Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Luncheon Society/ The passing of Liz Carpenter.

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Last week, a wonderful person passed away after a long and rewarding life, both to her family and our nation.  How Liz Carpenter managed to shoehorn roughly six or seven lives into her nine decades remains a mystery, but we are better for it

In 2005, thanks to Liz’s daughter Christy Carpenter and her great friend Martha Whetstone, we were able to have a wonderful Luncheon Society gathering with her in San Francisco. She had just written a book, one of the many she had published over the years, and even though she told stories of the past, she was focused on the future.

Her mobility had been slowed by arthritis and she was now using a scooter to move around.  After we parked the car at a garage in Downtown San Francisco, she asked me if I wanted to ride along with her. I replied there was only room for one, but she convinced me to hop on the back.  So there I was, being escorted to a luncheon, standing on the back of her scooter, surfing our way through lunchtime pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk, and having a blast.

People forget that that behind her Texas humor, she saw some of life tough moments.  She was in Dallas when John Kennedy was assassinated.  When Lyndon Johnson emerged at Andrews Air Force Base and spoke as president for the first time, his first words were written by Liz Carpenter, who by then was serving as the Vice President’s Administrative Assistant, the first woman to hold that role. Those simple words captured the moment with humility and grace. It allowed Johnson to begin to heal the wounds of a nation still stunned by those terrible moments. Continue reading

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The Luncheon Society/Gov. Mario Cuomo/Blue Fin (Dinner) /February 19, 2010

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We started the evening where we began lunch; The Blue Fin Restaurant in Manhattan’s Times Square.  Unlike lunch, our private room was no match for the dinner rush outside, but things quieted as people left for Broadway plays and musicals, which began promptly at 8 PM.

Regardless, the exterior din was well worth the wonderful crowd we had inside that room that evening; a number of folks came from Los Angeles to see both Cavett and Cuomo. As for me, I found myself sitting between one of my favorite writers, Gay Talese, and former supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice, who could (and should) run a finishing school on how people are supposed to behave. It just does not get any better than that.

I think we will put something together in New York so we can gather for a nightcap (or two) after experiences like these.

Rather than describe the dinner in great detail, I will let Governor Cuomo’s gracious words speak for themselves. 

REMARKS BY GOVERNOR MARIO M. CUOMO
“THE LUNCHEON SOCIETY” DINNER

We were invited by Bob McBarton to respond to the question: “Has political bi-partisanship completely broken down in the nation’s Capitol because ideological purity too often replaces intelligent collaboration?”

It is a vital question that every day becomes more serious.  Most recently it was focused upon by Evan Bayh. I believe I have had some experience with that kind of troublesome rigidity ─ Bayh ─ and many others are talking about.

In my early years as a lawyer I enjoyed the struggle called “litigation” immensely. Don’t give an inch!  The competitiveness, the court as coliseum… “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat”. 

That muscular intellectual kind of combat had a primal attraction for me.  I thought things like mediation and arbitration that displaced litigation were a concession of weakness that should be carefully avoided.

Over time however, I’ve been able to overcome a number of different primal instincts… an obsession with the virtues of rigidity and litigation is one of them. 

After years of experience I concluded that relentless insistence on vigorous litigation reflects a human failure to be able to arrive at a wiser consensus, compromise, and peaceful coexistence.

Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/Dick Cavett/Blue Fin/New York/February 19, 2010

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Dick Cavett can tell a great story. The best ones center on his long friendship with Groucho Marx, who he met after the funeral of playwright George S. Kaufman.  In one, Groucho was about to introduce his brother Chico to Tallulah Bankhead, the reigning Queen of Broadway and daughter of then-Speaker of the House William Bankhead. To understand Chico Marx (which is pronounced Chick-o), he was a profligate skirt chaser, vaudevillian, gambler, and orchestra leader whose wife knew that he slept with anything that moved.

Tallulah Bankhead, who was at the start of her career, was no slouch herself in that department, but few knew it yet. She was an attractive and wild force of nature, the kind of tornado that took out farms, mobile home parks, and marriages of all shapes and sizes. To describe Bankhead to a modern audience, she was the “Mother of all Train Wrecks,” equal parts Paris Hilton, Amy Winehouse and Lindsay Lohan but also had a tremendous talent that spanned four decades on stage and screen. Even after death she lives on, being played by Kathleen Turner and others in various stage productions of her life.

That night, Groucho pleaded with his brother not to sully the reputation of Miss Bankhead and he promised to behave. According to Cavett’s book, the conversation began innocently enough with a simple introduction.

“Miss Bankhead,” Chico said. “Mr. Marx,” Tallulah replied.

Grateful the storm had passed, everybody relaxed until Chico said, “You know, I really want to sleep with you (which was the PG version).” Without missing a beat, she replied, “And so you shall, you old-fashioned boy.”

Now, that’s a story.

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The Luncheon Society/Adventurer Roz Savage/SF-Fior D’Italia/February 8, 2010/Santa Monica-Chez Mimi/April 10, 2010

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Imagine you are on the adventure of a lifetime, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 24 foot rowboat to test yourself against the elements.  You are completely isolated except for a satellite phone a GPS transponder and the occasional visit from one of the support craft. Halfway through, your two primary oars (plus both backups) have snapped, your camp stove has stopped working, and your satellite phone is cold dead.  

Lashed by fierce storms and the occasional rogue wave, your only connection to humanity is a small GPS blip that charts your daily path to friends back home.  There is no going back.

How do you cope with isolation and loneliness when you still have two months worth of rowing in front of you? With a fist full of calluses and a body that is wracked by aches and pains, do you even consider rowing across the Pacific?  Of course.

The Luncheon Society ™ has been home to those who have climbed life’s tall peaks. Jim Sano led treks that followed the footpaths of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Didrik Johnck snapped the Time Magazine cover photo of Erik Weihenmeyer, a blind mountain climber who successfully made it to the summit of Mount Everest in 2001.  When you add the mix the astronauts, cosmonauts, and other space pioneers that have joined us over the years, we’ve cheered them all from the safety of a private room at a great restaurant. Continue reading