Monday, June 05, 2006

Risque red-shoed Garrison Keillor

Yeah, yeah, so I was too much of a wimp to actually go up closer—thereby admitting my true fawning fandom—to get a clear photo of the great Garrison Keillor at Barnes & Noble tonight, so this blurry job will have to do. But you're not missing much anyway, people; remember: this guy really does has a face for radio. Nonetheless, you can make out Keillor's red sneakers. (Why does it seem like I see famous people wearing incongruous red sneakers all the time? Is it a secret code or something? Like, I'm the famous one, so I get to wear the red sneakers that don't match my outfit.)

Sartorial quirks aside, it was amazing to be in the same room as the Voice for the first time. He stepped up to the podium, and launched into one of his trademark monologues, this time about the experience of making the movie of A Prairie Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman, out this Friday. The bookstore was hawking bound copies of the screenplay, and Keillor suggested that you could save on movie tickets, recreating the drama in the privacy of your own home with little cutout figures of Lindsay Lohan and Kevin Kline and eating your own popcorn, etc. He spoke of how he wasn't allowed to see movies or watch television as a child, and now here he was actually staring in one, and for years, has stood at the helm of his own radio show. He said these rules were to prevent the media from awakening carnal desires in him. Of course, Keillor said, those desires "were awake, dressed, and waiting for the bus to come" already, without much help from the movies. The first of many risque jokes he was to make during his standup.

Later, he mentioned how Virginia Madsen, who plays "Dangerous Woman," in the movie, appeared at the New York premiere the other night wearing a dress that was "cut as low as New York City municipal regulations allow." He went on: "It made you nervous that the mooring would suddenly come loose. You wanted to be nearby in case it did, to lend a hand." Keillor later described how "easy" the movie-making process really was, what with the multiple takes on every single little scene so that very little practice was necessary, the copious amounts of food available around the set, the line of town cars around the block, the cadre of female production assistants asking you if there was anything they could do for you. He spoke of sitting in a posh hotel room as a parade of TV journalists each got their seven minutes of face-to-face time with him. You sit in one place, he said, while they come in one after the other, and they tell you how much they loved the movie, and you try to make them happy in return. He said it was an activity that reminded him too much of the world's oldest profession for his Midwest sensibilities, and many times throughout the filming and promotional tour, he said he has half hoped for a mother, an English teacher, an aunt, anyone of authority, to come upon the scene and slap him with a word of reproach.

One of the reasons Keillor is so effective is that while his topics and observations range from the tearfully sublime to the mildly naughty, his basso profondo voice stays on a relatively even keel the whole time, like a rowboat on placid, imaginary Lake Wobegon. He is truly a living treasure, little boy humor and all.

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