Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Header image by Tim Evanson , CC BY-SA 2.0

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms

Well, you don’t really have to guess, for you get to choose any dinner guest in the world, living or dead. Which person would you enjoy meeting informally, entertaining them in your own home?

Maybe there is someone from history you always wanted to answer a question.  Invite William Shakespeare for dinner, serve him some ale and then ask, “Hey, Bill, I’ve always wanted to ask: who really wrote your stuff?”

But be careful. In 1963 I asked former president Harry Truman a question about his decision to drop the atomic bomb (specifically, the second bomb). He blew a gasket. After reflection, I would do that one differently.

I’ve been thinking about whom I would invite to dinner. In April of 1962 John F. Kennedy hosted a White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners. Kicking the evening off, Kennedy said: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Since hearing that, I’ve fantasized about dining with Thomas Jefferson. Given my history, that might be a dangerous choice, for I’d be tempted to ask the author of the Declaration of Independence why he slept with his slave.

That’s okay. I have other choices. Sticking to presidents for the moment, I would pass on Theodore Roosevelt (who was too full of himself) but would love an evening with his nephew, Franklin. To make FDR feel at home I might add his chubby buddy Winston Churchill. (And since this is a fantasy I don’t have to worry about how I could afford Winston’s bar tab.)

My first choice among presidents would be Abraham Lincoln. They say that Lincoln was a terrific storyteller who often embarrassed his stuffy cabinet members with stories that were funny and occasionally a bit earthy. And if Lincoln was coming to dinner, I’d sure want to invite Martin Luther King. I’ll bet they would hit it off.

Maybe you fear you’d be intimidated by hosting a great person. Not to worry. Invite Pope Francis. He seems like a great guy, someone who is approachable. He wouldn’t gripe if you served him less than a gourmet meal. He’d love a tuna casserole. In fact, he’d probably try to wash your feet.

Or would you prefer to host a small group?

Think about an evening spent in the company of Groucho Marx, Paul Wellstone, Pete Seeger and Walt Whitman. Or how about Eleanor Roosevelt, Abigail Adams and Molly Ivins? I don’t think the conversation would drag!

So . . . who’s coming to dinner?

62 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

  1. Really like some of your suggestions, Dale. I’ll bet an evening with the Wellstones and the Obamas would be interesting.

    Pope Francis would be good practice for the s&h’s Spanish.

    I don’t know about dinner, but I think discussing WWII era Polish theatre with JPII would intetesting.

    I did get to hear a lecture by John Houseman when I was in college, so getting him and Orson Welles together to reminisce would be fun and I’ll bet I wouldn’t have to say a word.

    Time travel-wise, I’d really like to be able to just hover like Scrooge over family dinners with various generations of my ancestors. Maybe that wiuld help me understand why we are how we are-what was dinner like right before my great-great grandfather left Germany after being wounded in the Franco-Prussian war? And what were those mysterious ancestresses who took it into their heads to pay their last groschen to get on a boat to America, landing here with nothing thinking?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. i used to call meetings with abe and mahatma and albert to chat about how to go about doing things. jesus was always a hit and buddha too

    id enjoy the new pope and maybe bring in john the 23 as a reference as how it was to be the surprise guy back in the 60’s that francis is today.
    ansel adams pablo picasso michealangelo, how about david and moses that would be a trip
    hey mary tell me about being a mom to that kind of a kid.
    rembrandt davencci
    maybe its time to start calling those meetings again
    thanks steve. i needed that

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Margaret Bliss would be an interesting one – she is a founding mother of the family (not sure how many “greats”) who lived in Springfield, MA in the 17th century. Owned her own land. Had a daughter who was accused, but successfully defended herself, during the witch trial craze in Massachusetts. Einstein would be interesting – though if I invite Einstein, I think I also want to invite DaVinci, Nikola Tesla and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Pretty sure I wouldn’t follow all of the conversation, but I bet it would be enlightening. If I go the political route, I would invite Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone, and Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones). Or George Harrison. Always wanted to have afternoon tea with George Harrison.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If I understand you, Wes, you anticipate that Adam and Eve might lapse into bickering. I’ve always wondered how their relationship stood up to being thrown out of the garden and forced to wear clothes, all because of that darned apple. If Adam and Eve were coming to dinner I’d want to pair them with someone sweet and calm. I’m thinking I would separate them at the dinner table by putting Helen Keller between them. Or Audrey Hepburn.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. What it was like catching their first flu. That must have been rather frightening not knowing when or ever they’d get over it.


