...to have over for dinner, who would I choose? Actually this isn't an original idea, as our company magazine has had this feature for years. Idea theft aside, here are my choices & why (note that I've limited my list to people who are actually alive):
Howard Stern - There are few people out there in the world who I consider to be ground-breaking geniuses in their field, but Howard Stern definitely fits the definition. People don't realize that Stern practically invented talk-radio. He was spinning a small number of records per hour and spending the rest of the time talking before Limbaugh ever started his act. He was doing stuff in the early 1990's that still makes me fall off my chair laughing.
Sir Paul McCartney - Another genius. Two hundred years from now people will be listening to "Hey Jude" like people listen to Beethoven now. Consider that, barely into his twenties, the man helped to change popular music as we know it. By the time he was thirty he had conquered the musical world. Talent like this only comes along once or twice a century.
Maureen Dowd - I don't always agree with her, but I confess to devouring her New York Times columns. I love her writing style...it's simple, straight-forward but always bright. She never backs away from a controversial topic, and while I think she sometimes comes down too hard on the Catholic Church, she always backs her comments up with common sense and logic. Her recent comparison of women in the Catholic Church to women in Saudi Arabia was harsh, but she made more than a few good points.
James Gandolfini - Tony Soprano was probably the most complex, most well-written, most expertly portrayed lead male character on TV series ever, bar none. The only one that even comes close in my mind was Daniel J. Travanti's portrayal of Frank Furillo on Hill Street Blues. Gandolfini's Tony Soprano managed to be both ruthless and sympathetic, cruel and kind all at the same time. Pulling that off requires genius-level talent. This was the last TV show that I actually had to watch every week.
Dr Sally K. Ride - Who better than to sit next to Tony Soprano than a Physicist? I always secretly wanted to be an astronaut, but since actually having depth-perception is something of a requirement, I've never been in the running. All the more reason to have one over for dinner, especially someone as passionate about space exploration as Dr Ride. I could sit and talk to her about astronomy for hours.