Current times have put the corona-bosh on social gatherings beyond those in our "pod," and I am lamenting the void. So instead, I dream of the interesting people I would invite to a relatively small, casual social affair -- simply because they seem like interesting people. I don't have direct access to any of these folks, so I feel pretty darn certain they would not come. That's what makes it a dream.
So here goes...I limited this list to luminaries still living (avoiding Hollywood and Oprah). I'm gonna need a bigger table.
Richard Branson, founder and visionary, Virgin Group conglomerate
This guy amazed me even before he built a rocket to the moon. His public persona screams of business acumen and unconventional thinking, as well as family devotion. Realizing he also has the bucks behind the boldness, who isn't dazzled by someone who never sees obstacles? With cool looking hair, a British accent and twinkly eyes? His Twitter profile is literally Tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Otherwise known as Dr Yes at @virgin! I'm guessing he's also more personable than Elon Musk, which is a plus.
Barack and Michelle Obama, former President and First Lady
I'm not sure the United States ever had two more cool people in the roles of First Couple than these two. Regardless of which side of the aisle you're on, don't you want to casually hang out with them? I just know I would have so much to talk to them about, separately and together! Everything from healthy eating to healthy marriage to publishing books to publishing a March Madness bracket. Of course, I would like to hear their take on what's happening in our country right now. (Off the social media record.) I'd also like the scoop on what Sasha and Malia are doing now and if they still wear J. Crew clothing.
Malcolm Gladwell, journalist, best selling author, co-founder Pushkin Industries
The Tipping Point is still the best business book I've ever read and it laid the foundation for the unofficial "Malcolm Gladwell Fan Club" launched in my heart from that moment forward. He is so articulate and funny and intelligent and unusual, his wit and wisdom might actually be better served at a smaller party so we can cut him loose. One of the most unique individuals I can think of in recent times. If you like podcasts, I highly recommend "Revisionist History." And if you haven't read Talking To Strangers, ironically published before this summer's racially-charged incidences sparked a movement, you should.
Nikki Haley, political figure, author
You don't have to be a Republican or a Clemson alumna to appreciate the character, authenticity, strength, and conviction of this lady. GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) meets grit...and she knows how to access her female superpowers. From life as the daughter of Indian immigrants in a small town, to life in the SC Governor's mansion, to life in the UN, I'd like her to break bread with me before she moves on to life in the White House. (There, I said it.) I appreciate her background, her patriotism, and the respectful, loving way she describes her relationship with her family. All of which make her relatable. As my relatives would say, she's "good people."
Donald Miller, best selling author, podcaster, communication coach
I first "met" Don through his semi-autobiographical best seller, Blue Like Jazz. His personality and writing style prompted me to read more of his books, then follow him into his next career. As a professional who appreciates the power of branding, I was hooked pretty quickly on his Building a Story Brand concepts and Business Made Simple videos. Love his podcast and his business energy and his way of packaging ideas in a meaningful and practical way. I admire the way he reinvented himself/his company in the wake of COVID-19. He seems fun to be around. I'd like to tell him all of that...and maybe even discover a way to work together over dessert?? hmmm....
Bob Goff, author, speaker, influencer
Bob Goff has that Richard Branson no-holds-barred adventurous spirit and his metaphorical rocket ship is life. Bob's message and mission encourage us to become humans who look at the world through the lens of love, through the eyes of God. And he has a darn good time doing it! However, he doesn't get to come unless he brings Sweet Maria (his wife) who is an author and a fabulous human in her own right. She's not as extroverted as her exuberant husband (who is??) but an example of still waters running very deep. And I have his cell phone number! (OK...so does everyone with a book...) Maybe he will bring some balloons.
