The Perfect Imaginary Dinner

As I mentioned, I did do a post on “People I would like to dine with, living or dead”

But I’m gonna re-launch it, and re-format it, following El Capitan’s lead. Like Emily, this list would probably change on a daily basis. Here is where I stand, today. I will add one category. Because … I MUST.

Please add your own in the comments section.


Christopher Marlowe. I have a TON of questions to ask that guy.

Charles Dickens. Just because I have a feeling that the dude was a blast. He could sit at the head of the table, keep the liquor flowing, regale us with stories … I would bet there wouldn’t be one awkward pause with Chuck around.

Emily Bronte. Because I think it would have done the woman good to get out a bit, and lighten up. I’d like to get drunk with Emily, and hear what she thought about things. In her poem “Often rebuked”, she wrote what has become, for me, a personal credo: “I walk where my own nature leads me. It vexes me to choose another guide”. I’ve got all these ideas about who Emily was, what she must have been like – but I’d like to see her for myself.

Edmund Burke. I think he and I would have a lot to talk about. I’d probably monopolize his company at the table, when I wasn’t whispering in the corner with Emily Bronte.

James and Nora Joyce. I mean. That’s all that really needs to be said about THAT.

Rebecca West. Naturally. I’d have to get over my idolatry, though … because idolatry doesn’t make for good conversation. I would just want to sit next to her, and kiss the hem of her skirt. Also, ask her about her affairs with Chaplin and HG Wells. Oh yeah, and pump her for information about Split. If I were in charge of the seating arrangements, I would place her in between me and CW.

Which leads me to the next category of guests:

THE BLOGGERS I am choosing these folks merely because it would be FIREWORKS if we all got together at the same time. Er … May 6, 2005, right Emily??






The world would never recover from such a meeting of the minds.


John and Abigail Adams Oh God, just the thought of it!!!

Alexander Hamilton Now THAT would be interesting, and I would definitely have to make sure he sat nowhere near John or Abigail. Alexander Hamilton is on my “historical freebie” list, although that’s not the ONLY reason I would want him to be there. I want to talk about the Federalist Papers. I want to ask him what happened during the duel. However. I also have a little historical crush on him, so I would probably end up in some dark corner, making out with him like a banshee, before the night was out. Don’t judge me for it. You only live once.

Ulugh Beg. Why? Cause he sounds incredible, that’s why. Grandson of Tamerlane, 15th century astronomer, ruler (briefly) of Samarqand … His observatories (the ruins of them anyway) still stand in Uzbekistan. I’d love to meet him.

THE ARTISTS – and by that, I mean actors

Cary Grant. Even though I’d be terrified to meet him, I am sure he would make me feel comfortable immediately. Get me a drink, get me talking about myself, make me laugh … you know, all of those things that true gentlemen know how to do instinctively.

Lauren Bacall circa “To Have and Have Not”. I realize that I would have to drag her away from CW in order to get a word in edgewise, but still … I’d love to hang out with her at that time in her life.

Gena Rowlands This white-hot talent is my favorite actress. She was married to John Cassavetes – another idol. I need to ask her so many questions about working with him, and how she works. She’s still alive. So this meeting could still, conceivably, happen.

Gary Cooper After I’m done with Alexander Hamilton, I’ll take on Gary Cooper. Uhm … woah. That’s a thought. No, but seriously. I love Gary Cooper, I’d love to sit and converse with him. And ask him questions about his life, and acting, etc. etc.

Oh God, there’s so many more people I’d love to meet … but this will stand for now.

Please add your own in the comments.

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47 Responses to The Perfect Imaginary Dinner

  1. Emily says:

    Don’t forget Steve Silver. He’s booked for May 6, 2005 as well.

    Four months and counting…

  2. peteb says:

    I would have left Tycho in, Sheila.. if only to listen to the conversation between him and Ulugh.. and I’d probably throw in Robert Hooke.. just think of all the gossip on Newton he’d supply.

