Epicurus

“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old.  For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.” – Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

Epicurus was born around 341 BC in Athens, Greece.  As a young boy, he studied under a Platonist teacher, Pamphilus.  It was with these early studies that Epicurus began to rebel against the traditional thinking of the day.  From what he observed, he could not believe the gods determined one’s fate.  Humans made choices.  Fate and perception could be altered.  He even went as far as to declare, “atoms move.”

Epicurus began teaching his strange new philosophy of obtaining a happy life through the absence of pain and fear.  He taught that one must surround themselves with friends and that pleasure and pain were what a person should use to measure what is good and bad.  He believed the universe was infinite and eternal and everything in the world was the result of atoms moving in empty space.  A belief in gods was nothing but silly superstition.  Epicurus’ teachings were not embraced and he was exiled from the city of Myteline for, “causing strife in the population.”

Epicurus returned to his home in Athens and discovered that none of the established schools wanted him as a teacher.  Since no school would have him, he began his own.  he held the classes in his garden.  The inscription above the gate read, “Stranger, here you will do well to tarry.  Here our highest good is pleasure.”  His school became simply known as The Garden and it was the first school in Greece to accept women and slaves as students.

Beyond a few remaining letters, most of Epicurus’ life is unknown.  He was dismissed in his lifetime as a radical.  Most of his papers deemed not worthy of preserving.  Only in recent history have his theories on the interactions of atoms been given validity and his philosophy of pleasure been greatly misinterpreted.

Epicurus is believed to have passed away somewhere around 270 BC at the age of 72.  His last known letter was addressed to his friend Menoeceus, “I have written this letter to you on a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life.  For I have been attacked by a pain so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings.  But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all my afflictions.”  It’s speculated that he drank a jug of wine and ate a loaf of bread for his supper as he did every night.  He finished his letter with, “understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable,” and passed away as he slept.

The Last Supper

Jug of Red Wine

Loaf of Bread

“If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”
– lyrics from ‘Freebird’ by Ronnie VanZant

For many people, Ronnie VanZant was Lynard Skynard.

Ronnie grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Jacksonville, Florida’s Westside known as “shanty town.” Ronnie was good at three things: fighting, baseball and music. He had hoped that his baseball skills would give him a major league career and rescue him from poverty, but that all changed when he first heard the Rolling Stones, “You’ve got to have a good arm to play outfield, but we gave it all up when we got to like the Rolling Stones.”

Ronnie wanted to be a lead singer and had heard rumors around Lakeshore Junior High that a bunch of kids were putting together a band. Ronnie crashed their auditions and announced, “I’m your new lead singer.” They all knew Ronnie would and could beat them in a fight and Ronnie immediately became their new lead singer. They later claimed that it was the best thing that ever could have happened. The group named themselves Lynard Skynard, which was a mocking tribute to their cruel gym teacher Leonard Skinnerd.

They struggled for many years and were just about to quit music when they suddenly rose to fame in 1973. They opened for The Who’s Quadrophenia tour. Their next album had the hit song “Sweet Home Alabama” and the rest is rock n’ roll history.

By October 1977, Ronnie had a one-year-old daughter at home and was getting tired of what he called, “the rotgut life.” Being on the road was killing Ronnie and there were rumors that he was going to quit after the tour.

Lynard Skynard picked up some ribs, fried chicken at a local joint and hopped on their private plane for the next leg of their tour. Their plane ran out of gas and crashed in a forest near McComb, Mississippi. Ronnie VanZant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines died instantly. Lynard Skynard’s drummer, Artimus Pyle, recalls “Ronnie was killed by a single blow to the head by a piece of music equipment. It was kind of ironic.”

Artimus quit the band shortly after the plane crash saying it could never be the same, “it was Ronnie’s band.”

The Last Supper
Fried Chicken
Ribs

Lynard Skynard

“I wouldn’t mind dying in a plane crash. It’d be a good way to go. I don’t want to die in my sleep, or old age, or OD…I want to feel what it’s like. I want to taste it, hear it, smell it. Death is only going to happen to you once; I don’t want to miss it,” Jim Morrison.

No one could say what exactly took place in the fourth-floor apartment at 17 rue Beautrellis on the morning of July 3rd, 1971. There were only two witnesses to the death of Jim Morrison. There was Pamela Courson, Jim’s longtime girlfriend, and Jean De Breteuil, Pamela’s lover and drug dealer.

Jean De Breteuil claimed Jim had overdosed two days earlier in the bathroom of the chic Paris rock club Rock n’ Roll Circus. Jean said the owners of Circus didn’t want the bad press of a rock god dying on their toilet and they paid to have Jim’s body relocated to his apartment at rue Beautrellis.

