Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Luncheon Society/Former Senator Gary Hart on his memoirs, “The Thunder and the Sunshine”/NY-Prime House November 10, 2010/ LA-Napa Valley Grille, November 17, 2010/SF-Credo November 18, 2010

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Gary Hart has consistently trod the unbeaten path. As a young Denver attorney, he hooked up with George McGovern, the darkest of dark horses, and together rewrote the book on how to win the Democratic nomination. Two years later, Hart ran for the US Senate from Colorado, a state where Nixon had crushed McGovern two years before. He rode the post-Watergate Democratic tidal wave and entered the Senate at the tender age of 37. In 1984, Hart’s own presidential insurgency nearly knocked off Walter Mondale as he challenged Democrats to look to the future instead of their past.

By crafting a candidacy based on “the new,” Hart discovered the door which others, like Clinton and Obama, successfully opened in later contests.  Walter Mondale, on the other hand, represented the past and became a forlorn caricature that Republicans were able to lampoon to a 49 state winContinue reading

The Luncheon Society/Michael Goldfarb and the story of Jewish Emancipation/San Francisco-Palio D’Asti/October 29, 2010

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Can a group, defined solely by its religious affiliation, transform into the intellectual and social leaders of their time?  Can they do it within three generations? In Michael Goldfarb’s sprawling history of European Jews, Emancipation, the answer is yes.

Until the eve of French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, Jews of Europe were marginalized by society, segregated in ghettos, and denied the basic rights of citizenship in their native lands.

It is astounding that from 1482 until 1796, all of Frankfurt’s Jews were housed in a squalid neighborhood called the  Judengasse, which directly translated means Jewish alley or Jewish street.  They were herded there by an edict from Emperor Frederic III and the ghetto gates were locked by the city burghers on nights and weekends. Even as these populations grew over centuries, they remained sandwiched into the same small plot of real estate. This was the way of life in cities and rural areas throughout Europe.

In a story that remains largely untold, Goldfarb grabs the reader at the eve of the French Revolution and guides them through the next 125 years until the dawn of the First World War. In less than three generations after Emancipation, a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein was poised to revolutionize Physics, Sigmund Freud created psychoanalysis, and the Rothschild family created a global manufacturing and banking empire that spanned Europe.   Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/James Ellroy and The Hilliker Curse/NY-Prime House September 14, 2010/SF-Palio D’Asti, September 20, 2010/LA-Napa Valley Grille, September 29, 2010

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“On my 10th birthday,” James Ellroy began, “my mother Jean Hilliker hit me with a book I had read on spells and witchcraft. After that, I summoned her dead. Three months later she was murdered and it is a crime which remains unsolved to this very day. It’s a burden of guilt that I have carried for a half century. My mother, from the hereafter, mediates my relationships with women. Her death induced in me a tremendous curiosity for all things criminal. I had to go out and write.”

And write he did.

Dining with James Ellroy summons a conversation only found in novels written by James Ellroy.  An austere staccato drove the narrative through all three courses, his dialogue came forth in great bursts in each of the three cities, and like in MUCH of his writing over the years, the discussion took several surprising turns.

With that opening line seared into us, The Luncheon Society began its three city odyssey with alpha dog crime writer James Ellroy. Seated next to James throughout was Erika Schickel, the woman who is central to his life and perhaps the key that unlocks The Hilliker Curse, his memoir on how his mother’s grisly death drove the tenor of his relationship with women.

Erika is also a friend of The Luncheon Society who has joined in the past. She also helped organize a wonderful gathering with her father, Richard Schickel, who is one of the best film writers in the industry earlier this year.

No slouch to the printed or spoken word, Erika published a knock-out memoir several years back titled, You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom, a self portrait of post-hipster life on the suburban plain.  She also wrote a well-received play a decade earlier titled Wild Amerika, a “meditation on mating, monogamy, and motherhood – from a Darwinist point of view.” She is now hard at work on a follow up to her earlier book, tentatively titled “Adult Supervision.”

Continue reading