Beth Moore, author, speaker, teacher, evangelist
My obsession with Beth Moore is not a secret if you've had 5 minutes of conversation with me. I love her speaking style, the way she researches so thoroughly, her genuine compassion, her transparency, her sense of humor. I inhale her studies. I know she and I would be the best of friends if we could just meet for dinner! I know she would come early and pray over my home, which I would welcome. I'd also love to meet her husband Keith (and find out if all those funny stories about him are true), as he reminds me of my dad...a "man's man" who likes to hunt and has spent his adult life surrounded by all girls. I'm going to ask her to say the blessing.
Christine Lagarde, international lawyer/banker/economist
This lady is a world wide kick butt rock star. Dang! I have no idea what it takes to run the International Monetary Fund or the European Central Bank, but I do know she who holds the purse strings, wins. Interviews on 60 Minutes have portrayed her as nothing short of uber-competent and widening the path for women in international finance. (She was #2 on the Forbes list of the world's 100 most powerful women! #2!!!) I have absolutely no idea what I will say to her other than I am totally in awe and I like the color of her hair (perhaps mine will look like that when all this gray grows out??). And she's French, so I'll have to make sure the food and wine are as equally impressive as she is. Bordeaux or Chablis?
Dabo Swinney, Clemson Football Head Coach
This is not obligatory, although I can see why it might appear that way. Everyone loves to be around Dabo because he exudes joy, enthusiasm and high energy. He also genuinely cares about people and makes everyone feel special, even when there is a long line waiting to shake his hand (or now, elbow bump). His darling wife Kathleen is super sweet and gracious -- but it's his mother, Carol, who I hope will be his date to this special evening. A polio, scoliosis and domestic violence survivor who was literally homeless as a single mom, she embodies Southern warmth and motherly pride. She deserves a spot out of the shadow of her high profile son, at least for one evening. That said, I can't wait to watch Richard, Christine and Dabo try to interpret each other's accents.
Sheila Johnson, entertainment, sports, real estate and hospitality entrepreneur
You've probably never heard of Ms. Johnson. I developed a "business crush"on her during my tenure at Urban Land Institute, where I first learned of her resume. She is co-founder of BET (which was sold to Viacom for a gagillion dollars), CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and the first African-American woman to attain a net worth of at least one billion dollars. She's owned stakes in three pro sports teams and produced a box office hit movie. A pal of Oprah's and a sophisticated lady, she has been part of the conversation to reformat the game of golf, as its decline began to affect her development empire's bottom line. I don't know what kind of conversation we would have, but I'd sure like to meet her. Very classy.
Anne Lamott, best selling novelist
Anne Lamott writes like I like to think I would write if I were a real writer. (How's that for sentence construction?) She was also the first author who showed me through her secular works what a "liberal" Christian looks and lives like (a lot like Jesus, actually, only not perfect). Apparently her writing style also inspired Donald Miller, which might be why his style is also so appealing to me. Through her prolific collection of books, she invited us into her life...so I'd like to invite her into mine, at least for one meal. My favorite is Traveling Mercies. I'd love to know which was hers and if she still wears the dreads.
Elton John, legend
Well, this guy's personality is so big there might not be room for him at this dinner party. Maybe he could just play the piano after dinner and command our full attention?? (I can pull my childhood piano out of storage...ha) I want to hear the story behind the story, see the "real" him, the genius behind the gaudiness. I know he's in there. I want to ask him about being a dad and if he really used to spend $100,000 a day on flowers alone for his Atlanta apartment. I want to tell him he was born to do exactly what he's been doing all these years...raising the bar high on showmanship and revolutionizing the music industry for the generations. He is the Rocket Man.
Mark Cuban, entrepreneur, owner Dallas Mavericks, Shark
I know Mark Cuban. Meaning, I know men like Mark Cuban...I've met "him" over the course of my sports marketing career and dating life. I just think he would be lots of fun at a party. I like his spirit and seemingly harmless disregard for traditional boundaries. Some people don't, which makes including him a risk. No reason to spoil a magical (imaginary) evening, right? ;)
Full disclosure...I would much rather have a table full of my marvelous mavens, who rank highly among the most interesting people in the world. Which hopefully can happen soon. Dreaming of 2021.
(photo credits...Google images)