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2021, Luncheon Society Year in Review

2021 marked the 26th season of The Luncheon Society.  

While the 2021 season was still impacted by a variety of COVID-19 variants, we have successfully transitioned to an online environment. We will be having some special in-person gatherings as soon as the clouds lift. However, in spite of these interesting times, we thought we would take a moment to reflect upon the 2021 season as well as the gatherings over the past 26 years.    
We will celebrate more in our 27th season, which will begin in January 2022.  

Scroll down to review the 2021 season. Scroll down further to review the past 26 seasons.  

See everybody again in January.    
The Luncheon Society 2021 Recap

We had a wonderful season this year and we hope to get together in person soon. We will be testing out a number of The Luncheon Society cocktail gatherings once we get past the current variant of COVD-19. Until then, please stay safe.  
To RSVP : Bob.McBarton@comcast.net    

Best,   
Bob McBarton
Executive Director
2021 started with a New Hope as the commotion of the 2020 political season, complete with the Capitol Hill insurrection by Trump supporters on January 6th. However, Mike Dukakis joined for his annual Luncheon Society gathering—his first with us since we went to an all-Zoom format—and advised the Biden Administration to “go large,” when it came to a personal stimulus as well as building a define national strategy for upgrading our national infrastructure. He talked about using this moment to rebuild the country for the 21st century—in a way that has not been done since The Great Depression or since Eisenhower inaugurated the interstate highway system. He said that we need more than to merely fund “shovel ready projects,” like what was done in the opening moments of the Obama Administration, but instead we need to take a focused approach to rebuilding our transportation networks, our energy grid so that we can sprint to our goals so that we can move beyond merely being energy independent. He voiced concerns that Republicans are moving to restrict voting rights, based on what was being proposed in places like Arizona and Georgia. He has predicted that many of these voting restrictions will either be thrown out in court or will further energize Democrats to ensure that their votes are counted.   
A powerful reckoning over the people we might have been if we’d chosen a different path, from a master of the short story. In this stirring, reflective collection of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates ponders alternate destinies: the other lives we might have led if we’d made different choices. An accomplished writer returns to her childhood home of Yewville, but the homecoming stirs troubled thoughts about the person she might have been if she’d never left. A man in prison contemplates the gravity of his irreversible act. A student’s affair with a professor results in a pregnancy that alters the course of her life forever. Even the experience of reading is investigated as one that can create a profound transformation: “You could enter another time, the time of the book.” The (Other) You is an arresting and incisive vision into these alternative realities, a collection that ponders the constraints we all face given the circumstances of our birth and our temperaments, and that examines the competing pressures and expectations on women in particular. Finely attuned to the nuances of our social and psychic selves, Joyce Carol Oates demonstrates here why she remains one of our most celebrated and relevant literary figures. 
In Spymaster’s Prism the legendary former legendary CIA spymaster Jack Devine details the unending struggle with Russia and its intelligence agencies as it works against our national security. Devine tells this story through the unique perspective of a seasoned CIA professional who served more than three decades, some at the highest levels of the agency. He uses his gimlet-eyed view to walk us through the fascinating spy cases and covert action activities of Russia, not only through the Cold War past but up to and including its interference in the Trump era. Devine also looks over the horizon to see what lies ahead in this struggle and provides prescriptions for the future. Based on personal experience and exhaustive research, Devine builds a vivid and complex mosaic that illustrates how Russia’s intelligence activities have continued uninterrupted throughout modern history, using fundamentally identical policies and techniques to undermine our democracy. He shows in stark terms how intelligence has been modernized and weaponized through the power of the cyber world. Devine presents his analysis using clear-eyed vision and a repertoire of better-than-fiction spy stories, giving us an objective, riveting, and candid take on U.S.-Russia relations. He offers key lessons from our intelligence successes and failures over the past seventy-five years that will help us determine how to address our current strategic shortfall, emerge ahead of the Russians, and be prepared for what’s to come from any adversary.  
A double header with Melanie Chartoff and Laraine Newman. Go backstage on Broadway with Melanie Chartoff, behind the scenes on network television, and inside the complicated psyche of a talented performer struggling to play the role of a complete human. Odd Woman Out intimately exposes the nature of identity in the life of a performing artist, snapshotting the hopeful search for a self Chartoff could love, and someone else’s self to love, too. Trying to crawl inside the television set to get her parents’ attention, she got blocked by all the tubes and wires. So she had to go the long way around to get herself onscreen. In a series of essays and stories, Chartoff explores her ambition, artistry and love blunders in her hilarious, heartbreaking and hopeful new memoir. From her 1950s childhood in a suburb she describes as an “abusement park,” to performing Molière on Broadway, to voicing characters on the popular “Rugrats” cartoon series, Melanie Chartoff was anxious “out of character”; preferring any imaginary world to her real one. Obsessed with exploring her talent and mastering craft, fame came as a destabilizing byproduct. Suppressing a spiritual breakdown while co-starring on a late-night comedy show, Chartoff grew more estranged from whoever she was meant to be. But given a private audience with a guru, she finally heard her inner voice, played by ’70s soul singer Barry White, crooning, “Get out, baby!”; All the while, she’s courted by men with homing pigeons and Priuses, idealized by guys who want the girl du jour from TV to be their baby-rearer or kidney donor.   
