|Jamie Kabler, founder|
THE RANCHO MIRAGE WRITERS FESTIVAL IS ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS IN THE COUNTRY.
It was created by Jamie Kabler, and it is an incredible feast of intellectual analysis, thought-provoking ideas, and just plain fun. The attendees are fascinated from morning til night. On the first day I ran into Eli and Edye Broad, Dick Riordan, Patt Morrison, and Kathleen Brown.
Opening night was a private party for the Angels who generously give the money to help make the festival. I really enjoyed sitting with CNN's Presidential Historian Doug Brinkley and his wife, Anne, as well as Veronica Garcia, a member of the LA Times Book Club (members--Dick Riordan, Patt Morrison, et.al)
|Jamie Kabler with "John Adams"|
After dinner we all adjourned to the theatre where A. Scott Berg (one of my favorite authors who wrote the gigantic tome on my favorite president, Woodrow Wilson) treated us to an amazing talk. He is very interested in World War One, and noted that it was exactly 100 years ago and that the parallels to today are very important.
"Please appreciate the importance of it, or it will be reduced in history to the Punic Wars. America's identity was really created 100 years ago. If you study it, you'll be able to understand today. The most important saying is 'The world must be made safe for democracy.' Think about it in light of today."
Next up was a panel, lead by USC's Geoff Cowan, featuring Karl Rove and the New York Times Columnist Brett Stephens.
|Geoff, Brett, and Karl|
"Great readers make great leaders," said Stephens. "Lincoln read all of Shakespeare."
Then it was Karl's turn. I can only tell you that from watching him on TV, I was scared to meet him in person. Boy, was I wrong. He was warm, funny, self-deprecating, and (actually) cute! When you hear him talk, as I did for three days at differant forums, you realize that he has one of most brilliant minds for political history. He has a new book called THE TRIUMPH OF WILLIAM MCKINLEY, and he regaled us with details of that presidency that really matches today. "The democratic congress at that time announced right away that they wouldn't support anything McKinley wanted. None of what we are experience is new. At one point, a congressman pointed a gun at the speaker just to remind him that he'd be shot if he ruled 'incorrectly.'"
He then went on to say about George W. Bush: "This is a man who just 'played the Guy from Midland.' He graduated from Yale with a history major and then got his MBA from Harvard. We had a yearly contest to see not only who read the most books, but we started measuring in linear inches so we'd be totally accurate. We read the classics, political history, economics, and foreign policy. Sometime's we'd only beat one another by an inch and a half. George, to this day, spends one week a year in Ruwanda working at AIDS faciities by doing carpentry and painting work in addition to raising money and calling attention to the issue."
He then proceeded to do an imitation of Bill Clinton that was the best I've ever heard.
Rove on Trump: I agree with most of his policies but the tweeting has to stop. He's controversial, but we must remember history. In the five elections after Gilded Age, each president was elected with less than 50% of the popular vote. We're still fighting the Civil War. Nothing gets done."
|Karl Rove and Doug Brinkley|
|Moderator Susan Eisenhower|
The next day opened with the VERY capable Lucie Arnaz interviewing Jim Miller, who wrote the book on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
"Lorne (Michaels, executive produer) has the final say on everything. Dan Ackroyd came up with the shark. John Belushi created the samurai warrior. NBC hated the bees and asked Lorne to take them out, so he kept them in," said Miller. "For the performers, the wait to see whether their sketch made it into the final show was miserable. After the dress rehearsal, Lorne goes back to his office with each sketch on an index card. Then he only places the sketches he likes in the final line-up. If the actors see their card dumped it's very traumatic."
Lucie then asked about drugs on the set.
"Yes, there were a lot of them. What Lorne did was put the offices where the drugs were used way in the back, so when network executives came over, they' never go into that area."
"When Tina Fey became head witer, all the boys' locker room talk stopped."
"John Belushi would never do a sketch written by a woman. He didn't think women could write comedy."
"Just befoe Gilda Radner died, she sent Lorne a note saying 'Lorne, I'm happy.' It's still up in his office."
AND ONTO THE "DISH"--SALLY BEDELL SMITH, AUTHOR OF MANY BOOKS ON "THE ROYALS."
She was interviewed by Van Gordon Sauter, and all he had to do was ask one question and she talked for 40 minutes! It was delicious stuff! Bedell Smith has lived in London and become very close to many of the royals. She also wrote the book on Prince Charles.
Here we go--
"Diana had profound mental health issues. Sadly, it was too much for her."
"Pamela Harriman read Edith Wharton's book, CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY, and patterned all her moves after that heroine."
"Queen Elizabeth seems quite reserved in public, but one time she was at the Kentucky Derby and was screaming for her horse. She loves horse racing and loves it when you want to 'replay' the race in conversation. She gets just as excited as when its happening. She loves to talk and talks and gesticulates like an Italian. She smiles a lot, loves to sing, and does wicked impersonations."
"Charles adores his grandmother. He's sweet, warm, and charming. He's made his job-in-waiting into a real job. He's widely mis-understood. Camilla is the love of his life. He's loved her for 40 years. She's very appealing and just 'sucked it up' when she had to wait for him. Charles and Camilla had an affair in 1972, but Charles had to go into the military. That's when she married Andrew Parker-Bowles. Charles was heartsick. There was no romance when he was with Diana. It resumed in 1986. Let's just say, about Camilla, that she was well-navigated! She has won over the Queen now."
|1972 Love at first sight|
"William and Kate keep their mystique, but look accessible. Kate never over-shadows William."
"Meghan is 'out there,' just like Harry. The world still loves Diana, and he's half Diana, so he's put in a special place. Meghan is poised, well-educated and a good performer. The Royal philosophy is 'We can't say no to Harry.' By marrying a bi-racial American actress, the Royals feel it helps their image. It makes them cool."
As you can see, this festival is tremendous. A great, big thank you to Jamie Kabler and Debbie Green who work tirelessly to present this magical festival!