Elizabeth R You Free for Dinner?

Okay, Caveman, what will it be tonight? Bison steaks?
Would her Majesty care for a spot of tea after whuppin' Spain's Armada-Ass?
Go ahead and smile, Mr. Greene, I'll pour the scotch.
The concept is simple: You can go back in time and meet ten people (either in their prime or near their deathbed) and share one meal with them where you can ask them anything, and they have to give you honest answers. Who would it be? Who would you want to separate the myth from the fact and finally set the record straight? Whose head would you want to crawl inside and find what made them tick? Who do you admire and just want to spend some time with shooting the breeze?

The idea for this sprang from an unlikely place. To make a short story long….it all started with that damnable Netflix!

With a dearth of interesting new titles to fill my Netflix queue, I’ve relied on their recommendation algorithm to unearth previous works unbeknownst to me. Thus into my instant queue popped Elizabeth R – a 6-part BBC/Masterpiece Theater miniseries from 1971 starring Glenda Jackson in the title role.

While watching it (I’m currently half way through the series), I realized, “Damn, I love me some Elizabeth the 1st!” I can scarcely find a historical figure more interesting and rife with drama than the Virgin Queen who during her over 40 year reign weathered the most tumultuous of times to foster a political atmosphere that allowed for the rise of the world’s greatest empire and united a people under a national identity that lasts to this day. Her steadfast determination to secure her power by not marrying a man, but instead marrying her people, all while making claims to have been guided by God himself, she engendered a cult-like celebrity status that fueled a propaganda machine where England became an unstoppable force protected while under the flag of their Virgin Queen. They became an empire that would, in her time and beyond, secure its place in the Old World as well as the New. Hell, I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that had Elizabeth not created the milieu that she did, there would’ve been no colonies…no United States. Historians can nitpick all they want about how much power she actually wielded (obviously she surrounded herself with wise council) and can measure her successes (the defeat of the Spanish Armada) with her failures (of which there are more than a few), but she clearly did something right, and she ruled successfully by knowing best the heart of her people…perhaps even better than she knew her own.

And I tell you I will not marry, but I will mess you up, sir!

And, oh, how writers and filmmakers have loved her. I’ve been enamored by the more recent depictions of her life – from Shekar Kupur’s launching of Cate Blanchett’s career in his Godfather-inspired Elizabeth, to Helen Mirren’s searing portrait of her later years in Tom Hooper’s HBO/BBC telefilm Elizabeth I, to Shekar Kapur’s misguided and overblown sequel where Blanchett chewed the scenery in Elizabeth: The Golden Age…I can’t get enough of the lady.

This Elizabeth R is striking in that it is arguably the most historically accurate and brought to light moments from the Queen’s life I had not previously been privy to: her relationship with her eventually beheaded stepmother Katherine, her teenage dalliances with her randy caregiver (also executed) and her battle with smallpox. Filmed on location in actual British palaces, the production oozes with authenticity and in the lead role, Glenda Jackson is a revelation. It strikes me most how much of Blanchett’s later performance must’ve been informed and inspired by Jackson’s turn.

With Jackson, one almost feels like you’ve actually met the Queen and the intimate scope of the miniseries makes you feel like a fly on the wall of her court…or her bedchamber.

And that made me think…what if I could’ve actually been there? Queen Elizabeth I ranks near the top of my list of historical figures I would’ve like to have met. So what if I could travel back in time and have a moment of truth and a meal with anyone from history?

Here’s my Spin:

In chronological order, I present…

My Top Ten Dead Historical Figures/Famous People With Whom I Would Most Like to Share a Meal While Interrogating:

  1. Alexander the Great – This dude conquered the known world by the age of 30!  What the hell have I been doing with my life?
  2. Cleopatra – C’mon, don’t you want to know what was going on in her head when she was making deals in the bedroom and on the throne with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony? 
  3. Elizabeth I – Umm, did I not already make myself clear on this one?
  4. William Shakespeare – Did he know his plays would last this long and still be considered timely 500 years later?  What was his favorite work of his?
  5. Benjamin Franklin – More so than anything, I think this guy would’ve been fun as hell to have a meal and a pint (or two or three) with.  What did he think of the long-term prospects of the nation he helped form? 
  6. Napoleon – Another head-case who tried to rule the world.  Did he really think he could pull it off?
  7. Abraham Lincoln – He preserved the union and freed a people.  Did he think it would last?  Did he think he would be shot?
  8. Gandhi –  I believe someone said at his funeral, “One would scarcely believe a man like this ever lived.”  Again, I’d like to know what really made him tick.
  9. Stanley Kubrick – More so than anything I talk about movies on this blog, and he’s my favorite film director of all-time, so this is a no-brainer.  Sample questions:  Were you on drugs when you made 2001?  Were you a member of a secret cabal ruling the world?  Did you purposely put in subliminal messages in your films speaking to such or were you just having a laugh?
  10. Graham Greene  – My favorite writer of all-time, so, like, duh, of course I want to have a meal with him…perhaps on Capri…and murder a whole bottle of scotch…and ask him if he really was a spy and if he really believed in God.

My apologies to the following with whom I would like to schedule dinner at a later time:  That Guy Whose Handprints are on the Walls of Chauvet Cave, Moses, Homer, Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha Gautama, Mohammed, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pocahontas, George Washington, Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, Sigmund Freud, Adolph Hitler, Albert Eisntein, William Faulkner, Winston Churchill, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Martin Luther King Jr., Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, L. Ron Hubbard, Andrew Wyeth

Who would make your top ten?


