Behind every well-written satire lies a fountain of truth. In 1980, Lisa Birnbach, then a young feature writer for The Village Voice , found herself working on a project 38 other writers had rejected.
It would be a small book with Workman Publishing, a quirky imprint in Manhattan known more for their calendars and a series of successful “How To” books. Yet, in the course of ten short weeks, Lisa created what became a field guide for a declining species of an American subculture: preternaturally wealthy WASPS, their tribal customs, behaviors, etiquette, families, and mating rituals. However, as a graduate of Brown and Riverdale Country School , it came as second nature.
When it hit the shelves in October 1980, the initial printing redefined modest. The book cost $4.95 and was sold only in soft cover. However, 2 ½ million copies and 41 printings later, The Official Preppy Handbook remained on the New York Times Best-Seller list for 38 weeks. Critics raved and Birnbach demonstrated a sharp eye for social commentary and biting satire. In fact, The Official Preppy Handbook (OPH) remained Workman Publishing’s best-selling title until the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series came along in 1984.
For a book that has been out of print for a quarter century it has aged rather well, like those featured within its pages. Copies can be purchased on eBay for as high as $150 and signed copies (like mine) are sold for as much as $250 to $300. Continue reading
One Night at The Luncheon Society/Blair Tindall
“The best conversations always happen after the second glass of wine,” laughed Bob McBarton as he strode into Morton’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills and began leaving a thick pile of biographies at each seat.
Collated and stapled, they detailed the diverse backgrounds of thirty members of The Luncheon Society a private assemblage of people with almost nothing in common, except their love for the lost art of conversation. They gathered to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the landing of both Martian Rovers on the Red Planet with Dr. Steven Squyres , the mission’s Principal Investigator, leading the conversation.
Waiters served cocktails as unlikely alliances emerged between scientists, politicians, lawyers, entrepreneurs, actors, writers, and academics alike. A concert cellist who designs chips for Microsoft discussed the state of filmmaking with a major film archivist in Southern California. Several attorneys found themselves talking with two men who sent unmanned spacecraft to the surface of the Moon during the early 1960’s that paved the way for those first steps by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Space architect John Spencer, who helped design parts of the International Space Station, walked though his plans for to recreate the Martian surface in the Nevada desert to the Senior Counsel at MGM as well as a West LA political activist who raised funds for President Obama, long before he emerged on the national scene. Vanity Fair writer Cari Beauchamp, who nursed a well-deserved cocktail after receiving great notices from her biography of Joe Kennedy’s Hollywood years, regaled tales from the hurly–burly days of the mid 1970’s when she served as Jerry Brown’s Press Secretary to a pair of wide-eyed entrepreneurs and a doe–eyed UCLA law professor. Continue reading
On tour to support the release, Finkel sat down with The Luncheon Society in San Francisco at Palio d’Asti, a long time favorite locale for our group.
Finkel argues that every war is fought on two levels. The first is found within the corridors of power that flow between the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon. This is a world where paper battles rage between the participants and the only front-line casualties are wounded egos and reputations. These conflicts fill the tomes written by people like Bob Woodward and when compared to the battle theater, they read as if the real fighting was some far-off abstraction. Continue reading