From growing up in Los Angeles with movie star neighbors, bearing witness to the music scene in the 1960s and seeing the rise of comedy in the early 70s, to studying mime in Paris under the tutelage of Marcel Marceau to becoming a founding member of the seminal comedy troupe The Groundlings, it’s no wonder that Lorne Michaels offered Laraine Newman a spot in the original cast of Saturday Night Live. There, along with famous cast members John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Garret Morris, and Gilda Radner – Bill Murray was passed over at first and joined in a later season – Laraine was part of the show that changed TV – and comedy – forever. But it isn’t all yuks and glamor. Laraine struggled with demons, arriving in New York City with an attraction to drugs that started as a vice and grew to be an all-consuming addiction – even as she skyrocketed to fame via her memorable characters on SNL. May You Live in Interesting Times is a warm, funny, heartfelt snapshot of 1970s New York City and SNL’s unexpected rocket to success, with all the giddy headiness that that entailed. After five seasons, Laraine left SNL, and worked in movies and television, while having adventures and relationships in Hollywood that, in her words, “should have gotten me killed.” Now with long term sobriety, she became a parent and reinvented herself as a voice-over actor and has a thriving career working on such animated favorites as Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Despicable Me, Inside Out, Shrek, and Minions. Laraine’s daughter Emmy-nominated Hannah Einbinder can be seen in the HBO limited series “Hacks,” where she co-stars alongside Jean Smart.    
No memoirist has looked at her own family dynamics than award winning writer Honor Moore, as she wrote honestly about both of her parents. A daughter’s “tender and unflinching portrait of her complex, privileged, wildly talented mother” (Louise Erdrich) evolves beautifully into a narrative of the far-reaching changes in women’s lives in the twentieth century. With the sweep of an epic novel, Our Revolution follows charismatic and brilliant Jenny Moore, whose life changed as she became engaged in movements for peace and social justice. Decades after Jenny’s early death, acclaimed poet and memoirist Honor Moore forges a new relationship with the seeker and truth teller she finds in her mother’s writing. Our Revolution is a daughter’s vivid, absorbing account of the mother who shaped her life as an artist and a woman, “beautifully recorded, documented, and envisioned as feminist art and American history” (Margo Jefferson). Jenny bequeathed her eldest daughter her unfinished writing, and there Honor Moore finds the mother whose loss had long haunted her. Moore takes the trouble to see her mother’s choices in their historical and social context: World War II, with its impact on family formation and the aspirations of young men and women coming of age; the women’s movement, which changed both their lives; the civil rights movement; and the insular society of Jenny’s childhood – “the intricate social architecture that had held the world of the rich more or less in place since the Civil War.” Our Revolution is a gripping account of two women navigating the twentieth century and a daughter’s story of the mother who shaped her life as an artist and a woman. Honor Moore is well known for her work as a playwright, memoirist, editor, and poet. She has edited selections of Amy Lowell’s poems, contemporary plays by American women, and poems from Russia. Moore is the author of the poetry collections Red Shoes  (2005), Darling (2001), and Memoir (1988); the memoirs Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury  (2020), The White Blackbird: A Life of the Painter Margarett Sargent by Her Granddaughter (1996), and The Bishop’s Daughter (2008); the play Mourning Pictures (1977); and numerous essays and reviews.  
“Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie,” the next great media biography by journalist Lisa Napoli, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of National Public Radio. A group biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR. In the years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in the workplace still found themselves relegated to secretarial positions or locked out of jobs entirely. This was especially true in the news business, a backwater of male chauvinism where a woman might be lucky to get a foothold on the “women’s pages.” But when a pioneering nonprofit called National Public Radio came along in the 1970s, and the door to serious journalism opened a crack, four remarkable women came along and blew it off the hinges.   Susan Stamberg, who had lived in India with her husband who worked for the State Department, was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program and pressed for accommodations to balance work and home life.Linda Wertheimer, the daughter of shopkeepers in New Mexico, fought her way to a scholarship and a spot on-air.Nina Totenberg, the network’s legal affairs correspondent, invented a new way to cover the Supreme Court.Cokie Roberts was born into a political dynasty, roamed the halls of Congress as a child, and felt a tug toward public service.   Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie is journalist Lisa Napoli’s captivating account of these four women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons. They had radically different stories. Based on extensive interviews and calling on the author’s deep connections in news and public radio, Susan, Linda, Nina, & Cokie will be as beguiling and sharp as its formidable subjects. What was nice is that we had a number of Cokie Roberts and Nina Totenberg’s family members around our table.  
