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2022 Luncheon Society Season (Note the website is being updated)

From Joyce Carol Oates comes “Breathe,” a novel of love and loss from Best-selling and prize-winning author Joyce Carol Oates.

Amid a starkly beautiful but uncanny landscape in New Mexico, a married couple from Cambridge, MA takes residency at a distinguished academic institute. When the husband is stricken with a mysterious illness, misdiagnosed at first, their lives are uprooted and husband and wife each embarks upon a nightmare journey. At thirty-seven, Michaela faces the terrifying prospect of widowhood – and the loss of Gerard, whose identity has greatly shaped her own. 
In vividly depicted scenes of escalating suspense, Michaela cares desperately for Gerard in his final days as she comes to realize that her love for her husband, however fierce and selfless, is not enough to save him and that his death is beyond her comprehension. A love that refuses to be surrendered at death—is this the blessing of a unique married love, or a curse that must be exorcized?

Part intimately detailed love story, part horror story rooted in real life, BREATHE is an exploration of hauntedness rooted in the domesticity of marital love, as well as our determination both to be faithful to the beloved and to survive the trauma of loss. 

How do we address the fear that is consuming us. John Hagel’s The Journey Beyond Fear” could not be timelier. More and more people around the world are acknowledging the fear they feel and are seeking ways to overcome it.

Fear had been spreading well before the current pandemic, but the pandemic has intensified it.
The pandemic has helped to make it more acceptable to acknowledge the fear and increased our desire to move beyond fear. Over decades, my job has been to help people (and organizations) anticipate how the world is changing and address the opportunities emerging from these changes.

Over the years, I realized that our emotions shape our choices and actions in profound ways and that we are not paying enough attention to the emotions that govern our lives and that serve as either obstacles or amplifiers of personal, institutional and social progress. This book suggests the spreading emotion of fear is certainly understandable given the forces that are creating mounting performance pressure on all of us, but the emotion is very limiting. More importantly, while we are susceptible to fear, none of us wants to live in fear. We all aspire to cultivate hope and excitement so that we can achieve more meaningful impact. Offering a path forward, this book focuses on the role that narrative, passion and platforms can play in helping us to cultivate the emotions that will help us to move beyond fear. 

Over the past century, Buster Keaton’s story has become mired in myth and legend. Now James Curtis, the award-winning biographer of W.C. Fields, Preston Sturges, James Whale, and Spencer Tracy, follows Keaton’s extraordinary life of triumph and tragedy in the first major biography in more than a quarter century
Buster Keaton–a Filmmaker’s Life draws on newly unearthed archival resources, as well as interviews with family, friends, and co-workers, Keaton’s complex genius emerges as never before.

It was James Agee who first christened Buster Keaton “The Great Stone Face,” but to audiences who had known Keaton since the age of five, it was merely a formality. The whole world had come to accept his stoic features as one of the genuine trademarks of silent film comedy, a deadpan in a pork pie hat as famous as Charlie Chaplin’s disreputable tramp or Harold Lloyd’s eager beaver in straw boater and spectacles. “He was the only major comedian who kept sentiment almost entirely out of his work,” Agee wrote, “and he brought pure physical comedy to its greatest heights.” Keaton’s singular look and acrobatic brilliance obscured the fact that behind the camera he was also one of the silent era’s most gifted filmmakers. Through a string of nineteen short comedies and twelve extraordinary features he distinguished himself with such indelible works as “One Week”, “The Play House”, “The Boat”, “Cops”, “Our Hospitality”, “Sherlock Jr.”, “The Navigator”, “Seven Chances”, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, “The Cameraman”, and his magnum opus “The General”. As a body of work, they rival Chaplin’s in terms of quality and sheer comic invention. In 1960 Keaton was awarded an honorary Oscar.  Curtis brings new insights to Keaton’s medicine show and vaudeville years as Buster becomes one of America’s most famous performing children. Entering films as the protégée of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Keaton quickly ascends to co-director of some of the world’s most popular short comedies. And when Arbuckle moves into features in 1920, Keaton begins to write, direct, and star in his own series of comedy classics, films that are still revived and honored today as some of the screen’s greatest treasures. 

Michael Lewis talks about the early days of NASL soccer in the United States were wild and the survival of the Rochester Lancers in “Alive and Kicking,” is an amazing one; a tale about passion for the beautiful game, and how the team and owners survived the good, bad and ugly times during a 14-year existence.

