The Luncheon Society/Dana Thomas/ Fashionopolis – The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes/Zoom/September 29, 2020

An investigation into the damage wrought by the colossal clothing industry and the grassroots, high-tech, international movement fighting to reform it 

What should I wear? It’s one of the fundamental questions we ask ourselves every day. More than ever, we are told it should be something new. Today, the clothing industry churns out 80 billion garments a year and employs every sixth person on Earth. Historically, the apparel trade has exploited labor, the environment, and intellectual property—and in the last three decades, with the simultaneous unfurling of fast fashion, globalization, and the tech revolution, those abuses have multiplied exponentially, primarily out of view. We are in dire need of an entirely new human-scale model. Bestselling journalist Dana Thomas has traveled the globe to discover the visionary designers and companies who are propelling the industry toward that more positive future by reclaiming traditional craft and launching cutting-edge sustainable technologies to produce better fashion.
In Fashionopolis, Thomas sees renewal in a host of developments, including printing 3-D clothes, clean denim processing, smart manufacturing, hyperlocalism, fabric recycling—even lab-grown materials. From small-town makers and Silicon Valley whizzes to such household names as Stella McCartney, Levi’s, and Rent the Runway, Thomas highlights the companies big and small that are leading the crusade.
We all have been casual about our clothes. It’s time to get dressed with intention. Fashionopolis is the first comprehensive look at how to start.

*NYTBR Paperback Row Selection*

The Luncheon Society/Dr. Jill Tarter/Director of the Center for SETI Research/Zoom/September 21, 2020

SETI Institute/Zoom/Monday September 21, 2020

The Luncheon Society/CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin/True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump/Zoom/August 24, 2020

From CNN chief legal analyst and bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin, a real-life legal thriller about the prosecutors and congressional investigators pursuing the truth about Donald Trump’s complicity in several crimes–and why they failed.

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman went to jail. So did his personal lawyer. His long-time political consigliere was convicted of serious federal crimes, and his national security advisor pled guilty to others. Several Russian spies were indicted in absentia. Career intelligence agents and military officers were alarmed enough by the president’s actions that they alerted senior government officials and ignited the impeachment process.

Yet despite all this, a years-long inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller, and the third impeachment of a president in American history, Donald Trump survived to run for re-election. Why?

Jeffrey Toobin’s highly entertaining definitive account of the Mueller investigation and the impeachment of the president takes readers behind the scenes of the epic legal and political struggle to call Trump to account for his misdeeds. With his superb storytelling and analytic skills Toobin recounts all the mind-boggling twists and turns in the case–Trump’s son met with a Russian operative promising Kremlin support! Trump paid a porn star $130,000 to hush up an affair! Rudy Giuliani and a pair of shady Ukrainian-American businessmen got the Justice Department to look at Russian-created conspiracy theories! Toobin shows how Trump’s canny lawyers used Mueller’s famous integrity against him, and how Trump’s bullying and bluster cowed Republican legislators into ignoring the clear evidence of the impeachment hearings.

Based on dozens of interviews with prosecutors in Mueller’s office, Trump’s legal team, Congressional investigators, White House staffers, and several of the key players, including some who are now in prison, True Crimes and Misdemeanors is a revelatory narrative that makes sense of the seemingly endless chaos of the Trump years. Filled with never-before-reported details of the high-stakes legal battles and political machinations, the book weaves a tale of a rogue president guilty of historic misconduct, and how he got away with it.

The Luncheon Society/Academy Award winning actress Lee Grant/ Surviving the Hollywood Blacklist/ Author of “I said Yes to Everything” /Zoom/August 11, 2020

Born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in New York City, actress Lee Grant spent her youth accumulating more experiences than most people have in a lifetime: from student at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse to member of the leg­endary Actors Studio; from celebrated Broadway star to Vogue “It Girl.” At age twenty-four, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Detective Story, and a year later found herself married and a mother for the first time, her career on the rise.

And then she lost it all.

Her name landed on the Hollywood black­list, her offers for film and television roles ground to a halt, and her marriage fell apart.

Finding reserves of strength she didn’t know she had, Grant took action against anti-Communist witch hunts in the arts. She threw herself into work, accepting every theater or teaching job that came her way. She met a man ten years her junior and began a wild, liberat­ing fling that she never expected would last a lifetime. And after twelve years of fighting the blacklist, she was finally exonerated. With cour­age and style, Grant rebuilt her life on her own terms: first stop, a starring role on Peyton Place, and then leads in Valley of the DollsIn the Heat of the Night, and Shampoo, for which she won her first Oscar.

Set amid the New York theater scene of the fifties and the star-studded parties of Malibu in the seventies, I Said Yes to Everything evokes a world of political passion and movie-star glamour. Grant tells endlessly delightful tales of costars and friends such as Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Sidney Poitier, and writes with the verve and candor befitting such a seductive and beloved star.

The Luncheon Society/Joyce Carol Oates/ Her new novel, “Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.”/Zoom/July 30, 2020

The Luncheon Society/Sydney Ladensohn Stern/Author Of “The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood/Zoom/July 21, 2020

Winner of the 2020 Peter C. Rollins Book Award
Longlisted for the 2020 Moving Image Book Award by the 
Kraszna-Krausz Foundation
Named a 2019 Richard Wall Memorial Award Finalist by the Theatre Library Association

Herman J. (1897–1953) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909–1993) wrote, produced, and directed over 150 pictures. With Orson Welles, Herman wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane and shared the picture’s only Academy Award. Joe earned the second pair of his four Oscars for writing and directing All About Eve, which also won Best Picture.

Despite triumphs as diverse as Monkey Business and Cleopatra, and Pride of the Yankees and Guys and Dolls, the witty, intellectual brothers spent their Hollywood years deeply discontented and yearning for what they did not have―a career in New York theater. Herman, formerly an Algonquin Round Table habitué, New York Times and New Yorker theater critic, and playwright-collaborator with George S. Kaufman, never reconciled himself to screenwriting. He gambled away his prodigious earnings, was fired from all the major studios, and drank himself to death at fifty-five. While Herman drifted downward, Joe rose to become a critical and financial success as a writer, producer, and director, though his constant philandering with prominent stars like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Gene Tierney distressed his emotionally fragile wife who eventually committed suicide. He wrecked his own health using uppers and downers in order to direct Cleopatra by day and finish writing it at night, only to be very publicly fired by Darryl F. Zanuck, an experience from which Joe never fully recovered.

For this first dual portrait of the Mankiewicz brothers, Sydney Ladensohn Stern draws on interviews, letters, diaries, and other documents still in private hands to provide a uniquely intimate behind-the-scenes chronicle of the lives, loves, work, and relationship between these complex men.

The Luncheon Society/Fmr Senator Gary Hart/What happens if Donald Trump refuses to leave the White House?/Zoom/June 15, 2020

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This was the first Luncheon Society with former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart in nearly a decade. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, it was also our first attempt at using Zoom, since all of the restaurants are currently closed for in-person dining.  We hope that when our world reopens, there will still be some restaurants left standing in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

What has been quite startling about Hart is his ability to see the political future in a way that others often miss. In 1984, Hart “New Ideas” set the table for successful Democratic presidential campaigns like Clinton and Obama. He got that right.

His work on the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (known as the Hart-Rudman Committee) was the most exhaustive review of American foreign policy since 1947.  Released 9 months prior to the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the core findings of the Hart-Rudman Committee were that “America would become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland.” He got that right too.

Today’s conversation centered on the secretive powers of a President and what might happen if Donald Trump refused to leave.  These days, with Trump making noises about delaying an election or not respecting its result, these concerns about a seamless and peaceful transition of power are growing louder.

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Luncheon Society Flashback TBD

The Luncheon Society/Mike Dukakis–Looking ahead to the 2020 Presidential Election/SF–Fior d’Italia/January 17, 2020/LA–Napa Valley Grille/February 28, 2020

Each year since 1999, The Luncheon Society season usually begins with gatherings in LA and SF with former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Mike Dukakis.

Happy to be free of Boston winters while teaching at UCLA, we usually have a January gathering in Westwood’s Napa Valley Grille for a great group of people.  Because Mike and Kitty have grandchildren in San Francisco, we are often able to schedule a gathering on a Friday afternoon.

The Basic Dukakis Message to any candidate. If you’re going to run statewide in Massachusetts, there are 2182 voter precincts. The candidate needs to appoint a precinct captain for every precinct. Each Precinct Captain needs to appoint 6 assistants who live within the precinct. He will warn that you cannot have Labor or other groups come into your precincts days before the election for any desired effect. These people need to live in the precinct, and they have to be in sustained contact with the voters for weeks and months before Election Day.

Elizabeth Warren and Duval Patrick, two people who had never run statewide, heard that speech in the Dukakis living room in Brookline.  They took it to heart and both won their elections.  In the case of Warren, who was looking to unseat popular US Senator Scott Brown, polls showed that they were running neck and neck on Election Eve.  However, once the votes were counted, Warren found herself with a solid seven point win.  In the end, as Dukakis sees things, a solid grassroots campaigning can add 5-7% to your election tally, enough to turn a nail biter into a solid win.

Great story.  Years ago, we had a Luncheon Society with Dukakis and he underlined the importance of a strong ground game. An unnamed political operative around the table took issue with his approach.  He said, “Governor, in California it’s just too hard to walk precincts.”

Dukakis stopped him in mid-sentence and said, “Look, I walked precincts while the Boston Strangler was on the loose—now that’s hard!”

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Flashback/The Luncheon Society/Jane Goodall DME/Marin County– Left Bank Restaurant/ April 17, 2004.

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Dame Jane Goodall can tell a very good dirty joke and the erudite nature of her British accent only highlights the punchline.

Thanks to a friend who served as a board member of Jane Goodall Institute (, we were able to meet with her in Marin County after a lengthy back and forth correspondence which took place during fall and winter of 2003, we were able to coordinate with her calendar for a wonderful Luncheon Society gathering that took place in April of 2004.

Now let’s get to the dirty joke. When Dame Goodall entered the private dining room, she was wearing dark sunglasses not because of the California sunshine but because she visited her doctor for a procedure on both eyes. After experiencing some discomfort, doctors discovered that there were organisms wandering around on the surface of her eyeballs and thankfully with the right regimen of antibiotics, she was eventually able to beat back the illness.

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Karen Bartenstein with Jane Goodall 2004

Jane said that one doctor mentioned that the organisms looked like a couple of copulating bugs, so she replied, “So you think I have a fucking bug problem?”

A millisecond later, when people realized that Dame Jane Goodall, knighted by Elizabeth II, winner of the Kyoto Prize, the Hubbard Medal, and a whole host of other awards could effortlessly drop the “F Bomb” too, the room erupted in laughter.

In time she would fully recover.

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