With his tender, funny memoir of four decades in the business, Multi-Emmy and Thurber Award winning comedy writer Alan Zweibel traces the history of his craft in his new cultural memoir, “Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier, In it, Zweibel started his comedy career selling jokes for seven dollars apiece to the last of the Borscht Belt stand-ups. Then one night, despite bombing on stage, he caught the attention of Lorne Michaels and became one of the first writers at Saturday Night Live, where he penned classic material for Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and all of the original Not Ready for Prime-Time Players. From SNL, Zweibel went on to have a hand in a series of landmark shows—from co-creating “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Alan talks about the power of collaboration, with his partnership with Billy Crystal in the Broadway smash “700 Sundays,” as well as with Martin Short in “Fame Becomes Me.” In “Laugh Lines,” Zweibel weaves together the stories of his influential career, from writing for a generation of Jackies and Mortys and Dickies to meeting Gilda while hiding behind a potted plant. He goes deep into the origins of famous SNL sketches, as well as how the show evolved in the wake of meteoric success, and the projects—not all of them so enduring—that followed. And Zweibel writes tenderly about his friendships—with Shandling, Billy Crystal, Larry David, and others. Woven throughout are also words from other comedians and writers, including Richard Lewis, Eric Idle, Judd Apatow, Dave Barry, Carl Reiner, Mike Birbiglia, Sarah Silverman, and more. This is a warmhearted cultural memoir from a talented, award-winning writer. The latest motion picture collaboration with Billy Crystal, “Here Now,” is out in theaters as we go to print—and it is getting wonderful reviews.   
From the bestselling author of The Everything Store, Bloomberg’s Brad Stone rejoins The Luncheon Society and offers an unvarnished picture of Amazon’s unprecedented growth as well as its billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, revealing the most important business story of our time. It is now a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best-Seller. Almost ten years ago, Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone captured the rise of Amazon in his bestseller The Everything Store. Since then, Amazon has expanded exponentially, inventing novel products like Alexa and disrupting countless industries, while its workforce has quintupled in size and its valuation has soared to well over a trillion dollars. Jeff Bezos’s empire, once housed in a garage, now spans the globe. Between services like Whole Foods, Prime Video, and Amazon’s cloud computing unit, AWS, plus Bezos’s ownership of The Washington Post, it’s impossible to go a day without encountering its impact. We live in a world run, supplied, and controlled by Amazon and its iconoclast founder. In Amazon Unbound, Brad Stone presents a deeply reported, vividly drawn portrait of how a retail upstart became one of the most powerful and feared entities in the global economy. Stone also probes the evolution of Bezos himself—who started as a geeky technologist totally devoted to building Amazon, but who transformed to become a fit, disciplined billionaire with global ambitions; who ruled Amazon with an iron fist, even as he found his personal life splashed over the tabloids. Definitive, timely, and revelatory, Stone has provided an unvarnished portrait of a man and company that we couldn’t imagine modern life without.  
Poetry has always been the perfect vehicle for the unwieldy, intractable narrative—the pulsating injustice that refuses to dim, the love that swells unchecked, the numbing tragedy that bleeds past the borders. In “I Had a Brother Once”Adam’s Manbach’s penetrating chronicle of his younger brother’s suicide—there is an almost unbearable tension between an unrelenting poetic structure that just barely contains the unthinkable and exhaustive emotional range of the of the poem itself.   “my father said david has taken his own life”   Adam is in the middle of his own busy life, and approaching a career high in the form of a #1 New York Times bestselling book—(the breakout monster bestseller “Go The Fuck to Sleep”) when these words from his father open a chasm beneath his feet. “I Had a Brother Once” is the story of everything that comes after. In the shadow of David’s inexplicable death, Adam is forced to re-remember a brother he thought he knew and to reckon with a ghost, confronting his unsettled family history, his distant relationship with tradition and faith, and his desperate need to understand an event that always slides just out of his grasp. This is an expansive and deeply thoughtful poetic meditation on loss and a raw, darkly funny, human story of trying to create a ritual—of remembrance, mourning, forgiveness, and acceptance—where once there was a life.    
Jeffrey Garten, The former dean of the Yale School of Management and Undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, chronicles the pivotal 1971 August meeting at Camp David, where President Nixon unilaterally ended the last vestiges of the gold standard—breaking the link between gold and the dollar—transforming the entire global monetary system. Since 1944, all national currencies had been valued against the U.S. dollar, which itself was convertible to gold at a fixed rate. It was a system that fueled the phenomenal recovery of Western Europe and much of East Asia from the ashes of war, together with an unprecedented expansion of middle-class prosperity in America. Yet the U.S. gold supply was dwindling dramatically, and the group at Camp David felt compelled to sever the link between the dollar and the precious metal, sending the global economy into a tailspin and creating shock waves throughout America’s most important alliances. In so doing, Nixon and his team were signaling that the United States was no longer rich and powerful enough to hold up the free world economically and militarily, and that it needed help from its democratic partners. In abandoning the gold-dollar connection, the Nixon administration opened the way for a highly volatile and crisis-prone world economy. But at the same time, it ushered in an era of enormous expansion of trade and investment across borders, leading to four decades of continued global economic growth. In addition, after the Camp David meeting, Nixon successfully leveraged the crisis, which he himself had created, to strengthen political alliances and international economic cooperation. Three Days at Camp David takes us into the room where the decision was made to untie the dollar from gold, bringing to life the backgrounds and mind-sets of the men around the table. Based on extensive research and interviews with many participants at the Camp David meeting, and informed by his own insights from his hands-on experience in Washington and on Wall Street, plus his teaching at Yale, Garten has written the definitive record of a critical historical turning point, with significant implications for America in the years ahead. Of course, we love his wife’s (Ina Garten) cooking too.
It was a real struggle to confront my demons and to write a book that is very sad and serious with moments of lightness. I had to finally let go and say this book is going to be with what it has to be.” —Erika Schickel  