This book tells their story, the birth, life and death of the club. It starts with their humble beginnings with the Italian American Sport Club, which captured the 1963 National Amateur Cup title, to their glory years – they saved the North American Soccer League from extinction in 1970, to some lean and disappointing seasons, to a late revival before the team went to the great soccer league in the sky.
The Lancers were operated by owners who didn’t necessarily want to get rich on the sport but wanted to see the game grow in their city and the United States as the Green Bay of soccer.

The team certainly lived in some interesting times, with many characters and players wearing various renditions of the blue and gold uniform.

There were historic Concacaf Champions League matches in Guatemala, an NASL championship celebration, colossal late collapses, winning despite multiple own goals by the same defender, winning a playoff match despite two penalty kick failures by the same striker, and winning another playoff game despite playing with two men down at an enemy venue.

With the Lancers, there was always plenty of hope, but perhaps not as much money as the owners and players had hoped. There was one common denominator. There seemed to be never a dull moment.

For example:A star player asking to be traded every season.A revolving door of coaches.A fierce and deadly ethnic rivalry spreading to Toronto and Rochester.A teenage scoring star almost saving a season.A marathon 176 minute playoff game for the ages seemingly lasting for ages.A harrowing plane ride from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y.Opposing teams arriving late at games.Goalkeepers commuting to games from their home cities.A team owner sitting on the bench during games.Another team owner sending notes to the coach from the press box to the bench on what substitutions should have been made.An owner coaching the team to a few wins.Another owner directing the team to its worst defeat.A coach who was suspended from the field for home games, guiding the squad from the roof of the press box.Not one, but two players, throwing their shirts at their coach after being replaced.The Lancers playing in an antiquated venue, Holleder Stadium, which former New York Cosmos and German legend Franz Beckenbauer called “a nice place to grow potatoes.”Home supporters invading the field and attacking the team during a match.

This volume includes every game the Lancers played. For many Rochester soccer fans, it will be heaven. For outsiders, it might be a bit too much, and perhaps a drudgery, because many matches are detailed. But those facts put what transpired between games into proper context and perspective. 

By Dean Ornish, the pioneer of lifestyle medicine, a simple, scientifically program proven to often reverse the progression of the most common and costly chronic diseases and even begin reversing aging at a cellular level! The book, UnDo It, is long rated “#1 for Heart Health” by U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Ornish’s Program is now covered by Medicare when offered virtually at home.

Dean Ornish, M.D., has directed revolutionary research proving, for the first time, that lifestyle changes can often reverse—undo!—the progression of many of the most common and costly chronic diseases and even begin reversing aging at a cellular level.

Medicare and many insurance companies now cover Dr. Ornish’s lifestyle medicine program for reversing chronic disease because it consistently achieves bigger changes in lifestyle, better clinical outcomes, larger cost savings, and greater adherence than have ever been reported—based on forty years of research published in the leading peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals.

Now, in this landmark book, he and Anne Ornish present a simple yet powerful new unifying theory explaining why these same lifestyle changes can reverse so many different chronic diseases and how quickly these benefits occur. They describe what it is, why it works, and how you can do it:

Eat well: a whole foods, plant-based diet naturally low in fat and sugar and high in flavor. The “Ornish diet” has been rated “#1 for Heart Health” by U.S. News & World Report for eleven years since 2011. Move more: moderate exercise such as walkingStress less: including meditation and gentle yoga practicesLove more: how love and intimacy transform loneliness into healing

With seventy recipes, easy-to-follow meal plans, tips for stocking your kitchen and eating out, recommended exercises, stress-reduction advice, and inspiring patient stories of life-transforming benefits—for example, several people improved so much after only nine weeks they were able to avoid a heart transplant—Undo It! empowers readers with new hope and new choices. 

This year, we had our annual Luncheon Society Academy Award gathering with Film critic Leonard Maltin, and we also talked about his new memoir Starstruck.

While we worked our way through his personal Oscar choices, he took along the film journey of his life.

Hollywood historian and film reviewer Leonard Maltin invites readers to pull up a chair and listen as he tells stories, many of them hilarious, of 50+ years interacting with legendary movie stars, writers, directors, producers, and cartoonists. Maltin grew up in the first decade of television, immersing himself in TV programs and accessing 1930s and ’40s movies hitting the small screen.
His fan letters to admired performers led to unexpected correspondences, then to interviews and publication of his own fan magazine. Maltin’s career as a free-lance writer and New York Times-bestselling author as well as his 30-year run on Entertainment Tonight, gave him access to Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Shirley Temple, and Jimmy Stewart among hundreds of other Golden Age stars, his interviews cutting through the Hollywood veneer and revealing the human behind each legend.

