"The Incredible Truth About Minneapolis"

1999
Oct
15

Originally published, and amazingly still accessible at epinions.com

This is not so much an ‘e-pinion’ as it is an ‘e-xpose’, intended for those of you who are considering to include Minneapolis, Minnesota in your future “See America” plans.
It started when I attended an event at Hollywood’s Museum of Broadcasting saluting “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. The emcee, Gavin Mcleod, announced that all of the show’s original writers were present “except for Allen Burns, who, as you probably know, is so busy with the Minneapolis Project.”
There was a general murmur of approval from the audience, and I, puzzled, asked the sunglasses-wearing-indoors person next to me what the writer/producer was doing in Minneapolis.
“No, man, he’s not doing anything IN Minneapolis, he is DOING Minneapolis.”
And he went on to explain that the metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul was the totally fictional creation of Hollywood writers, devised to provide a location for the popular ’70s sitcom.
“Now wait a minute, I know there was a Minneapolis before that. Didn’t the Lakers basketball team start there?”
“Yeah, that’s where the name Minneapolis got started. It was some deal between the NBA and Hubert Humphrey Sr. to avoid admitting that the state didn’t have a single city with a population larger than 20,000. The MTM Show people picked up on that, and, of course, Allen Burns was the perfect guy to put in charge.”
“Why was that?”
“Hey, he did the same thing before when he wrote for ‘Bullwinkle’. You know… Frostbite Falls.”
My mind was reeling as he explained how, after the series ended, Burns was hired by the State of Minnesota to “produce” the city. Their most successful project was the “hometown entertainers project” which helped give breaks to performers in exchange for their claiming to be from Minneapolis.
“I mean, think about it, do you really think a character like Prince could have come from anywhere in the midwest?”
“Yeah, that one’s a stretch, but what about Garrison Keillor?”
“Oh, now that was genius. A perfect example of what magicians call misdirection. Everybody thinks Lake Wobegon is a fictional town…”
“It’s real?”
“Yep, just before the 1980 census, the state house passed a law re-allocating a percentage of the population in all the towns to go toward Minneapolis. Trouble was, a few of them lost enough numbers to fall off the map. Keillor picked one with a good name, and the rest is media hype history.”
“But his Prairie Home show…”
“Done in New York City from day one. I think he’s renting the Ed Sullivan theater on weekends these days…”
“And what about the Mall of America?”
“Oh, that’s for real, and another great bit of misdirection. I mean, after you’ve been in that mall, you just forget whether you’ve seen any
part of a real city…”
The story was amazing, but as I thought about it I realized, I knew people who moved to L.A. from rural Minnesota, but nobody from Minneapolis. Therefore, either it’s such a great place to live nobody ever moves away, or it really doesn’t exist!
I found the City of Minneapolis office in a North Hollywood strip mall, next to a “99-Cents Only Store”. The office manager refused to speak on the record, but declared that they had nothing to hide.
“We’re awfully busy right now trying to fix some problems with the population reallocation.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Well, somehow, it got Jesse Ventura elected governor.”
“I’d better let you get back to work.”
“Hey, at least we’re doing better than the Arkansas Project.”
The Arkansas Project?

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