LA Literary Feasts Kick-Off

Acclaimed Authors, Dinner Hosts and Sponsors Kick-Off 2011 LA Literary Feasts


The night before the 2011 LA Literary Feasts – at which 44 separate dinner parties took place with 44 authors in homes throughout Los Angeles – the authors, upper-level event patrons and hosts of the individual dinners gathered for an evening all together at the California Club.

While the LA Literary Feasts typically accommodate 16 people, more than 200 people attended this Nov 6 kick-off event. 

“We always have a good turnout of the authors,” said Joni Smith, who originated the dinners in 1997 with the late Nancy Vreeland. “Writing is such a solitary profession that we’ve found the authors like to meet each other.”

Most of the hosts show up as well. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and her husband, Adrian Pasdar of “Heroes,” who would be hosting the artist Shepard Fairey the next night, chatted with Dorothy Wickenden, author of “Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West.”  She was seated opposite them in the club’s majestic formal dining room with its long tables and wood-paneled walls.

Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, the songwriting team behind “The Weil/Mann Songbook” caught up with fellow Songwriting Hall of Famer Charles Fox, author of “Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music,” and his dinner host Carol Goldsmith, widow of the composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Other authors turning up at the California Club dinner included Scott Berg, John Berendt, Laurence Bergreen, Jason Berry, Charlie Brandt, Robert Dallek, Antonio Damasio, Nancy Ellen Dodd, Robert Goolrick, Peter Greenberg, Andrew Gross, Leslie S. Klinger, Tilar J. Mazzeo, Joe Morgenstern, Patt Morrison, Walter Mosely, Jim Newton, Bill Plaschke, Mark Seal, April Smith and Jay R. Tunney. 

On taking the podium, event chair Betsy Applebaum reported net proceeds from the LA Literary Feasts at $600,000 for the Los Angeles Public Library‘s educational programs. The programs focus on children and teens, technology and adult literacy.

Also among speakers: Sharon Rising, president of the Council of the Library Foundation; Martin Gomez, city librarian; Ken Brecher, Library Foundation president, and Veronique Peck, honorary event chair.

Smith said she and Vreeland first thought to have the small library dinners after hearing of a similar fundraiser to benefit the Public Library in New York. Smith said she figured the dinners could have greater longevity on this coast because more people have homes large enough to accommodate themselves, an author plus one, and 12 paying guests, translating to 16 people in total.  

The most recent dinners required a donation of $400 to $2,500 per person. The more contributed, the more likely people were to get their first choice.

“Our problem then was getting the authors,” Smith continued, recalling how she and Vreeland found their solution by visiting the UCLA Book Fair. “We just went up to authors, told them what we were doing, and they all said ‘yes.’”

Having been on the organizing committee in previous years myself, I know that to this day, most authors say “yes,” as they wish to support the library system. As a guest, I have found all four dinners I’ve attended to be very special experiences. And each time I see the choices of dinners, so many look so good that I only wish I could be in two places at once.

Over the years, I’ve been to library dinners at the homes of Richard Riordan and his former wife, the late Nancy Daly; Eunice and Hal David, Mary Lu and Gordon Tuthill and Amanda and Nick Stonnington. Authors at these dinners have been actor Kirk Douglas, author of “Ragman’s Son” and “My Stroke of Luck;” Michael Shermer, author of  “Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time;” Gigi Levangie Grazer, author of “The Starter Wife” and “Queen Takes King;” and most recently, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

(To read about the Weil/Mann dinner at the Stonnington home, click here.)

Among other hosts at the Nov. 6 California Club dinner were Judith Krantz, Joyce and Aubrey Chernick, Janet Dreisen Rappaport and Herbert Rappaport, Judy and Tom Beckmen, Judi and Gordon Davidson, Claudia and Benjamin Deutsch, Mary and David Martin, Susan and Michael Niven, Marna and Rock Schnabel,  PJ and James Clark, Gwen and Brian Potiker, Mary Beth and Hardy Thomas, Judy and Mitchell Komaiko, Lisi and Lyle Poncher, Mickel and Darrin Elliott, Audrey and Richard Johnson and Sandra and Lawrence Post.

More were Jane and Stephen Ackerman, Joan and Jack Mackey, Betsy Link, Maggie Edwards and Gene Croft, Ron de Salvo, Ernie Carswell and Don Kreindler, Ellen and Mark Lipson, Marcy and Edgar Gross, Victoria Erteszek Foote, Richard Neri and Kurt Schulzman, Lisa and Mark Hutchins, Betsy and Carl Anderson, Jeanne Neville, Mary Lu and Gordon Tuthill, Jackie Applebaum-Sheanin and Stephen Sheanin, Lennie and Bernie Greenberg, Amy and James Childress, Richard Riordan, Carla and Fred Sands, Joan and Marty Ransohoff, Dean Hansell, Clara and Larry Yust, Travis and Tom Kranz.

Nancy and Michael Harahan underwrote the kick-off dinner. Also among this year’s event patrons were the Jean Perkins Foundation, Wallis Annenberg, Brindell Gottleib, Alyce de Roulet Williamson, the Flora L. Thornton Foundation, Sharon and Nelson Rising, Betsy and Harold Applebaum, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Fiona and Stanley Drucenmiller, the Suzanne Nora Johnson and David Johnson Foundation, Katie McGrath and J..J. Abrams, Harlyne Norris, Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer, Gwen and Brian Potiker, and Eva and Marc Stern.

Top photo:  Adrian Pasdar of “Heroes” and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks were among hosts of the individual Literary Feasts

Second photo: Honorary chair Veronique Peck, (Gregory Peck’s widow,) and their daughter Cecilia Peck

Third photo: Betsy Applebaum, chair of the 2011 LA Literary Feasts, and Harold Applebaum

Fourth photo: Joni Smith, originator of the LA Literary Feasts

Fifth photo: Michael Harahan and Nancy Harahan, underwriters of the California Club dinner.

Sixth photo: Dinner at the California Club for the authors and the hosts for the individual Literary Feasts



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LA Literary Feasts

Published Nov. 21, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA