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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Garrison Keillor Visits ODU, Broadcasts ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ from Constant Center

Garrison Keillor recently turned 70 - an accomplishment that came as something of a shock because it was not something he intended to do. Host of the popular longtime radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," Keillor made the remark to Old Dominion University faculty members, staff and students during an hour-long question-and-answer session last week at the Goode Theatre.

"My intent was to die young and thereby become immortal like James Dean and Buddy Holly. Like Janice Joplin," the humorist/storyteller quipped to the communication and theatre arts department group, which gathered on May 2 inside ODU's new theater on Monarch Way. "But I didn't have access to heroin or to charter a plane or drive the sort of sports car James Dean was driving."

When 30 rolled around, Keillor said he realized he was "too old to die young" and instead set out to achieve longevity.

Keillor held forth for an hour, answering all of the questions that were submitted. Responding to a query about his favorite part of the show, he admitted that he really doesn't like the hosting part of the show nearly as much as he does singing harmony with many of the guest musicians.

Today, about 4 million listeners tune in each week to "A Prairie Home Companion" on more than 600 public radio stations in the United States, with additional listeners tuned in abroad to America One and the Armed Forces Networks in Europe and the Far East. That's a far cry from the show's inaugural performance on July 6, 1974, at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., which attracted 12 audience members.

"A Prairie Home Companion" is a variety show that features live musical performances and Keillor's well-known storytelling segment, "News from Lake Wobegon."

Keillor was at ODU in advance of a May 4 event at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, where the radio show was broadcast before a live audience as part of the Virginia Arts Festival.

During the Saturday-evening program, Keillor made several references to ODU and Norfolk, including that the show was being broadcast from the Ted Constant Convocation Center, "the basketball arena at Old Dominion University."

In addition to mentioning ODU President John R. Broderick and the university's student population of 25,000, Keillor told his loyal listeners: approximately a quarter of ODU students are military affiliated; the university has strong programs in engineering, physics and oceanography; and an effort is under way by faculty researchers to study sea level rise in the area. Keillor also made reference to the new Confucius Institute at ODU.

He remarked, as well, about the beautiful azaleas on campus and "magnolia trees everywhere you look," and added the following aside: "It's finals week and you see students walking around and talking to themselves - they're reviewing, that's what they're doing."

To listen to audio highlights of the ODU broadcast, or to watch videos of the performances, go to the Prairie Home Companion website.

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