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January 29, 2007 | 17 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor
Just wondering why you were so mean-spirited about the city of Philadelphia this past show in Philadelphia, PA on January 27th. You went out of your way to remind us--and your national audience, of unpleasant events in our past; a barrage of mud spewed from your microphone regarding events that happened over 20 years ago. Was it to egg us on to boo you? Which we did. That had to be a first for you. I don't recall similar attacks on the character of cities you preformed in; you never mentioned rampant gang violence in Los Angeles or the high homicide rate in Dallas. You have lost your shine with my wife and I. We'll still listen, but it can never be the same. Philadelphia is a wonderful city to visit--and live in. We welcomed you here with a sold-out show and you treated us with disdain.

Edward S., Jr.
Philadelphia, PA

Other Philadelphians who were at the show went out of their way to thank me for the little essay on their city and they felt that it was complimentary. At a reception afterward, one man said, "You let us off easy," and a roomful of people nodded. The show was anything but disdainful. Go back and listen to it again. I think Philly is a great city that is on the rise. A lot of young people are discovering it and finding that it has big city advantages along with pretty reasonable rents. And that it's interesting and lively. But the city has its problems, including corruption and violence, and the bombing of the rowhouses in 1985 was a historic event. As for the booing, it was a joke, as you would know if you had been there. I mentioned the Eagles fans who booed Santa Claus at a game at the end of a lousy season and the audience responded a few minutes later by booing me. They were laughing as they did it. I felt honored.


I found the booing to be a refeshing change of pace from the usual trained seal lovefest that passes for APHC audience. For a moment there, it was Live At The Apollo! I'm not sure it was entirely meant in fun as GK can be heard arguing with someone off mike ("I know it was a long time ago, but...")just before the cascade of vociferous boos rains upon him. If it was a joke, that's one very clever audience considering they had trouble with the second verse of America The Beautiful (if he wants us to sing along about "alabaster cities" et al., at least print the verses in the program). But GK is a big boy and a surefire pro and he handled it with aplomb. But despite the gentle political satire and occasional mordant monologue mutterings we are treated to weekly, controversy and APHC are not usually used in the same sentence, so I admit to being surprised he stepped out or into it as he did in Philadelphia. It seemed a bit clumsey, graceless and tasteless in context of praising his host city. Sort of like insulting someone in a wedding toast. Not that Philly (or Boston or Chicago, etc. still doesn't have big issues vis-a-vis race relations or political corruption. But I don't think Jack Benny ever raised the power fist during a show)Now, if you want a GK who pulls no punches, read his weekly newspaper column or Homegrown Democrat where an aging, cantankerous wit is on full Menckenesque display for all to enjoy.

My Wife & I thoroughly enjoyed our 1st "live"
show even way up in Verizon Hall's Tier 3 (binoculars helped). I hope you'll come back to Philadelphia and take time to look around and hear our world-class orchestra. It deserved a mention. You stood on the very stage where it performs. You must have performed with them a few years ago when you recited Poe's "Raven" at a Halloween concert with claret trickling from the side of your mouth.
Another reason we boo is because of "the curse of Billy Penn". There used to be a gentlemens agreement that no city building could be taller than Billy Penn's hat atop city hall. Since Liberty Place One shot way past that chapeau in the early 1980's - NONE OF PHILLY'S 4 TOP PRO TEAMS HAS WON ANY KIND OF CHAMPIONSHIP- we've come agonizingly close, but were always denied.
We lust for a parade. Sometime the futility of it all is just too much - its either boo incompetancy or go into psychotherapy.
By the way- its "FLUFF-YA" if you live south of Pine St.
Finally, I don't think Tim Russell and Sue Scott get enough props - they are so damn good!
All of you are - just a jewelcase of a company.
May you all prosper in the year ahead - and please come back to Philadelphia; the sooner the better.

In 1995, The Simpsons had an episode called 'Bart vs Australia'. It was a big deal of course here in Australia, and Channel 10 went to the expense of getting a satellite feed so that it would be broadcast here just a couple hours after the US had seen it. Local newspapers joined in the frenzy and published special lift-outs celebrating the wonderful occasion.

But then the show came on in primetime with a quarter of the country watching and was very irreverent, as is its way, and portrayed Australians as being orange, kangaroo-riding thugs easily outwitted by a 10 year old cartoon boy, and there was outcry, and for a solid week politicians jostled to decry the episode, and a halfhearted attempt to boycott American TV was tossed around, and then the next week the Simpson's made lighthearted fun of someone else and everyone here forgot.

