2020. 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.
2019. The new year began with Luncheon Society gatherings in Los Angeles and San Francisco with former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis as he described what Democrats can further leverage their gains in 2018 to win the White House back in 2020. In San Francisco, constitutional lawyer James Brosnahan, the Managing Partner of Morrison and Forster, gave us his thoughts on the direction of the Supreme Court for the upcoming term. He also gave us a number of updates from his various constitutionally driven cases. Brosnahan is a long time member of The Luncheon Society. With his new book out titled, “The Forgotten,” Ben Bradlee Jr gave us a synopsis of Lucerne County, the swing Pennsylvania that gave Donald Trump the state and helped to drive the election. In the San Francisco and Los Angeles gatherings, Bradlee mentioned that these Trump voters like the chaos he has created, and they are just as fervent of him now than they were prior to the 2016 election. Dan Ellsberg, who rose to national prominence with the publication of the Pentagon Papers, gave a tour-de-force with his new book, “The Doomsday Machine,” which gave Americans an idea of what went through the minds of America’s nuclear planners, from his position as a participant in many of these meetings. Now that both Mars Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) have finally gone silent, the Los Angeles TLS group got a special gathering. NASA/JPL Program Manager John Callas, who ran the Rovers on the Martian surface, gave us a tutorial on both rovers transformed the human understanding of the Red Planet. These twin probes were supposed to last only 90 Martian days (Sol) back in 2003 but the final rover finally died in 2019. Joyce Carol Oates builds upon her reputation as a major force in Manhattan and San Francisco. “My Life as a Rat” and the “Hazards of Time Travel” are both powerful books that underline Joyce’s powerful productivity. Stephen Kinzer joined The Luncheon Society in Los Angeles and San Francisco again surrounding his new book on Sidney Gottlieb, the CIA scientist who ran the “Dark Program” that believed the mind altering substances like LSD could be used as a truth serum in his book “Poisoner in Chief” for Manhattan and Los Angeles gatherings. Writers Ash Carter and Sam Kashner published their oral biography of Mike Nichols, who revolutionized every arena of entertainment that he touched—first comedy with Elaine May, then Broadway, and later film, which such classics as The Graduate and others. What made the LA lunch special was that Larry Turman, who produced The Graduate was around the table with us and offered more stories about Mike and the world he lived in.
2018. We have heard it before from Mike Dukakis and now it bears repeating. “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize.” We have seen some very different elections results over the past couple of years. After fumbling the ball again in the 2014 midterms, everything looked good for another victory in 2016. However, while Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Donald Trump won where it mattered, in the Electoral College. Now as we look at the 2018 midterms, what will the future bring? It was a wild and surreal ride. What the heck happened? So what happens next? From the host of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, an important and enthralling new account of the presidential election that changed everything, the race that created American politics as we know it today. The 1968 U.S. Presidential election was the young Lawrence O’Donnell’s political awakening, and in the decades since it has remained one of his abiding fascinations. Our friend Jeff Bleich is running for Lt Governor of California. We’re in the middle of a radical change to our work force. Californians have been asking honest, tough questions, because changes in the economy have left many people behind, or wondering if their kids will be able to do better than they have. Joyce Carol Oates comes forward with her latest, “A Book of American Martyrs.” In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God’s will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town. In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely-but with great empathy-confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society. Justin Nelson is a husband,
a father of three, a lawyer, a professor at UT Law School, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the founder of the non-profit One Nation One Vote, and a native Texan. He is also running as a Democrat for Attorney General of Texas. Keith O’Brien, a former Boston Globe reporter and frequent NPR contributor, has brought these women – mostly long-hidden and forgotten – back into the light where they belong. And he’s done it with grace, sensitivity and a cinematic eye for detail that makes “Fly Girls” both exhilarating and heartbreaking. The time is the 1920s and ’30s, the period between the wars when air racing was, much to our modern surprise, all the rage.