Pamela Courson claimed she and Jim went to the movies the night before he died. They saw Pursued by director Raoul Walsk. Pamela loved the movie and Jim thought it was boring. It was a warm night and they decided to stroll back to their apartment along the rue Saint-Antoine. They stopped into a late night Chinese food restaurant and Jim dined on sweet and sour chicken, which he washed down with several beers.

They returned to the apartment at one o’clock in the morning, but Jim was restless. He hadn’t been feeling well lately and his persistent cough was getting worse. He had coughed up blood the night before.

Jim sat down and tried to write some, but he couldn’t sit still. He complained of pain in his chest and limbs and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He drank straight from the bottle and claimed that he was trying to numb the pain. Pamela had already pulled out the heroin she bought from Jean de Breteuil called Chinese Junk.

Pamela and Jim snorted the Chinese Junk with rolled-up money and Jim became more agitated. Pamela said that Jim took out the old Super-8 films from their trips to Spain, Morocco and Corsica and played his old Doors records. Jim kept repeating the song ‘The End’ as they snorted more Chinese Junk.

Around three o’clock in the morning, Jim’s neighbors claimed he was naked on the staircase outside his apartment screaming. An unidentified person pulled Jim back into the apartment and the screaming stopped.

According to Pamela, at three o’clock in the morning Jim was having a coughing fit. Pamela told him to go to bed. She did another line of Chinese Junk and passed out.

Pamela woke up an hour later and found Jim lying next to her. He was making strange gurgling noises. He was drowning in his own mucus. She shook him, but Jim wouldn’t wake up. She hit Jim hard, again and again and again…until he finally sat up and staggered into the bathroom. Pamela heard the water in the bathroom turn on and she passed out again.

An hour later she woke up to find that Jim had not come back to bed. She went to the bathroom, but the door was locked. She pounded on the door and yelled at the top of her lungs, but there was no response from inside.

At 6:30 am, Pamela called Jean De Breteuil. Jean arrived at the apartment on rue Beautrellis at 7am and he found Pamela in hysterics. Jean managed to calm Pamela down and she told him about Jim in the bathroom. Jean broke the glass on the bathroom door and unlocked the latch. Inside they found Jim Morrison in the bathtub, dead.

Pamela refused to believe he was dead. She jumped into the bathtub and repeatedly slapped Jim’s dead body. Jean managed to pull off Pamela and he told her to, “call your friends. Get them to help you. I will see you again before I leave. I’m sorry, darling. I love you. Goodbye.” Jean de Breteuil left the apartment and Pamela. He took the next flight to Morocco to avoid any questions about his drug connections.

At 8am the fire-rescue squad arrived at the apartment on rue Beautrellis. The squad pulled Jim’s body from the bathtub and decided on the spot that Jim Morrison had died of natural causes. There was never an official inquiry into his death.
According to the official record, Jim Morrison died at age twenty-seven of a common heart attack in his bathtub on July 3rd, 1971.

Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson
The Last Supper
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Beer
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box
Bela Lugosi’s dead.”

-From the song Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus
Bela Lugosi
Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko Lugosi was a star of the theater in Austria-Hungary. He was a classically trained Shakespearean actor that was whisked away from the stage to the up-and-coming silent cinema of Austria-Hungary.

World War I suddenly cut his film career short and Bela enlisted in the army. He rose to the rank of lieutenant, but the war became too much for Bela. He was discharged before it ended and claimed, “I feigned insanity in order to get out of the service and return to civilian life.”

The War ended and Bela returned to his film career. He acted in twelve more silent movies before immigrating to America.

Bela could find know work as an actor in America and at age 40 had to turn to the work of a day laborer. His body was too old to take the physically exhausting work and he threw out his back several times. He continued to audition for the theater, but his accent was viewed as comical. He couldn’t land an acting job. According to Bela, “In Hungary, acting is a profession. In America, it is a decision.”

Bela finally got a break with the starring role in the play ‘Dracula’. His accent was actually key to him landing the part. The stage play was a huge success and Universal Pictures wanted to turn it into a movie, but Bela was not asked to reprise his role for the movie version. Universal Pictures wanted Lon Chaney, but Lon Chaney was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios . With Chaney unavailable, Universal decided to give Bela a chance to reprise his role in the film.

DRACULA starring Bela Lugosi was released by Universal Studios in 1931. It was a huge critical and box office success. It made Bela a star. After a couple of years, DRACULA was relegated to a B-level horror flick. All of the films critical acclaim was forgotten and Bela’s performance was judged as completely over-the top.