I guess the point is, I listened to the broadcast and I've been to Philadelphia, and both were great. Garrison's essay was affectionate, not attacking, and in this day and age it's important to know the difference.

In the Monday January 29 edition of "Metro", Clark DeLeon (not one to mince words) wrote an analysis of the weekend of GK and the Royals coming to town. I agree with Clark's conclusion that GK not only tipped his hat to the host city, "...but for Philadelphia, he genuflected."
It was a great show. Thank You PHC.
p.s. I was there when we booed Santa.

Chris McConnell Malvern, PA

Was at the show on Saturday in Philadelphia and just loved it. My husband introduced me to your show a few years back but could never get it. Now I do and love it. Your outlook on our fair city was right on except there are more then Italians in our Mummers parade.Polish, Irish and Germans are there as well.

All I can say is keep up the good work, please come back. PHC is a fine show pure Americana, God Bless you all and be well.

My husband and I, along with 6 other friends attended the show in Philadelphia last Saturday evening. Although we had a very enjoyable evening, we all felt that spotlighting the issues that Philadelphia has struggled with and is currently struggling with, was not necessary.

As one of our friends explained, our city is in the midst of a major crisis with the murder rate situation. Believe me when I say, everyone who lives in and around Philadelphia is painfully aware of this crisis. Perhaps your forum could be used to challenge the head of the NRA to change the gun laws in this country, not to publicly embarras us even further on a national level.

As for the MOVE debacle, yes that was a mess, but that also occurred over 20 years ago!

We'll forgive you though Mr. Keillor (this time).
Next time you'll get a bigger Philadelphia BOOOO.

I for one am still pissed over Mr Keillor bringing up the MOVE event, just to elicit the boos. And judging from the reply, it's seems he has acquired President Bush's tin ear for criticism. To have sycophants agree with an attack on our city as proof that it was "okay" doesn't make it acceptable.
Will this week's joke show include the old tasteless bit - "other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

I did attend the show in Philadelphia. The audience did not want to boo; we were all loyal and happy fans. GK went on a short tirade of the city's past misadventures (he didn't mention the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 though) that, upon a second listening of the show, reaffirmed my suspicions that he wanted us to boo. Part of a grand joke I suppose--and we supplied the punchline.

As a transplanted Philadelphian, I couldn't wait to hear the show, and I was not disappointed. I even learned a few things about the city I still consider my hometown, even though I have been gone for 17 years.

I thought the monologue was wonderful and complimentary on the whole. The MOVE fire was a tragic event, and the mention of it painful, but it is a prominent part of the history of the city and I do not begrudge its inclusion in the monologue.

I still remember the night it happened, May 13, 1985. I was studying for an exam that I had to take at work the next day, and for some reason, I turned on the TV and saw an entire city block engulfed in flames. It was a horrific sight that I will never be able to forget. The level of incompetence before, during, and after the fire persuaded me that Philadelphia was a lost cause, and the smart money was moving out. And so, a few years later, I did.

I am pleased to see a renaissance of sorts in the city, but I regret that it seems to suffer still from a provincialism and meanness that hinders its development. It's like the schoolyard bully who builds himself up by knocking others down. That's no way to excel in the big world outside the schoolyard.

It takes 30 years to get PHC to Philly and people complain. I have lived here for forty years and I still don't understand. People here would complain if they won the lottery (not enough, too much, should won it earlier).

The show was great. GK was great. We, the audience loved it. And GK is right, the booing was a sign of fondness. Come back, soon. I don't think I have another 30 years.

Hopefully GK saw the Mummers outside who, although they were there to perform for the swells, began playing as soon they got off the bus and saw the crowd, many from the show.

Godspeed, thanks for coming.

Al Fischer

I listened the Philadelphia show while making dinner in my tiny kitchen in Chicago. I spent my first 17 years in Philadelphia and GK's essay was smack-on, wonderful and the best modern synopsis of the town I ever heard on any media.

Philadelphia is, in fact, a forgotten, overlooked city. It's place in American history aside what is left? Rocky Balboa? Frank Rizzo? MOVE? A cannibalistic serial killer? Hey Ed, Philly ain't pretty, you should be glad Garrison stuck to the minor blemishes.

