Coast-to-coast farewells for Garrison Keillor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’

Courtesy of Plymouth Church
Garrison Keillor

There were quite a few thoughtful farewells to Garrison Keillor over the long weekend. Here’s a few:

For The Atlantic, Joshua Rigsby writes: “ … with Keillor’s retirement, Americans lose something else, equally valuable and increasingly rare: a cultural figure fluent in the worldviews of both progressives and conservatives. Raised as a fundamentalist Christian in a small Midwestern town, Keillor crossed a vast ideological chasm during his career, becoming a stalwart political leftist without forgetting his small-town roots. Through his novels, his poetry, and his public-radio show, he’s served as a cultural liaison between red and blue states, interpreting each for the other, and offering a humorous, if not sympathetic, glance in both directions.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd writes:  “I have had my own ups and downs with ‘Prairie,’ but I have come to feel they were generally of my own making, a reflection of my own temper at the time rather than the quality of the thing itself, which is generally high. I was aware of the product before the show, of the stacked paperbacks and cassette tapes that somehow seemed to occupy every sight line in the brick-and-mortar bookshops of yore. My reflexive first impulse, based on the packaging and the placement, was to distrust it as straightforward, cinnamon-scented sentimentality, like a year-round Christmas store. I was mistaken. The occasional old hymn notwithstanding, it is ironic and twisty and not a little devilish. Like his contemporary and fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan, born a year earlier some three hours’ drive to the north, Keillor has a dark temperament lighted by a puckish humor and in his work mixes the spiritual and the sensual, the moral and the mortal.”

For The New York Times, Dwight Garner writes: “As the monologue began to come to its close, Mr. Keillor, 73, spoke about how he might be remembered, if at all. ‘I am at that age now where people start to use the word ‘legacy,’ although there is no such thing and we all know that,’ he said. ‘Radio has the permanence of a sand castle. Even books that are printed on acid-free paper, they tend to migrate toward recycling rather quickly.’ It’s an interesting question, Mr. Keillor’s legacy. He left a lot of uncomplicated pleasure in his wake, and some complicated pleasure, too. For his show’s fans there are always reruns and downloads. For those of us who’ve gravitated more to his prose, which can be savvy and tough-minded, the best news is that he’s said to be working on a memoir. It’s a book that, if he bears down, I’d wait in the rain for.”

For the Athens [Ohio] News, Dennis Powell writes, “Saturday night, July 2, four days shy of 42 years since that first broadcast, Garrison Keillor hosted his last episode of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’. This is a matter of great sadness to one portion of the population and of no significance at all to the much larger rest of the population, which ratio is further cause for regret.”

MPR sister station KPCC in Pasadena had former Minnesotan John Rabe do an “exit interview” with Keillor:

Are you okay ending at the Hollywood Bowl and not in St. Paul? Don’t St. Paulites deserve a final goodbye? No, because I’m coming back here to St. Paul. They won’t say goodbye to me. I’ll be all over the place. I’ll be shopping at Kowalski’s. They’ll see me at the Dairy Queen down on Lexington. I’ll be at the public library. I’ll be sitting down watching the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I’ll be at the opera. I’ll be everywhere.

What will your thoughts be as you’re standing on the stage doing this final show? The same as they would be for any other show. What do I do next? What do I say? What is going on in Lake Wobegon? Confusion.

You’re being difficult! I’m trying to get at when is it going to hit you that you’ve done 42 years of this and this is going to be the end of it? Oh, it hits me already. It’s been on my mind for months, and I’m happy about it. Of course I am. If I didn’t feel good about it, then I wouldn’t have done it.

But if you’re standing on the Hollywood Bowl stage with all of those people loving you … you’d be like Bernie Sanders at his final rally. That’s something that I would find very hard to give up. Bernie may find it hard to give up, but he’s got to do it. You know. Why be a jerk?

As for the business side of things, Martin Moylan at MPR got as much out of his handlers as any could reasonably expect when he reported, “’A Prairie Home Companion’ is at a crucial point. The show’s weekly audience has a median age of 59 and has shrunk by nearly 1 million listeners from a decade or so ago. American Public Media has the job of keeping stations from defecting during the transition from an iconic host. The company is offering 10 percent discounts on broadcast fees to keep stations on board. But it could be a tough sell in some cases. … [MPR’s parent company American Public Media] won’t disclose revenue or profits but ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ sponsorships, tickets sales, broadcast fees and other related revenue streams have been a cash cow.” 

