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Diane Clehane

Dick Button Talks Sochi Security, Today’s ‘Pip Squeak’ Jumps and Nonsensical Scoring

dick-button

Diane Clehane and Dick Button

With all of the Northeast in the deep freeze and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics just hours away, it seemed more than fitting that this week’s “Lunch” date was with Dick Button. (Since the umpteenth snowstorm of the season kept us away from Michael’s yesterday, we decided to meet today for a special Thursday edition of this column.) The two-time Olympic gold medalist and legendary broadcaster has written a new book, Push Dick’s Button, which he adamantly says, “is not a biography or a memoir or about the history of skating” but rather “a conversation” because, he explained, “I’ve got plenty to say about a lot of things.” I’ll say. Dick told me the self-published tome’s title comes from the name of the popular segments he did on various networks while covering skating competitions in 2006 and 2007, inviting viewers to send in questions that he answered on air. “NBC once told me that all that material used on-air was their property. I was told you can’t copyright a title so if they sue me, it’s more publicity for the book!”

We were joined by public relations maven extraordinaire Judy Twersky and Pat Eisemann, director of publicity at Henry Holt and Company, who are both good pals of Dick’s. It was Pat who signed Dick to write what was supposed to be a memoir back in the late nineties when she acquired the manuscript while at Scribner. Since then, she told me, she’s helped him shape his story and advise him on self publication. Why the long delay? Dick told me a serious brain injury (from which he’s fully recovered) which resulted from a bad fall while skating (just for fun) made him shelve the project because, as he said with characteristic candor, “I just couldn’t hack it at the time. Writing a book is hard work.”

Not that Dick has ever rested on his laurels. After an extraordinary and much lauded tenure as one of America’s best figure skaters, Dick began his decades-long career in broadcasting in 1960 as a commentator for CBS covering the Winter Olympics. He moved to ABC in 1962 and in short order became figure skating’s most colorful analyst best known for his sometimes-irascible and often-irrepressible appraisal of skaters’ performances. His last Olympics as an on-air commentator was in 2010 at the Winter Games in Vancouver. “I’ve said I’m glad I’m not going to Russia, but I lied,” Dick told me between bites of roast chicken. “I’d love to be there.”

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Winter Gets in the Way of ‘Lunch’

Lunch At MichaelsToday’s Lunch at Michael’s column fell victim to another winter storm. The good news, I’ll be back at Michael’s tomorrow for a special Thursday edition where I’ll be dishing with Dick Button, legendary Olympian and longtime figure skating announcer and author of Push Dick’s Button. What does he think of Team USA’s chances in Sochi? Find out in our special “Olympic Edition” Lunch, tomorrow.

Bonnie Fuller, Jill Zarin and Why Jeff Greenfield Skipped This Year’s State of the Union Address

LunchAtMichaelsYou’d never know hell had officially frozen over if you’d been at Michael’s today. The forsythias were in bloom, a few intrepid media mavens were barelegged (I kid you not) and the power-lunch scene was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, my date was detained in the studio shooting a popular television show, but I soldiered on into Manhattan, bundled up in my long-forgotten fur coat (No judgment, thank you) that makes me look like Yogi Bear’s wife to make my appointed Wednesday rounds. And it’s a good thing I did. At Table One, Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller had assembled a particularly interesting roster of media types (including CNN’s Christine Romans, AOL’s Brian Balthazar , ”Mayor” Joe Armstrong and our own Chris Ariens among them) as well as the requisite reality-show refugee who, in this case, was Jill Zarin. A little birdie told me the former Real Housewives of New York City cast member is getting the Where Are They Now? treatment from none other than Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode. The fickle finger of fate has quite the sense of humor.

Lunch at Michaels

Meta moment: Does a power lunch at 55th and Fifth count if no one’s there to see it? I think we know the answer to that one.

Before the overflow crowd sat down to discuss Justin Bieber‘s latest contretemps and why Madonna looked like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West at the Grammys, I spent some time mingling with the crowd. Bonnie introduced me to her 23-year-old daughter Sofia Fuller who was “helping out” at today’s luncheon since Bonnie is currently without a publicist (but not for long, I suspect). Clever Sofia told me that she is “definitely” interested in a career in media and has her heart set on landing something in e-commerce.

