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Claudia Danielson

5 Surprising Facts About Garrison Keillor

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Claudia Danielson

On this day 73 years ago, storyteller/author/musician/professional hometowner Garrison Keillor was born in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, or so he’d have us believe. (Anoka, Minnesota is his actual birthplace.)

For more than 40 years, Keillor has served as public radio’s correspondent to yesteryear (a post which, very sadly, he recently announced he’s giving up). Despite the thousands of Keillor's own stories that you've probably heard, there might yet be a few things you don’t know about the man behind those yarns.

1. HIS NAME IS NOT GARRISON KEILLOR.

His legal name—officially and continuously since birth—is actually Gary Edward Keillor. But to his millions of fans, he will always go by the name that he proudly picked for himself at age 13: Garrison.

2. HE ONCE LIVED IN A HALFWAY HOUSE.

As Keillor told The Atlantic in 1997, his post-grad job hunt kicked off with a month-long “funny trip” to New York City, during which he wrote "tryout" pieces for The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated—all while lodging in “a boarding house on West 19th Street that turned out to be a halfway house for people getting out of the loony bin.” He recalled:

“The residents sat in the dayroom, stunned by Thorazine, and jabbered; I sat and recorded some of their thoughts, imagining that I'd write a story about this. One man claimed to have known Dorothy Parker. I listened to him talk about Dotty for hours, trying to decide if he was telling the truth or not, and finally decided I didn't care.”

3. PLAYGIRL NAMED HIM ONE OF THE SEXIEST MEN ALIVE IN 1986.

As The Telegraph reported, the "foremost shy person and good-looking man of mythical Lake Wobegon" made the list alongside Bruce Willis, Michael J. Fox, Donald Trump, Billy Crystal, Don Ameche, and Bob Dole. While Playgirl officials stated that the year's list was based on "a sexuality beyond looks," Keillor's friends and colleagues were still "baffled."

"I'm ... surprised," Minnesota Public Radio Bill Kling president told The Telegraph. "Good thing it's a radio show and not on television so we can keep his attractiveness a Twin Cities secret." Howard Mohr, a fellow writer and performer on “A Prairie Home Companion,” shared his theory of how the sultry spokesman for Powder Milk Biscuits made the list: "I haven't noticed he has an amazing effect on women, but I haven't paid any attention to that. His voice is probably what's attractive to women. But there's no explaining public taste."

4. HE HAS A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH WRITING.

During an onstage interview with The Paris Review in 1994, the accomplished author was asked if the process of writing is a pleasurable one for him—a query that the famously smooth-talking radio host had some trouble answering:

“Sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be; you still have to do your work. [Making deadlines] can be pleasurable, but only if the material you write is good. If it’s not, you’re filled with self-loathing. If the material is good and funny, you still loathe yourself, of course, for writing comedy and lighthearted fluff instead of writing serious and loathsome fiction, but ... What was your question?”

5. HE MOVED TO DENMARK TO ESCAPE THE BURDENS OF FAME.

Published in June of 1985, Lake Wobegon Days sold more than one million copies in one year, turning the well-liked radio host into a bona fide celebrity—a lifestyle that didn’t sit well with Keillor. “Keillor said he felt forced to give up his home when the local press took too much interest in his private life," wrote The Hour. "'It bewildered me. I had no idea what they were aiming at,' said Keillor."

Much to his fans’ disappointment, Keillor indeed left the show—and the country—between 1987 and 1989, living with then-wife Ulla Skaerved in her native Denmark. Speaking via satellite at a press conference for his “A Prairie Home Companion: Lake Wobegon Comes to Disney” event, Keillor explained the benefits of immersing oneself in anonymity:

"Well, if you've ever been to a country where they don't speak English as a rule, and if you have made your living all these years writing and talking in English, it's a great vacation to go and listen to a foreign language for a while. It just relieves you of any responsibility to be intelligent. You can just be handsome for a change ... Everybody ought to have Denmark as a possibility out there in the future somewhere—wherever you think you might need it."

In the end, though, America's small-town comforts are essential for Keillor. As he points out in We Are Still Married: Stories and Letters, “Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.”

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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

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