Gatherings/2008-2012

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2012. The 15th season of The Luncheon Society began with former Governor Michael Dukakis, for a conversation about Barack Obama, the  Republican field of challengers and the 2012 election for lunches in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.   Joining us in San Francisco and Manhattan for a conversation was the Father of   Cognitive Neuroscience,  Dr. Michael Gazzaniga joined us in San Francisco as well as New York and spoke about “Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain,”  his new book on the battle between our internal circuitry and free will.  Then it was one to Los Angeles where had our great rock and roll group luncheon with Pamela Des Barres and Catherine James, two amazing ladies who defined the groupie culture in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. She joined us in San Francisco with vocalist Toni Lee Scott, who talked about her years with James Dean and her amazing career. New York Times Best-Selling author Thomas Frank talked about his new book, “Pity the Billionaire” in SF, and noted that conservative activists have taken several pages from 1930’s liberal activists.   Back in Manhattan, Paul Rieckhoff of the IAVA, the largest group that supports the needs of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, joined us for his fourth discussion with us, a great talk about what vets will face when they return to civilian life. David Kennedy, joined us in New York and continued his conversation about his throughtful new ways to drive down violent crime among our at-risk youth. Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Genius Fellow Taylor Branch   talked about the NCAA from his book, The Cartel.  In it, he describes how college athletes are getting the short end of the stick and how the NCAA will be running into trouble near term. 2009 TED Award Winner Jill Tarter  joined us in Manhattan for a conversation about what is “out there” now that the Kepler spacecraft has discovered so many new exoplanets.  The betting here is that contact will take place within the next two decades. Only weeks before his reputation fell to earthJonah Lehrer,  whose book topped the NY Times Nonfiction Best-seller list, joined us in San Francisco for a conversation about his latest book, “Imagine.” Jonah gave us a peek into the latest article of The New Yorker, which tried to quantify the importance of “grit” to successful endeavors.  What is sad is that the book was quite good–he never had to add the fake Dylan quotes.  Our old friend Roz Savage,  is getting ready to row again—this time from the Atlantic to London, just in time to show up for the Olympics. She gave us an idea of how one prepares for another trip of a lifetime. We wish her the very best.   We had a return of the The Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know series with Christina Haag, Jillian Laurenand Anne-Marie O’Connor which was a blast!  Christina and Jillian continued the conversation which began late last year in Manhattan and Anne-Marie was suggested to us by Ioan Grillo who joined The Luncheon society last year for a searing talk about the rise of Mexico Narco-terrorism.  Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman  joined us in San Francisco for a talk on the economy, which also marked the final day of an old haunt of The Luncheon Society, Fior D’Italia, which closed its doors that evening.  Noted NPR Commentator and musical historian Tim Riley brought forth the best biography of John Lennon to date, which contrasted the “London Lennon” with the New York Lennon”  at a Boston gathering.  David Maraniss joined us in Manhattan with a luncheon in Manhattan to discuss his stunning biography on the younger years of Barack Obama  There were more Pulitzer winners around the table than courses on the menu.  Actor, writer podcaster creator and raconteur extraordinaire Stephen Tobolowsky   gave an astounding conversation on living life out loud as one of the country’s most recognizable character actors. He will be in New York and Los Angeles nearAbrahm Lustgarten term.  The funny thing about Stephen is that acting is only one of the gifts he brings to the table.  Abrahm Lustgarten went deep inside the corporate dysfunction within BP that would larger manifest itself the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst ecological disaster in the planet’s history.  4.9 billion barrels of oil were dumped into the Lanny Davis and Michael Steele Michael Steele joined us in San Francisco and Los Angeles for a conversation about the divide between Democrats and Republicans along with their thoughts on the fall election.  Both serve as anthropologists for their own political parties, with Michael on MBNBC and Lanny on Fox. Fresh off the success of her with “The End of Men,” Atlantic writer Hanna Rosin spoke to the issue of the growing gender equality and how men are handling the changes.  During the 1980’s, women began to surpass men when it came to getting college degrees.  Worse, the Great Recession wacked the hell out of jobs held traditionally by men. Fifty years after the publication of The Port Huron StatementTom Hayden reflected on his years as a Freedom Rider, the SDS, the CED, and the California State Legislature.  He took    Neil Barofsky   talked about the need for financial transparency which stemmed from his experience as the Enforcement Czar for the governments TARP program.  He would make a stellar Attorney General in the Obama White House. Academy Award winning screenwriter Jeremy Larner discussed how his movie, The Candidate with Robert Redford, not only presaged the growth of the campaign industry but why it is cautionary tale for all that enter the arena.   Larner served as Gene McCarthy’s main speechwriter in 1968.

