Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
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March 27, 2008 |
Dear Mr. Keillor:
We are excited to see the show in Milwaukee on May 10 at the Milwaukee Theater. Did you know you will be performing in the same venue where Theodore Roosevelt gave an 80-minute speech moments after he was shot in the chest, in October of 1912? You're familiar with the story, of course, that the manuscript of his speech was stowed in his breast pocket and slowed the bullet enough to save his life. There's a plaque in front of the Hyatt, where the shooting took place a couple of blocks away. It was the Gilpatrick Hotel back then. The Milwaukee Theater was the Milwaukee Auditorium at the time. It's since been beautifully redone.
There is a nice symmetry to the story, John. The length of the speech made for a thick manuscript which saved his life and in gratitude he gave the entire thing, unabridged, and no doubt enjoyed the tremendous fuss and anxiety in the wings. It's hard to imagine a time when presidents travelled about with only a couple of plainclothesmen to protect them and a few city cops. But when the show was in Iceland a couple years ago, I was invited to dine with the president of Iceland, Olafur Grimsson, and drove out to the presidential mansion, which sits at the end of a long straight driveway with no visible security. I walked to the front door and knocked and the president opened it. There was a uniformed naval attache with him but very little other security that I could see. The Scandinavian countries are rather proud of their low security, even after the assassination of the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme who was attending a movie with his wife, no bodyguards. The ability of a leader to walk freely among the people is, I suppose, a test of the national civility. But the shock and horror of an assassination is too much for a country to bear. Anyway, we're looking forward to Milwaukee and I hope to get over to the Pfister Hotel and sit in the lounge in the lobby and listen to that terrific piano player. If there is a song about Theodore Roosevelt, I'll bet he knows it.