Starstruck also offers a fascinating glimpse inside the Disney empire, and Maltin’s tenure teaching USC’s popular film course reveals insights into moviemaking along with access to past, current, and future stars of film, such as George Lucas, Kevin Feige, Quentin Tarantino, and Guillermo del Toro. 

When your good friend Laura Galloway leaves a high-powered media position as External Head of Media Relations for the TED Conferences in Manhattan to move to a remote village in Norway, high above the Arctic Circle, you keep in touch. When she writes a wonderful memoir, you read it. And when you run The Luncheon Society, you tell your friends about this wonderful book. Now that the Laura’s book has been published in the United States, join us for a great conversation. The “Why” of her book is truly revelational and its detailed in “Dalvi, Six Years in the Tundra.”

An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway’s wanderlust; an affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway.

When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura’s time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in.
Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her – the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home.

Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong. 

Everybody Thought We Were Crazy, the runaway bestseller about Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward touches on every intersection of 1960’s Los Angeles: Film, Art, Sex, Drugs, Fame, Self-Expression, Television, Movies, The Sunset Strip, Abuse, The New Hollywood, and More Drugs but the epicenter was at 1712 North Crescent Heights Boulevard–their home in the Hollywood Hills.

Its a busy neighborhood but Mark Rozzo brings it all alive.

Los Angeles in the 1960s: riots in Watts and on the Sunset Strip, wild weekends in Malibu, late nights at The Daisy discotheque, openings at the Ferus Gallery, and the convergence of pop art, rock and roll, and the New Hollywood. At the center of it all, one inspired, improbable, and highly combustible couple—Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward—lived out the emblematic love story of ’60s L.A.

The home these two glamorous young actors created for themselves and their family at 1712 North Crescent Heights Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills became the era’s unofficial living room, a kaleidoscopic realm—“furnished like an amusement park,” Andy Warhol said—that made an impact on anyone who ever stepped into it.

Hopper and Hayward, vanguard collectors of contemporary art, packed the place with pop masterpieces by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Warhol, and welcomed a who’s who of visitors, from Jane Fonda to Jasper Johns, Joan Didion to Tina Turner, Hells Angels to Black Panthers. In this house, everything that defined the 1960s went down: the fun, the decadence, the radical politics, and, ultimately, the danger and instability that Hopper explored in the project that made his career, became the cinematic symbol of the period, and blew their union apart—Easy Rider.

Everybody Thought We Were Crazy is at once a fascinating account of the Hopper and Hayward union and a deeply researched, panoramic cultural history. It’s the intimate saga of one couple whose own rise and fall—from youthful creative flowering to disorder and chaos—mirrors the very shape of the decade.  

A vivid biography of Harvey Weinstein from The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta—how he rose to become a dominant figure in the film world, how he used that position to feed his monstrous sexual appetites, and how it all came crashing down, from the author who has covered the Hollywood and media power game for The New Yorker for three decades. Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and The Culture of Silence is searing stuff.

Twenty years ago, Ken Auletta wrote an iconic New Yorker profile of the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was then at the height of his powers. The profile made waves for exposing how volatile, even violent, Weinstein was to his employees and collaborators. But there was a much darker story that was just out of reach: rumors had long swirled that Weinstein was a sexual predator. Auletta confronted Weinstein, who denied the claims. Since no one was willing to go on the record, Auletta and the magazine concluded they couldn’t close the case. Years later, he was able to share his reporting notes and knowledge with Ronan Farrow; he cheered as Farrow, and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, finally revealed the truth. 

Still, the story continued to nag him. The trail of assaults and cover-ups had been exposed, but the larger questions remained: What was at the root of Weinstein’s monstrousness? How, and why, was it never checked? Why the silence? How does a man run the day-to-day operations of a company with hundreds of employees and revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and at the same time live a shadow life of sexual predation without ever being caught? How much is this a story about Harvey Weinstein, and how much is this a story about Hollywood and power? 

In pursuit of the answers, Auletta digs into Weinstein’s life, searching for the mysteries beneath a film career unparalleled for its extraordinary talent and creative success, which combined with a personal brutality and viciousness to leave a trail of ruined lives in its wake. Hollywood Ending is more than a prosecutor’s litany; it is an unflinching examination of Weinstein’s life and career, embedding his crimes in the context of the movie business, in his failures and the successes that led to enormous power. Film stars, Miramax employees and board members, old friends and family, and even the person who knew him best—Harvey’s brother, Bob—all talked to Auletta at length. Weinstein himself also responded to Auletta’s questions from prison. The result is not simply the portrait of a predator but of the power that allowed Weinstein to operate with such impunity for so many years, the spiderweb in which his victims found themselves trapped. 

