Category Archives: Film

The Luncheon Society/The 2011 “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know” Woman’s Reading Series/ Jamie Rose, Samantha Dunn, Carrie White, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Christina Haag and Jillian Lauren/ Los Angeles—Napa Valley Grille October 20, 2011/Manhattan—Prime House/November 10, 2011

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Lady Caroline may have described Lord Byron that way but it certainly fits The Luncheon Society.  We had two wonderful luncheons on both  coasts.   These are smart women who are great writers.

In Los Angeles and New York, we convened  at locations we know and enjoy; Napa Valley Grille  in Westwood and Prime House in Manhattan.   Jamie Rose, Samantha DunnCarrie White and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp joined us in LA; Jamie, Christina Haag, and Jillian Lauren joined us in NY.

The History. Back in 2008, I called a couple of LA writer friends  to have a reading.  Joining us around the table at La Terza were Erika Schickel, who read from just-published memoir, “You’re Not the Boss of Me,” a whip-smart tome on being a hip parent. Anne Beatts , a pioneering writer who became the first woman to helm The Harvard Lampoon and the first female writer at Saturday Night Live, read from her unpublished memoir about attending a funeral with John Belushi.  It screams to be published. Writer and memoirist Eve Brandstein, who with Anne has created a ton of stellar television, read poetry and reflected upon her childhood in New York City. Rachel Resnick read from the galleys of her soon-to-be-published memoir titled “Love Junkie,” a harrowing life story of somebody coming to grips with her own demons as a love and sex addict. Rounding out the group was our old pal Colleen Wainwright, an LA blogger extraordinaire who did something wonderful in 2011 by raising $50,000 for Writegirl, an LA nonprofit which partners women writers with at-risk teenage girls for creative writing workshops and one-on-one mentoring.  It was part of her milestone birthday; when she exceeded the figure, she gladly shaved her head as a crowd of friends cheered.   All five are equal parts vibrant, brilliant, and cool.

For some reason, I never got around to scheduling another “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know” (MBDTK) gathering until I sent out a few emails in late summer 2011. Eve Brandstein was directing a play in Los Angeles and mentioned that one of her actors, Jamie Rose,  was ready to publish a memoir on how Tango allowed her to “let go.”   A few phone calls later and we had luncheons scheduled in Los Angeles and Manhattan; I hosted the gathering in Los Angeles and Eve ran the show in Manhattan. Jamie was critical in building out the roster of writers.

Perhaps The Great Recession sapped the marketing guts from the publishing industry because good writing remains unsupported and stillborn on the shelf.  So The Luncheon Society will step in and do what it can. As we move forward, MBDTK will be one of those fun gatherings, the kind where calendars are kept open and people disappear down into our world of “Adult Drop-In Daycare,” a Luncheon Society stylemark since 1997. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/ Time Magazine’s Ioan Grillo on his book “El Narco”—the growth of the drug insurgency in Mexico/SF—Palio D’Asti/October 26, 2011/Manhattan—Primehouse November 29, 2011

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As Mexico continues to sink into the hell of its own Narco Terror, Time Magazine’s Ioan Grillo details how things got violent so quickly. 

Since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched the first concentrated attack against the drug cartels, nearly 40,000 people have been killed and another 90,000 have been wounded. With an annual estimated revenue beyond $30 Billion annually, the cartels have no plans to quiet the violence.  

It is hard to believe, but at the dawn of the new century, Mexico was evolving from a one-party semi-democracy to a multi-party state.  Border cities like Juarez and Tijuana were primed to take advantage of the benefits from NAFTA and American brands built factories where low—waged Mexican workers built high-ticket good designed for American tastes.

 

It should have been a Golden Age for Mexico, but as Grillo notes in his book El Narco ,” Mexico runs the risk of being wholly coopted by the ruthless nature of groups like the Sinaloa Cartel their rivals, the Gulf Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas Cartel, or some other offshoot or reconstituted gang. Now that we are on the eve of the 2012 Mexican national elections, there are enough dead in Mexico to sell-out Dodger Stadium. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/Joyce Carol Oates on “A Widow’s Story, a Memoir”/San Francisco—One Market Restaurant/March 21, 2011/Manhattan—The Century Club October 14, 2011

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Joyce Carol Oates fights for the underdog.  In “Black Water,” she imagines a fictionalized version of Chappaquiddick seen through the eyes of a thinly veiled character drawn to resemble Mary Jo Kopechne, hoping that the Senator would return to rescue her as her life ticks away.  In an upcoming post-modern novel, she is re-imagines the friendship between two doomed Hollywood personae, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Short, as they moved in the some of the same circles. Monroe became a Hollywood icon and died famously in 1962. Short emerged as famous the victim in “The Black Dahlia,” a murder that haunts Los Angeles to this very day.

