask them, down in Rochester.(at the Mayor Clinic). They'll tell me."
Last year, Keillor made headlines when he talked about calling it quits. But he soon changed his mind.
Has he changed it again?
"I don't know, couple years maybe," he responds.
And are there plans to groom a successor? Does he want the show to live on without him? "Absolutely," he says. "I think it should. I think it will. Somebody will show up, some 24-year-kid will walk in with a big attitude and I'll say 'I'll show you! Let's see you try it!" and he or she will, and it'll be fine."
If anything, Keillor hints that his youngest child--his only daughter--might play a major role in his future decision-making. She just turned 14, and she headed off to boarding school. "I am am just bereft without her," he says. "It's dreadful. I think there's a window up ahead where i could do wonderful things with her. We could go see Asia together, we could sail around Australia. if you don't do them, you'd regret that."
But until that time comes, the stories about the prairie, and about prairie companions, will continue.
"Do you do a loon call?" he asks. "It's a high, delicate, warbly sound, "You just walk along and you go 'Ahhhhh!' (the sound of a loon call) and you'll hear answering loon calls, and people will come over to you. You'll be embraced you'll be supported. this is how we know who we are."
In part two of this interview Keillor talks about how--and why--he got involved in Minnesota's highly-contentious marriage amendment debate.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Garrison Keillor Looks Ahead as 'Prairie Home' Enters 39th Season