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Posts Tagged ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’

Garrison Keillor, of “A Prairie Home Companion,” is a Gracious Host.

One of the things Joe and I had always wanted to do, and finally achieved this past week, was to visit St. Paul, Minnesota and The Fitzgerald Theater during a taping of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, featuring Garrison Keillor. For those of you who have never heard the show, you can listen locally on 90.5, WCBE, on Saturdays at 6 pm and Sundays at 10 am. Joe and I have listened for many years to the Sunday morning broadcasts, often while we were eating breakfast at home or in the car on our way to breakfast.

A Prairie Home Companion follows the formula of old time radio shows (there was also a movie in 2006 about the show that featured Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, and a variety of other celebrities). There are musical guests, skits, and stories, all introduced and participated in by the host, Garrison Keillor. Keillor sings, jokes, and in his soft voice weaves magical tales about his home of Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average” (we found this quote embellished on a door mat a few years ago and gave it to a friend, who believed it perfectly described his family). Keillor has also penned many, many books about the famous, but non-existent Lake Wobegon.

With the opening of A Prairie Home Companion’s 2010 season, Keillor and his compadres at The Fitzgerald Theater offered a package deal for “out of towners.” The package, which also celebrated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 114th birthday, featured a tour of many Fitzgerald sites (F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota and spent many years prior to the publication of “This Side of Paradise” in St. Paul), tickets to a taping of the radio show, and brunch on Sunday morning with Garrison Keillor.

There were whispers that the brunch on Sunday morning was actually going to be at Garrison Keillor’s house.

“No,” I scoffed. “Why would he let two hundred and fifty strangers into his home?”

On our tour of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s childhood residences, our bus ventured among the lovely homes lining Summit Avenue. These giant, historical masterpieces are architectural jewels. With a bit of internet research, Joe and I discovered that Garrison Keillor also lives in this grand neighborhood.

Imagine our surprise when, on Sunday morning, our tour bus drove us back to Summit Avenue and parked in front of a gorgeous yellow and white Georgian style home–the home of Garrison Keillor. Keillor, in his traditional radio broadcast attire–a suit jacket and red sneakers–was in the driveway welcoming everyone and inviting them through the open wrought iron gates. There were tents set up on the lawn and I thought, at first, that we would be eating breakfast there on the grass in the early morning air. But, no. With a graciousness and hospitality I have never encountered before, Garrison Keillor opened his entire home up to those of us who had come for brunch. Nothing was off limits. People trooped through the kitchen, the dining room, and even (egads, the writer in me cried out), Keillor’s office and study–the shrine where he had written all those bestsellers.

Joe and I perched on the steps of the back patio, looking out over a gorgeous view of St. Paul, eating our brunch of vegetarian quiche, fruit, and scones, still in shock that we were in a famous author’s home. Later, I crept inside the house, thinking how I would feel if hundreds of adoring fans were swarming among my books and private spaces. I saw people taking pictures of Garrison Keillor’s family photos; some played his piano; others used the bathroom. I stayed inside for only a few moments, before escaping back outside. I felt I was intruding.

Unbeknownst to Joe, while loitering on the lawn, he spoke with Garrison’s son (someone later informed Joe who exactly he had been conversing with). Joe told the man how kind it was of Garrison Keillor to open his home to us. Joe asked if that was due to Minnesota hospitality–people in Minnesota are famous for being “nice.”

“No,” said Garrison’s son, Jason, “This is just a Garrison thing.”

For three hours, Garrison Keillor stood in his driveway and spoke to everyone who wanted his attention. He did not limit their time with him. He did not shoo them away if they rambled in their conversation. He signed books and posed for photos and remained patient and charming. He treated each person as if they were his greatest fan.

Joe and I did not get in line to have our photo taken with Garrison Keillor. I was a bit star struck, unsure what I would say. The closest we came was the photo you see at the beginning of this post–Joe by the gate with Garrison Keillor in the background.

I want to thank Garrison Keillor for opening his home to us and treating hundreds of fans as if we were family, returning to Lake Wobegon for a delightful reunion.

I will always fondly recall this visit to Minnesota (even though many of the people we encountered in Minnesota could not believe we had taken a vacation there). And since we were also celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald, I must cite my favorite, though oft quoted, line from The Great Gatsby about remembering times long gone“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

I am sure my memories will carry me back often to these lovely September days wandering among the dwellings that housed Minnesota’s silver-tongued playboys.