From Ron Shelton, the award-winning screenwriter and director of cult classic Bull Durham, the extremely entertaining behind-the-scenes story of the making of the film, and an insightful primer on the art and business of moviemaking.
Full of wry humor and insight, The Church of Baseball tells the remarkable story behind an iconic film.

Bull Durham, the breakthrough 1988 film about a minor league baseball team, is widely revered as the best sports movie of all time. But back in 1987, Ron Shelton was a first-time director and no one was willing to finance a movie about baseball—especially a story set in the minors. The jury was still out on Kevin Costner’s leading-man potential, while Susan Sarandon was already a has-been. There were doubts. But something miraculous happened, and The Church of Baseball attempts to capture why. From organizing a baseball camp for the actors and rewriting key scenes while on set, to dealing with a short production schedule and overcoming the challenge of filming the sport, Shelton brings to life the making of this beloved American movie. Shelton explains the rarely revealed ins and outs of moviemaking, from a film’s inception and financing, screenwriting, casting, the nuts and bolts of directing, the postproduction process, and even through its release. But this is also a book about baseball and its singular romance in the world of sports. Shelton spent six years in the minor leagues before making this film, and his experiences resonate throughout this book. 

“Senator Gary Hart’s voice can heal the country and chart a real course toward equality, freedom, and hope for all.”
-Hugh Jackman

Hart’s book, The American Republic Can Save American Democracy is a compelling clarion call to American citizens, encouraging them to act on behalf of their imperiled nation.

In 1776, America’s Founders proclaimed the new nation a republic with a democratic form of government. Although American democracy has survived for almost 250 years, the rise of populist nationalism in the United States and abroad creates a potent threat that highlights democracy’s vulnerability. In this important and timely work, Gary Hart argues that only by restoring the qualities of the republic in America, namely popular sovereignty, a sense of the common good, resistance to corruption, and civic virtue, can American democracy be saved.

Former senator Gary Hart elucidates the urgent challenges that face the US in his erudite, urgent essay The American Republic Can Save American Democracy. Throughout, Hart holds multiple periods in US history in tension: its founding moments, when great thinkers sought to carve out a fair system of governance in which each citizen would have an interest and a say; the post-war period, in which a sense of common duty and responsibility still prevailed; and the period leading up to, and following from, the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The book acknowledges the ambition of the American project, which was formed with intention and humility, and names extant threats to it, including its vulnerability to authoritarian takeovers. Hart imparts a sense that, more than anything else, the greatest threat to the US comes in the form of the apathy of its citizens, particularly in periods of creeping (and sometimes screaming) corruption.

Hart, who obtained a political science PhD at Oxford once he retired from political life, illuminates these contemporary challenges with precision. He notes that politicians with authoritarian bents have always sought to manipulate the public’s pessimism and intransigence, and that their methods are proving more effective now than ever before. The book stirs alarm over weak responses to the Capitol attack in particular, as well as to the disinformation campaigns that preceded it. But it also inspires hope and a sense of civic duty, reminding American readers that their country belongs to each of them in equal measure, and that taking pride in and fighting for their nation could be its salvation.

“Path Lit by Lightning” the well-received bio of Jim Thorpe by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer David Maraniss is a great American story from a master biographer. Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind. But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy “K*ll the Indian, Save the Man.” His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played minor league baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth. David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and was a finalist three other times. Among his bestselling books are biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Roberto Clemente, and Vince Lombardi, and a trilogy about the 1960s—Rome 1960; Once in a Great City (winner of the RFK Book Prize); and They Marched into Sunlight (winner of the J. Anthony Lucas Prize and Pulitzer Finalist in History). 

On the eve of the Israeli elections, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States David Oren joined us for a conversation about Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud, Labor, the emergence of a potential in the most extreme Israeli cabinet since its founding, and his new novel, Swann’s War.

World War II is raging overseas, but life remains painfully quiet on the rugged New England fishing island of Fourth Cliff. With most of its able-bodied male inhabitants away in the service, the island is now home only to aged fishermen, concerned women and children, and second-rate soldiers guarding a low-priority military emplacement and camp for Italian POWs.

With her husband Archie, Fourth Cliff’s beloved police captain, off fighting in the Marines, Mary Beth Swann steps into his role. Though a cop herself, she has to fight for the respect of Fourth Cliff’s hardscrabble residents. And that’s before a murdered POW surfaces in a fisherman’s net, followed by more bodies.

Determined to find the killer, Swann must rely only on the help of a simple-minded deputy, a disgraced doctor, and a mob-connected mainlander to prove her worth to Fourth Cliff—and to herself.

In the tradition of Where the Crawdads Sing and the BBC’s Foyle’s War, Michael Oren’s novel seizes the reader and doesn’t let go until the very last page. 

Our annual Mike Dukakis gathering took place on the eve of the 2022 midterms and the former Governor got the math correct, long before any of the talking heads sat surprised with the Election Night totals. Dukakis 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. 

An enthralling and ground-breaking new biography by John Farrell on of modern America’s most fascinating and consequential political figures, drawing on important new sources, by an award-winning biographer who covered Kennedy closely for many years

In “Ted Kennedy–A Life,” John A. Farrell’s magnificent biography of Edward M. Kennedy is the first single-volume life of the great figure since his death. Farrell’s long acquaintance with the Kennedy universe and the acclaim accorded his previous books—including his New York Times bestselling biography of Richard Nixon, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—helped garner him access to a remarkable range of new sources, including segments of Kennedy’s personal diary and his private confessions to members of his family in the days that followed the accident on Chappaquiddick. Farrell is, without question, one of America’s greatest political biographers and a storyteller of deep wisdom and empathy. His book does full justice to this famously epic and turbulent life of almost unimaginable tragedy and triumph.

As the fourth son of the close-knit but fiercely competitive Kennedy clan, Ted was the runt of the litter. Expelled from Harvard University for cheating, he was a fun-loving playboy who nevertheless served his brothers loyally and effectively. It was easy to take Ted lightly, and many did. But when he was elected to the United States Senate at the age of thirty to fill his brother Jack’s seat, something unexpected happened: he found his home and his calling there. Over time, Ted Kennedy would build arguably the most significant senatorial career in American history.

His life was buffeted by heartbreak: the violent deaths of his three older brothers, his own terrible plane crash, his children’s bouts with cancer, and the hideous self-inflicted wounds of Chappaquiddick and stretches of drinking and womanizing that caused irreparable damage to an already fragile first marriage. Those wounds scarred Ted deeply but also tempered his character, and, eventually, he embarked on a run as legislator, party elder, and paterfamilias of the Kennedy family that would change America for the better. John A. Farrell brings us the man as he was, in strength and weakness, his profound but complicated inheritance and his vital legacy, as only a great biographer can do. Without the story this book tells, no understanding of modern America can be complete. 

Lara Gabrielle shows that Marion Davies was far more than William Randolph Hearst’s muse or that dreadful fictional portrayal in Citizen Kane.

Through meticulous research, unprecedented access to archives around the world, and interviews with those who knew Davies, Captain of Her Soul counters the public story. This book reveals a woman who navigated disability and social stigma to rise to the top of a young Hollywood dominated by powerful men.

“Now, finally, there is a deeply researched and fair-minded biography of Marion Davies’s life and movie work . . . . Gabrielle, like a detective or an archaeologist, has reconstructed a life history and made a convincing case . . . . that Marion was a complex, happy, and talented actress . . . . her love affair with W.R. Hearst was genuine, long-lasting, and intensely satisfying.”
-Will Hearst

From Marion Davies’s humble days in Brooklyn to her rise to fame alongside press baron William Randolph Hearst, the public life story of the film star plays like a modern fairy tale shaped by gossip columnists, fan magazines, biopics, and documentaries. Yet the real Marion Davies remained largely hidden from view, as she was wary of interviews and trusted few with her true life story. In Captain of Her Soul, Lara Gabrielle pulls back layers of myth to show a complex and fiercely independent woman, ahead of her time, who carved her own path.

Davies took charge of her own career, negotiating with studio heads and establishing herself as a top-tier comedienne, but her proudest achievement was her philanthropy and advocacy for children. This biography brings Davies out of the shadows cast by the Hearst legacy, shedding light on a dynamic woman who lived life on her own terms and declared that she was “the captain of her soul.” 

It was Paul Newman’s lost memoir and we spent the day with his daughter Clea Newman Soderlund.