In a variation on ‘American Sniper,’ we have this guy: ABC News says, “A U.S. Army veteran used his sharp-shooting military training to rescue a bald eagle who became entangled in a rope and was hanging upside down from a tree, 70 feet off the ground. Last Thursday, Jason Galvin used a .22-caliber rifle with a scope to fire 150 shots at the distant rope that was tangled around the eagle’s leg. The bird was hanging upside down in a tree near Galvin’s Rush City, Minnesota cabin, according to his wife.” Not that I would have ever hit the rope (and not the bird), but that’s a lot of ammo.

The kid will be telling this story forever. Dave Aeikens at KSTP-TV says, “Minneapolis Fire Captain Matthew Keith says calls are endless on Independence Day and you should pretty much expect the unexpected. Having a Fourth of July birthday is one thing, but one baby, born Monday morning, has an even better tale to tell about her birth when she gets older. … Around 6:30 a.m., crews responded in a matter of minutes to call of a person in labor. Two troopers from the Minnesota State Patrol and North Ambulance first responders assisted the Minneapolis Fire Department in delivering the baby girl on Interstate 94 near the Lowry Hill Tunnel in Minneapolis.”

It isn’t cheap, doing God’s work. Says Rachel Stassen-Berger in the PiPress: “On a warm spring evening inside a Minnesota Senate Building hearing room, the lobbyists were anxiously waiting to see how their clients did in the Legislature’s tax plan. So many Capitol-watchers stuffed into the 150-person capacity room that Friday that some sat on floors and others stood in what little space there was to spare. When printouts of the tax plan were finally ready to be distributed that May day, the lobbyists pounced on the documents in a frenzy. That tableau, repeated again and again in Capitol hearing rooms, shows how much Minnesota lobbying has grown. Since 2002, lobbying interests have spent nearly $800 million trying to influence government officials. The amount spent per year has doubled, and the number of new lobbying clients seeking to make themselves heard has tripled, according to a Pioneer Press analysis of Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board data.”

So which one of them had the Sunday growler account? KARE-TV reports, “It’s been a busy year for the brewing industry in Minnesota. Especially since Minneapolis and St. Paul joined a growing list of cities allowing growler sales on Sundays. For more than a year, Sundays haven’t been the same at Fair State Brewing Cooperative in northeast Minneapolis. ‘Growler sales have been huge ever since day one,’ said Evan Sallee of Fair State Brewing Cooperative. CEO & co-founder Evan Sallee says that success comes from a once untapped market in Minnesota. ‘Sunday is definitely far and away our biggest day for growler sales. We probably sell four or five time as many growlers on a Sunday as opposed to a normal day,’ explained Sallee. Shortly after the new state law took effect in the summer of 2015, Minneapolis passed a measure allowing the sale of growlers on Sundays. St. Paul followed suit, it’ll be one year on July 5.”

Rogers. It’s booming. Stribber Kelly Smith says, “Rogers is the last city on westbound Interstate 94 in Hennepin County but the first city more residents and businesses are calling home. The northwest metro suburb is the fastest growing city in Minnesota — and it isn’t slowing down, with plans for more large-scale housing and industrial developments over the next few years.”

Finally, a truly sad item from MPR. Pat Pheifer of the Strib says, “Toni Randolph, an award-winning journalist at Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) who championed diverse voices in news stories and newsrooms and mentored the next generation of young reporters, died Sunday. She was 53. Randolph joined MPR as a reporter in 2003 and covered everything from the St. Paul Winter Carnival to homelessness and immigration issues. She was named news editor for new audiences in June 2010; at that time, it was a new position aimed at connecting with ethnically diverse Minnesotans. In a memo to colleagues Sunday, MPR’s executive director for news and programming, Nancy Cassutt, said Randolph died ‘while undergoing surgery for cancer treatment.’” 

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Doug Gray on 07/05/2016 - 09:52 am.

    There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend

    Those with a rope around the foot, and the people who have the job of doing the cutting.

Leave a Reply