I was heartbroken that I could not attend the PHC performance at the Kimmel Center. It was not lack of a ticket, as I have a show on WHYY in Philadelphia and could have shown up pretending to be working. But alas, I was on (a slightly smaller) stage at The Home Show at the PA Convention Center at the exact same time, an agonizing six or eight blocks distant, and yet a world away. I manged to hear the first and last half hours live on a scratchy backstage radio that evening, and intend to listen to the rest tonight. (Thank you, GK, for making it available; my wife ran a tape, but it bunched up worse than boxer shorts on a hot day in St. Louis). However, I write now not about my scheduling issues and technical challenges, but to stand up for our fair city ("Phil-Elf-Ya") with an important correction:I do not believe that 'we' booed Santa Claus at a football game. I am fairly certain that our proud Iggles fans instead booed The Easter Bunny during a game. Santa Claus, as I recall, we threw snowballs at.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
---Mike McGrath, host of "You Bet Your Garden" on WHYY-FM

It's a shame you didn't get the joke Ed. Growing up here and loving this city I could do nothing but laugh as Garrison poked fun at us. Nothing was false, nothing was inaccurate. I agree with Steve M. 'Philly ain't pretty' but there are only few places like it. Where else can you find a city who has an icon that doesn't even exist (Rocky). If Garrison ever comes back to the city (which I hope is soon) get in touch with me and I'll take your tickets.

As a Philadelphian now living in England. I enjoyed listening to the Philly show on the computer yesterday. Philly is one of a kind and we all should be proud that GK brought PHC to Philly. GK was dead on about Philly. I just wished we were there to see the show. I was homesick when GK talked about the high/lows of Philly. He did hit the nail on the head.
But, that's Philly and people better get use to it. I just hope next time GK will have the Mummers perform and perhaps Dame Helen Mirren as well. I would give a year's salary to see Dame Helen and GK together in Philly...the city where we declared our freedom from can only imagine the script for Dame Helen Mirren and GK. Please come back to Philly soon Garrison!
If not.. come to Weston super Mare and show the Brits here what PHC is all about.

Weston super Mare (home of John Cleese)

I grew up in Abington, a suburb of Philadelphia, but am writing tis mail from Bonn, Germany ... my home since 1991, before Bonn I lived in Berlin since 1988. Political corruption, ABSCAM, MOVE (I was living at 9th and Spruce then, in Center City ... it was Spring 1985 ... I looked out the window towards the west, the night sky was ablaze). APHC I have been listening to the last 6 months or so, thanks to the Internet. When in the U.S. on business, I always look to listen to it. Indeed, GK's comments about Phila. surprised me. I sensed that he might be "tweaking" the audience a bit, perhaps playfully, perhaps communicating his disdain for certain things Philadelphia. Only GK will know. Then came the boos. I felt the audience had taken the mention of those negative things in stride ... the booing a kind of acknowledgement that GK was accurate ... and that it is ok to mention the down side of a great, and historically great, American city. Perhaps that is the sign of a healthy self-confidence. No need to sugarcoat Philadelphia, therefore, no need to feel insulted. We Americans could learn from the Germans in this respect, who are very capable of engaging in critical discussions without taking it all too personally. Philadelphia is very German. Perhaps that's why GK could make those comments, the audience could boo and laugh it off at the same time. Which other APHC-host cities would have reacted in such a warm-hearted way?.

John in Germany

after reading an entry from carmen in the greetings area, apparently mr keillor's other fans didn't get the 'intended joke' as well, taking for what it appeared to be - 'big bad philadelphia' picking on 'poor garrison' for pointing out its failure to not do the proper thing twenty years ago. and judging from the current whyy-fm fundraising shortfall, the cost of bad manners is one hundred thousand dollars. please clearify this with the national audience and apologize to the local following.

We are longtime PHC fans--over 20 years, and have traveled to hear GK before. The last time we went to the Jersey shore to hear recycled material.

After reading the Post to the Host, I took his challenge to listen to the segment, which I had not heard. Interesting. These "host city" things are usually overwhelmingly positive, with the audience just glowing. A bit of a love fest, and a bit fake, for sure, but that's the usual template of the segment. I'm a native midwesterner but have lived in this world class city with a low self image for almost 30 years. I think the analogy above that parts of this segment were "graceless and tasteless... like insulting someone in a wedding toast" was apt. I found it interesting also, to read the suggestion that GK was trying to provoke the audience into booing, however goodnatured his tweaking and their response might be. His reaching for negative incidents deserved the boos. Philadelphians of all races and classes are smart people with taste. I suspect that Santa was booed, not because he was Santa, but because he was doing something dumb.

Maurya in Philadelphia

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