December 16, 2018
Garrison Keillor returns to Crooner’s with singer Christine DiGiallonardo & pianist Richard Dworsky. Shows at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
New York, NY
December 2, 2018
A mini Prairie Home reunion featuring Garrison Keillor, Rob Fisher, Fred Newman, and Heather Masse and Christine DiGiallonardo.
November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
I beseech thee, O Yellow Pages… by Barbara Hamby, from All-Night Lingo Tango. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
I beseech thee, O Yellow Pages, help me find a number
for Barbara Stanwyck, because I need a tough broad
in my corner right now. She’ll pour me a tumbler
of scotch or gin and tell me to buck up, show me the rod
she has hidden in her lingerie drawer. She has a temper,
yeah, but her laugh could take the wax off a cherry red
Chevy. “Shoot him,” she’ll say merrily, then scamper
off to screw an insurance company out of another wad
of dough. I’ll be left holding the phone or worse, patsy
in another scheme, arrested by Edward G. Robinson
and sent to Sing Sing, while Barb lives like Gatsby
in Thailand or Tahiti, gambling the night away until the sun
rises in the east, because there are some things a girl can be sure
of, like the morning coming after night’s inconsolable lure.
It’s the birthday of Noah Webster, (books by this author) born in Hartford, Connecticut (1758). He’s best known as a lexicographer and a spelling reformer, and it’s his surname that makes up half of the title of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. He came from a landed Yankee family and went to Yale. He was a political activist, devoted to making America culturally independent from Britain. He was a prolific writer and he was a very serious scholar.
But he was also famously witty. Once, he was undressing the cleaning lady when his wife walked into his study and found them. His wife exclaimed, “Noah, I’m surprised!” The distinguished lexicographer, always a champion of accurate word usage, replied: “No, my dear. I am surprised. You are astonished.”
It’s the birthday of the man considered by many to be the world’s greatest wit: Oscar Wilde, (books by this author) born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, in Dublin (1854). He’s the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Salome (1891), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He once said, “Anybody can write a three-volume novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.”
He was a brilliant conversationalist. Anecdotes abound about his famous retorts. Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (books by this author) wrote in his memoir about how he once had dinner with Wilde: “His conversation left an indelible impression upon my mind. He towered above us all, and yet had the art of seeming to be interested in all that we could say. He had delicacy of feeling and tact. … He took as well as gave, but what he gave was unique. He had a curious precision of statement, a delicate flavour of humour and a trick of small gestures to illustrate his meaning, which were peculiar to himself.”
There are entire books devoted to Oscar Wilde’s one-liners. It was Wilde who said, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” And he said, “Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.” And also, “To be premature is to be perfect.”
His most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest, opened in London on Valentine’s Day 1895; he was 40 years old. A few months later, he was convicted of “acts of gross indecency,” meaning that he had a male lover. He was sentenced to two years hard labor. When he got out of prison he moved to Paris, where his health deteriorated and he died at the age of 46 in a seedy hotel, at which he was registered under the name Sebastian Melmoth. Poet W.H. Auden later wrote: “From the beginning Wilde performed his life and continued to do so even after fate had taken the plot out of his hands.”
Oscar Wilde said, “Life is never fair. … And perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.”
It’s the birthday of German novelist Günter Grass (books by this author), born in Danzig, Germany (1927), which is now Gdansk, Poland. He has written many novels, but is probably most famous for his first, The Tin Drum (1959), about a three-year-old boy who refuses to grow up so that he can escape the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Grass’s parents ran a grocery store, but week after week they barely broke even. All of Günter’s friends got allowances, but he never got anything. Finally, after he had pestered his mother so many times she couldn’t stand it anymore, she gave him the list of everyone who bought food on credit and owed the store money, and told her son to walk around the town asking them to repay their debt; if you can collect the money, she said, I’ll give you a percentage of it. So he became a successful debt collector — and finally got an allowance — when he was about 10 years old. Also when he was 10, he joined the Jungvolk, the junior version of Hitler’s youth group, and then became part of Hitler Youth. He volunteered for submarine service, and at the age of 17 he was drafted into the Waffen-SS, Hitler’s elite corps.
Throughout his career, it was public knowledge that Grass was part of the Hitler Youth and the army, but the fact that he was a member of the Waffen-SS did not emerge until he published his memoir Peeling the Onion in 2007. People were outraged. For many years he had been considered a moral voice of Germany in regard to the era of Nazism, and the fact that he had kept this piece of his past hidden caused many people to question everything he had ever said. In 1985, Grass had said it was a “defilement of history” when Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl laid wreaths at a cemetery that turned out to contain the graves of Waffen-SS soldiers, and now that he revealed himself to have been one, he was quickly labeled a hypocrite. Critics grew so angry that they called on him to return the Nobel Prize in literature, which he had won in 1999. They thought he should be stripped of honorary titles and publicly apologize. The controversy shocked and saddened Grass. He said: “The public’s reaction hit me very hard. It was unexpected. I couldn’t sleep at night. It was Tristram Shandy who helped me get over it all, to put everything in perspective. It made me laugh again, even though I didn’t have anything to laugh about. I saw Laurence Sterne dealing with his critics in the book and I admired the sharp, precise and witty way he did it.”
In Peeling the Onion he wrote: “An imprecise memory sometimes comes a matchstick’s length closer to the truth, albeit along crooked paths. It is mostly objects that my memory rubs against, my knees bump into, or that leave a repellent aftertaste: the tile stove … the frame used for beating carpets behind the house … the toilet on the half-landing … the suitcase in the attic … a piece of amber the size of a dove’s egg … If you can still feel your mother’s barrettes or your father’s handkerchief knotted at four corners in the summer heat or recall the exchange value of various jagged grenade- and bomb splinters, you will know stories — if only as entertainment — that are closer to reality than life itself.”
His other books include Cat and Mouse (1961), Dog Years (1963), Crabwalk (2002), and Of All that Ends (published posthumously in 2016).
It’s the birthday of the American playwright Eugene O’Neill (books by this author), born in a Broadway hotel room in New York City (1888). His father was a famous actor, and O’Neill spent much of his childhood in hotels and on trains, following his father on tours. He went to Princeton, but he was expelled after a year. He got a series of odd jobs, then went off on a gold-prospecting expedition in Honduras, where he contracted malaria. After he recovered, he tried out sailing, vaudeville acting, and writing for a small-town newspaper. In 1912, he fell sick again with tuberculosis and spent six months in a sanatorium. While he was there, he began to read classic playwrights and modern innovators like Ibsen and Strindberg.
When he was released, he began writing furiously, coming out with 11 one-act plays in just a few years. In 1916, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he fell in with a group that would become known as the Provincetown Players, which included writers like Susan Glaspell and Robert Edmond Jones. The group began producing O’Neill’s plays on a regular basis, and they helped to revolutionize American theater.
In 1920, his play Beyond the Horizon became a popular and critical success on Broadway, and it won the Pulitzer Prize. He would go on to win two more Pulitzers in the next eight years, for Anna Christie (1922) and Strange Interlude (1928). He won the Nobel Prize in 1936. After Shakespeare and Shaw, O’Neill is the most widely presented and translated dramatist in the English-speaking world.
He said: “One should either be sad or joyful. Contentment is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers.”