2017. Mike Dukakis believes that Democrats needs to organize down to the small precinct. Six-to-eight block captains per precinct must organize repeated door-knocking excursions and report any supporters or potential supporters back to a precinct captain. In turn, they must be responsible for getting those supporters to the polls on Election Day. Joyce Carol Oates joins us to discuss her new novel. In this taut and fascinating novel, the bestselling, New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of The Sacrifice, The Accursed, and Lovely, Dark, Deep examines the mysteries of memory, personality, and identity and pierces the enigmatic force that drives human lives-love. Jack Devine ran Charlie Wilson’s War in Afghanistan. It was the largest covert action of the Cold War, and it was Devine who put the brand-new Stinger missile into the hands of the mujahideen during their war with the Soviets, paving the way to a decisive victory against the Russians.e FBI. Revealing a piece of forgotten history in The True Flag, Stephen Kinzer transports us to the dawn of the 20th century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Erik Vance offers a riveting narrative explores the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology to reveal the groundbreaking science of our suggestible minds. Could the secrets to personal health lie within our own brains? Drawing on centuries of research and interviews with leading experts in the field, Vance takes us on a Dr Turi King confirmed that Richard III was buried in parking lot. In 2012, a skeleton was excavated at the presumed site of the Grey Friars friary in Leicester, the last-known resting place of King Richard III. Archaeological, osteological and radiocarbon dating data were consistent with these being his remains. Here we report DNA analyses of both the skeletal remains and living relatives of Richard III. . Randy Schoenberg was portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the film “Woman in Gold” which details the remarkable true story of a woman who overcame great odds with the help of an improbably young lawyer, to reclaim stolen Nazi art stolen from her family. Among them is Gustav Klimt’s famous painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I, a portrait of her beloved Aunt Adele, which has become a national treasure: an Austrian Mona Lisa. A hysterically funny and slyly insightful new collection of essays from New York Times bestselling author Annabelle Gurwitch, about her own family of scam artists and hucksters, as well as the sisterhoods, temporary tribes, communities, and cults who have become surrogates along the way. We celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Graduate. It all began with a book review. On October 30, 1963, a 36-year-old movie producer named Lawrence Turman read Orville Prescott’s review of Charles Webb’s first novel, The Graduate, in The New York Times. Now 81, Turman is lean, with white hair and bright eyes. The rest, as they say, was movie magic. The great story is that Robert Redford was strongly suggested as the Benjamin Braddock role, the one that made Dustin Hoffman famous. However, when Mike Nichols and Larry Turman asked Redford how he felt when he struck out with a woman, he replied, “I wouldn’t know.” The role went to Hoffman. Marina Zenovitch blew open the Duke Lacrosse story with her film “Fantastic Lies.” Some Duke University lacrosse players had a bad idea on March 13th, 2006: Invite two strippers to a team party. What happened became a nightmare that changed lives, ruined careers, tarnished a university’s reputation and even jeopardized the future of the sport at the school. Her film “Fantastic Lies,” acclaimed director Marina returns to the events of that night and the investigation and trial that followed. Jeff Joseph cowrote, “A Thousand Cuts,” a candid exploration of one of America’s strangest and most quickly vanishing subcultures. It is about the death of physical film in the digital era and about a paranoid, secretive, eccentric, and sometimes obsessive group of film-mad collectors who made movies and their projection a private religion in the time before DVDs and Blu-rays. Levi Tillemann wrote: The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future recounts the exciting story of a century-long battle among automakers for market share, profit, and technological dominance-and the thrilling race to build the car of the future. The world’s great manufacturing juggernaut-the $3 trillion automotive industry-is in the throes of a revolution. Its future will include cars Henry Ford and Karl Benz could scarcely imagine. Jonathan Alter, a mainstay on MSNBC stopped by to discuss the first year of the Trump Presidency. In the case of Donald Trump, we are now observing a complete departure of anything that resembles presidential behavior. We are seeing a complete shredding of presidential norms observed by any American leader elected to high office since the dark days of Watergate. We are also heading into a dangerous chapter of American history and we will actually discover if our democratic institutions can withstand a president with a strong authoritarian predisposition during our time of great peril. In Donald Trump, what you see if what you get; he has behaved like this since he emerged during the mid-1970’s as a Manhattan developer.