  3. Emily says:

    It just occured to me that there’s a hint of irony in your writing that “the world would never recover from such a meeting of the minds,” considering that said meeting will occur when we all gather to see a film about that begins with the destruction of the Earth.

  4. Emily says:

    Please forgive my grammatically challenged post. Preview is not my friend.

  5. Mark says:

    Alexander Hamilton is on my “historical freebie” list

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are such a dork. I actually have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

    Do you have feelings of remorse and longing every time you spend ten dollars?

  6. red says:

    Mark –

    Every time I spend 10 dollars, I get this strange desire to make out with someone like a banshee. It’s made for some very interesting purchases.

  7. Bryan says:

    A draft of my list:


    Joyce, of course, and sure, Nora can come too, I suppose
    Vladimir Nabokov: I’d just like to find out if he really was as crazy as I think he was.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley: because I worship him
    Wallace Stevens: a fogey Taft Republican insurance agent who just happened to be the greatest American poet of the 20th century
    Hart Crane: although I probably would be pretty intimidated by him
    Lord Byron: because if anyone could make a dinner party interesting…
    James Merrill: because I want to talk with him about the spirits that revealed his epic poem “The Changing Light at Sandover”


    Plato: There are several things I’d like to pin him down on.
    Henri Bergson: bad-ass mystic
    Alan Watts: even badder-ass mystic
    Ken Wilber: the baddest-ass mystic of them all!!!
    Friedrich Nietzsche: because I worship him
    Martin Heidegger: so I could bitch slap him


    Aleister Crowley: Yes, I would be terrified of him, but honestly, what an encounter that would be!
    Dr. John Dee: a mathematician to whom the Enochian angels revealed the secrets of the universe


    Ingrid Bergman: so I could gawk at her
    Grace Kelly: ditto


    Gustav Mahler: because his music tears me to pieces and puts me back together again, and I want to find out what sort of person could do that

  8. red says:

    Bryan –


    I love how you said about Nora: Nora can come too, I suppose

    Uhm … I know I didn’t know her or anything, but I think you probably couldn’t keep her away if you tried!!

    And damn, I wish I could see you “bitch-slap” Heidegger.

    I wonder if the words “bitch slap” and “Heidegger” have ever appeared before in the same sentence.

  9. Bryan says:

    Actually, I think I might prefer to meet Heidegger in a dark alley rather than having dinner with him. Scratch him off the dinner invitation.

    Now I’m starting to sound like Tyler in “Fight Club.” “Which philosopher would you like to fight?”

  10. tim says:

    Robert the Bruce, Wolfe Tone, Ulysses Grant…Chuck Yeager…and Angelina Jolie, once that other guy has dinner with her…

  11. Emily says:

    I was under the distinct impression, given her appearance, that Angelina Jolie doesn’t ever actually eat. Two dinners would probably cause her to explode.

  12. peteb says:

    uh-oh.. I can see the freebie discussion spilling over into this post, Sheila..

    Speaking of which.. *ahem*.. I’ll add Amanda Donohue to my guest list.. saw a not very good, but recent (last couple of years), TV movie over the past week that she was in – and despite the script, director, etc.. she was still electric when she was on screen.

  13. peteb says:

    Obviously the reason for that invite would be to find out what she’s been up to recently… obviously…

  14. tim says:

    So would SHE explode, or just her clothes explode?? :)

  15. Emily says:

    For the sake of preserving the healthy fantasies of Sheila’s male readers (and female readers of alternative sexual orientation), let’s say it’s her clothes. Have it your way.

  16. tim says:

    Hey, a healthy fantasy life is good for you!

  17. michele says:

    My list hasn’t changed much over the years: Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen (not the furniture guy), James Joyce, Henry Rollins, Jesus and, of course, Sheila.

  18. Steve says:

    Ah, I was wondering why I wasn’t invited… but thanks for bringing me, Em!

