'Prairie Home' host visits capital city

Garrison Keillor makes quiet visit to downtown bookstore

Posted: Monday, July 22, 2002

Chalk up another spotting in Juneau's annual summer celebrity hunt. Garrison Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion," was in town earlier this month.

Keillor, whose jovial voice and good-hearted humor are familiar to listeners of the long-running public radio show, dropped by downtown's Observatory bookstore July 13.

Owner Dee Longenbaugh said Keillor arrived right at closing time - about 5:15 p.m. Because he was having such a good time browsing, she didn't have the heart to ask him to leave.

"You can always tell a real book lover," Longenbaugh said. "An educated book browser is perfectly happy just looking at books. They will stay for hours and hours."

Keillor did, remaining in the shop until Longenbaugh closed up at about 7 p.m. He was primarily interested in books about Alaska, particularly about the 1940s "but not about the war," Longenbaugh said.

"Very pleasant man, very quiet," she added. "It's always a bit tricky when well-known people show up because you like to respect their privacy. When you meet people on vacation, they're not asking to be recognized. There's no press agent, no entourage, so I like to leave them alone and let them be themselves."

In the case of Keillor, who didn't say why he was in town, the question of recognition was easily solved when the radio host handed over his credit card to make his payment.

Longenbaugh's son-in-law, Jon Sherwood, and 11-year-old grandson, Jack Longenbaugh Sherwood, also were introduced to Keillor when they came to pick up Longenbaugh for dinner.

"Jack said, 'You sound just like that man on the radio.' And his father explained, yes it is, and presently Jack said, 'You look just like that man on the radio.' And about two minutes later, piping up when we're talking about other things, 'You sound just like that man.

"I think it was his first celebrity," Longenbaugh said with a laugh.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.

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