A Meal At Marrakech

Late last month I had dinner with DC resident Jenny Wang.

She works in public relations in the District, and has fallen in love with the city. Jenny said life in Washington is a big contrast from the rural Pennsylvania town where she grew up, and also shared tales about her childhood.

During our almost two-hour meal at Moroccan restaurant Marrakech near Dupont Circle, Jenny also talked about what got her into her current line of work, as well as her travel plans and plenty of other topics.

Click here to read the 77th dinner with a stranger.

Strangers Wanted

I realize I’ve not updated since last month’s interview with actor Fred Melamed. Whoops.

The 77th dinner with a stranger will be online next week. But in the meantime, I’m getting ready for a holiday that includes stops in several cities. If you live in any of the below locations and will be around on the dates below, let’s get dinner!

Fort Lauderdale, Florida: July 16
Miami, Florida: July 17 and 19
Key West, Florida: July 18
New Orleans, Louisiana: July 20
San Diego, California: July 21-23
Los Angeles, California: July 24
San Francisco, California: July 25-26

Click here for the basics of how the dinner interviews work. If you’re available and want to share your story, get in touch and hopefully we can meet.

Meeting Mr. Melamed — Part II

Last week I uploaded part one of my interview with actor Fred Melamed.

As promised, one week later I’m uploading part two. In this installment, Fred talks more about being adopted as a baby; his experiences meeting his birth mother and father; moving from New York to Los Angeles; his interest in writing; his return to the stage; what he and his family do when he’s not working on a role; and more.

Find out all about those topics — as well as why Fred is dressed in a bib from the Palm restaurant in Beverly Hills — by clicking on the picture above or on this link to part two.

Meeting Mr. Melamed — Part I

Today marks only the third time I’ve had a two-part interview on the site.

The reason for today’s two-parter is because Hollywood actor Fred Melamed had so many interesting things to say about his life that breaking our almost four-hour dinner into two segments is the only way I can do justice to his storytelling.

We met at the Palm steakhouse in Beverly Hills, accompanied by Fred’s wife Leslee Spieler Melamed. She also had some great insights on Fred’s life and his career as an actor.

Among Fred’s most famous roles are the villainous Sy Ableman in the Coen Brothers’ movie A Serious Man and parts in a host of popular television shows such as Girls, House of Lies, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Fred had plenty to say about acting, and much more.

Click on the picture above of Fred and me, or on this link to read part one of my dinner interview with Fred and Leslee.

The second part will be online next Friday, June 26.

Updating With Strangers

A new two-part interview starts this Friday, but until then here’s a quick wrap-up of some updates about a few of the 75 strangers I’ve interviewed since starting the site in 2008:

— Quirky musician Lorraine Bowen has a ringtone out of her hit “The Crumble Song” made infamous thanks to her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent: https://t.co/VtpwoGcSJ9

Craig Schattner is putting the finishing touches on the fourth episode of his series Dated about finding love in the District of Columbia: https://twitter.com/DatedDC

— Speaking of dating, psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonoir just posted her latest answers to questions in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2015/06/16/is-it-possible-to-be-friends-with-an-ex/

— Columnist/activist Mary Ann Sorentino has a nice article in the Providence Journal about Father’s Day coming up this Sunday: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150614/OPINION/150619668/2011

— Actor Stephen Tobolowsky wrote an interesting piece about his new storytelling film The Primary Instinct: https://stephentobolowsky.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/the-story-behind-the-primary-instinct-part-1/

— Jazz musician Aaron L. Myers II has a show coming up in Washington, DC on Friday June 19: https://twitter.com/aaronmyers/status/611201154656137216

— Sunday June 21 is the deadline for entering the latest t-shirt designing contest from Storyville, a company owned by Josh and Natalie Harvey: http://www.storyvilleapparel.com/contest/50-fifty-freestyle

— Yesterday marked the release of the paperback version of Empire of Sin, a fascinating look at early 1900s New Orleans written by New York Times-bestselling author Gary Krist. It’s an amazing book and I highly recommend getting a copy: http://t.co/xyjRKhJDIf

— And Cuban singing sensation Margarita Pracatan, one of my first-ever interviews, is looking as amazing as ever: https://twitter.com/PracatanBaby

The Restaurateur

The Musso & Frank Grill is a Hollywood landmark.