In her latest work, she is the underdog we root for as she moves through a difficult chapter of her own life.

 

The Luncheon Society sat down with Joyce at One Market in San Francisco and The Century Association, thanks to the kind intercession of Enzo Viscusi.

Her output is nothing short of prodigious. At the moment, Joyce Carol Oates has penned 60 novels, 30 collections of short stories, 10 volume of poetry, and all are written by hand. She joined The Luncheon Society in San Francisco and Manhattan to discuss her latest personal and moving book titled, “A Widow’s Story, A Memoir,” which detailed her descent into widowhood.

“My Husband died, my life collapsed.” As the book jacket notes, “A Widow’s Story illuminates one woman’s struggle to comprehend a life without the partnership that had sustained and defined her for nearly half a century. As never before, Joyce Carol Oates shares the derangement of denial, the anguish of loss, the disorientation of the survivor amid a nightmare of “death-duties,” and the solace of friendship. She writes unflinchingly of the experience of grief—the almost unbearable suspense of the hospital vigil, the treacherous “pools” of memory that surround us, the vocabulary of illness, the absurdities of commercialized forms of mourning. Here is a frank acknowledgment of the widow’s desperation—only gradually yielding to the recognition that this is my life now.” Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/Dean of Film Writers, Richard Schickel, on Martin Scorsese/San Francisco—Fior D’Italia/May 9, 2011/Los Angeles—Napa Valley Grille/September 10, 2011

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It is fair to say that “Conversations with Scorsese,” places one of the best film writers aside one of the industry’s best directors. Over the past four decades, Martin Scorsese has delivered gem after gem on the screen and having our old friend Richard Schickel talk us through his career helps to better understand his artistic genius.

Thankfully, Scorsese likes to talk. We’re ever thankful that Schickel loves to ask penetrating questions. Together they create a 400 page oral history that sums the director’s career thus far. At the end, you have the feeling that you’ve been riding shotgun at every location shoot; that you’re there at every tortured edit; and you’ve been present for both the good and the tough times.

For the past four decades, spanning his tenure at Life, then Time Magazine, and now at Vanity Fair, Richard has given readers the best seat in the house when it comes to the movie industry.  When he joined us last year for lunch at Chez Mimi in Santa Monica to discuss his book about Clint Eastwood’s relationship with Warner Brothers, it was oneHollywood story after the next. On a sunny afternoon in May, Richard delivered in San Francisco and did it again in early September in Los Angeles.

 

Richard Schickel brings them alive.  Nobody knows the industry like the Dean of Film Writers.  Richard has written over 40 books, created over 40 films, and has narrated the filmmakers comments for countless DVDs. His film, “You Must Remeber This,”  serves and the unofficial history of Warner Brothers. Continue reading

Redford Biographer Michael Feeney Callan on the actor, his films, and the impact of Sundance/San Francisco—Palio D’Asti/June 20, 2011

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To say Robert Redford is merely a pretty face is a shopworn cliché—but to say his profile launched a thousand indie movies is a spot-on fact.

Icon as Iconoclast. No person has done more to engender the spirit of independent filmmaking over the past generation than Redford and Michael Feeney Callan has written a wonderful Hollywood tale that has encapsulated his long-awaiting biography.

Excerpted in Vanity Fair, Callan tees up Redford’s life in the book jacket, “Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival transformed the world of filmmaking; his films defined a generation. America has come to know him as the Sundance Kid, Bob Woodward, Johnny Hooker, Jay Gatsby, and Roy Hobbs. But only now, with this revelatory biography, do we see the surprising and complex man beneath the Hollywood façade.”

“From Redford’s personal papers—journals, script notes, correspondence—and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, Michael Feeney Callan brings the legendary star into focus. Here is his scattered family background and restless childhood, his rocky start in acting, the death of his son, his star-making relationship with director Sydney Pollack, the creation of Sundance, his political activism, his artistic successes and failures, his friendships and romances. This is a candid, surprising portrait of a man whose iconic roles on-screen (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, The Natural) and directorial brilliance (Ordinary People, Quiz Show) have both defined and obscured one of the most celebrated, and, until now, least understood, public figures of our time.”


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The Luncheon Society Flashback. An Appreciation/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller/LA-Chez Mimi/May 13 2010

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Last year, The Luncheon Society had a wonderful gathering with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two of the pioneering songwriters from the first generation of Rock and Roll; Leiber passed away today.  

The true testament of their partnership is that it lasted for over 60 years, longer than Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards or anybody else.  The only pair that comes close is Barry Mann and and Cynthia Weil, who, with Jerry and Mike, co-wrote “On Broadway.”