  4. I would invite Dorothy Sayers to discuss theology (She wasn’t just a mystery writer. She translated a pretty good Divine Comedy), as well as Dante to get his opinion of her work. I would also invite some of my ancestors to see what they looked like and dressed like and why the heck didn’t they just convert to Lutheranism during the 30 years war instead of losing all their north German lands when the invading Swedes tried to kill them all off for stubbornly remaining Catholic.

    Speaking of dinner: If all goes well on May 11th, Husband and I and our son and dil will be dining in the Ratskeller in Bremen with my German cousins. It is housed in the Medieval Bremen city hall and has the largest collection of German wines in the world.

    Liked by 6 people

        1. Mysteries galore. I like her Harriet Vane mysteries best but I’ve liked everything so far that I’ve read of hers. She doesn’t always give all the clues you need to figure out the murderer, but if you can let go of that issue (I sometimes can’t), they are good reads.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Studs Turkel. His books of interviews of people of all kinds are favorites of mine. He was a great fan and supporter of some of my favorite musicians and also was acquainted with and aligned of many progressive political leaders that I admired. I am sure he would be a very good guest from having heard him when he was on the Prairie Home Companion show.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I’ll have to rent a hall because now I want to invite everybody. But if I have to winnow it down, Martin Luther, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Leonardo da Vinci, Eleanor of Acquitaine. I’m thinking I’ll do a nice salad, veggie lasagna and chocolate cake.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Rather than big free-for all parties, I’m thinking small gatherings where there would be a starting point for the conversation. Given the participants, who knows where it would go from there. I can’t decide whether I want to expect fireworks (Robert Ingersoll and Martin Luther), fun (Sam Clemens, Artemus Ward, Josh Billings and Ralph Keeler) or just an engaging conversation (Henry Thoreau, John Muir and Wendell Berry). In any case, I see myself as an observer.
    Here are some other pairings/groups:
    Loren Eisley, Francis Bacon and Ray Bradbury
    Emily Dickinson and Maira Kalman
    Galileo and Lisa Randall
    Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudolf Steiner and Laurence Oliphant

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Oh my, you’re all giving me too many ideas. As mig said, I’d like to invite myself to dinners of my ancestors, and I’d definitely invite all my grandparents to one. Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn might be interesting, with maybe Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. For authors I’d like to see Sara Paretsky, Louise Penny, and Laurie King… definitely Louise Erdrich with someone… More later if time allows.

    OT: Heading to Winona for a couple of days, but will have access to a computer. Hope to send in a blog post before leaving.


    1. Can I do two nights? I’d love to do a living authors night: Jasper Fforde, Naomi Novik, Michael Chabon, Sarah Vowell, Laurie King, Steve Berry and definitely Louise Penny (am reading #9 right now).

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I would love to have Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Anais Nin sitting at my table reminiscing about their long friendship and, oh those naughty times together in Paris…

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’ve got my eyes on a 24-year old NYC councilman, Ritchie Torres. He’s been on interviews lately for being the lead advocate for decent housing in the boroughs of NYC. He’s black/hispanic, gay, and a solid progressive. And, he’s the most handsome man I’ve seen since Robert Redford’s younger days. He speaks eloquently and intelligently in a manner outmatching Obama. His passion for public service abounds. He actually reminds me of Obama’s speech at the DNC convention in 2004 and has even more magnetism.

    Imagine a black/hispanic, gay, young president?? I found his website and wrote that he should run for the Senate, then proceed onto the presidency in 2036 when he’s 46 years old. Bet he got a kick out of that email!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I would want a quiet dinner with e.e.cummings…I have questions concerning his Harvard Lecture series…I keep a paragraph from one on my studio wall. Maybe ive always been in awe because I’m dyslexic?…hate proper sentences ‘tho I’m capable. Carried his complete works with me since I was a teen…love most of his poetry….favorite…”nobody loses all the time”…

    Current living would be choral composer Eric Whiticre. I wrote to ask if I was too old to sing in one of his early Virtual Choirs. He wrote back words of encouragement sending me the sheet music…but I felt to ‘out of shape’….should have hired a vocal coach.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I’d love to have Studs Terkel, Russell Baker, and Molly Ivins over for a fun meal and good conversation. I can imagine how lively the banter would be.

    Perhaps Dick Cavett, Georgia O’Keefe, and Virginia Wolf would be an interesting combo as well.