  19. red says:

    Oops. Should have just put my whole blog-roll on the invite list. It wasn’t like: oooh, let me not invite Steve!!

    Michele, Steve – my bad. Please join the fireworks.

    I’m sure Ben Franklin is bitching in heaven about why HE’S not on my list.

  20. red says:

    Can you imagine having “Ethan Allen – the furniture guy” on your Ideal Dinner Party list?

  21. Emily says:

    Sheila – in a word, no.

    This is a pretty open party, too. Everyone who wants to make the journey is welcome to meet up with us at the Chelsea Hotel, where, in deference to a million years of human evolution, we will not attempt to pick fleas off one another.

  22. red says:

    Counting the days, Emily, counting the days.

  23. Bill McCabe says:

    Historical Figures

    Theodore Roosevelt, George Patton, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, the guy who fired the first shot at Lexington and the fellow who invented the wheel. I think we owe him quite a bit.


    Bogart, George C. Scott, Alec Guinness.

  24. Bill McCabe says:

    OK, so picking fleas is out. How about massive alcohol consumption?

  25. Emily says:

    Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters all around, though we probably shouldn’t drink more than two. Unless a two ton mega-elephant shows up. He can most likely handle more than two.

  26. Anne says:

    When I answered a variation on this question for Norm’s profile I said I wanted to have dinner with Oscar Wilde and a bunch of beautiful boys. That still stands as my absolute ideal dinner party.

    But if I were going to expand the theme, yeah, I’d like to meet Edmund Burke. And:

    The Duchess of Devonshire
    The Lennox sisters
    The Marquise de la Tour du Pin
    Madame de Stael
    Mary Shelley
    Jane Austen
    The Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell George Eliot
    Charles Stewart Parnell
    W.B. Yeats
    Marcel Proust
    T.S. Eliot
    P.G. Wodehouse
    The Mitford sisters, especially Jessica
    Elizabeth Bowen
    Cyril Connolly

  27. Wangling

    Sheila O’Malley published her fantasy dinner invite list; I was happy to see I’d wangled an invite. But I read it, in her section on…:THE BLOGGERS I am choosing these folks merely because it would be FIREWORKS if we all…

  28. red says:

    Anne –

    woah, with the Mitford sisters. Jessica – was that Dekka? I loved Dekka (just finished that book about the sisters, which frankly – I found creepy! Very interesting, though).

    Unity?? woah. There was something really off about her face. Like something was missing.

  29. red says:

    Oh, and Anne – speaking of our book disagreements AND the Mitford sisters:

    Nicholas Mosley, British author, author of my favorite book ever written (DO NOT ask me why because I COULD NOT say) Hopeful Monsters – was the son of Oswald Mosley.

  30. Anne says:

    Yeah, I know about Nicholas. Think I tried to read Hopeful Monsters at some point, knowing he was Diana’s son. Don’t think I got very far.

    Jessica, yeah I think she was Dekka. She was the communist. She wrote Hons and Rebels, a memoir of her sisters, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

  31. Dan says:

    I’m very flattered to be on your blogger guest list.

  32. red says:

    Dan –

    Of course if this blogger-gathering were ever to take place, I would make sure that it wouldn’t be in October. Because neither of us would be able to make it. How’s THAT for optimism.

  33. Steve says:

    I don’t know if I’d have Tycho Brahe at a dinner party- I’d be afraid of his bladder exploding.

  34. red says:

    peteb’s guest list would be fascinating. Please imagine Tycho Brahe making a pass at Amanda Donohoe. Right before his bladder exploded.

  35. peteb says:

    Can I just point out that Tycho would not be seated beside Amanda.

  36. Lauren says:

    ooooh….I want to add in my imaginary dinner guests…..I’d invite Marlowe, John Donne, Milton and Dante. How interesting would that be? Oh, and for pure eye candy, I’d add in some Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp. teehee

  37. Popskull says:

    “Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters!” Nice one, Emily.