2016. We have seen some very different elections results over the past couple of years. Barack Obama won resoundingly in 2008 over John McCain and pulled out a tough election of Mitt Romney in 2012. What will happen in 2016? Joining us in LA and SF, Mike Dukakis believes that Democrats needs to organize down to the small precinct. Six-to-eight block captains per precinct must
organize repeated door-knocking excursions and report any supporters or potential supporters back to a precinct captain. George Carlin was more than “The Seven Dirty Words,” but A Carlin Home Companion – forgive me, NPR – didn’t require any public broadcasting credentials to classify as a best of the fest selection. The memoir and creative brainchild of Kelly Carlin, who joined us in Los Angeles and only living heir to the George Carlin comedy empire. What’s out there? It is the age-old question that has intrigued poets and scientists alike. Are we all alone or are there others? Certainly the odds favor a more vibrant cosmic neighborhood. When Jill Tarter made her first presentation before The Luncheon Society in 2004, there were only 85 (mostly gaseous) extra solar planets. As of 27 January 2016, 2,052 planets in 1,300 planetary systems including 507 multiple planetary systems have been discovered. The Luncheon Society has chosen one of the most respected film critics for a wide ranging luncheon about the nominees and who (or what film) might win. Peter Rainer who joined us in Manhattan, is one of the greatest minds when it comes to film criticism and they have much to say about where the industry is today and where it is going tomorrow. Last year produced a bumper crop of great movies and many of they are represented in a variety of awards categories. Drawing on his own battles with post-traumatic stress for a luncheon in Santa Monica, David J. Morris – a war correspondent and former Marine – has written a humane, unforgettable book that will sit beside The Noonday Demon and The Emperor of All Maladies as the essential account of an illness. Through interviews with people living Ben Bradlee Jr, who joined us in Boston, chatted about the film Spotlight, which focused on the investigative team of the Boston Globe, detailed the investigation into the Catholic Church scandal about abusive clergy. All his life, journalist Walter Shapiro assumed that the outlandish stories about his great-uncle Freeman were exaggerated family lore; some cockamamie Jewish revenge fantasies dreamt up to entertain the kids and venerate their larger-than-life relative. Only when he started researching Freeman Bernstein’s life did he realize that his family was actually holding back—the man had enough stories, vocations, and IOUs to fill a dozen lifetimes. Freeman was many people: But his greatest title, perhaps the only man who can claim such infamy, was as The Man Who Hustled Hitler. Author and former First Daughter Patti Davis takes us through her new novel, The Earth Breaks in Colors is a powerful story of race and redemption. A racially fueled incident exposes the fissures that sit beneath the surface of friendships and families, causing even more damage than the massive earthquake that separates them, Whisper and Odelia are eleven-year-old girls who find refuge in the quiet corner of innocent friendship. Can hope and innocence be restored? Some Duke University lacrosse players had a bad idea on March 13th, 2006: Invite two strippers to a team party. What happened became a nightmare that changed lives, ruined careers, tarnished a university’s reputation and even jeopardized the future of the sport at the school. To this day, 10 years later, the Duke Lacrosse scandal touches nerves well beyond the confines of Durham, N.C. In the 30 for 30 film “Fantastic Lies,” acclaimed director Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”) returns to the events of that night and the investigation and trial that followed. Weaving historical footage and photos with piercing interviews of key participants, Zenovich builds suspense as the narrative changes from what people thought happened to what actually did happen. Erica Jong revolutionized the way we look at love, marriage and sex. Her world-wide bestseller, Fear of Flying opened the doors for writers from Jennifer Weiner to Lena Dunham. Now she does it again by giving us powerful, new perspective on the next phase of women’s lives. Full of the sly humor, deep wisdom and poignancy we know from her poetry, fiction and essays, she delivers the novel women everywhere have been waiting for…Fear of Dying. It is said that 22 veterans take their lives each and every day, one every 65 minutes. That will mean that in the course of our lunch with Paul Rieckhoff, 1-2 veterans who served our country will end their lives.Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will host both major party presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for a live televised primetime forum to focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief. Kristina Hagman , daughter of Larry Hagman wrote a heartfelt memoir about living in the topsy-turvy world of her parents and grandmother. Who Shot J.R.? A TV episode, watched by 83 million people, changed my life. Until then, she had been working in the family business—acting, fallowing her father, Larry Hagman and Grandmother Mary Martin. She always remained close to my father and was at his side as he lay
dying, his last words were “forgive me.” True to his personality, he left me with that cliffhanger; this book is about his last words. From inspired and inspiring open-water swimmer and supreme athlete, able to endure cold water temperatures that would kill others, author of Swimming to Antarctica—a powerful book about super athleticism and human frailty, about invincibility and the sudden (mind-altering) repercussions of illness, and about the triumph of spirit, surrender, and love. Lynne Cox is an elite athlete who broke many world records, among them swimming the English Channel at fifteen, being the first woman to swim across Cook Strait (eighteen miles), and being the first to swim off Antarctica in 32-degree water—for twenty-five minutes!—all without a wetsuit.