Since 1919, the restaurant has catered to more television, music and movie stars than current proprietor Mark Echeverria can count — not that he names names. The venue prides itself on being a low-key place for celebrities to visit, free from paparazzi.

During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had dinner with Mark, 35, at Musso’s.

He told me how he went from working in the outdoors in his 20s to managing a Tinseltown institution in his 30s, without any experience in how to run a restaurant. The highs and the lows alone could be a movie in their own right.

Read my interview with Mark by clicking on his picture above, or on this link.

A Meal In Milan

During my recent trip to Italy, I had a night alone in Milan. That meant I was looking for a stranger to dine with me.

I posted an ad online asking if anyone would join me, and waited. Thankfully, along came Federico Leidi for a meal at a decades-old restaurant in the city center — a place he recommended, and that turned out to be fantastic.

Federico was great company as he told me about his three big interests: his career in business; his interest in Italian politics and the career of Silvio Berlusconi; and the enjoyment he gets from playing in a Beatles tribute band.

Click here or on the picture above to read my interview with Federico.

She’s Good At Cooking Crumble

The mistress of melody Lorraine Bowen is finally getting the recognition she deserves!

Lorraine, a delightfully outgoing woman, is a singer-songwriter from England whose hits take on unusual topics. She’s written ballads about waiting in a queue at a post office, or opining about the mysteries of what burger meat is made from.

Recently she made it through to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, after one of four judges saved her in an earlier elimination round. I’d have done the same. Her performance of “The Crumble Song” — an ode to her own baking talents — clearly had the audience entertained. And it’s understandable, because her stage persona is exactly what she’s like when not performing. Her semi-final song, which you can see in the above YouTube clip, just underscores her unique act. Unfortunately, she didn’t get through to the finals.

Based off her Twitter account, Lorraine has nothing but thanks for her time on the show. And that’s fitting, because she’s a wonderfully upbeat woman. I know this because she was kind enough to do a dinner interview with me in London in January 2013. Get yourself a spoonful of crumble, then click here to read all about Lorraine, how she got started with music, and her hopes for the future.

The Primary Instinct

Stephen Tobolowsky is a great actor, and an equally great storyteller.

He’s getting ready to promote his upcoming film The Primary Instinct, a Kickstarter-funded “concert” movie featuring him telling his unique brand of anecdotes. Nothing else. Just Stephen, a camera, and his stories. And I already know it’s going to be great.

Although he’s recognizable to many as a character actor (Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, among almost-countless other roles), Stephen also greatly enjoys telling stories either with his podcast or through the written word.

Back in October on a trip to Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen about both his writing and acting careers. Click here for part one in which he discusses his love of acting, and click here for part two about his writing.

Today on a return visit to LA, I had a very pleasant lunch with Stephen and his friendly wife Ann. During our conversation I learned about The Primary Instinct and its upcoming premiere — this is definitely a movie that’ll be worth checking out.

Dating In DC

After four years and almost 100 first dates, Craig Schattner is still single.

So he decided to try and answer the question of whether the inability to find a long-term girlfriend stems from a problem with him, or with the District of Columbia where he lives. Craig — an experience cameraman — decided to launch a web-based video series calling “Dated” in which he sets out to learn more about the hurdles to dating both through his own experiences and interviewing others about dating in the city.

Craig’s series was recently featured in the Washington Post and that’s how I found out the project. I reached out to him for a platonic dinner date, and he was kind enough to agree to get a meal at DC’s Mintwood Place.

Click on Craig’s picture above, or on this link, to read my interview with Craig, in which he discusses dating, work, bagels, and more, including the question about his love life struggles: is it really the city’s problem? Or is it Craig?