It has been fun watching this book find its audience. This complex memoir shows what it was like growing up in the shadow of a literary father and a neglectful mother, getting thrown out of boarding school after being seduced by a teacher, and all of the later-life consequences that ensue. In 1982, Erika Schickel was expelled from her East Coast prep school for sleeping with a teacher. She was that girl—rebellious, precocious, and macking for love. Seduced, caught, and then whisked away in the night to avoid scandal, Schickel’s provocative, searing, and darkly funny memoir, “The Big Hurt,” explores the question, How did that girl turn out? Schickel came of age in the 1970s, the progeny of two writers: Richard Schickel, the prominent film critic for TIME magazine, and Julia Whedon, a melancholy mid-list novelist. In the wake of her parents’ ugly divorce, Erika was packed off to a bohemian boarding school in the Berkshires. The Big Hurt tells two coming-of-age stories: one of a lost girl in a predatory world, and the other of that girl grown up, who in reckoning with her past ends up recreating it with a notorious LA crime novelist, blowing up her marriage and casting herself into the second exile of her life. The Big Hurt looks at a legacy of shame handed down through a maternal bloodline and the cost of epigenetic trauma. It shines a light on the haute culture of 1970s Manhattan that made girls grow up too fast. It looks at the long shadow cast by great, monstrously self-absorbed literary lives and the ways in which women pin themselves like beautiful butterflies to the spreading board of male ego.   
A personal journey through some of the darkest moments of the cold war and the early days of television news. Marvin Kalb, the award-winning journalist who has written extensively about the world he reported on during his long career, now turns his eye on the young man who became that journalist. Chosen by legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow to become one of the “Murrow Boys,” Kalb in this newest volume of his memoirs takes readers back to his first days as a journalist, and what also were the first days of broadcast news in Assignment Russia. The world in the late 1950’s was a tense geopolitical drama of Eisenhower’s America, Khrushchev’s Russia, and Mao’s China. Mistrust and strategic calculation governed international relations. Kalb, who had left his graduate work in Russian studies at Harvard for Ed Murrow’s call to join him at CBS News, brought a scholar’s appreciation for history and objective research to his new role as a journalist who explained and explored this new postwar world. It was also a new world of journalism, brought by cameras into the viewer’s homes. The difficulties of conveying news not only by image but by world—and doing so on deadline, with minimal resources and in a hostile environment—are alive in Marvin Kalb’s engage and vivid writing. He calls this book his “Long Letter Home.” Kalb joins a cast of legendary figures in telling this story in the early days of The Cold War and broadcast news, from Murrow to Eric Severeid, Howard K. Smith, Richard Hottelet, Charles Kuralt, and Daniel Schorr, among many others—men like himself who became household names and trusted guides to a tension-filled world. Kalb witnesses and interpreted many of the defining moments of The Cold War. In Assignment Russia,” he ultimately finds himself assigned as a Moscow correspondent just as the U-2 Incident—the downing of a US spy plane over Russian territory—is unfolding. Kalb brings alive once again the tension that surrounded that event, and the reportorial skills deployed to illuminate it.  
Iconic “Disney Legend” actress Hayley Mills shares her new memoir from her storied childhood, growing up in a famous acting family and becoming a Disney child star, trying to grow up in a world that wanted her to stay “Forever Young.” The daughter of acclaimed British actor Sir John Mills was still a preteen when she began her acting career and was quickly thrust into the spotlight. Under the wing of Walt Disney himself, Hayley Mills was transformed into one of the biggest child starlets of the 1960s through her iconic roles in Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, and many more. She became one of only 12 actors in history to be bestowed with the Academy Juvenile Award, presented at the Oscars by its first recipient, Shirley Temple, and went on to win a number of awards including a Golden Globe, multiple BAFTAs, and a Disney Legacy Award. Now, in her charming and forthright memoir, she provides a unique window into when Hollywood was still “Tinseltown” and the great Walt Disney was at his zenith, ruling over what was (at least in his own head) still a family business. This behind-the-scenes look at the drama of having a sky-rocketing career as a young teen in an esteemed acting family will offer both her childhood impressions of the wild and glamorous world she was swept into, and the wisdom and broader knowledge that time has given her. Hayley will delve intimately into her relationship with Walt Disney, as well as the emotional challenges of being bound to a wholesome, youthful public image as she grew into her later teen years, and how that impacted her and her choices – including marrying a producer over 30 years her senior when she was 20! With her regrets, her joys, her difficulties, and her triumphs, this is a compelling listen for any fan of classic Disney films and an inside look at a piece of real Hollywood history.   
