As of this writing, Palm Beach’s Society of the Four Arts (2 Four Arts Plaza, 561/655-7226) has announced most of its 2014 Speaker Series. And rather than wait for the final couple of names to be penciled in, we thought we’d offer the inside scoop on some of the most prominent media and political stars that will have been confirmed to grace the Four Arts’ stage next year.
And I dare say, this looks like the best overall Speaker Series lineup since I’ve been following the Society. As always, the speeches begin at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays from January through March, and names and dates and subject to change. For the full list, visit fourarts.org).
Jan. 7: Scott Brown
In Massachusetts’ recent Senatorial history, Scott Brown was the Republican meat in a very Democratic sandwich, having replaced the late Ted Kennedy and then losing his runoff election seat to liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren. Brown, whose Four Arts lecture will address gridlock in Washington, is viewed in the Beltway as one of the last vestiges of that endangered species, the elusive “moderate Republican,” a trait that could both hinder and help his future political ambitions. This week, foxnews.com reported that Brown took a “tentative step” toward a 2016 presidential run, when he attended the Iowa State Fair. Perhaps in 2014, an appearance from Brown will be even bigger news than it already is.
Jan. 14: Garrison Keillor
The disarmingly funny host of NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” has almost single-handedly resuscitated a long-dead American tradition: the radio variety show. He often wears the hats of singer, actor and comedian on his show, which broadcasts to more than 3 million listeners on 450 public-radio stations, and has attracted major names in the country, folk and pop music worlds to perform live. A fine progenitor of “Minnesota nice,” Keillor has gone a long way toward explaining his particular notion of Midwestern idealism to the rest of the country, while remaining an occasionally acerbic voice of political incorrectness.
Jan. 21: Sen. Olympia Snowe
The second moderate Republican in three weeks? Stop the presses. If there still are presses. Snowe, who served the state of Maine for three terms, famously retired from the Senate earlier this year because she became disgusted by the inaction of her once-august body. Stephen Colbert said it best when he invited Snowe onto his show in July: “She retired because she wanted to do something with her life.” And has done something: She started her nonprofit organization Olympia’s List, which supports candidates who reach across the political aisle, and she wrote a book, “Fighting For Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress,” which she will discuss at this appearance.
Feb. 4: Itzhak Perlman
From Tel Aviv to Juilliard to the entire world, Itzhak Perlman has long established himself as one of the best violinists in the world, with each of his concerts an impeccable course in technique and vision. Perlman swings by Palm Beach County regularly as part of his (usually sold-out) concert tours, but this is something else – a speaking engagement that will delve beyond the violin. Expect to be entertained: Clips from his famed master classes reveal his engaging sense of humor as well as an unmatchable ability. In 2005, Perlman was named the 135th greatest Israeli of all-time by the Israeli news service Ynet––which seems insultingly high on that list for an artist of Perlman’s stature, but what do I know?
Feb. 18: Daniel Boulud
And here we have another familiar name in Palm Beach circles, also known for something other than speechifying: celebrity chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, the 58-year-old native of Lyon who has helped inspire French cuisine throughout the world at large. A four-star New York Times restaurateur, three-time James Beard Award winner and the author of six books on cooking, Boulud is as comfortable serving local Palm Beachers as he is president Clinton (he found out during a visit from the former president in his New York restaurant that Bill is allergic to chocolate). His area eatery, Café Boulud in Palm Beach’s Brazilian Court Hotel, was recently called an “outpost of sophisticated, casual elegance” by our food critic, Bill Citara.
Feb. 25: Mia Farrow
You can’t blame the former Mrs. Woody Allen if the relationship with her creatively brilliant, personally reprehensible ex-husband is the last thing she wants to talk about in a lecture tour. As juicy as the gossip might be about her personal life – before Allen, she had tied knots with Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn – expect Farrow to focus on her own distinguished career, which has included roles ranging from Peter Pan to Daisy Buchanan. In addition to the string of classics she made with Allen, Farrow has worked with directors such as Roman Polanski, Robert Altman, Claude Chabrol and Michel Gondry, and her willowy, fragile and unassumingly comic on-screen persona helped establish a Hollywood archetype. Outside of the screen, Farrow is admired for her humanitarian activism in African apartheid states.
March 4: Apollo Robbins
As a theatrical pickpocket and self-proclaimed “gentleman thief,” Apollo Robbins has mastered the art of a crime by perfecting sleight-of-hand techniques and illusionism. A New Yorker profile last year detailed how Robbins pocketed a pen from Penn Gillette, dismantled it, and placed it in pieces in different openings of Penn’s clothing, without the blustery magician noticing any of it. It gets even better: He once “borrowed” vital information from Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service agents, which prompted the U.S. government and police departments to take notice of Robbins and even employ him to understand thieves’ skill sets. He’s made a quite a pop-culture career out of his dubious but astonishing talent, appearing on such television programs as “Brain Games” and “Nova ScienceNow.”
March 25: Erskine Bowles
Bipartisanship continues to be the flavor of this season’s Speaker Schedule. North Carolina businessman and politician Erskine Bowles embodies that spirit from left side of the aisle, having worked with Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson on 2010’s much-anticipated National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The comprehensive plan died on arrival and has been viewed by some as yet another squandered opportunity to reduce the nation’s deficit. For a plan to be embraced by such polarized political figures as Nancy Pelosi and Tom Coburn – and shunned by ideological opposites Paul Krugman and Paul Ryan – the plan must have done something right. At any rate, Bowles knows a thing or two about debt reduction, which will be the subject of his Four Arts series-closing speech.