Bela’s contract was dropped by Universal and he was only offered similar Dracula-type roles in low budget films. This was a serious blow to the Shakespearean trained actor. ” I used to be the big cheese. Now I’m playing just a dumb part.” – Bela Lugosi

Bela’s back injuries were acting up with age and he was becoming dependent on the morphine his doctors were prescribing.

Bela arrived on set for the Monogram Pictures B-movies, the only gig he could get, high on morphine. In attempt to hide his drug addiction, Bela would continually sip Burgundy wine and feign intoxication. Alcoholism was far more socially acceptable than injecting morphine.

The roles in the Monogram Pictures dried up and Bela’s morphine addiction was eating away at his finances. Bela claimed, ” Without movie parts I was reduced to freak status. I couldn’t stand it. ” Bela was in and out of rehab and no one would hire him except for the eccentric cult filmmaker, Ed Wood. Bela took the role in Ed Wood’s film PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Bela didn’t care it was considered one of the worse films ever to be made. Bela was just happy to have money for morphine and was relieved to not be playing Dracula.

Bela enjoyed his favorite meal of Hungarian Goulash and Burgundy wine at his home in Los Angeles. Bela didn’t eat much in the weeks following this meal and he survived mainly on morphine.

Before filming finished on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, Bela died alone in his Los Angeles home of a heart attack on August 15, 1956. Bela’s family requested that he be buried in his Dracula costume.

“Every actor’s greatest ambition is to create his own definite and original role but I found this to be fatal.” – Bela Lugosi

The Last Supper
Hungarian Goulash
Burgundy Wine
And this, too, shall pass away.” – Houdini’s motto.

It’s 1874 in Budapest, Hungary and Ehrich Weiss is born to a poor family. To improve their standing in life, the Weiss family immigrates to America. But nothing gets better in America. They move from city to city to avoid bill collectors. Ehrich’s parents see no value in education when there are bills to be paid. Little Ehrich is sent off to work selling newspapers.

There is little reprieve from the hard work. Which makes it all the more surprising when Ehrich’s father offers to take him to see Dr. Lynn, the traveling magician. Of course, Ehrich jumps at the opportunity.

The audience gasps and so does Ehrich as they watch Dr. Lynn saw a young lady in half. Then, miraculously, Dr. Lynn puts her back together again. The audience explodes in cheers and money is thrown on stage. They love Dr. Lynn and Ehrich falls in love with magic.

Ehrich is seventeen and he must give up selling newspapers and go to work where the real money is – the factory. But Ehrich never does go to work in the factory. Ehrich leaves everything behind and escapes into a new identity.

It’s 1891 in Appleton, Wisconsin. The magician Houdini is born and Ehrich from Budapest is never heard from again.
Houdini is a failure on the magic circuit. His standard tricks barely garner applause. The bills pile up and by 1896 Houdini is ready to quit. He spends the last of his money on a classified ad offering to sell all his magic and secrets for $20. No one responds.

Houdini continues on and adjusts his act by adding more outlandish stunts with real shock value. He bills himself as indestructible and lets people punch him as hard as they can in the stomach. Houdini never flinches. The big money act is the Needle Trick. Houdini stands on the street corner and swallows a dozen needles and thread. For the big finale, he regurgitates the thread with the needles neatly threaded on.

The audience eats up the spectacle, but is bored as he goes through the rest of his routine. Houdini needs something more daring. He needs an escape and he creates the Challenge Act. Houdini places handcuffs around his wrists and miraculously escapes. The crowd goes wild. They want to see more escapes and Houdini delivers. He escapes from a padlocked crate thrown into the river, he escapes from being handcuffed to a bridge and he escapes from jail. Nothing can hold Houdini. He’s a legend. Some call him the greatest magician of all time.

It is 1926 and Houdini is on a giant North American tour. Years and years of contortion and swallowing needles are taking a toll. He’s become stiff and uncoordinated. On stage in Albany, NY he slips and breaks his ankle as he’s lifted into the Water Torture Cell. Houdini refuses medical attention or to even acknowledge the broken bone. He finishes the show in Albany and continues on to the next tour date.

By the time the tour reaches Canada, Houdini is limping and complains of a stomachache. His assistants and his wife plead with him to see a doctor, but Houdini refuses. Seeing a doctor would delay the show. He will not delay the show. Houdini throws everyone out of his dressing room and lays down on the nearby couch, gathering his strength for the performance.

J. Gordon Whitehead, a student at McGill University with a severe drug and alcohol problem, sneaks backstage at the Houdini performance. McGill has told all his friends that he’s going to find out once and for all if the Great Houdini can really take a punch like he does in his act.