Science Day returns to The Luncheon Society. How have the latest generation of NASA rovers changed our understanding of the Red Planet? Let’s find out as JPL’s Dr. John Callas, who ran Mission Control for Mars Rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity” rejoins The Luncheon Society for an update.   Its getting crowded on Mars–and that’s a great thing for science. What drives Perseverance’s mission and what will it do at the Red Planet?   The Perseverance rover draws on the NASA – and scientific – spirit of overcoming challenges. The rover has a tough mission. Not only does it have to land on a treacherous planet, it has to work on its science goals: searching for signs of ancient microbial life, characterizing the planet’s geology and climate, collecting carefully selected rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, and paving the way for human exploration beyond the Moon. These activities epitomize why NASA chose the name Perseverance from among the 28,000 essays submitted during the “Name the Rover” contest. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the months leading up to the launch in particular have required creative problem solving, teamwork, and determination. Perseverance builds on the lessons of other Mars rovers. NASA’s modest first rover – Sojourner – demonstrated in 1997 that a robot could rove on the Red Planet. Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004, found evidence that the planet once hosted running water before becoming a frozen desert. Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012, discovered that its landing site, Gale Crater, was home to of a lake billions of years ago, with an environment that could have supported microbial life. The rover will be landing in a place with high potential for finding signs of past microbial life. Jezero Crater is 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide and sits on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant basin just north of the Martian equator dug out long ago when a space rock hit the surface. Sometime between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago at Jezero, a river flowed into a body of water the size of Lake Tahoe. Perseverance will also be collecting important data about Mars’ geology and climate. Mars orbiters have been collecting images and other data from Jezero Crater from about 200 miles (322 kilometers) above, but finding signs of ancient life on the surface will require much closer inspection. It demands a rover like Perseverance, which can look for signs that may be related to life and can analyze the context in which they were found to see if they were biological in origin. Perseverance is the first leg of a round trip to Mars. Verifying ancient microscopic life on Mars carries an enormous burden of proof. Perseverance is the first rover to bring a sample-gathering system to Mars that will package promising examples of rocks and sediments for return to Earth by a future mission.  
From Warsaw with Love is the epic story of how Polish intelligence officers forged an alliance with the CIA in the twilight of the Cold War, told by the award-winning author John Pomfret. Spanning decades and continents, from the battlefields of the Balkans to secret nuclear research labs in Iran and embassy grounds in North Korea, this saga begins in 1990. As the United States cobbles together a coalition to undo Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, six US officers are trapped in Iraq with intelligence that could ruin Operation Desert Storm if it is obtained by the brutal Iraqi dictator. Desperate, the CIA asks Poland, a longtime Cold War foe famed for its excellent spies, for help. Just months after the Polish people voted in their first democratic election since the 1930s, the young Solidarity government in Warsaw sends a veteran ex-Communist spy who’d battled the West for decades to rescue the six Americans. John Pomfret’s gripping account of the 1990 cliffhanger in Iraq is just the beginning of the tale about intelligence cooperation between Poland and the United States, cooperation that one CIA director would later describe as “one of the two foremost intelligence relationships that the United States has ever had.” Pomfret uncovers new details about the CIA’s black site program that held suspected terrorists in Poland after 9/11 as well as the role of Polish spies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the tradition of the most memorable works on espionage, Pomfret’s book tells a distressing and disquieting tale of moral ambiguity in which right and wrong, black and white, are not conveniently distinguishable. As the United States teeters on the edge of a new cold war with Russia and China, Pomfret explores how these little-known events serve as a reminder of the importance of alliances in a dangerous world.  
26 seasons of The Luncheon Society gatherings  

