The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes

Written by Holly on Wednesday July 1, 2009

phc_castIf you know the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," then you know Garrison Keillor. If not, then watch tonight's AMERICAN MASTERS and you'll find out. The best way I can describe him is to say he's a classic humorist and storyteller. He and his crew of actors and musicians spin stories and song into American gold.

So, how do you tell a story about a storyteller? That's the challenge faced by the producer/director, Peter Rosen. Since Keillor is somewhat of an engima, Rosen determined he could make an "enigmatic" film, using no photos, no home movies, no archival film clips and no expert interviews. He describes his favorite scene:

"I got this idea after watching him always typing his stories on his laptop - in cars, in planes, at the airports, at home, everywhere, he was always writing something. As we shot that, I began to wonder what was going on inside his head, and then actually tried to illustrate that."

typing_-_Cheryl_WalshBellvilleBut what did Mr. Keillor think of his own biography?

 "I haven't seen the Peter Rosen documentary. But I imagine it's good because THE MAN CERTAINLY TOOK A LOT OF FILM IN SHOOTING IT. He was in my house, in my car, backstage at the theater, and like all photographers or videographers, he wanted more, more, more. A truckload of videotape. Me tying my shoes. Me putting yogurt on my bran flakes. Me blowing my nose. I think he learned about video documentary from Andy Warhol. And of course after he had invested weeks and weeks and weeks in shooting the thing, I couldn't very well tell him to stop, so on and on it went. (I believe he started filming in the summer of 1969.)Endless. And each time I got divorced and started a new family, HE HAD TO GO BACK AND SHOOT EVERYTHING AGAIN. It drove me almost out of my mind and my mental health was precarious to start with. The lawsuit, I am confident, will be settled out of court. I struck Peter, but very lightly, just a slap in the face and a kick in the shins, and why he is asking three-point-six million for mental anguish, I don't know, but if we go to trial, I will have plenty to say about mental anguish. The man took years out of my life." *

 AMERICAN MASTERS "Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes" airs Wednesday, July 1 at 7pm.


* (Reprint courtesy of The Prairie Home Companion website.)