    My dinner guest list would include Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, to talk about World War II, current events and space exploration. I would like to have Frankie Manning and Louis Armstrong over to sing and dance with. Jim Carroll, John Patrick Shanley, Mark Hamill, Kevin Smith (and my buddies, Mike Nelson and the OTHER Kevin Smith) and Henry Rollins (you come too, Michelle) to watch a couple of flicks and talk about books and comics. Alex Ross too. Paul Newman. Sally Field.

    Dead guys: H.G. Wells would be great to talk to about how the world now looks a lot the wrold he imagined. Joseph Campbell, I would basically thank. Sam Fuller. Lee Marvin. Steve McQueen.

  38. Popskull says:

    Joss Whedon has to come over for the movies and comics talk too, because he’s doing a sick job with writing the “X-Men” right now. :)

  39. Popskull says:

    Oops, sorry. I know Louis A is gone for a while now. :( Is Frankie still with us? He’s got to be 90 by now.

  40. Mark says:

    Can you imagine having “Ethan Allen – the furniture guy” on your Ideal Dinner Party list?

    But you’d have a nice dinning room set for the party.

    I don’t know if I’d have Tycho Brahe at a dinner party- I’d be afraid of his bladder exploding.

    I’d be more distrubed about his nose.

  41. red says:

    Lauren – I believe my good friend Emily said elsewhere, in some OTHER post about the perfect dinner party, that it is essential to have “gratuitous hot guys” present.

    Your comment proves this beyond a reasonable doubt.

    My gratuitous hot guys?

    Ewan McGregor. David O’Hara. Russell Crowe. Jeff Bridges.

    I am SURE I could think of more. :)

  42. Stevie says:

    Ewan McGregor covered with calligraphy as in The Pillow Book
    Laurette Taylor
    Thomas Jefferson
    Cornelia Otis Skinner
    Tennessee Williams
    Cate Blanchett

  43. Lisa says:

    Since Sheila asked SO NICELY, here is my list.

    I think a cocktail party should be people you want to talk to about subjects you want to talk about, not just people you want to meet and go, “Oh, nice to meet you. Love your work. Bye.” I like to talk about history, sports, maybe some politics. (I don’t read much highbrow stuff, so my authors would be people like Ann Rule, Dennis Lehane, and Patricia Cornwell. How blah. I won’t list them.)

    History Buff[oons]
    Shelby Foote
    Brian Pohanka (Only if I could keep from jumping him because I LUST for him. It’s the way he says “Zouaves.” Rowr.)
    Stephen F. Ambrose
    Roger McGrath

    Mike Kzryzewski
    Tom Izzo
    Dick Vitale
    Bill Simmons
    Harry Carey
    Ryne Sandburg (Hall of Famer! Booyah!)
    Ernie Banks

    Mary Matalin (Her, not him. I LOATHE her husband. I respect that she loves him, blah, blah, blah, but GOD, he is odious. And he ain’t comin’ to my party.)
    Neil Boortz
    George and Barbara Bush
    Zell Miller
    Thomas Sowell
    Larry Elder

  44. red says:


    Oh my god. Ewan McGregor in the Pillow Book.




  45. red says:

    Lisa –

    I’d love to meet Dennis Lehane too. Damn, that guy can write. And Harry Carey! ha!!

  46. Dave J says:

    Sheila, I’m just surprised that with 40+ comments you still haven’t invited P.J. O’Rourke. He’d be at the top of my list, the rest of which I’m still pondering.

    Lisa, I can’t stand Carville either, but you KNOW he’d be fun at a party. I’d stick him in the kitchen to work up some Cajun deliciousness and let him out to mingle occasionally.

  47. Lisa says:

    Oh, all RIGHT, he can come (since Mary probably wouldn’t come without him) but he has to stay in the kitchen, cookin’ up some crawfish gumbo. ;)