Paul Newman was the greatest movie star of the past 75 years and the book covers everything: his traumatic childhood, his career, his drinking, his thoughts on Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, John Huston, his greatest roles, acting, his intimate life with Joanne Woodward, his innermost fears and passions and joys. With thoughts/comments throughout from Joanne Woodward, George Roy Hill, Tom Cruise, Elia Kazan and many others.
In 1986, 
Paul Newman and his closest friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern, began an extraordinary project. Stuart was to compile an oral history, to have Newman’s family and friends and those who worked closely with him, talk about the actor’s life. And then Newman would work with Stewart and give his side of the story. The only stipulation was that anyone who spoke on the record had to be completely honest. That same stipulation applied to Newman himself. The project lasted five years.

The result is an extraordinary memoir, culled from thousands of pages of transcripts. The book is insightful, revealing, surprising. Newman’s voice is powerful, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, always meeting that high standard of searing honesty. The additional voices—from childhood friends and Navy buddies, from family members and film and theater collaborators such as Tom Cruise, George Roy Hill, Martin Ritt, and John Huston—that run throughout add richness and color and context to the story Newman is telling.

Newman’s often traumatic childhood is brilliantly detailed. He talks about his teenage insecurities, his early failures with women, his rise to stardom, his early rivals (Marlon Brando and James Dean), his first marriage, his drinking, his philanthropy, the death of his son Scott, his strong desire for his daughters to know and understand the truth about their father. Perhaps the most moving material in the book centers around his relationship with Joanne Woodward—their love for each other, his dependence on her, the way she shaped him intellectually, emotionally and sexually. 

A new book of poems by multi-award winning poet, author, commentator Andrei Codrescu with his new collection of poetry “Too Late for Nightmares.

Written during the last two years of COVID-19 and lock downs, his poems reflect musings and thoughts on the human condition and the passage of time during a pandemic.

Andrei Codrescu has been a commentator on All Things Considered since 1983. He is an homme-de-lettres whose novels, essays and poetry have been infiltrating the American psyche since he emigrated from his native Romania to Detroit in 1965.

“I originally thought that I might select a few commentaries from my regular contributions to NPR’s All Things Considered from the more than three decades (1983-2016) I opined, played, and raged in brief essays. This turned out to be psychologically wrenching plus impossible, so I am offering instead a link to the many pieces digitized in the NPR archive. There are many essays from the analog days that haven’t made it into the archive, but some of them may be found in print in a number of published collections: “A Craving for Swan,” (1986) and “Raised by Puppets Only to be Killed by Research.” There are also audio recordings in “Plato Sucks” (Dove Audio).

My editors at NPR have kindly offered “to keep the door open,” should I find speaking to 26 million people interesting again. When I started in 1983 there were only three or six million listeners, so who wouldn’t like to talk to 9 times as many? A lot of people, I’m sure, but at this point the form feels exhausted. Everyone opines on the internet, satire rules the republic, ignorance is a cabinet post, and the world is generally either opiated or overspecialized. 

Poetry can do a better job. Not only that, but poetry will be the new currency as the default currencies melt like the glaciers. You can’t pay for rutabagas with poetry yet, but it won’t be long.”

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
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  

2020 Luncheon Society Season   

2019 Luncheon Society Season   

2018 Luncheon Society Season   

2017 Luncheon Society Season   

2016 Luncheon Society Season   

2015 Luncheon Society Season   

2014 Luncheon Society Season   

2013 Luncheon Society Season   

2012 Luncheon Society Season   

2011 Luncheon Society Season   

2010 Luncheon Society Season   

2009 Luncheon Society Season   

2008 Luncheon Society Season   

2007 Luncheon Society Season   

2006 Luncheon Society Season   

2005 Luncheon Society Season   

2004 Luncheon Society Season   

2003 Luncheon Society Season   

1996 – 2002 Luncheon Society Season “The Salad Days”        
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
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 

2019 Luncheon Society Season 

2018 Luncheon Society Season  

2017 Luncheon Society Season  

2016 Luncheon Society Season  

2015 Luncheon Society Season  

2014 Luncheon Society Season  

2013 Luncheon Society Season  

2012 Luncheon Society Season  

2011 Luncheon Society Season  

2010 Luncheon Society Season  

2009 Luncheon Society Season  

2008 Luncheon Society Season  

2007 Luncheon Society Season  

2006 Luncheon Society Season 

2005 Luncheon Society Season  

2004 Luncheon Society Season  

2003 Luncheon Society Season 

1996 – 2002 Luncheon Society Season
“The Salad Days”   

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