2021 Luncheon Society Season
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2020 Luncheon Society Season   
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2019 Luncheon Society Season
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2018 Luncheon Society Season
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2017 Luncheon Society Season
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2016 Luncheon Society Season
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2015 Luncheon Society Season
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2014 Luncheon Society Season
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2013 Luncheon Society Season
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2012 Luncheon Society Season
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2011 Luncheon Society Season
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2010 Luncheon Society Season
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2009 Luncheon Society Season
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2008 Luncheon Society Season
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2007 Luncheon Society Season
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2006 Luncheon Society Season  
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2005 Luncheon Society Season
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2004 Luncheon Society Season
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2003 Luncheon Society Season  
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1996 – 2002 Luncheon Society Season “The Salad Days”   
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The Luncheon Society™ began as a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Boston.  During the Pandemic, we are on Zoom. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1996 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result. There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can.   2022 will be our 27th season.  
Hope you can join us.  

Bob McBarton bob.mcbarton@comcast.net
The Luncheon Society
cell 925.216.9578
Twitter:  @LuncheonSociety

The Luncheon Society at 25


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We hoped to spend 2020 celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Luncheon Society,
but clearly this was not a celebratory year.
In a year where we transitioned to “Zoom gatherings,” we thought we would reflect upon the great fun we have had over the past 25 years.
So we will celebrate more in our 26th season, starting in January.
Scroll down to review the past 25 seasons.