Leiber and Stoller were quite young when they began writing together in Los Angeles in the early 1950’s, so much so that their parents had to co-sign the contract for their first record deal. Today the copy of the contract is featured under-glass at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Both knew that theirs would be a tough road but they were young and had some ideas about how songs should be written.  They were unique in that they were two Caucasian kids who wrote for African-American artists and audiences. They were enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Take a look at Big Mama Thorton’s version of “Houng Dog,” which I dare say is far more superior than the Elvis version.

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Jennifer Grant on the grace and charm of her father, Cary Grant in “Good Stuff”/SF—Credo May 18, 2011/Manhattan—Danal June 20,2011/LA—Napa Valley Grille August 19, 2011

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First a great story.  Hale Boggs, a great friend of The Luncheon Society for so many years, relayed a tale of his former mother-in-law who was stranded on an LA freeway.  As she stood outside of her car, a Cadillac pulled up from behind and an elegant white haired man with glasses emerged out from the driver’s side.

“Darling,” he said, “I might not be from the Auto Club, but perhaps I can help out in a pinch.”  He then pulled out the jack, changed the tire and wished her well, before getting in his car and driving off.  It was Cary Grant.

It’s a wonderful LA story, an extra delight when the person exceeds persona, epecially when that persona belongs to Cary Grant.

 

Better still, there is another story that is seldom seen: Daughter of two Hollywood icons grows up normally and cherishes her parents.  In a world where overgrown tabloid celebrity has become commonplace, it’s rare for someone to describe their childhood with a sense of gentle modesty.

With that, Jennifer Grant joined The Luncheon Society in San Francisco at Credo,  in Manhattan at Danal, (with special thanks to our friend Haviland Morris who hosted) before heading off to our LA-home-away-from-home, Napa Valley Grille, for a delightful conversation about his role of a lifetime—a full time father.  

“With the birth of his daughter,” she writes, the sixty-three-year-old Cary Grant, still urbane, athletic, sublimely handsome, and always self-effacing, retired from the screen to devote himself to his longed-for child.”  At a time when most were looking forward to their first social security check or Medicare benefits, Cary Grant took this role as professionally as he prepared for any film. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/ Film Historian, documentary filmmaker, and critic Richard Schickel on Clint Eastwood/LA-Chez Mimi, March 20, 2010

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Richard Schickel tells a great story that reveals Clint Eastwood’s loyalty to Warner Brothers; it’s a tale few see in the entertainment industry, where players change agents as fast as their wives and “A list” actors get thrown under the bus after a subpar opening weekend.

Film has always been a major role in The Luncheon Society.  Whether it was Roger Ebert talking about the Oscars right before he fell ill in 2006, John Sayles discussing The Graduate while sitting next to the film’s producer Larry Turman, or Academy Award winner Lee Grant walking us through her struggles with the Hollywood Blacklist in the 1950’s, film is the keyhole that best understands the American psyche, complete with our catalogued strengths and weaknesses.

Schickel is one of the preeminent film historians in the industry and has reviewed films for Time and Life Magazine for the better part of four decades. Earlier this year, he penned a wonderful piece in Vanity Fair about Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and how their partnership cemented Raging Bull as a film classic.  Schickel has authored over 30 books, produced, written and directed over 30 documentary films; and is found on the commentaries of over 40 DVDs.  He holds an honorary doctorate from The American Film Institute, won a British Film Institute Prize, based on his contribution to the art form. Richard’s latest book, a retrospective on Clint Eastwood’s long career with Warner Brothers, was published several weeks ago to wonderful reviews. We were thankful for the intercession of our friend Erika Schickel who put “the arm” on her father to meet The Luncheon Society.

Go ahead, make my movie. According to Schickel, after completing three “Dirty Harry” features during the 1970’s, Eastwood and his production company wanted to give the franchise a break and explore new ideas. He politely begged off repeated requests by Warner’s executive team to produce and direct another installment.

 

However during the early 1980’s, Warners made a number of ill-timed investments which included purchase of Atari. For awhile, the video game company flourished but soon tanked badly and dragged the Warner stock down nearly 70% from the previous high. Senior management was in deep trouble and Clint Eastwood had a long relationship to protect.  Everybody knew that another Dirty Harry sequel would be smash hit and it would staunch the hemorrhaging on Warner’s balance sheet. This time, Eastwood agreed to move forward.

The rest was history; the movie was called Sudden Impact and Eastwood’s signature line, Go ahead, make my day,” became the 6th most memorable line in a film according to the American Film Institute. Most importantly, the box office receipts helped Warners out of a tough scrape.

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