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Matt Lauer and Joan Rivers Do Christmas in January | Catching Up With Anne Fulenwider

Lunch At MichaelsIt must have been the summer-like temperatures (well, it was above freezing) that brought out plenty of media mavens (Frank Bennack, David Carey, Jack Kliger, Nancy Berger Cardone) and a heaping helping of  talking heads (Matt Lauer, Joan Rivers, Star Jones, Dan Abrams, Bill McCuddy) at Michael’s today. January is always an interesting month at 55th and Fifth. It’s the roller-coaster ride that starts off slow with the deadly quiet of the post-holiday doldrums and peaks during the pre-award show maelstrom (Yes, the Golden Globes were last weekend, but that’s just an excuse for celebrities to get together and drink champagne, resulting in the inevitable ’What the hell were they thinking moment?’” This year, that came courtesy of the clearly astonished winner Jacqueline Bisset). Everyone, it seemed, has hit their stride and with Fashion Week and the Olympics just weeks away, the cognoscenti are getting in their power lunches before departing for the gigs that keep the lights on around town.

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Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

I was joined today by Marie Claire‘s editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, fresh off a trip to Beverly Hills. There, she traded compliments with Golden Globe winner Robin Wright (“She was so unguarded and looked so happy with her award and new fiance Ben Foster“) and chatted with her December cover gal Julia Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, at the magazine’s post-awards-show bash. The party was cohosted by The Weinstein Company and Netflix and attended by tons of A-listers, including Taylor Swift, Bono and Diddy (or is it Sean Combs? — we’ve given up trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to call him). “It was a amazing,” she tells me. “You had to be inside the Beverly Hilton by 4 o’clock because at 5 o’clock it goes into lockdown. I watched the awards at a viewing party at the old Trader Vic’s.” On Friday, she’s jetting off to Washington, D.C., to attend the swearing in of Cathy Russell, President Barack Obama‘s pick for the new global ambassador of women’s issues at the State Department. Lest you think Anne’s life is one glam sojourn after the next, today she tells me her commute felt like a hellish version of “trains, planes and automobiles” as she slogged her way in from Brooklyn, thanks to a gushing water-main break.

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Exclusive! The First Interview With Dr. Oz on His New Hearst Title

LunchAtMichaelsWe understand that the deadline for Oscar voters to send in their ballots is today, but we’re still more than a little miffed that we missed seeing Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Dern and Richard Gere by a day. A little birdie told us Paramount threw a schmoozefest in the middle of Michael’s dining room yesterday to drum up some Academy love for its pictures — the overly long and ridiculously profane The Wolf of Wall Street and the absolutely brilliant Nebraska. Having a slew of Tinseltown A-listers in their midst gave the regular folks (it’s a relative term, I know) a chance to do some serious stargazing. “It was a bit surreal,” one diner told me. It seems only fitting to us that Hollywood took over the dining room on a day when the rest of Manhattan was in a deep freeze straight out of a disaster movie. The Day After Tomorrow, anyone?

Well, it is Wednesday, after all, and we wanted to start our new year of celebrity confabs off on the right foot so who better to whip us into shape than none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Emmy-Award winning daytime television host, author of seven New York Times Bestsellers and dispenser of daily doses of helpful medical tips on 1010WINS.

Diane Clehane and Dr. Mehmet Oz

Diane Clehane and Dr. Mehmet Oz

And oh, yes, he’s also a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who somehow manages to find the time to perform about 100 heart surgeries a year (he has office hours on Thursdays if you’re wondering) and a part-time superhero who goes around rescuing New Yorkers in peril all in the course of an average day. At lunch he told me of another tale of  being at the right place at the right time which occurred the same month he came to the aid of the woman who was seriously injured when she was hit by a cab on Sixth Avenue. During a trip to Salt Lake City, a fellow marathoner literally fell in Dr. Oz’s path when the man went into distress due to a heart problem. Of course, Dr. Oz was able to put him in an ambulance, visit him the next day and has stayed in touch to stay apprised of his defacto patient’s recovery.

The good doctor is launching his own lifestyle magazine in partnership with Hearst titled Dr. Oz The Good Life, and this afternoon he brought along a retinue of bigwigs and handlers from his various projects and his charming wife Lisa Oz, whose CV includes a career in television and her own slew of bestsellers (the couple co-authored their You series together; Lisa wrote Us solo and as a result, says Dr. Oz, his wife has “one more bestseller than I do!”).

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Last Lunch of the Year: Huma Abedin, Rikki Klieman and the Media Mob

LunchAtMichaelsThe artic temperatures and snow (It’s not even Christmas and we’re over it already!) couldn’t keep the faithful from 55th and Fifth today as the towncar set squeezed in the last Wednesday power lunch of 2013.

