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Hyperion February 16, 2005

The Hyperion Chronicles

“What if there were no hypothetical questions?”

#339 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

When I’m out to eat at a restaurant I have this game I like to play; sort of an ice-breaker, a way to get conversation going, and if so desired, and easy “in” to talk to hot servers.

What I do is: I ask my dinner companions, the servers, perhaps even random passers-by a Question of the Night. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that the number of things that go through my head is pretty limitless, which leads to some great questions.

Occasionally I write down the answers, with thoughts to make a column out of it, or just save for posterity. One night last year I came up with a variation of the “Who would you like to eat dinner with?” question that’s been popular for years. Here are the results:

It started on a Saturday night, as a restaurant called Jack Astor’s. I was with Marcellus, Aslan, Skippy the Wonder Lizard, and Castro. (Note for the uninitiated: while I do personally know a troll, an elf, a Sea Hag, and have River Midgets as interns, these particular friends were all people. I just give aliases (or alii) to people so I can talk about them without embarrassing them.)

Anyway, Jack Astor’s is the kind of place with table-cloths that you can draw on, something Hyperion loves to do. Actually, I think all restaurants should require this, but that’s another column. I was trying to come up with the Question of the Night, when the idea of Dinner Guests came up. I decided try a different spin on it.

“Okay,” I told the group, “You’re having dinner with three other people: one living, one dead, and one fictional. Whom do you invite and what do you serve?”

Everyone was excited about my question. Actually: that’s a complete lie. This was the first time Skippy had ever experienced a Hyperion Question of the Night, and she was nervous and bitchy. Marcellus completely refused to participate, but I think that’s because he secretly wanted to invite the Olsen Twins and couldn’t decide which one was living and which one was fictional. And Castro spent the whole night trying to come up with smart-ass answers, and you know those Communists…

But eventually we got underway. Our server Seth heard us talking, and he wanted to participate, and he recruited three more servers, Joy, Nina, and Pam, who were thankfully hot girls. I always like having hot girls answer the questions, because nine times out of ten they shatter the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Here are the answers from that night, along with any pithy comments I might have:


ALIVE: Sarah-Michelle Gellar

DEAD: Edgar Allen Poe

FICTIONAL: Jasmine from “Aladdin”

SERVING: Fried Fish

[Note: It took Joy all night to understand the concept of Fictional characters. She kept saying authors who wrote fiction (Stephen King, Dan Brown, etc.) She was very nice, so I patiently explained each time, but Aslan almost broke his ribs trying not to laugh at her]



DEAD: 2nd Gunman on the Grassy Knoll

FICTIONAL: Donald Trump’s Hair


[Castro thought he was Captain Clever because he maintained that each of his answers could fit in all three categories, depending on how you looked at it]


David Beckham (the soccer star)

Elvis (fat)



[Nina’s biggest dilemma was between Fat Elvis and young good-looking Elvis, but she finally concluded that Fat Elvis would be more entertaining with Spidey]


L.E. Modesitt Jr. (some author)

Xerxes (the Persian conqueror)

Rand Althor (a character from my favorite series The Wheel of Time)


Seth (our server)

George W. Bush


Clifford the Big Red Dog

Tofu Burgers Freedom Fries

[Seth made many jokes linking George W. and Clifford, but I’ll let you use your imagination]


Osama bin Laden

Adolf Hitler

Lisa Simpson

Prime Rib, Asparagus, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

[It’s very possible Pam was drunk. She was working, but this wouldn’t have stopped her. She did tell me that the conversation would be fascinating, and I guess she has me there]

Skippy the Wonder Lizard


Marilyn Monroe

Stripperella (a Spike TV cartoon character)

Cocktails, cheesecake, and popsicles

[Once Skippy got over her reluctance to participate, she really got into it and felt her answers were clearly the best. She bragged about them to anyone who would listen for weeks]


Margaret Cho (one of my favorite comedians)

Emily Dickenson (who I get confused with Angie Dickenson)

Destro (Cobra Commander’s right-hand man)

Indian Buffet

[I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I wanted the sexes to be equal, and for everyone to be different but companionable, to allow for great conversation. Also, obviously since Emily Dickenson never left her house, I guess we’d be eating there]

So that was Saturday night. The next day my parents asked my sister and me to go to lunch, and picked…Jack Astor’s. Of course, I told them about the Question from the night before. They really liked it, and wanted to play too. My mom kept trying to change the rules, but what woman doesn’t do this? My sister never could answer. She hates making decisions, which is why she always orders either Fettuccini Alfredo or Chicken Fingers in every restaurant she ever goes to. I felt honor-bound to answer again, and with different answers this time:


Ted Smith (I have no idea who this is)


Phantom of the Opera


[I just Googled Ted Smith, and the top five choices included an Indiana accident Attorney, a “Football Poet,” someone calling himself “the Piper,” and at, someone looking into the “unfolding exploration of the ecology of technical innovation in real markets.” Now that I think about it, I think all these people were/are famous pianists of organists, like my mom, and she figured it’d be a great musical discussion]


Jack Nicklaus



Sea-food Buffet from Red Lobster

[Brownie Boy was a dog my grandfather used to tell stories about. As far as I can remember, he could never talk, but I bet he would bark some great insights]


Emma Thompson

Genghis Khan

Princess Leia

Taco Bell

[As long as Princess Leia didn’t try to kill Genghis Khan, this would be a fantastic discussion. The only fear is that the great Khan would learn what a powerful weapon Taco Bell is, if you catch my drift, and return to Asia to use chemical weapons on his enemies]

That was Sunday. I think it was a couple of days later when I journeyed to Boston Pizza with Durden and the Wolf to talk about a book idea I had. The server (Charlotte) totally wanted me, and I know this for certain because she drew a smiley face on my bill. If that isn’t a come-on, I don’t know what is.




Bart Simpson

Grilled Salmon

[I’m not convinced this would be a good group, as all of these people are attention hogs, but Charlotte totally wanted me, so I forgive her]


Salmon Rushdie

Frederick the Great

Nina from “24”


[This is a great list. Frederick and Nina are total power-fiends, and Salmon would hold their feet to the fire. The only sour note is Poutine. It’s this thing they do up here to their fries. If I told you down there in America what it was you wouldn’t believe me, and if you did you’d come up here and make them the next Puerto Rico]

the Wolf

Josh Homme (lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age)

Jimi Hendrix

Little Prince (from the French book)

Bacon cheeseburgers, cherry cola, hash brownies

[I had no idea what “The Little Prince” was, but after the Wolf went on and on about it, I checked it out from the library. It’s about this tiny dude who lands his spaceship in the desert. It’s a really cool read]


Condoleezza Rice



Deep-dish Pizza

[I know I had more practice than the others, but this group just boggles the mind. Cassandra, as you’ll recall, was condemned to know the future but not have anyone believe her. So you can totally see her predicting the sausage and pepperonis giving Aristotle heartburn, and he eats them anyway…Good times. By the way, my biggest fear would be that Aristotle would pour on the charm and I’d lose out on my chance to win Condoleezza over. Maybe a few extra crushed red peppers on his slice]

I thought I was done, but later that week Skippy took me to a new Denny’s, which would become MY Denny’s, the one in which I write many of these columns.

We asked many questions that night, including the Patent-pending “Skankometer,” and if I ever get permission from the government to start HyperionX back up, I’ll write about some of them. We also did the Dinner Question, and got some great results. I asked every server in the building, and then some people at the next table overhead and they wanted to be involved. I couldn’t have had a better night. Here’s what they came up with:

Skippy the Wonder Lizard


Marilyn Monroe

Stripperella (a Spike TV cartoon character)

Cocktails, cheesecake, and popsicles

[This is the same list as at Jack Astor’s, but Skippy was so proud of it that she demanded it be included again]





Poached Salmon

[1. I can’t believe it took this long for someone to say Jesus. I figured he’d be all over the place. Maybe if I’d asked more rappers… 2. What’s with all the fish? Unless, and I’d have to ask her, Gracie was hoping Jesus would work his mojo so there would be plenty of leftovers. 3. I just now noticed that I am listed as the fictional. Gracie, if you’re out there, what’s up with that?]


Maeve Binchy




[The most amazing thing about this list is that Maeve Binchy is an author (not just an author, an old woman author, but we’ll let that pass for now). What’s so amazing about that is that up until she gave her answers, I had no idea Leaf could read. (If you’d seen her, you’d have concluded she could get by just fine without reading.) I was so astounded to find out Leaf could read, that for the rest of the night I called her “Girl who can read”]


Hugh Hefner

Wilhelm Reich (famous Psychologist}

James Bond

“Blue Food”

[Reich developed the Mass Psychology of Fascism, looking at the forces that move people to act inhumanly. Everything was a power struggle to him. I would love to be at that table, listening to Hugh and James, two men who got down with the ladies, explain to Wilhelm that shapely legs were a much more powerful behavior stimulant that authoritarian brutality. Also, anyone who’s ever seen George Carlin can tell you that there is no blue food]




Miss Piggy


[Normally I would say the funniest part of her answer was Jadrian’s adamant insistence that Tupac was indeed alive. However, even better: she misunderstood the dead part, and thought that Elvis’s corpse would be attending dinner. Since Jadrian grew up in Saskatchewan and learned never to waste food, she sensibly decided to serve Elvis as a buffet. “At the time he died,” Jadrian said reasonably, “Elvis was fat enough to be enough even for Miss Piggy.”]

On that note I better quit, but before I do let me exhort you to try this yourself today at lunch with co-workers or tonight at dinner. It’s a great way to get conversation going, learn more about people, and impress that certain someone.

Just don’t advocate eating Elvis. Your cholesterol would go through the roof.


February 16, 2005


Thanks to Koz for Editing

Thanks to Joy, Castro, Nina, Pam, Seth, Skippy the Wonder Lizard, Marcellus, Aslan, Mom, Dad, Charlotte, Durden, the Wolf, Gracie, Skippy (again, are you happy?), Leaf, Box-Car, and Jadrian

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