    Unlike Steve, I don’t have Prince pegged as “painfully shy.” Somewhat reticent about disclosing private information, and I don’t blame him, but I think in the right company he’d have some interesting things to say. His musical genius is irrefutable:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I read something yesterday suggesting he drifted into drugs because he needed to control powerful anxieties about performing. I’ll admit it is hard to see his sexy videos as the work of a shy person, but he seems to some observers as a guy who wasn’t easy in many interpersonal settings. He liked communicating with others when he could do it on his own terms.

      The NBC News web site has a wonderful Jimmy Fallon story about playing ping pong with Prince.


      1. Steve, I’d just as soon not perpetuate rumors that are solely based on speculation or impressions. Drugs may have been involved in Prince’s demise; I don’t know, but before I jump to that conclusion, I prefer to just let it be. I have no desire whatsoever to diminish his influence. For the record, I have never seen any of those so called “sexy videos.”

        I have actually met Prince. I don’t claim, based on that one encounter, to know him. He seemed like a self-assured person; gracious and attentive. I do know that his facilities at Paisley Park are special.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s also been suggested that his Percoset use and/or abuse was related to chronic pain from hip surgery, rather than “anxieties”. He was a phenomenal dancer, and his performances were highly athletic. Lots of pressure there.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Only after his death have I learned what a brilliant and remarkable man he was. He gave multi millions to various charities but wouldn’t allow anyone to know the gifts were from him. He played 20 instruments and did whole tracks of his own songs. He gave away songs to countless other singers. He studied philosophy and religion. His “normal voice” was base yet he could stretch to three octaves above. He made Jackson look like an amateur performer. He composed new songs on a daily basis, blending rock, soul, country, classic and did the sound tracks for his own instrumentation. He was the one who only comes along once in a lifetime. And this is coming from someone who didn’t follow him after Purple Rain.

          Once in a great while, a band plays Purple Rain. I stop dancing, raise my arms, and do the wave his concert-goers always did. I get some very strange looks, but I don’t care.

          Liked by 2 people

  13. J. K. Rawlings to talk about two things: 1. her plot structuring, how she things through a story, how she had so much of later books in her head when she wrote the first book. I admire that part of her talent. 2. Her dark side and where it comes from. She is a wonderful interview, sassy, brief answers and does not put about with crap. She does not appear in interviews to be the person who wrote all that darkness in harry Potter, which got too dark for me early in book 5. And then the dismal dark gut-wrenching bleakness of Casual Vacancy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed on Casual Vacancy-all too real and probably a hint ss to the HP dark side.

      Somewhere on line I remember seeing a photo of her plot diagramming that the poster had labelled, “suspicions confirmed”.


  14. Sherman Alexie. Another complex man who things in so many dimensions about stereotypes and race and humanity. He is supposed to be a delightful man.


  15. OT-I was sitting here in my office about 4:30pm, facing the window while I was talking to someone, when an Angus steer ran down the avenue that goes past our building, a horse and rider in hot pursuit. My building is on a college campus in a residential area. I don’the know if the steer was caught.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. The Inklings-Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll and…… (can never remember because you can’t find his stuff anymore).

    I’ll just pour drinks and pass around snacks while they talk.


    1. Charles Williams? There may have been others, but I think Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams were the core. Pretty sure Carroll wasn’t part of it….


    2. The inklings included at various times the following, but NOT Sayers. Guess why, folks. But she was clkose with Williams and Lewis and di cooperate with them on writing and such:
      Owen Barfield
      J. A. W. Bennett
      Lord David Cecil
      Nevill Coghill
      Hugo Dyson
      Adam Fox
      Roger Lancelyn Green
      Robert Havard
      C. S. Lewis
      Warren Lewis
      J. R. R. Tolkien
      Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien
      Charles Williams


  17. Well, let’s see…if Hubert Humphrey was as verbose as Steve says, maybe I should invite him so I don’t have to think about what to talk about. Plus he kissed me when I was a baby, so I have a soft spot for him. (“Kiss me again, Hubert!”)

    But I don’t think I want to invite politicians, really. This year’s political shenanigans have soured me on politics, not that I loved politics previously. (God, don’t you miss Paul Wellstone?)

    I think I would go for Alexander McCall Smith. While I don’t love all his books, I like quite a few of them. But I heard him speak once and he is hilarious and insightful. Anyone who starts an orchestra called The Really Terrible Orchestra has a sense of humor I can appreciate. I think I would add some ordinary, nonfamous people, just a few acquaintances and friends, to the mix.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. If we go into politics, perhaps a discussion among the women who have run for the presidency of the US. Hillary likely won’t have time for a number of years. But later on…Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Pat Schroeder, Elizabeth Dole. They would have a lot of war stories to swap.

    Liked by 3 people

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