The usual contingent of media mavens (Connie Anne Phillips, Gerry Byrne), spin meisters (Tom Goodman) and fashionistas (Fern Mallis, Jaqui Lividini and LaVelle Olexa) were well represented, as there was plenty of air-kissing and glad-handing behind every poinsettia. After our own head-spinning schedule of sitdowns with A-listers of every description for our regular Wednesday confabs this season – along with a few “special” lunches (We’re still recovering from last week’s double bill of  “The Cosmo 100″ and a Thursday lunch with Downton Abbey executive creator Gareth Neame), I decided to go solo today after my date came down with the flu.

Diane Clehane with Michael McCarty

Diane Clehane with Michael McCarty

Making the rounds in the dining room gave me the chance to catch up with a lot of folks I’ve spotted as they’ve sailed past my table over the past few months. I just had to go over to Marie Claire editrix Anne Fulenwider‘s table to find out what she was wearing. “It’s Alberta Ferretti,” she told me as she petted her fabulous faux fur shrug. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say Anne’s upped her own personal fashion quotient quite a bit since ascending to the top spot at the Hearst title. Well done!

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Special Edition ‘Lunch’: Downton Abbey Dish with Gareth Neame

Diane Clehane and Gareth Neame

Diane Clehane and Gareth Neame

I was joined at my usual perch at Michael’s yesterday by Downton Abbey‘s executive producer Gareth Neame and Hope Dellon, executive editor at St. Martin’s Press whose new book, Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey, is the “official” and definitive behind-the-scenes look at the wildly popular series. Unless you’ve been living under rock, you have undoubtedly heard that series creator Julian Fellowes writes every word of each episode that Downton addicts devour every season, but you may not know it was Gareth who is truly responsible for bringing the series to the small screen.

Having worked in British television for over two decades, Gareth was, as he writes in the book’s foreward in which he chronicles the backstory of the creation of the series, “familiar with maids, footmen and aristocrats and historic houses that serve as inspiration for drama.” He was also a fan of Gosford Park, the film that earned Fellowes an Academy Award. Gareth approached Fellowes with the idea to do a television series set in a grand house during the Edwardian era, focusing equally on the lives of the servants and the aristocrats, but, as Gareth told me, “Julian was resistant at first to do it. He didn’t think lightning would strike twice.” Still, Fellowes sent an email a few days later outlining all the major characters and the plot revolving around an inheritance issue with a distant cousin, a male heir (Matthew Crawley), who comes into the world of a family living in a great house staffed with servants. “We didn’t know whether it would work,” Gareth told me. “But everything was there on the page.”

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‘The Cosmo 100′ With Joanna Coles and the Wednesday Celebrity Scene

LunchAtMichaelsAs devoted as we are to covering the Fellini-esque scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, we do occasionally break tradition and report the news from 55th and Fifth on other days of the week when we’re invited to especially dishy lunches with A-listers. Monday’s head-spinning gathering of the “Cosmo 100″ hosted by the hotter-than-hot editrix Joanna Coles more than fit the bill. Boasting one of the year’s most impressive guest lists, the estrogen-fueled confab now in its second year, brilliantly showcased Joanna’s savvy for bringing together her vast network of female overachievers from every conceivable sphere of influence for the dual purpose of some high-profile networking and some serious brand building. “Last year when I came up with the idea for this lunch, people came and didn’t really know what to expect,” Joanna told me as she stood in the lounge accepting air kisses and posing for photos with the growing throng of well-wishers. “This year, we had people calling up asking to come.”

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb; Photo: Greg Pace

Among those that did make the final cut: actresses Sarah Jessica Parker (“This is my new favorite yearly lunch!” she told me) and The Carrie Diaries star AnnaSophia Robb (The original Carrie and Carrie 2.0 met for the first time in the dining room and posed for their first ever joint photo during cocktails); The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee; Arianna HuffingtonMika Brzezinski (whose late arrival during Joanna’s opening remarks earned the Morning Joe cohost some cheeky chiding about her tardiness); celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson; supermodel Coco Rocha (who sported a chic shorter hairstyle and towered over the crowd); producer Desiree Gruber; designers Georgina Chapman and Stacey Bendet; Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon; A&E Network’s Nancy DubucPolitico‘s Kim Kingsley; Atlantic Record’s chairman Julie Greenwald; lobbyist Heather Podesta (whose striking silver locks, sky high Louboutins and flawless makeup earned her my pick as the best-dressed guest); Harvard Business School professor and TED talker Amy CuddyLauren ZalaznickLeslie SloaneLiz KaplowThe Chew‘s Daphne Oz; attorney Robbie Kaplan (who argued Edie Windsor‘s case before the Supreme Court); director and producer Alexandra Kerry (Dad is Secretary of State John Kerry); Laurie Tisch; and aspiring songstress Sky Ferreira, a frequent subject of lensman Terry Richardson. Read more

