Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

March 20, 2007 | 9 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
As a loyal fan (even during the hiatus years) since 1978, I cannot help but wonder when "A Prairie Home Companion" will feature a talent show for us chronologically challenged types who have talent, but not youth.

The world may truly belong to youth and the young, but don't we — the not-so-young — deserve what may be our last chance to wrest a morsel of air time from those who will ultimately inherit our jobs, fortunes and breathing space as we slip off into that good night?

Is there even a glimmer of a chance that us over-50 types will have our own opportunity to (metaphorically, if not oxymoronically) shine over the radio airwaves?

Waiting hopefully,
The Forgotten Middle-Aged Talent

You touch my heart, dear, but the truth is that America wants youth. Them is the breaks. Time runs out eventually. Age does dreadful things to the human voice, not to mention the memory and coordination. We've held innumerable talent contests and almost every time, the youngest contestant has been voted first prize by the audience. Some worthy person my age stands up and strums and warbles and the crowd listens politely and then a 12-year-old girl with braces and wavy blonde hair and glasses comes out in her plaid skirt and Mary Janes and sings "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and that's it, it's over, hello Heidi, goodbye gramps. Shirley Temple upstaged Bill (Bojangles) Robinson and kids have been doing it ever since. So we'll do the Talent Under Thirty contest in April and let the youngsters fight it out among themselves and you and I can sit off to the side and make sardonic comments.


So...why not have talent shows in the 40-60 range, or some such other arrangement?

Cady has a point. And to be honest, there is TOO MUCH emphasis placed on youth and it is to the detriment of young and old alike to shove everyone else aside to cater to this kind of thing.

Replace age with race, gender, or any other thing that cannot be changed and that a person does not choose for her or himself, and we call it racism. But with age and weight, discrimination seems to be perfectly acceptable.

I reject these notions, and so should everyone else. What's more, I rejected them while I was still myself in the 12 to 20 range, because to be honest, I found that the company of people who were older was far more rewarding anyway.

Discrimination is discrimination. And it should not be tolerated.

I too can count over 50 rings on my "trunk." I have been told by my coworkers that I have a wonderful voice. They envy me when I make announcements "The library is closing please...", yes I am a young looking 51 yr old librarian.

Others have commented that I have an attractive voice too. In a previous job I spoke mostly to men over the phone. Well,,, they were more than attentive. How can I share my voice with you and others?

diana the librarian

I have to side with cady on this. Your reply smacks of the same kind of crap that that the Nashville moguls put out to justify what they produce these days. You yourself know many wonderful entertainers that are not young and you have on your show (remember Doc Watson?). Now tell me what happened to his voice, memory and coordination.

I agree with Cady. When I heard of the contest for the young this year I thought, where is the contest for those of us who carry that beloved AARP card? Do the youth have a magazine exclusively to the young like we do through AARP? Nooooo! They have many that are segmented in many different directions. So what also may be the truth is that your program has more listeners that are older than younger. I don't know for sure, just guessing, you or someone probably has the listener demographics. Do the young people donate to your program or their local NPR radio station? If they do is it more than the older people? I give to three different NPR stations here in Michigan. People over the age of 50 UNITE!!

Why, then, does the PHC host insist on jumping in on every young guest trying to do a song of their own? (the "duet hostages"). Shouldn't he be trotting out a stand-in "mary jane" with a dewy voice to accompany guest singers on the show?

Ugh! Are you kidding me? I'm 35 and if Garrison Keillor is turning into Simon Cowell I'm so disappointed! There are plenty of talented older people who should be allowed to share their talents with the world. And who does it harm?

It's the media that sets the tone and peddles out what America "wants." That means you, pal. If you want to go the route of the crappy reality TV set, be my guest, but expect to lose loyal followers.

It's the spirit of a thing that matters. Not what's most popular. You know the difference between right and wrong, and being in a position to make people feel good about themselves and choosing instead to embrace ageism (and then posting an awful response to someone who should be ENCOURAGED, not discouraged), is beneath you.

Shame on you!

For shame, Mr. Keillor! To think that you have caved in to the prevailing zeitgeist makes me unutterably sad (well, not unutterably, 'cos here I am uttering my thoughts). I guess I gave you too much credit as an iconoclast.

I fear that your answer to Cady, Forgotten Middle-aged Talent, reveals an "I'm alright, Jack" mentality. YOU were lucky to have YOUR talent recognized before you got very old, so it's just too bad for those of us who weren't. No sympathy from you! I do hope you still realize, at least, that luck plays an enormous part in success. For there are untold thousands of us out here, actors as good as Olivier, writers as good as Hardy, painters as good as...well, you get the idea.

If Cady (or Jo) reads this, I'm with you, kiddo. A professional writer of acknowledged talent(by a few, anyway), I am behind on my rent and cannot pay for my pets' much-needed veterinary work. A slot on a PHC contest would be a welcome boost, and maybe even save me from homelessness. But no, the producers agree with "America," the amorphous and apparently stupid general public who want youth and nothing but youth. Well, and cuteness, too, presumably; and I ain't cute, not by a long chalk!

I repeat, Garrison, shame on you for being part of the rotten system that rewards an accident of birth over merit.

On the one hand, I understand Garrison's point. At least from a business perspective. NPR is, afterall, a "business." And thanks to our wonderful Republicans in congress, it must depend on marketing to the masses to financially survive. And people do typically give higher points to "little kids" who perform, and often to VERY elderly people. I wonder if that is somewhat sympathy driven in many cases?
That being said, I see having an "Under 20 Talent Show." But...I still have heard no reason why there shouldn't ALSO be a "21-35 year old talent show," and one for "40-55," and so on. I don't think the original letter from Cady was necessarily saying put everybody together in one big show, but having a few talent shows over the course of the year featuring different age groups. So what about it, Mr. K?

Good for you, Charlie, who posted a comment on Cady's original posting. Charlie points out that Garrison has on oldsters like Doc Watson and doesn't dare say anything is wrong with HIS voice, despite Garrison's reply to Cady wherein he said that time does dreadful things to the voice, etc. I am 57 and my voice is in terrific shape, not to mention my award-winning whistle!

Why don't you answer Charlie, Garrison?

And thanks to Jen, above, as well, who rightly chides Garrison for making such a discouraging reply to Cady. Of COURSE, he should be encouraging people with talent of ANY age.

I cannot get over the cruelty of the reply to Cady. When GK says "we" can sit off to the side and make snide remarks he is being so disingenuous, knowing full well that he is in a privileged position and we unsung talents are not.

Of course, one realizes that PHC cannot give everyone in America a chance at stardom; there just isn't enough time. And I would not want PHC to descend to the level of the phony "star-making" shows like American Idol, etc., etc. They are sickening and do not respect the dues-paying of show people who struggle for years to make it.

But just don't make it seem like only young people have a chance to do well, and have talent. And why not have a few age groups represented, as Buddy wisely suggests?


Quelle dommage pour nous.

Previous Post:

Next Post:

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy