Interviewing With Strangers

The last week or so has been a bit bonkers for me. I’ve found myself on the opposite side of the interview, being asked questions about Dining With Strangers and why I launched the website. It all started thanks to the Washington Post.

Their reporter Mike Rosenwald turned the tables (pun?) by taking me out to dinner at The Pig in the District and asking me about the site. He was far too kind about me in his article, which you can read here or by clicking on the picture above.

That article ran last week, and this week I was contacted by the television show Canada AM to do a brief interview with them about the site. Similarly you can click on this link or the picture above to watch that. Somehow, despite being bleary eyed from the early morning wakeup for the show, I managed to make it through the five minutes sounding vaguely coherent and without falling out of my chair. Success!

A few hours after the Canada AM show I was on the air with Barry Morgan, host of a talk show on Canadian radio station CJAD 800. The one thing I learned from that interview? I need to stop saying “errrr…” so much between sentences.

It has been a fun week or so, and my biggest thanks go to Mike at the Post but also the other media outlets that have shown interest — I think my 15 minutes of internet fame have more than expired at this point.

More importantly, the exposure has led to more than 100 strangers writing in asking to go to dinner with me. I’ve started writing back to people and plan on emailing everyone, so stay tuned for more dinners coming soon.

La-Ti-Do Takes Manhattan

Do you live in New York and want to see a cabaret show called La-Ti-Do? Of course you do! And even if you don’t live in the Big Apple, head up there!

Launched in Washington, DC, La-Ti-Do is a weekly chance for local artists to gather and perform. I learned about the group through former dining interviewee Elizabeth Moore. She took me to one of the events before our meal together back in April 2014, and I had a great time experiencing a good mix of funny, thoughtful and creative performances.

La-Ti-Do will bring its mix of spoken word and musical performances to New York at 54 Below on Tuesday, September 1. Click on this link for more details.

FuckUp Nights In The District

Apologies for the swear word in this post’s title, but FuckUp Nights is the name of an organization that brings entrepreneurs together to share stories of business failures, discuss what they learned from the bad experiences, and provide insight that might help them and others in the future.

The group started in Mexico several years ago, and Meredith Denbow had the idea of bringing it to Washington, DC. She’s lived in the city since 2010 and has held five FuckUp Nights gatherings, or “volumes,” with the most recent taking place earlier this week.

Meredith emailed me eager to tell me more about the sessions, at which a handful of presenters give slideshows about their catastrophes then take questions from the audience, which tends to consist mostly of 20- and 30-somethings.

I was happy to go with Meredith’s suggesting of meeting her for dinner at Jyoti, an Indian restaurant in the District’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Click on Meredith’s picture above or on this link to read about my meal with her.

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:

Craig Schattner is putting the finishing touches on the fourth episode of his series Dated about finding love in the District of Columbia:

— Speaking of dating, psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonoir just posted her latest answers to questions in the Washington Post:

— Columnist/activist Mary Ann Sorentino has a nice article in the Providence Journal about Father’s Day coming up this Sunday:

— Actor Stephen Tobolowsky wrote an interesting piece about his new storytelling film The Primary Instinct:

— Jazz musician Aaron L. Myers II has a show coming up in Washington, DC on Friday June 19:

— Sunday June 21 is the deadline for entering the latest t-shirt designing contest from Storyville, a company owned by Josh and Natalie Harvey:

— 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:

— And Cuban singing sensation Margarita Pracatan, one of my first-ever interviews, is looking as amazing as ever:

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.