2015. Mike Dukakis joined us in Los Angeles and San Francisco for a conversation about why Democrats stumbled in the 2014 midterms after doing so well in both 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections. The Boston Luncheon Society with Dukakis luncheon will take place in April. With Dukakis, winning elections comes down to the basics of grassroots organizing. Joyce Carol Oates offered a masterclass in fiction in San Francisco using her novel “Carthage” as a starting point. Considering the number of published writers in the room, Joyce was quite curious about what prompted others to write. She will return to the Luncheon Society in Manhattan later this year. As soldiers return from the Iraqi and Afghani theaters of war, the issue of PTSD looms large as veterans readjust to life stateside. David Morris, both a former marine and reporter embedded with soldiers, walked us through his own personal experience as a PTSD sufferer for a Manhattan and Seattle luncheon. This will follow today’s vets long into their lives. The Los Angeles Academy Award Luncheon Society gathering with Peter Rainer (President, National Society of Film Critics). The Luncheon Society has chosen one of the most respected film critics for a wide ranging luncheon about the nominees and who (or what film) might win. Will Julianne Moore win for Still Alice? Norman Lear joined us in Los Angeles to talk about his memoirs. Lear created All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Mary Hartman, and Maude; Member, Television Hall of Fame, Four time Emmy Award Winner, and Founder, People for the American Way. Joining us for his third gathering, Michael Gazzaniga, one of the founders of cognitive neuroscience, spoke about the study of the neural basis of the human mind in San Francisco. From his early days in Roger Sperry’s Caltech lab to today’s counter-intuitive view that each of us actually has multiple minds, Dr. Gazzaniga tells the impassioned story of his life in science and his decades-long journey to understand how the separate spheres of our brains communicate and miscommunicate with their separate agendas. In Manhattan and San Francisco, Dana Thomas author of “Gods and Kings-The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano showed the seamy side of haute couture. In her groundbreaking work, Gods and Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of McQueen and Galliano. For almost three decades, the Grateful Dead was America’s most popular touring band. No Simple Highway is the first book to ask the simple question of why-and attempt to answer it. Drawing on new research, interviews, and a fresh supply of material from the Grateful Dead archives, author Peter Richardson vividly recounts the Dead’s colorful history, adding new insight into everything from the Acid Tests to the band’s formation of their own record label to their massive late career success, while probing the riddle of the Dead’s vast and durable appeal. Confused about what the heck is going on out there with money in politics? Look no further! Your speed guide to the issue of money in politics is here! For more questions, check out our FAQ. How money became free speech The ruling that money is free speech comes from Buckley v. Valeo, a 1976 Supreme Court decision. Ben Cohen, half of the founding partner of Ben and Jerry’s feels different. Although the court upheld limits on direct contributions to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption, they conceded that spending money to influence elections is protected speech under the First Amendment. There was a time when Network News Anchors ruled as Gods among the airwaves. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, giants like Huntley and Brinkley at NBC, Howard K. Smith at ABC and Walter Cronkite at CBS distilled the often murky events of a chaotic world into a crisp 30 minute newscast. Nobody could come close to the gravitas of the Big Three. The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta walks us through the changes. A decade ago, the guard changed again but under different circumstances. How did former Congressman Barney Frank, a disheveled, intellectually combative gay Jew with a thick accent become one of the most effective (and funniest) politicians of our time? Growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, the fourteen-year-old Barney Frank made two vital discoveries about himself: he was attracted to government, and to men. He resolved to make a career out of the first attraction and to keep the second a secret. Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage is one man’s account of the country’s transformation–and the tale of a truly momentous career. key role. In 2010, he coauthored the most far-reaching and controversial Wall Street reform bill since the era of the Great Depression, and helped bring about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Jillian Lauren shares the zigzagging path that took her from harem member to PTA member…In her younger years, Jillian Lauren was a college dropout, a drug addict, and an international concubine in the Prince of Brunei’s harem, an experience she immortalized in in her bestselling memoir, Some Girls. In her thirties, Jillian’s most radical act was learning the steadying power of love when she and her rock star husband adopt an Ethiopian child with special needs. After Jillian loses a close friend to drugs, she herself is saved by her fierce, bold love for her son as she fights to make him-and herself-feel safe and at home in the world. An advisor to Presidents, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and tireless champion of progressive government, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was also an inveterate letter writer. Building on the success of his Journals, Stephen Schlesinger edited his father’s letters. Indeed, the term “man of letters” could easily have been coined for Schlesinger, a faithful and prolific correspondent whose wide range of associates included powerful public officials, notable literary figures, prominent journalists, Hollywood celebrities, and distinguished fellow scholars. In 1971, Dr Phil Zimbardo commissioned The Stanford Prison Experiment, one of the most controversial and extraordinary psychological experiences of the 20th century. What makes a good person descend into evil? Conversely, can good still emerge in an atmosphere of evil? How could Abu Gharib happen? .Four decades ago, Erica Jong revolutionized the way we look at love, marriage and sex. Her world-wide bestseller, Fear of Flying opened the doors for writers from Jennifer Weiner to Lena Dunham. Now she does it again by giving us powerful, new perspective on the next phase of women’s lives. Full of the sly humor, deep wisdom and poignancy we know from her poetry, fiction and essays, she delivers the novel women everywhere have been waiting for…Fear of Dying. Nevertheless, there is a significant and informed segment of humanity that realizes we passed the point of no return on climate change long ago. That segment represents a leadership that is urgently needed today. Rennie Davis explores the emerging vision to create a new nation on Earth that can showcase what sustainability really looks like. Resilient adapting in the midst of epic change, the nation’s goal is a new humanity for the 3rd millenium.
Elizabeth Benedict, bestselling novelist and editor of the celebrated new collection, Me, My Hair and I, and contributor Anne Kreamer, author of Going Gray, and the recently-published exploration of the new workscape, Risk/Reward, as they
untangle the mysteries of why hair matters so much and invite you to share your stories. Me, My Hair and I: An Intimate Conversation on Going Gray (or not!), Frizzy Hair, Good Hair, Bad Hair, Covered Hair, No Hair — and Why We’re So Obsessed with Our Hair. Ask a woman about her hair, and she just might tell you the story of her life. Ask a whole bunch of women about their hair, and you could get a history of the world.
2014. As always, The Luncheon Society began with a conversation with Michael Dukakis, who joined us in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and then Boston. Governor Dukakis returns again for a conversation about the importance of grass roots politics. With the 2014 midterm
election in front of us, Michael Dukakis will give us his thoughts on what Barack Obama will face as he moves into his second term. In Boston Stephen and Andrew Schlesinger talked about the Journals and Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, two books they co-edited about their father’s historical range. The Letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. reveals the late historian’s unvarnished views on the great issues and personalities of his time, from the dawn of the Cold War to the aftermath of September 11. Here is Schlesinger’s correspondence with such icons of American statecraft as Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, and, of course, John and Robert Kennedy (including a detailed critique of JFK’s manuscript for Profiles in Courage). Mark Fainaru-Wada and his brother Steve Fainaru joined The Luncheon Society in San Francisco to discuss the concussion crisis in the NFL and what league officials have done to minimize the league’s exposure while players fall ill. League of Denial reveals how the NFL, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage. Ben Bradlee Jr met with us in Boston and San Francisco to discuss his wonderful biography on Ted Williams, the best hitter in baseball history. His batting average of .406 in 1941 has not been topped since, and no player who has hit more than 500 home runs has a higher career batting average. . Actress, Comedienne, Activist, and Best-Selling Author Annabelle Gurwitch, joined us in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for a conversation about her new book “I See You Made an Effort, Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the edge of 50.” She joined us for a hysterical conversation about what it means to turn 50. Why? Sean Strub, founder of the ground breaking POZ magazine, joined us in San Francisco, Manhattan, and Boston for a conversation about his life and his activism. The first openly HIV-positive candidate for U.S. Congress, charts his remarkable life—a story of politics and AIDS and a powerful testament to loss, hope, and survival. The