 

2011.  The 14th season of the Luncheon Society began with a Saturday evening dinner in Westwood with Mike and Kitty Dukakis for a conversation about America’s role in the world.  Both joined us again in San Francisco in early March. Both Michael and Kitty inaugurated the Boston Luncheon Society at Sandrine’s in Harvard Square. The San Francisco season began with Richard Panek and his book “The 4% Universe, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Find the Rest of Reality” because all that we see only represents a 4% sliver of the universe.  The remaining 96% is Dark Matter and Dark Energy and there is a scientific footrace to figure it out; the first one who solves the puzzle wins the Nobel Prize.  Then it was off to Manhattan for a joint conversation with Richard Wolffe and Jonathan Alter about the state of the Obama presidency as the 2012 campaign looms in the shadows.   Silicon Valley Venture Capital pioneer Bill Draper offered his thoughts on the past, present, and future of high technology and California’s place in it. Then it was on to Los Angeles for a luncheon in Westwood with the founder of the Exquisite Corpse and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu, who challenged his students to write a poem that would get them arrested.  In San Francisco, we had an unexpected treat from writer Wesley Stace who read from his new novel, “Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer.”  Stace, who performs under the name of John Wesley Harding, also played a knockout acoustic set. San Francisco District Attorney Candidate David Onek joined us for a conversation about his heartfelt vision for the city. He envisions the DA office as the one honest broker who can brings all of the disparate parties to the table to create safer streets and more credible law enforcement Wendell Potter joined the Los Angeles contingent of The Luncheon Society to talk about his book, “Deadly Spin, An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.”  Potter also joined us in Manhattan in early June and his book just won The Ridenhour Prize. Award-winning writer Joyce Carol Oates joined us in San Francisco for a conversation about her new memoir about life and loss in “A Widow’s Story.”  Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo joined us again, this time for an off-the-record conversation at The Century Association.  In both Los Angeles and San Francisco, Jennet Conant retold the amazing story of Paul and Julia Child as wartime spies in the OSS and being subsequently caught up in the McCarthy Red Scares of the 1950’s. Richard Schickel, joined us in San Francisco and LA to discuss his book, “Conversations with Scorsese,” his book which captures the cinematic genuis, film by film.  He has written 37 books, has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has crated over 30 documentaries. He has been recognized with numerous award for his contributions to film history and was a critic for Life and Time magazines for 43 years.  Jennifer Grant offered charming conversation over lunch on remembrances of her father, film icon Cary Grant. She will joined us in San Francisco in May, Manhattan in June  and returned for another engagement in Los Angeles in August.  Robert Redford biographer Michael Feeney Callantook us through the career of the actor, filmmaker, and creator of The Sundance Institute.  We refought the Battle of the 1980 Academy Award for Best Picture, between Redford’s “Ordinary People” and Scorsese’s Raging Bull, considering that Richard Schickel had just joined us. Together in Los Angeles, we all mourned for Mars Rover Sprit with John Callas, the Mission Project Manager.  However, Opportunity is still on the surface and the Mars Science Lab, Curiosity will be launched this year. Veteran ABC, CBS, and CNN political journalist Jeff Greenfield took us through is latest book, Then Everything Changed, which wonderful illustration about how history can change on a dime-or more along the lines of a plugged nickel. Then it was back to New York for a gathering with The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, who walked us through the phone hacking scandal that was impacting hard with The Murdoch Family and News Corporation.  In contemporary terms, Cleopatra is seen through the refracted lens of Elizabeth Taylor’s Hollywood portrayal. However, in   “Cleopatra, A Life,” written by Pulitzer Prize Winning author Stacy Schiff, takes us into her world by compiling the source documents of that era to give us the best understanding of her times.  In San Francisco, David Kennedy, Director for the center for Crime Prevention at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Don’t Shoot,” (a book when reviewed by Malcolm Gladwell equated it to Silent Spring) talked about new approaches to deescalating the violence in crime ridden areas. Joyce Carol Oates joined us again in Manhattan to reprise her well received conversation on grief and renewal in Manhattan at The Century Club.   Ioan Grillo, discussed his new book, El Narco, which details the complexities of the criminal enterprises that brings illegal drugs from the fields into the streets of the United States.  This was a San Francisco luncheon but Ioan joined us in Manhattan in Novembers will joine us in Los Angeles at some point—Noted science writer, Dava Sobel , who penned the best-selling Longitudes several years earlier, penned a book that explores the pioneering world of Copernicus and how his views revolutionized the way we look to the heavens and beyond.  Back by popular demand, the Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Series  returned and we we had two memoir-based luncheons, one in Los Angeles and the second in Manhattan.  We will have them in all of the cities in 2012.   Both luncheons were anchored by our pal and LA-based writer and actress Jamie Rose, who wrote “Shut Up and Dance! The Joy of Letting Go of the Lead–On the Dance Floor and Off.”  Although she was ready to get married, her boyfriend wasn’t. His reason? They fought too much-and unfortunately, he was right. But something magical happened when she signed up for tango lessons. Alongside Jamie was her old pal Samantha Dunn, who penned “Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation,” a memoir on salsa dancing happens by chance in a kitchen during a dinner with a blacksmith from South America.  Carrie White wrote “Upper Cut,” a memoir of her life as Hollywood’s go-to-stylist until a steady diet of champagne and vodka, diet pills, cocaine, and heroin nearly wrecked her life.  She got clean, sober, and fought her way back to the top. Hunter Drohojowska-Philp penned “Rebels In Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s.” The extraordinary story of the artists who propelled themselves to international fame in 1960s Los Angeles was led by an unlikely group of people.  As we moved to Manhattan, Jamie was joined by Christina Haag, who wrote the memoir “Come to the Edge.” Growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was just one of the boys in her circle of prep school friends. Living in New York City, Christina and John were cast in an off-Broadway play together and they embarked on a five-year love affair.  Jillian Lauren penned “Some Girls “and the novel “Pretty.” At eighteen, Jillian was an NYU theater school dropout with a tip about an upcoming audition. Soon, Jillian found herself on a plane to Borneo, where she would spend the next eighteen months in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei.

