Twin Cities screenwriter Michael Starrbury, who made his feature film debut last year with “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete,” is coming off a remarkable week and looking forward to another one. On Jan. 15, he dined at the White House, where his dramatic comedy about a pair of hard-luck New York City kids was presented for an audience that included First Lady Michelle Obama. And on March 1, the day before the Oscars, Starrbury will be at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. He’s nominated for best first screenplay prize. “I’ve had calls from people telling me they like it and they’re voting for it,” he told I.W., “but the main thing is to go and chill out and get out of this Minnesota weather for a minute.”
Geography according to Garrison Keillor
The February issue of National Geographic has a long, poignant essay by Garrison Keillor about the Twin Cities. Part memoir, part travelogue (with 11 large photos), it veers toward sentimental, but in a nice way, the way only GK does it. Hometown folk who still call Macy’s “Dayton’s” will read it and feel proud to live in a place that once had a Weatherball, that has alphabetized streets (“which I might recite on my deathbed to prove I still have brain function,” Keillor writes), that has the Foshay Tower, “the brave little skyscraper of my childhood.” Readers might take exception, though, to Keillor’s hand-drawn map, which shows and labels the neighborhoods. St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland, apparently, is full of “Minneapolis ex-pats.” The Lutherans are stuck between lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis, though there’s an enclave near the fairgrounds. Down by Lake Harriet live those of “wealth and privilege,” while “the very rich” live over by Lake of the Isles. Keillor’s own neighborhood? Summit Avenue, he says with typical modesty, is “faded grandeur and old mansions.” And Lake Wobegon? Not there at all.
He’s no ‘Hero’
Jason Alexander walked onstage at the State Theatre Monday sporting a heavy coat, gloves and scarf. He then sat down at a piano and launched into a ditty about life in Minneapolis with references to Mary Tyler Moore, our Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and the Minnesota Twins. It was one of the highlights of a 90-minute fundraiser for the family of Carl Lee, an exec at Hennepin Theatre Trust who died last fall, leaving behind a large medical debt. Alexander did other musical numbers, including “Georgie,” a parody of “Georgia on My Mind,” while clips from “Seinfeld” played in the background. During a short Q&A session, a concertgoer asked the Emmy-winning actor to perform the answering-machine message George Costanza recorded to the tune of “The Greatest American Hero” theme. “For that, I need big money,” Alexander said. “ ‘Seinfeld’ money.”
A fine political line
It’s hard to know which part of Dario Anselmo’s story might be wiser to keep under wraps now that he’s running to represent District 49A (Edina) in the Minnesota House of Representatives: His past as a nightclub owner, which might prompt some voters to raise an eyebrow, or his Republican affiliation, which might surprise the mostly left-leaning music community that knows him as the longtime proprietor of the Fine Line Music Café. “I want to emphasize I’m a moderate, inclusive Republican,” he said, laughing at the memory of when he and other club owners hosted high-buck private parties with big-name acts during the Republican National Convention in 2008. “All of the bands were happy to take the money, but they didn’t want us letting people know they were playing there.” He made no secret why he’s with the GOP. “As a small business owner, it’s hard not to lean Republican,” he said, pointing to the high entertainment tax and other levies he faced operating the Fine Line. “Running a nightclub is almost as expensive as running for office.”
Minneapolis writer Kate DiCamillo, who this week won her second Newbery Medal, is retiring some of her beloved characters and expanding others. The delightful stars of the “Bink and Gollie” books, which she wrote with Alison McGhee, are probably done. “Three’s enough,” DiCamillo said this week. She wants them to go out on top, “like Mary Tyler Moore.” But the characters of the popular Mercy Watson (the toast-eating pig) series will continue. Those books are aimed at the 6- to 9-year-old crowd, and the new book, which publishes in the fall, will be for slightly older kids. “It won’t be quite a novel, but more novel-like stories. More advanced reading than Mercy,” DiCamillo said. And then there’s her next novel. “I won’t breathe a word of it,” she confided to I.W. “I don’t even say the names of the characters out loud in my house.”