RAW VIDEO: Garrison Keillor Talks Politics, MN & 'Prairie Home'
This is an approximate transcript of the second half of 5 Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Saxenmeyer's Interview with humorist Garrison Keillor, the host of public radio's "A Prairie Home Companion." They chatted Friday, Sept. 7, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
MS: Why did you get involved with Minnesotans United for All Families?
GK: I got involved with that just because I didn't like the tone or the feeling of the constitutional amendment. It seemed punitive. It seemed unnecessary. But when Jesse Ventura came out against the amendment, then I really, I read his letter and then I understood what it was all about --that love trumps government and and government should not stand in the way of people who love each other. And Jesse said it better than I ever could. I really admire him for coming out the way way he did. I wasn't surprised but I admired what he said.
MS: Polls say it's going to pass nonetheless..
GK: We'll see I don't go around looking for these things but people ask me to support them in their opposition to the amendment and either you say 'yes I will' or 'no I won't' and if you say 'no I won't' you should have some reason for turning them down and so I said 'sure of course." I'm in a line of work where where gay men and gay women are everywhere. In entertainment, in literature, in writing, and I mean we live with each other day in and day out so there's nothing dramatic about gayness when you live in this world. It may not be true of everybody.
MS: Have you met the winner?
GK: Not yet. He's a very nice guy. I think he's from up in Warroad. And he has a Ford Agency up north. And so I'm going to record his calling machine message.
MS: And what are you going to say?
GK: Whatever he wants.
MS: What would you say right now? What would it be?
GK: (laughing) I'm just going to give his name. I'm trying to think of his name. And people will recognize my voice. And so that will amuse some people and confuse others.
MS: Do you think lending your name to that group helps their movement or could potentially hurt it? Because you're not controversial but people have an opinion about Garrison Keillor. If you say your name they'll say 'I love him' or 'not my thing'.
GK: I'm not sure if lending you name matters one way or another.
MS: But it's obviously important for people to speak out to get this amendment defeated if they truly believe it should be?
GK: Well, I don't know, but they asked me, Minnesotans United (for all Families) and so I said yes. If they hadn't asked me, I wouldn't have done.
MS: Uou wouldn't have pursed it?
MS: Anything you want to tell us about Lake Wobegon? What's the news?
GK: It's been a very strange summer. It's been a summer of drought. And an odd growing season. And it's been hard on apples. And that really has hurt some people hard. Apples are one of the great pleasures of life, the Honey Crisp comes from here, which is a fabulous eating apple. So these things are important, these things are more important to them then the election and constitutional amendments and all of that. It's apples, apples, and to savor this time of year which is a gorgeous, gorgeous time. Warm days, cool nights, the air is like wine, and the pleasure of September in Minnesota is one reason we can endure all the rest of it.
MS: When you did that interview with KSTP's Vineeta Sawkar in 2005, you said you were still hoping to make a movie of Lake Wobegon. Where does that stand?
GK: I've been working on a screenplay on Lake Wobegon. The movie with Robert Altman ("A Prairie Home Companion") had the benefit of of his being 81-years-old and in desperate poor health, so there was no time to waste and just chop chop chop chop--I wrote that screenplay to fit the big stars that he persuaded to be in it and only had five days or 10 days or 15 days to shoot and so it was done under great pressure. The Lake Wobegon screenplay I've been working on for five years, and the problem with being a perfectionist is you keep going back and revising the first page and you keep going over it and over it and over it and you're never happy with it so you need somebody to walk in and say 'I gotta have this in two weeks'. And if somebody said that and could enforce that I'd have it done in two weeks.
MS: Do you have a deal for the picture?
MS: Are you actively seeking it out?
GK: Yeah, but i don't have i don't have a script yet.
MS: But pictures are green lit without full scripts all the time in Hollywood.
GK: People are waiting, they're waiting patiently--the same people who produced and distributed the Robert Altman film are waiting for me to put this thing in a manila envelope and mail it off to them.
MS: So are you going to set a deadline for yourself?
MS: Just keep putting it off, huh?
GK: I'm on a treadmill. I just keep pushing the rock up the hill and it keeps rolling back down.
MS: But you're confident it will get done? I hope it will because I think it will be a lot of fun and I can imagine places in Minnesota where I'd like to shoot this and and I, there's some scenes it in it that I really love so I hope that it will but if it doesn't get made I'm not going to be devastated.
MS: It's going to get made. How could it not get made?
GK: Mmmm, by not being made.
MS: Right, well, as simple as that. There would be that. Again, no plans to retire now, correct?
GK: I don't know. couple years maybe.
MS: Based on things I've read before about you, you had said that the time to retire is when you don't want to be embarrassed, when you keep doing the show and you become embarrassed.
GK: That's already happened. I mean that's already happened. A couple dozen times.
MS: It seems that when some people retire, they die quickly. They end up having nothing to wake up for. Do you fear that?
GK: It's happened to some people in broadcasting. Yes, a person is wary of that but only up to a point. I have a 14-year-old daughter and I think there's a window up ahead where you could, where I could do wonderful things with her. We could go see Asia together, we could go to China, we could sail around Australia. If you don't do them you'd regret that.
MS: Sounds great. I'll go.
GK: It wouldn't be the same.
MS: You're not grooming a successor for "A Prairie Home Companion"? Would you like it to live on without you?
GK: Absolutely, I think it should. I think it will. Somebody will show up, 24-year-old 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.
MS: Do you read what's written about you? I mean do you get on the internet and look at comments?
GK: No, you should never do that. You'll make yourself feel really bad. You just shouldn't do it. I know people who do it and it's a bad idea. Things will leap out at you and they'll stick in your craw and it'll become a stone in your shoe and you'll never get--don't touch that, don't do that.
GK: Do you do a loon call?
MS: I do not do a loon call. I could still learn. There's time.
GK: It requires you to go up into your falsetto head tone.
MS: I don't have a falsetto.
GK: You do, actually. When you're home alone this evening try it. High delicate warbly sound.
MS: I'll give that some thought.
GK: Don't think about it. just do it.
MS: What will be the benefit? Will it somehow uplift me?
GK: You'll feel freer. You will have crossed the barrier that you have erected for yourself--of not doing loon calls. And this is how Minnesotans are able to contact other Minnesotans. Say if you're at O'Hare (airport), if you're walking down the concourse, you feel lonely and you would like to meet somebody else form Bloomington or even somebody from Richfield and you just walk along and you go 'ahhhhh!' (loon call noise) and you'll hear answers in loon calls and people will come over to you.
MS: I had no idea.
GK: You'll be embraced you'll be supported. This is how we know who we are.
MS: So when you're in New York this works for you?
GK: In New York it's the best way if you feel jostled in the subway or you feel insecure or if somebody is following you down a dark street--do a loon call. There's no need for a gun. There's no need to call the cops. If you can do a loon call you're safe. People will never attack a man who can do a loon call. They don't want to get involved from that guy.
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