 

 

2010. We started the 13th season of The Luncheon Society with Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts, who communicated his concerns that Democrats were not building grassroots networks for the 2010 midterm races at gatherings in Los Angeles as well as San Francisco.  Dr. Temple Grandin  the best-selling Animal Behaviorist and Autism Advocate joined us at Morton’s Steak House in Downtown Los Angeles on how her neurological condition has enhanced the study of animal behavior. She also discussed her award winning HBO biopic, which starred Claire Danes. Then was back to Manhattan for the first time in several months with Richard Wolffe, MSNBC commentator, author of Renegade, on how Barack Obama has fared in his first year in office. He also gave us a hint on his upcoming bookLawrence  O’Donnell, MSNBC Senior Political Analyst, West Wing Executive Producer, and former Capitol Hill staffer joined us for a conversation about Healthcare reform, which at that point in time looked doomed thanks to Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts at Chez Mimi in Santa Monica.  Roz Savage, international explorer and adventurer, joined us in both San Francisco and Los Angeles before finishing her final leg on being the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.  She had already completed the Atlantic voyage and we wanted to know what it took to get from here to there?  Writer, talk show host, and all-around raconteur Dick Cavett spent time with us in Manhattan where he talked of Groucho, The Late Night Wars between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, and the need for conversation on television. That evening, Mario Cuomoformer three-term Governor of New York, joined us in Midtown Manhattan to appeal for civility and bipartisanship in light of the current political entrenchment.  Back in San Francisco, Dr Ken Eisold, author of What You Don’t Know, You Know, spoke of the our hidden motives in life, business, and everything else, tells us that the unconscious is everywhere.  We were pleased to have Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association) join us in San Francisco to talk more about the need for good mental health services for all of the men and women who have bravely served. Richard Schickel, documentary filmmaker, essayist, and critic for Time Magazine and Vanity Fair, joined us in Santa Monica on his latest book, which centered on Clint Eastwood’s 35 films with Warner Brothers.  For more of an investment luncheon, our dear friend and New York Times best-selling author Mary Buffett, joined us in San Francisco to discuss Warren Buffett’s investment strategies. Pay attention to what she says and you will do well.   Alan Grayson, the freshman Florida Congressman from the Orlando area, spent time on the resurrection of healthcare reform and the work that needs to be done in the future over in Los Angeles.  Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women do not get Fat,” talked about her own experiences growing up on enjoying life at a San Francisco gathering on why the French do so well.  She also gave a quick tutorial for anybody who wanted to get ahead in corporate life.  Pioneering songwriters and members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Jerry Leiber and Mike Stollermet with us at Chez Mimi in Santa Monica for our last luncheon before their closure where they talked about the arc of their career and the curious tale of  Hound Dog. Sebastian Junger,  author of “The Perfect Storm” and other books, joined us in San Francisco to talk about the best-selling book, “WAR,” where he spent 14 months in 2007-2008 intermittently embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, one of the bloodiest corners of the conflict.  Ken Auletta, New Yorker columnist and best-selling author of “Googled,” joined us in Manhattan for the story of Google’s tidal wave, from how it formed and crashed into traditional media businesses-to newspapers to books, to television, to movies, to telephones, to advertising, to Microsoft.  Civil Rights Icon, Member of Congress, United Nations Ambassador, and retired Mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young talked about his new book, “Walk in my Shoes,” a series of conversations with his Godson Kabir Sehgal over at The Paley center in Manhattan. Reaching out to the Cameroonian Diaspora in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, we sat down with Bernard Muna, Candidate for President from The Republic of Cameroon as he works to bring democracy and reform his nation, which is currently run by a dictatorship. Former Apollo Astronaut and current Chairman of the B612 Foundation Rusty Schweickart joined us for a conversation in Downtown Los Angeles on the dangers posed by Near Earth Asteroids and Objects (NEAs and NEOs).  What happens when something from out there crashes down here?  Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Finkel joined us in San Francisco and spoke emotionally about his book “The Good Soldiers,” which follows the 2-16 as they headed into Baghdad during the height of The Surge.  For a wonderful change of pace, Lisa Birnbach, author of the best-selling “True Prep,” the follow up to “The Official PreppyHandbook” joined us in San Francisco on a contemporary look at how the Old Guard of natural-fiber-loving dog-worshiping G&T soaked preppies have adapted to the new order of things. Alpha dog crime writer, James Ellroy, seminal crime novels as LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia on his new book, The Hilliker Curse, detailed his relationship with women in vgeneral as well as his current relationship with writer Erika Schickel in Manhattan, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In a delightful change of pace, Michael Goldfarb author, former NPR, and BBC commentator, joined us in San Francisco where he discussed his book Emancipation , a well-researched and beautifully written masterwork that reveals the liberating impact that the French Revolution and Napoleon forces had on the Jews of Europe. Gary Hart, former US Senator and presidential candidate joined us in Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco for a talk on his long awaited memoirs, “The Thunder and the Sunshine, Four Seasons in a Burnished Life,” on where we must go in the 21st century.   Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst joined us in Los Angeles to discuss his new book, “Revival, The Struggle for Survival inside the Obama White House,” about the dramatic inside story of the defining period of the Obama Administration, including the impact of the 2010 midterms, in the sequel to his best-seller, “Renegade.” To close out the 2010 season of The Luncheon Society, Wendell Potter, the former Cigna Vice President of Public Relations and now the Senior Analyst Center for Public Integrity joined us for a talk in San Francisco on his new book, “Deadly Spin, An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.

