Radio personality now more real

19:27, Feb 24 2013

Ever heard of Garrison Keillor?

I hadn't until five or six years ago, when I saw a documentary movie called Prairie Home Companion about the making of a regular radio show of the same name in front of a live audience in Minnesota, one of the big, flat, ranching states up near the Canadian border in the United States.

It was a mildly interesting movie about Keillor, the writer and presenter of the programme who appeared to have a bit of a cult following.

A few weeks later, I was driving home after work one night and found I was listening to a broadcast on Radio New Zealand of the weekly programme. Keillor was talking about Lake Wobegon, a small (fictitious) town in Minnesota where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average".

I pulled into the garage, turned the car off and was still sitting there half an hour later.

Since then I have listened to Keillor many times, with his weekly update about the good folks living by the lake. If you've never heard him, best check him out on late night Radio NZ or You Tube.



Keillor is a great writer, a good story teller and a broadcaster with a laid-back, droll style. But his stories are funny and his delivery is superb.

And then last week I met a man - a Minnesota man living in Sydney and on holiday in Marlborough - who knew Keillor. As the conversation went along it turned out he knew him well.

He talked about growing up playing with the biggest slot car set he'd ever seen, which was in Keillor's living room. He remembered him being really tall with a huge Adam's apple. Turns out his father had been one of Keillor's professors at college and they had remained strong friends.

He told stories that turned Keillor into a real person, not just the voice I listened to on radio. It felt like I was meeting the man. Almost.

To quote Walt Disney, "It's a small, small world."