Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
I did not host the Academy Awards on Sunday for which I would like to thank the snowstorm that blew across Minnesota early on Sunday morning, high winds, blowing and drifting snow that began around 1 a.m. and got worse and worse. I was in Fergus Falls the night before and of course wanted to be available in case the Academy decided to book a host at the last minute and we saw the forecast of blizzard conditions to the south and decided to hit the road so we could catch a morning flight to LAX if the call came and my little troupe piled into the van with our tour manager Katharine at the wheel and we headed down I-94 toward Minneapolis at 70 mph with our phones at the ready.
Katharine is 25 and she is the drummer and singer in a band called Lunch Duchess when she isn’t working for me. I am 76 and am the former host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” which used to be heard on public radio, which is the FM station toward the bottom of your dial, the one with an hour-long talk show on which a woman interviews a man who has written a book decrying sight-abled bias on the part of art museums who offer no tactile experience of sculpture for the seeing-impaired.
At 76, I am a long shot to host a major awards show but that is what made it seem like a perfect idea. I grew up fundamentalist and was not allowed to go to movies and I did not set foot in a theater until I was 18 and saw “Elmer Gantry” starring Burt Lancaster as the womanizing evangelist and which might’ve made a good opening monologue, or might’ve been a disaster: AGED HOST LEAVES OSCAR CROWD COLD WITH MAUNDERING MONO: “BURT WHO?” MURMUR MANY.
I retired from radio in 2016 and was amazed at how quickly anonymity set in, like stepping off a cliff. People look at me in Kowalski’s supermarket in Minneapolis and think, “Who is the tall man with glasses? My geography teacher, Earl Spivack? An old panelist from ‘Who Do You Know?’ The guy in the news who sat down on the toilet with the coral snake inside it?” I don’t mind anonymity but what a pleasure if on Monday morning my email inbox overflowed with notes of astonishment: “I saw you on the Oscars! You looked great!” A man needs a boost now and then, especially at this age when simple online tasks such as ordering plane tickets can drive me into a frenzy. The honor of Oscar hosting would give me a chance to be nonchalant: “Well, I had the night free,” I’d say, “and my niece Erica is in LA so I figured, why not?”
So Katharine was driving and I was planning what to do if the call came. I know from my radio days that a good outfit can make up for weak material: I started wearing a tux in 1980, instead of a fringed vest and jeans and cowboy shirt, and radio listenership tripled. A tux isn’t enough for an Oscar host so I was thinking maybe I’d go for a mismatched look, a seersucker jacket, plaid pants, and a checked shirt and a tie with cartoon characters.
We hit some strong winds around 2 a.m. and blowing snow and then compacted snow but Katharine didn’t slow down, and I was impressed by the sureness of her driving. I was for many years the assumed driver, and here I was in the back seat, a young woman at the wheel, her iPhone plugged into the dash so we rode along listening to hipsterish singers and bands I’d never heard before. Somewhere between St. Cloud and Minneapolis, sailing past semis and pickups, it dawned on me that I’ve entered a new period of life when other people are in charge and I should accept this and not run for president like Bernie Sanders or try for a Vegas comeback like Lady Gaga. And that’s when I turned my phone off.
I got home and went to bed. I didn’t watch the Oscars. I hear that Tommy Hilfiger wore the outfit I’d imagined for myself and was roundly scorned for it. Who is Bradley Cooper anyway? I hope to attend a Lunch Duchess gig soon and see what all the fuss is about.