 

 

2009. We started off–as always–with a Los Angeles gathering with Mike Dukakis, who offered his thoughts on how Democratic officeholders can expand on their 2008 victories with the right grassroots organization. The former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential nominee joined us in San Francisco at the end of February.  On the 5th anniversary of the landing of the Rovers on Mars, Chief Mission Scientist Steven Squyres detailed the transformative science that allows us to see Mars in a whole new light.  Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, joined us that evening in Beverly Hills.  Then it was back to San Francisco for a conversation with Dr Mario Livio, the Chief Astronomer for The Hubble Telescope and the author of the award-winning “The Golden Ratio” as well as “Is God a Mathematician?”  Anthropologist and TED Speaker Dr Helen Fisher joined us for three gatherings, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York for her new book titled, “Why Him? Why Her? The Science of Seduction,” where she discussed her most recent research on brain chemistry and romantic love.  Our old friend and Vanity Fair writer Cari Beauchamp published her biography on Joe Kennedy’s Hollywood years, offering a glimpse into how his years in the motion picture industry helped to position his family for greater things financially and politically.  New York City mainstay Jimmy Breslin held court at the Blue Fin Restaurant, in the heart of Times Square to talk about the state of Gotham and his book, “The Good Rat” about one of the mob’s biggest canaries, Burton Kaplan, as he sang to a grand jury.  It was a conversation that went late into the night Barton Gellman earned the Pulitzer Prize for his multi-part series on Dick Cheney in the Washington Post, which was later expanded into a book titled “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” to stellar reviews.  That is one luncheon that I want to repeat because it was so good.  Maggie Renzi, who produces most of the film by John Sayles, talked about the challenges that often keep small films from finding the shaft of light that comes from being discovered by the general viewing public.  Our friend Dr Jill Tarter, The Director for Research at the SETI Institute and TED Award winner for 2009, spoke about the possibilities of intelligent life out there with the launch of NASA’s Kepler Mission, which is designed to find earth-sized extrasolar planets.  Writer, journalist and founding feminist Germaine Greer pondered the fate the of women’s thought as she discussed her new book on Ann Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s little-known wife. Pulitzer Prize and PEN Center award winning writer Ed Humes spoke about his new book “Eco-Barons,” on how a profitable green economy will spur the necessary changes that will turn the corner on global warming. Best Selling author, nutritionist, TED Speaker, and Preventive Medical Research Institute head Dr Dean Ornish  talked about how a corrective diet can repair the damage from heart disease. It made a difference in his life and will for yours. In Los Angeles and San Francisco NPR commentator and poet Andrei Codrescu discussed his new book, The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess,” and compared the language of Dada to high tech and it invents, devours and reinvents anew.  Playwright, actor and author  Orson Bean talked about Christianity in Hollywood as well as his son-in-law Andrew Breitbart.  The laughter was so loud from our room that people at the next private room came to quiet us down.  At the request of two friends, Phillip Carter and Paul Rieckhoff, we sat down with West Point graduate and Rhodes Scholar  Craig Mullaney who discussed his book The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education, which detailed one haunting afternoon on Losano Ridge in Afghanistan, where he and his platoon were caught in a deadly firefight with Al Qaeda fighters. Long-time PBS mainstay and Best Selling dysfunctional family author John Bradshaw discussed the challenges of leading a virtuous life.  Paul Rieckhoff, the Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA) spoke about the success of the new GI Bill and the challenges of returning veterans dealing with battlefields stresses on the home front. The Reverend Scotty McLennan, the Dean of Religious Life at Stanford (and with William Sloane Coffin is the basis for Doonesbury’s Rev. Scot Sloan) argued Jesus was a Liberal in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Ayelet Waldman, whose article in the New York Times suggested that she loved her husband (writer Michael Chabon) more than her children , which created a firestorm discussed this and more in her new book, “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace.”  Producer, studio executive and Phoenix Pictures Chief Executive Mike Medavoy talked about the relationship between American cultures and how our nation is perceived overseas.  Louis Friedman, who founded The Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray, talked about the future of Cosmos II, a planned unmanned solar sail spacecraft that will revolutionize how fast we can travel in outer space. Former Newsweek and MSNBC contributor Richard Wolffe  talked about Renegade, his book on the emergence of Barack Obama as a national figure and political leader.  We will be with him in New York come January 2010. Former Senator and 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern returned to The Luncheon Society after a 5 year absence to discuss his book on Abraham Lincoln spoke to the issue of healthcare reform and eulogize Senator Kennedy, three days after his death. Joining us at the San Francisco luncheon were Dan Ellsberg; Sidney Sheinberg and Max Palevsky joined us in Los Angeles. Dr. Temple Grandin  joined us in San Francisco and gave us a better understanding how as a high functioning autistic, her neurological condition has enhanced her study of animal behavior.  Salon.com Managing Editor Joan Walsh discussed the decline in civility seen on talk-television in San Francisco. She also worried that the hatred might spill over into a replay of what took place in Dallas in 1963 or Memphis in 1968.   Carl Pope, the Executive Director of The Sierra Club, joined us to discuss the pitfalls of the upcoming Copenhagen Summit. The week before, Carl had been heavily featured on the Ken Burns PBS epic, The National Parks: America’s Best IdeaJudy Shepard, the mother ofMatthew Shepard, who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed outside of Laramie Wyoming, joined us in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, only days before Hate Crime Legislation was expanded by President Obama. Finally, we ended the year with MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Taylor Branch, who just published, “The Clinton Tapes,” an oral history project on the Bill Clinton during his 8 years in office, in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