 

 25 Seasons and Beyond.
 

Maybe you joined us for some of these gatherings.
Maybe it was on the infamous Christopher Hitchens post- luncheon pub crawl.
Maybe you heard Jane Goodall drop the F bomb.
Or when Warren Christopher said there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, way back in 2003.
Or the time Buzz Aldrin joked that he didn’t watch the moon landing on television because he was “clearly out of town.”
Or the time when Paul Krugman asked Linda Ronstadt to “sing her question” as opposed to simply asking it.
Or the time that a 90 year old former Mayor of San Francisco drank us all under the table. 
Or the Roger Ebert gathering, 48 hours after the Academy Awards, which went long into the Santa Monica evening and the aspiring actors working as waiters slipped their headshots and screenplays under the dinner plates.
Or Temple Grandin on how she thinks.
Or when Ted Sorensen talked us through the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close we all came to Nuclear Armageddon.
Or the master class in absolute courage with two members of The Little Rock Nine.
Or maybe you heard Joyce Carol Oates simply read her brilliant work.
Or maybe you came to enjoy the moment.

Thank you. 

The 26th season starts in January with Mike Dukakis, as always.
Now that we are on Zoom, you can join us from anywhere.
The Luncheon Society. We are Adult Drop-in Daycare. 

25 years of The Luncheon Society gatherings 

2020 Luncheon Society Season  
https://bit.ly/3842kyW 

2019 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/2Kqlwiw 

2018 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3gH58Gl  

2017 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3mm7yeQ  

2016 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/2KqlPtG  

2015 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/386hsfw  

2014 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/34qkpXh  

2013 Luncheon Society Season
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2012 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3nlYjN2  