  1. In no particular order:
    Satyajit Ray
    Mahatma Gandhi
    Gautam Buddha
    Chanakya (Indian teacher, intellectual, kingmaker and strategist during (c. 370–283 BCE)
    Stanley Kubrick
    Somerset Maugham
    William Shakespeare
    Carl Jung
    Karl Marx
    Sanjeev Kumar (prominent Hindi film actor)

    Prakash – I shall have to google a few of these I am not familiar with. Jung is a great one – I should’ve had him over Freud but he slipped my mind. –DHS

    • Yeah, I too any-day relate more with Jung than Freud. I also wanted to include some other people who slipped my mind the other day:
      Ayn Rand
      Rumi (mystic poet)
      Kabir (mystic poet)
      Akira Kurosawa
      Hrishikesh Mukherjeee (eminent Hindi/Bengali film director)

  2. Great List – Def love the Stanley Kubrick on the list.

    1. Jesus Christ
    2. John the Baptist
    3. Genghis Khan
    4. George Washington
    5. Ben Franklin
    6. Abraham Lincoln
    7. Bruce Lee
    8. Martin Luther King
    9. Alfred Hitchcock
    10. Cleopatra
    11. Moses
    12. Vince Lombardi
    13. Ronald Reagan
    14. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
    15. Mark Antony
    16. Richard Nixon
    17. Ferdinand Magellan
    18. Marlon Brando
    19. Adolf Hitler
    20. Osama Bin Laden

    Nicky D – of all the people in all of history…Bruce Lee? Eh, I guess if you’re a big fan I can’t argue. Not sure about Reagan, either…lots of other more interesting and impactful US Presidents to choose from in my mind. Very interesting list as always, sir…pretty good…pretty…pretty…good. –DHS

  3. David, I love intellectual parlor games like these and while your list has some interesting people on it, you have completely overlooked the basic rules of throwing a good dinner party. First off, can you imagine how conversation would die with your group? Cleopatra, Alexander, Elizabeth, and William are going to be discombobulated at all the craziness that went down after they died (mustard gas? AK-47s? atomic bombs? The Grateful Dead?). You’d spend half the evening fanning each one in turn as their heads spin. (Well, Alexander will probably be made of sterner stuff.) And what would Napolean and Gandhi have to talk about? And then you’d have poor Stanley Kubrick sitting in the corner wondering what he’s doing there. It would be just you and Graham Greene sipping drinks and laughing at everyone else.

    As much as I would love having people like Che Guevara, Guru Nanak Dev, Elizabeth I, Vesalius, William Harvey, Bartolome Las Casas, Copernicus, and Galileo, I would have to save their invitations for another party. You’ve got to theme your guests so they can talk to each other, otherwise you’d just end up going around the table talking to each one while the others are bored out of their skulls.

    At my dinner table (which is naturally round), I would put William Shakespeare between Henry James and Herman Melville. Next to Melville would be Sam Goldwyn so they could talk about story ideas. Next to Goldwyn is Lillian Gish. She and Goldwyn will have tons of great stories about the dawn of movie making. I have a feeling Lillian would have lots to talk about with Harriet Tubman and on the other side of Harriet would be Bert Williams, the famous blackface vaudeville star. Next to Bert would be Richard Pryor, just because we need someone to keep us laughing. On the other side of Richard would be Frederick Douglass. Next to Frederick would be Malcolm X with me on the other side. I’m afraid I’m going to break my own rule by putting Bollywood heartthrob Shahid Kapoor between me and Henry James. Serving will be Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, and Rush Limbaugh.

    See how the conversation will just flow with my guest list and seating plan? OK, I have no idea what Shahid Kapoor and Henry James will talk about, but I feel like I should be able to bring a date.

    Yes, it’s U.S. centric, but I’ll have another party for different countries or epochs. It’s what a good host would do.

    Wow I spent way too much time on this….

    Jason, LMAO! I hadn’t thought about having them all there at once and doing a dinner party! And…so what’s wrong with Graham Greene and I sitting in the corner drinking scotch and laughing at everyone else? –DHS

  4. With all this talk about Freud, David, I do hope you are planning to see Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD, a very fine film about Freud and Jung. I saw it on Thanksgiving and rate it 4.5.

    Anyway here are my ten in no particular order:

    Leonardo da Vinci
    Charles Dickens
    Abraham Lincoln
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Charles Chaplin
    Giacomo Puccini
    Ludwig Van Beethoven

    Sam – I definitely hope to catch the Cronenberg at some point. –DHS

  5. Sorry folks, just a list in no particular ranking order and some impulse commentary….
    Napoleon (was he really that short – and curious whether he would need a booster seat at the table–jk), Billy the Kid (really to find out which Young Guns movie is the most accurate), Socrates (bring some deep though and intelligent conversation to the table because I certainly can’t carry that load), Sigmund Freud (but only if he doesn’t analyze my problems – and figured Napoleon could use some help), Beethoven (party music anyone?- and would love to see him play a Keytar), Genghis Kahn (party control anyone? and if we were friends, no one would mess with me), Joan of Arc (she can hang with Mr. Freud as well – and her and Genghis Kahn can have a “battle royal” and bring some Medieval Times flavor to the dinner party), and Frmr President Abraham Lincoln (no jokes here).

    Thought about bringing Al Bundy to hear about his 4 TD Game at Polk High, but then realized he wasn’t a real person. Questions, comments, concerns?

    Is this William Preston – Esquire? What about Ted Bundy instead of Al Bundy? You could have him sit next to Joan of Arc. –DHS

  6. I would like to have dinner with the following people (individually, or they may be stimulating and entertaining as a group at my “round table” … seated in the following order:

    Abigail Adams
    John F. Kennedy
    Thomas Jefferson
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Francois Truffaut
    John Lennon
    George Delerue
    Claude Monet
    Pierre Auguste Renoir

    I would invite Hilary Clinton for a “girls night out” with me, Abigail and Eleanor!

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