 

2008. We started off with a Los Angeles gathering with Mike Dukakis, who gave us his thoughts on why he was supporting Barack Obama in the primaries.  A few days before the California Primary, Clinton supporter Lanny Davis joined us for very rambunctious gathering as the Obama and Clinton people sat at opposite ends of the table. I haven’t had so much fun since the well-remembered Hitchens luncheons of 2004 and 2005. The originator of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, Philip Zimbardo, joined us for a conversation about what took place at Stanford and how that human behavior like that has sprouted up in places like abu Ghraib. One of Saturday Night Live pioneering women writers, Anne Beatts joined us for a great conversation about women, writing, and comedy.  She broke through “The Boy’s Club” at SNL after being the first female editor of The Harvard Lampoon. Unlike the Hitchens article, Anne proves that women are, quite frankly, funny and she was recently honored by The Paley Center as part of their “She Made It” series.   EJ Dionne joined us while on tour with his book “Souled Out,” which explained why the era of the Religious Right–and the crude exploitation of faith for political advantage–is waning. Fred Krupp, the Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund, talked about his new book, Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming.  Then it was off to New York, on the first trip of 2009. Retired US Senator Gary Hart joined us in New York in April and Los Angeles in May to discuss the challenges that would face the next President, come January 2009.  That evening, Paul Rieckhoff the Executive Director of the IAVA, the largest group that advocates forrecent veterans, and Phil Carter, who writes on military affairs for Slate.com gave an idea of the challenges faced by returning veterans in the Iraqi and Afghani Theater of battle. Academy Award winning actress (and 4 time Academy Award nominee) Lee Grant gave us her first hand experiences as a survivor of the Hollywood Blacklist.  Then it was off for a small dinner with f
ilmmaker Jamie Johnson, whose brutally honest documentary films about the wealthy (The 1 Percent) have drawn great praise. Luncheon Society friend Andrei Cherny published a wonderful book on the Berlin airlift called The Candy Bombers and it will makea wonderful gift for anybody who loves history. Then we did something fun. Knowing that the publishing communizing was in collapse to support wonderful writers, we chose to do something about it. We put together a symposium that highlighted some wonderful women writers.  Joining us were Anne Beatts, Eve Brandstein, Erika Schickel, Rachel Resnick, and Colleen Wainwright. It was simply stunning. Impromptu in its origins, it was a great afternoon and it soon prompted “The
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know” series.  Will Durst joined us in San Francisco for a funny conversation about the upcoming election and it is always a treat to see him. Several years ago,  John Perkins  penned “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” a story of runaway capitalism in some of the most trying parts of the world.  He joined us for a conversation about his new book. We had a wonderful
opportunity to join one of Pakistan’s best journalists, Ahmed Rashid, for a gripping conversation about the challenges found in the region, where political assassinations and social unrest have ravaged the country.  What do yo do when your ride home cannot make it?  We had a wonderful space luncheon with Esquire magazine feature writer Chris Jones, who published “Out of Orbit,” a story of three astronauts who were hundreds of miles above Earth on the International Space Station and lost their ride back home when the space shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry. Hollywood legend Larry Turman, who produced such films as The Graduate, American History X, The Great White Hope, plus 40 other motion pictures gave us his thought son the present and future of the entertainment industry.  