2011 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/2WeMFas  

2010 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/2K0kUjE  

2009 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3qSjecC  

2008 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3gUW9S9  

2007 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/2ILviLB  

2006 Luncheon Society Season
 https://bit.ly/3gPTqsX 

2005 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3qVDrxY  

2004 Luncheon Society Season
https://bit.ly/3oMt1yR  

2003 Luncheon Society Season
 https://bit.ly/2JTZSDo 

1996 – 2002 Luncheon Society Season
“The Salad Days”
  https://bit.ly/2Wd7qnf   

The 2020 Season of The Luncheon Society: a review

2020.  This was an interesting year. Like everybody else, we started out looking forward to the new year, but we quickly found ourselves facing the global pandemic like everybody else. In March, suspended the Luncheon Society gatherings in our four cities, but in June, with the help of Zoom, we found ourselves back on track. Our migration to Zoom has offered a number of important benefits, although I miss our gatherings, especially the after-party. 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis started the year (as he has for the past two decades) in Los Angeles and San Francisco just before the curtain fell down on the country with the COVID-10 outbreak. He warned us that while it might look good for a Democratic presidential nominee, we would have to organize down to each and every block to make things happen in the fall. In the last few years, upstart brands have come out of nowhere to take over huge businesses. Think Warby Parker, Casper, and Dollar Shave Club. How did they do it? That’s the question everyone, from consumers to the big brands who previously owned these categories, wants to know. Lawrence Ingrassia’s engaging, must-read new book, Billion Dollar Brand Club, has the answers. Former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart returned to The Luncheon Society for the first time in a decade (thanks to Zoom) to talk about the secret powers of the US presidency  and what might happen if Donald Trump refuses to leave in the case of a disputed outcome in November.  Film gatherings are always a great deal of fun and Sydney Ledensohn Stern spoke to her book, The Brothers Mankiewicz, about the seminal impact of Herman and Joe who earned five Academy Awards between them. The lives of both Joe and Herman were dramatic enough to fill several screenplays.  Moreover, several members of the Mankiewicz family joined for the call. Joyce Carol Oates returned for another Luncheon Society gatherings, this time on Zoom, where we talked about the themes from her latest novel, “Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.” It is a powerhouse of what happens when things fall apart. While Academy Award winning actress Lee Grant would join The Luncheon Society now and then around the table in Manhattan, we were pleased to welcome her back to us in a Zoom call, where she talked about the experiences of living through the Hollywood Blacklist as a young actress and fighting back after she was able to return to work.  It is an amazing story of inner strength.  Jeffrey Toobin joined us for a conversation about his latest book, “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump,” which suggests that Donald Trump was able to outlast and out maneuver Robert Mueller, as crime after crime took place in plain sight. The 2009 TED Award Winner Jill Tarter brought us up to date on the great leaps forward in SETI research, thanks not only to the Kepler planet hunting space problem as well as increased computing power here on the planet Earth.  A fictionalized version of Jill Tarter was portrayed by Jodie Foster in the film “Contact.”  There is a sequel in the works.  Our friend Dana Thomas returned to The Luncheon Society for a conversation about how the environmental impacts of fast fashion are harming us. However, there is hope.  There is a new generation of clothing manufacturers that are working to make garments that are more environmentally friendly as well as well as safer for those who are crating them.  As Jimmy Carter’s far-sighted Presidency goes through a period of historical reevaluation, MSNBC’s Jonathan Alter joined us for a conversation surrounding his presidency, including the improbably rise from obscurity after Watergate as well as his lack of political skills that hamstrung him while in office. In a landmark article in The Atlantic, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Barton Gellman, suggests that while Trump may lose the election, he will never concede.  He worries that his White House is already trying to create an atmosphere of denigrating the results through voter suppression, especially with mail-in ballots if he loses the race. The period between the election and the inauguration may prove to be a dangerous time in American history. Former CIA spymaster Jack Devine joined The Luncheon Society for a fourth visit as he details the intention of foreign countries and their attempts to delegitimize the coming American election.  He says that Putin wants to divide the West and somehow rebuild through coercion, some form of the old Soviet Union.  24 hours before the 2020 Presidential election, Ben Bradlee Jr and Richard Wolffe sat down with us on Zoom to give their thoughts on how the Presidential election might unfold. Everybody saw a Biden win, but nobody saw the fact that Republicans would manage to hold on to the US Senate, at least until the two January 2021 runoffs in Georgia.  The major thrust of their conversation was that Trump might be beaten, but “Trumpism” would remain as part of the stock and trades of far right politics for a long time to come. NASA is only 100 days away from the next great rover to land on the surface of The Red Planet. Perseverance will build upon the discoveries of Curiosity (which landed in 2012) as well as the rovers and orbiters of the past two decades.  JPL’s Dr. John Callas, who as Project Manager, served as the head of Mission Control the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.  What is exciting about this upcoming mission is that Perseverance will come with the very first Martian helicopter.   We capped off the 2020 season with two time National Book Award finalist and New York State Poet Laureate Alicia Ostriker.  However, what made the gathering  uniquely special was the other writers and poets that joined us, like Joyce Carol Oates, Andrei Codrescu, Marilyn Hacker, Toi Derricotte and others for a conversation about poetry in the city during these times of global pandemic.

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The Luncheon Society/NY State Poet Laureate and two time National Book Award finalist Alicia Ostriker on “Poetry and the City/Zoom/November 20, 2020

The Luncheon Society/JPL Mars Rover Mission Control leader John Callas and the future exploration of Mars/Zoom/November 12, 2020

The Luncheon Society/Ben Bradlee Jr and Richard Wolffe on their thoughts—24 hours before the 2020 Presidential Election/Zoom/November 2, 2020

Luncheon Society Flashback TBD

Luncheon Society Flashback TBD

The Luncheon Society/Former CIA Spymaster Jack Devine on foreign intervention in American elections/Zoom/October 26, 2020

The Luncheon Society/Barton Gellman/The Election That Could Break America/Zoom/ October 14, 2020