Honorable Martin Uden, the former British Ambassador to South Korea and now the Coordinator for the United Nation’s DPRK Panel of experts, established pursuant to UN Resolution 1874 (2009) joined us in Manhattan for a conversation that gives us an insider’s view into what might be going on in North Korea. Since the dawn of the Cold War, North Korea has remained one of the world’s most brutal societies. Brad Stone, the best-selling author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon joined us for a conversation in San Francisco about the company and where they from here. Its visionary founder wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become “the everything store—a store that offered limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices.” CNBC filmed the luncheon as part of larger documentary they are doing on Jeff Bezos. (Photo credit Stewart Alsop). In a run up to Mother’s Day in Manhattan, Elizabeth Benedict talked to us about her well received book. In What My Mother Gave Me, women look at the relationships between mothers and daughters through a new lens: a daughter’s story of a gift from her mother that has touched her to the bone and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in her own life. Joyce Carol Oates with Charles Gross Joined The Luncheon Society for the third time, her her second time in Manhattan. In her new book Carthage, A young girl’s disappearance rocks a community and a family in this stirring examination of grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war from Joyce Carol Oates, “one of the great artistic forces of our time” (The Nation). CIA Spymaster Jack Devine joined us in Los Angeles and Boston, and Manhattan. Jack ran Charlie Wilson’s War in Afghanistan. It was the largest covert action of the Cold War, and it was Devine who put the brand-new Stinger missile into the hands of the mujahedeen during their war with the Soviets, paving the way to a decisive victory against the Russians. He also pushed the CIA’s effort to run down the narcotics trafficker Pablo Escobar in Colombia. David Boies and Theodore Olson joined us in San Francisco for the riveting inside story of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Proposition 8-by the two lawyers who argued the case. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a pair of landmark decisions, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and eliminating California’s discriminatory Proposition 8, reinstating the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians in California. Based on Nixon’s overlooked recordings, New York Times bestselling author John W. Dean joined us in San Francisco and Los Angeles to connects the dots between what we’ve come to believe about Watergate and what actually happened. Watergate forever changed American politics, and in light of the revelations about the NSA’s widespread surveillance program, the scandal has taken on new significance. Yet remarkably, four decades after Nixon was forced to resign, no one has told the full story of his involvement in Watergate. Dean answers the question: “What did President Nixon know and when
did he know it?” Back for the fifth time, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson joined us in San Francisco to give us his take on the rise of ISIS, the failure of Iraq to engage in nation building, and the bleak future ahead. What was once a thriving cosmopolitan city run by a brutal thug of a dictator was now a complete disaster for all concerned. We also learned a very important lesson. How does one shake hands with Saddam Hussein? Joshua Wolf Shenk joined us in Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles to say that, two is the magic number, not just because of the dyads behind everything from South Park to the American Civil Rights movement to Starry Night, but because of the nature of creative thinking. Weaving the lives of scores of creative duos-from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak-Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call “chemistry.” Oscar- and Grammy-winning songwriter Paul Williams is an alcoholic. Successful screenwriter and author Tracey Jackson is not. Together, these two close friends have written “Gratitude and Trust: Six Affirmations That Will Change Your Life” and joined us in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Manhattan, applying the principles of the recovery movement to help countless individuals who are not addicts yet seek effective help with their difficulties – credit card debt, anger issues, a victim mentality – and pain. Joining us in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Peter Kornbluh challenged the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba in Back Channel to Cuba –beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo–this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. With luncheons in San Francisco and Boston, “Working Stiff Two Years, 262 Bodies, and The Making of a Medical Examiner” is a fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother. Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. Mitchell and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives.
2013. This season of The Luncheon Society began in Los Angeles with former three-time Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Mike Dukakis for a conversation about the 2012 Presidential election(Luncheon narrative are being prepared). We then shifted San Francisco for a gathering with up-and-coming writer James Owen Weatherall on his book “The Physics of Wall Street,” how the masters of algorithms bevaem the wizards of Wall street. Joining us around the table was Elwyn Berlekamp, one of the founders of The Medallion Fund (Luncheon narrative are being prepared). Richard Schickel, a longtime friend of The Luncheon Society, returned to San Francisco to talk about Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, the focus of his two recent books. With the movie Gangster Squad out in theaters, Mickey Cohen biographer Tere Tereba separated fact from fiction about the gangster who owned Los Angeles. (Luncheon narrative are being prepared). Picking up in New York for our first gathering after Superstorm Sandy, which rained out the remainder of the 2012 Manhattan season, “Tubes” author Andrew Blum gave us the history of “where the internet came from” and where it will go from here. For all of the talk about “The Cloud,” the hardwired elements of the internet are all around us. Jill Tarter, the retiring head scientist at SETI and the model for the Jodie Forster character in the movie Contact, talked about the progress of Kepler, the planet hunting space probe launched by NASA. It was a great gathering in San Francisco and we met later that year in Los Angeles. The thought is that 2013 is the year we find Earth’s twin. Our old friend Larry Berman returned to The Luncheon Society—this time in New York—where he discussed his biography on game changing US Navy Rear Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, the youngest man to serve as the Navy’s CNO. His reforms, especially in race relations, brought the Navy into the 20th century. Up-and-coming author and millennial spokesman David Burstein opened the 2012 season in Boston to talk about his new book “Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World.” We will have a number of great Boston gatherings lined up. Former Reagan Administration OMB Director David Stockman joined us in San Francisco for a conversation about his new book, “The Deformation,” which is a corruption of capitalism. It has caught quite a stir as he goes after both Democrats and Republicans. Author, artist, and high wire aerialist Philippe Petit joined use in San Francisco where he could have walked on air on charm alone for a conversation on creativity. When he walked between the World Trade Towers in 1974, he says that he was invading the “negative space” between both buildings. Here is the trailer to the Academy Award winning “Man on Wire.” Jim Wallis joined us for a wonderful conversation in San Francisco. He is the founder and editor of Sojourners, a liberal Christian group focused on Social Justice, talked about the challenges of getting basic gun legislation through a timid Congress. “Courage,” he said, “always needs political cover.” (Notes to be published soon). UCLA Constitutional Scholar Adam Winkler, one of the few people on either side of the current gun debate to have the respect from both competing sides, offered his thoughts on the NRA and the future of gun control after the horrible massacre at Sandy Hook. His book Gunfight has gotten great notices. Dr Temple Grandin made her third appearance with The Luncheon Society as she talked about her new book, The Autistic Brain, co-written with Richard Panek, an old friend of The Luncheon Society. The one thing she wanted to know from those around the table who had family members on the autistic spectrum was this: Were they working? Did they have jobs? She worries that a generation of those on the spectrum might not be contributing to society. Her watchword is “Different not less.” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell joined us in Manhattan as we had a great luncheon and raised a couple of dollars for his favorite cause, KIND, Kinds in Need of Desks. Right now 80% of students in Malawi do not have desk and they must study on the floor. This UNICEF backed program hopes to change things. This was his third visit with The Luncheon Society. Alan Zweibel joined The Luncheon Society in Manhattan for his reading of his best-selling novel with Dave Barry. He will join us again in Los Angeles in the near term. Alan was one of the first generation of writers on Saturday Night Live, he has built a career as a stellar scriptwriter and producer on Broadway. Peter Rainer, the Dean of Film Reviewers, spent some time to talk with us in Manhattan and Los Angeles about the state of American film, especially with the box office failures of John Carter, The Lone Ranger, with a cast of thousands. Should films be smaller? Should they have less product placement? Should they be focused on telling a story? You bet. Our Luncheon Society friend and Mars Rover Project Manager John Callas returned to give us an update of both Mars Rovers that are scouring around the Marian surface. It is hard to believe that Opportunity has been on the surface for nearly a decade. Now that Curiosity is searching for the building blocks of chemical life, things can only get more interesting. Best-selling author of “The World Without Us” and “Countdown,” Alan Weisman, sat down with us in San Francisco to talk about the perils of overpopulation. In 2075, we should have about 11 billion people on the planet if we don’t find a voluntary way to lessen the ecological pressures on the planet. On the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s death Stephen Schlesinger talked about the work and legacy of his father, noted historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Having been a best-seller a few years earlier with Journals, we deeply enjoyed the follow up of his father’s letters.