Bay Area author and Luncheon Society friend Susan Griffin published, “Wrestling with The Angel of Democracy: On Being an American Citizen,” which frames her idea of citizenship as seen through her experiences.  David Maraniss, who published some wonderful books, including “First in His Class” about the rise of Bill Clinton,  talked about “Rome 1960, The Olympiad that Changed the World” and why that was pivotal in the Olympic movement.  New Yorker writer and best selling author Jane Mayer, talked about “The Dark
Side,” the Bush Administration’s embrace of torture and how we got there.  It is a troubling tale. “What’s the Matter with Kansas” author Thomas Frank joined us to talk about his new book, “The Wrecking Crew.” Then it  was off to New York again. Thanks to generous help of Enzo Viscusi, he helped to arrange the Mario Cuomo luncheon at the Lotos Club in Manhattan where the former New York Governor shared his thoughts on State of New York as well as the state of the nation. Later that afternoon, we sat down with Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, who spoke about the upcoming election.  At that point in 2008, it was still an unclear picture of who would emerge as victorious in the fall campaign, John McCain or Barack Obama. The next morning, Janis Karpinski joined us for an update of her experience at abu Ghraib as well as a larger conversation impact of the war on men and women in uniform. Back in San Francisco again, we had a wonderful space luncheon with former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, 4 time shuttle astronaut Tom Jones the first Romanian Cosmonaut Dorin Prunariu, Sir Crispin Tickel  the Former United Kingdom Ambassador to the UN and Former President Royal Geographic Society, Dr. Sergio Camacho-Lara  the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space, Affairs, Adigun Ade Abiodun  the Chairman, UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Ambassador Walther Lichem  the former Austrian Ambassador to Chile, UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and Vallampadugai S. Arunachalam Ph.D the Materials Science Engineering, Distinguished Services Professor, Carnegie Mellon for a conversation of Near Earth Objects and their terrible dangers.  It was our largest luncheon ever, but we pulled it off smoothly.  Peter Kellner, The President and Chairman, of You Gov, the UK’s preeminent pollster gave us his thoughts on the upcoming American and British political scenes. Then it was back to New York for a memorably luncheon with Ted Sorensen,who served as President Kennedy’s Special Counsel and main speechwriter for a remarkable gathering.  The courage exhibited in the writing of his memoirs, due to hisblindness,  is simply astonishing.  Peter Moskos joined us in the afternoon for the first “Luncheon Society Afternoon Snack,” and spoke movingly about the nexus that surrounds poverty, crime, drugs, and law enforcement. We shall miss his father, pioneering sociologist Charlie Moskos, who passed away after a long illness this year. We toasted his memory at the Andrei Cherny luncheon in LA several months earlier. That evening, Salon.com’s Joe Conason  joined us for a wonderful intimate dinner in Greenwich Village on the eve of the election. Then we wrapped things up in Los Angeles after a long absence with CAA’s Robert Bookman, who gave us his take on the entertainment industry from an agency perspective.  That evening, we sat down with Tom Hayden and concluded the 2008 Luncheon Society season with a conversation about the progressive hopes of a new Administration, 5 days after an Obama victory.

Link here for the Luncheon Society gatherings between 1997 and 2007.

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