McGill finds Houdini lying on the couch in his dressing room. Houdini’s eyes are closed. McGill leans over, pulls his arm back and punches Houdini in the stomach as hard as he can. Houdini awakens and is unable to breath or move, but the show must go on…
Houdini collapses onstage in Detroit. He is rushed backstage and is fed a traditional Jewish stomach cure of raw vegetables and sour cream called Farmer’s Chop Suey. The Chop Suey does nothing. Houdini screams in pain, but refuses to go to the hospital. The show must go on! Against Houdini’s protests, he is rushed to the hospital.

Houdini lays in his hospital bed and whispers to his wife, “I’m tired of fighting.” The legendary magician passes away on October 31st, 1926.

The Last Supper

Farmer’s Chop Suey
Houdini in Cuffs

“Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” – Princess Diana

It’s 1997 and Lady Di and Dodi Fayed are a hot item. He’s a wealthy heir to a multi-billion dollar fortune and she’s a former princess. They are stars of the press.

Dodi and Di are on vacation in Paris and Dodi tells friends he is going to ask Di to marry him. He makes a reservation for them at the trendy restaurant Benoit. When they arrive for their reservation, they find the entrance is blocked by a mass of paparazzi. Dodi and Di wave, giggle and smile to the cameras as they leave with the press at their heels.

They return to their hotel along with the paparazzi they collected at Benoit. Dodi and Di push and shove their way through the crowd of photographers and enter the hotel’s restaurant, Espadon at The Ritz. Their chauffeur parks the car and proceeds to enter the bar across the street.

Di and Dodi enter Espadon and all conversation in the room stops. All eyes are on Di and Dodi. As Di eats her asparagus and mushroom omelet appetizer followed by Dover sole with vegetables tempura, she continually nods and smiles to her fellow diners.

In the awkward silence of the meal, Dodi pulls a large diamond ring from his pocket. The silent room erupts in whispers and people stand at their tables for a better look. Di takes the ring and continues to nod and smile as Dodi waves away dessert and calls the chauffeur to bring around the car.

The paparazzi jump in their cars and follow Di and Dodi’s Mercedes as it leaves the Ritz. The traffic light ahead turns red and everyone comes to a stop. Dodi’s chauffeur rolls down his window and shouts over to the paparazzi, “you won’t catch us!” Di and Dodi laugh and wave as their car pulls forward. The chauffeur accelerates, running the red light and heading toward the tunnel ahead at 120 mph.

Stunned, the paparazzi sit at the red light and watch as Di and Dodi’s car swerves out of control and smashes head-on into a concrete support post.

Fifteen minutes later, a French physician stumbles upon the scene of the accident and is shocked to find that no one is helping the victims in the car, “I found Diana unconscious but moaning and gesturing in every direction. There was the whirr and click of paparazzi camera, like little guillotines, everywhere.”

The Last Supper

Asparagus and Mushroom Omelet Appetizer
Dover Sole with Vegetables Tempura
Champagne

Princess Diana

 

Jimi Hendrix died in an apartment basement of the Samarkand Hotel on September 19th, 1970.  The night before he had dined on wine, tuna fish on white bread and massive quantities Vesperax sleeping pills.  The autopsy revealed that after ingesting the wine and the pills, Jimi choked on the tuna fish sandwich, passed out and eventually suffocated to death. 

Hosting Jimi Hendrix’s last supper would make quite the awkward dinner party.  Do you serve the sleeping pills as a first course or a side dish? Do you force your guests to drink the entire bottle of wine?  Sorry Jimi, the club will have to pass on your last meal. 

Your guitar playing revolutionized music and sadly it all came to an end with a tuna fish on white.

 “Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live as if you’ll die today.”- James Dean 

On September 14th, 1955 James Dean tells television viewers across America in a National Safety Council commercial, “remember, drive safely, the life you might save might be mine.” Two weeks later, James Dean has dinner at his favorite restaurant, the Villa Capri in Hollywood.   The Villa is the hottest restaurant in town. The Rat Pack is there almost every night downing martinis — Frank even has his own steak called ‘The Sinatra’ on the menu.  As he does almost every night, James Dean opts out of the festivities in the main dining room and comes in quietly through the back door.  Patsy, the owner of the Villa, knows James is shy and has a permanent table set up for him in the kitchen.  

He also knows that Dean is somewhat of a mystery in the Hollywood community.   Dean is a rising star who’s just finished filming his third picture, GIANT.  His second film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE will be released next week.  Patsy’s heard all the rumors circulating about the young star.  He’s heard that Dean has a penchant for pornography, orgies, and prefers the company of young men.   But Patsy has trouble believing the rumors. The James Dean he knows is a shy and sweet young man from the Midwest. Dean sits alone at his table in the corner of the Villa Capri’s kitchen.

