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April 10, 2008 | 12 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I'm a 22 year old college student with funny hair and funny piercings and funny tattoos. I absolutely adore your show and look forward to it every Sunday. After recently getting a PBS logo tattooed on my lower back (instead of a tribal butterfly), my tattoo artist suggested a portrait of you to show my adoration of your craft. We both really dig Praire Home Companion and you. What is your response. Your face, my bicep ?

Heather M.
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Heather, Heather. I am a 65-year-old writer with thinning hair and a pierced heart and no tattoos and I adore your letter and your spirit but I would be horrified if you had my likeness tattooed on your bicep. You asked and that's the answer, darling. It's only a radio show and these things come and go and in two years you'll be on to other things but the tattoo will hang around and when you're 35 you'll look at it and wonder, What was I thinking? You'll feel odd about wearing a short-sleeved shirt because you'll be sick of people asking you, Who is that? "Oh, somebody I used to know," you'll say. Why burden yourself with this? Life is about change and staying light on your feet and being free, and a tattoo, dear Heather, is Baggage. And your skin is lovely as it is and needs no decoration. Wait until you're 50 and your skin isn't so great and you have a better idea who you are. Check with me then, and if you want a picture of a 92-year-old guy on your bicep, hey, why not.


Oh Garrison, your answer is a bit disappointing as I recently did have your likeness tattooed on my back as the first of a series depicting NPR history. You were going to be next to Earplay and just south of Scott Simon. Oh well, maybe I can add a beard and turn you into Neal Conan.

John S
Lewes, DE

What a great answer!! Sensitive and supportive but firm. I hope she writes back when she's 50.

I loved your comment about the tattoo. I sometime think that in about 50 years there are going to be a lot of old women running around with tattoos. You're right when you call them baggage. Thanks for such a good explanation. BTW I listen to your show every morning and I try and get your PHC every Saturday, but if I miss any of it I get the repeat on Sunday. Keep the humor going.


Dear Garrison,
I copied your response to Heather about tatoos, and will send it to my grandchildren. I have frequently spoken to them discouraging tatoos, and especially appreciate your words. And... as a retired nurse, I can tell them that 20 years from now those tatoos will be really ugly!

Dear Garrison,
That was such a great response to the person who wants a tattoo of your face on the bicep. I agree wholeheartedly.
George Brolaski M.D.

Dear Garrison,
I too enyoyed your response to Heather, but in 27 years who can remember any of this? So here is a win-win suggestion for the present. Perhaps you would consider a tattoo of 22 year-old Heather on your bicep, and she would promise to return in kind in 2035.

Dear Garrison, I also agree whole-heartedly with your answer. I am one of your biggest fans, but I would never dream of having you tattooed on any of my body parts. You are so much bigger than that! And you are correct, she will tire of people asking her "Who is that?" Although I recently heard a great response to that, and other nosey questions...."Why do you want to know?" Thanks for many, many hours of entertainment, Garrison.

Be kind to the dear fan. How about a nice autographed photo for her as a compromise.

I think it is wonderful that Heather has a PBS tattoo which is forever. She should get a tattoo of you, just like her PBS tattoo. Heather is the model for a new generation of NPR and PBS fans.

Your answer to Heather was perfect. Waiting until she's 50 is exactly right. I spent endless hours trying to dissuade my beautiful niece from getting tattoos, to no avail. But then, when I turned 50, I decided to join her rather than fight. She was my escort to a very reputable tattoo parlor (I may be in mid-life crisis, but I'm not stupid...)and when she asked excitedly what I was going to get done, I told her a portrait of Garrison Keillor, the sexiest voice on radio. I burst out laughing at the shocked look on her face. But really, I was only half kidding... I ended up with a Julia butterfly (Dryas julia) on the back of my neck, a place that will neither sag nor wrinkle, is hidden by my long hair when I need to look my age, but can be shown off by putting my hair up when I'm in the mood to confuse people. Although my niece wants to know what I will do when I turn 51, I think I'm done with body art. But I still feel a little wistful about that smart, witty man with the amazing voice...


As a 30 some year old adult with nearly that many tattoos, I laud the young woman for asking Mr. Keilor's opinion on the subject. I hope she does not take his frank yet gracious answer too hard, but thems the breaks. I am amused to hear about the alledged PBS logo: if she had to have a logo, at least it is one that we can all stand behind in good concience ( ; .

As to being 50 and tattooed, I look forward to it; I hope she will look at her choices as fondly as will mine!

I love your response to Heather and your comments on tattoos. I am sending it to my daughters, age 19 and 24. You know what Jimmy Buffett says about tattoos? "A permanent reminder of a temporary feeling." By the way, I am a 53 year old woman who listens to your voice every weekend and goes to bed with you every night.

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