Patsy gives him a pizza to snack on as the kitchen staff serves him up a plate of spaghetti and meatballs covered in mozzarella.   James Dean is very polite to the staff, but he avoids eye contact and never says much. He finishes his meal, thanks the chef, thanks Patsy and leaves through the back door. 

The next morning, Dean puts on his red jacket from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and sets out in his new Porsche 550 Spyder — nicknamed the ‘Little Bastard’ — from Los Angeles to Salinas. He is racing the car in the Salinas Road Race tomorrow.   As James approaches Bakersfield, he’s pulled over for speeding and is ticketed for going 100 mph in a 55 mph zone.  Not wanting to tempt fate and the law, James Dean stays at a consistent and legal speed of 55 mph for the rest of his trip to Salinas.     

Donald Turnupseed, a student at Cal Poly, drives his Ford Sedan through the intersection of route 41 and 46 just as the ‘Little Bastard’ comes around the corner.   James Dean sees the Ford Sedan crossing the road. He slams on the brakes, but there’s not enough space. His Porsche 550 Spyder rams into the side of Donald Turnupseed’s Ford Sedan.   Donald is thrown from his car and James Dean is thrown through his windshield.   Donald Turnupseed dies in 1995 and James Dean dies instantly on September 30th, 1955.

James Dean and The Little Bastard

  The Last Supper 

Pizza

Dinner Salad with Italian Vinaigrette

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tiramisu

Espresso

The details of the Hindenburg menu are hard to track down. The Nazi Party was humiliated by the disaster. The zeppelin had been a sign of their mastery and dominance of the air. To have the massive airship go down in flames showed the serious flaws in their thinking.

Most records of the Hindenburg were forever sealed by the Nazi Party and have since disappeared. All that is left are first hand accounts and news reports from the time. I have not been able to find the exact recipes, but below are recipes I was able to piece together. Please let me know if you find anything on the culinary experience on the Hindenburg.

Before dinner, quite a few of the guests would have Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktails in the smoking saloon. Yes, there was an entire room dedicated to smoking on the highly flammable Hindenburg.

The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail

Dissolve a small lump of sugar in a little water in a whiskey glass. Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Add an ice cube, a piece of lemon peel and one jigger whiskey. Mix with a small bar spoon and serve, leaving the spoon in the glass.

None of the first hand accounts went into details of the salad course, other than – they served a salad course in the dining room.

German Potato Salad (Unauthentic for the Hindenburg, but it makes a good potato salad.)

5 lbs. potatoes (do not use baking potatoes because they are too flaky)

1/2 cup diced smoked bacon

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

3/4 cups sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped chives

Clean and Boil the potatoes until cooked, but still firm. Cut the potatoes into bite-size chunks. In a bowl, combine: the smoke bacon, vegetable oil, white vinegar, sugar, sea salt, ground pepper, green onions and chives. Pour the mixture over the potato chunks, making sure each one is covered. Chill and serve. Is also pretty good warmed.

Vinaigrette Herb Salad Dressing (Authentic to the time period and German, but no proof that it was actually used on the salads on the Hindenburg. Either way, it’s a good dressing.)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1/2 small white onion, minced

2 small gherkins (i.e. pickles), drained and chopped

1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped

2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced parsley

Combine oil, vinegar, wine and mustard in a bottle and shake vigorously until well blended. Combine onion, gherkins, capers and hard boiled eggs in a bowl and pour dressing over them. Season with salt and stir in parsley. Let chill for half an hour and serve over greens.

The rest of the dinner on the Hindenburg is pretty easy to make.

Due to limited cooking and storage space on the Hindenburg, most of the food on the zeppelin was not very glamorous for a luxury liner. Sandwiches, cold cheeses and canned meats were the typical fair on board. It’s probably why everyone stuck with the whiskey cocktails.

Light up your smokes, kick back with an old-fashioned whiskey cocktail and enjoy the ride.

The Hindenburg Promotional Poster

The Last Supper Club is a monthly dinner party that explores the last meals of the rich, famous, infamous and some poor individuals that fell victim to some bizarre mishaps.I believe that what you eat defines who you are and where you are at a specific moment in time. If you are running late for an appointment, you might grab a granola bar or a quick hot dog. If you are having a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant, you might eat a steak. A meal is a snapshot of your character.

The Last Supper Club explores some amazing food and some amazing stories. It’s a reminder to enjoy every bite because you never know what may happen next.

Da Vinci’s The Last Supper