Norm Pearlstine Networks With Bonnie Fuller

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re going to file this week’s lunch in under ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Aside from a dining room full of the usual Wednesdays at Michael’s suspects, comprised of moguls (Barry Diller), media mavens (Bonnie Fuller, Connie Anne Phillips) and money men who keep the lights on all over town (Alan Patricof), I had an illuminating chat with Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York and the editor/contributor of the new book, Gilded New York Design, Fashion and Society (The Monacelli Press). We were introduced by Dan Scheffey, who, in his past life, has handled public relations for Disney, Miramax and most recently toiled at Conde Nast. Dan is currently working on Monacelli’s fall book list and is gearing up to launch the Spring 2014 list with Ellen Rubin. When he mentioned Gilded New York to me some months ago, I immediately wanted to know more. Donald, an independent curator specializing in the decorative arts and architecture, joined us to talk about his work on both the exhibition and the book on New York’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

Dan Scheffey, Diane Clehane and Donald Albrecht

From left: Dan Scheffey, Diane Clehane and Donald Albrecht

By way of introduction to the period he explained, “The city’s old and new money used architecture, interior design, fashion and events — even lunch and dinners — as markers of status.” See where I’m going with this?  I thought you might.

Donald, who traded his career as an architect to focus on curating exhibitions and writing (“I found working solely in architecture really boring”), explained his love of curating exhibitions as a way of producing “visual culture.” His current exhibition (which shares the same name of the companion book) “Gilded New York” runs through the end of next year and features a stunning collection of objects that lend a window into the fascinating lives of the early swells of New York City whose great fortunes built the vast Fifth Avenue mansions during what was arguably city’s most glamorous era. Among the relics of this bygone age visitors to the museum can see: an ”Electric Light” dress by couturier Charles Frederick Worth dress once worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. The gown (which didn’t really light up) earned its name from the glittering crystals that illuminated the bodice (a newspaper at the time breathlessly reported it had been trimmed in diamonds), Tiffany & Co.’s Bon Bonniere, a miniature purse designed to hold bon bons or small pieces of candy to be discreetly carried so it could be enjoyed while dancing, and a swan-billed flask crafted from engraved glass and silver. The funny thing is I have no doubt any one of the artifacts would be right at home worn by Sarah Jessica Parker or carried by — dare we say it – Kanye West — at the Met Ball, no?

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Tales From a True Downton Abbey Thoroughbred

LunchAtMichaelsAfter being felled by a brutal bug (which I picked up in my doctor’s office while waiting for my flu shot) last week, I was glad to be back at 55th and Fifth today where I embarked on the second leg of my own personal trifecta of reporting on every aspect of my television obsession, Downton Abbey. I interviewed cast member Lesley Nichol two weeks ago and am planning a very special Downton lunch for December (No spoilers here! It’s top secret for now). Today I was thrilled to dine and dish with Harry Herbert, the second son of the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, who was in town on a whirlwind three-day visit to New York to meet a few Upper East Side swells and talk to them about his glamorous and highly successful racehorse syndication business, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. As the company’s founder, Henry puts together racing syndicates — small groups of people with deep pockets — to share in owning a racehorse. So what’s Harry’s Downton Abbey connection, you ask? Harry’s ancestral home is none other than Highclere Castle, the stunning setting — and very much its own character — on Downton Abbey. I kid you not.

Alistair Morrison, Diane Clehane and Harry Herbert

Alistair Morrison, Diane Clehane and Harry Herbert

If you’re like me and have watched the specials that have aired on Highclere on PBS and HG-TV, you’ve seen Harry’s sister-in-law Fiona, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, who is married to his brother George, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, giving behind-the-scenes tours of the great house and talking about what it’s like to have your home taken over by the cast of one of Britain’s most popular television programs. (They actually live in another home on the sprawling estate) Harry painted a fascinating picture for me of the real life cast of characters who have populated Highclere, worthy of their own PBS series. It turns out his parents’ love story mirror the one which plays out on Downton between the elder Grantham’s British-American union. Harry’s mother, Jeannie, was 19 years old when he journeyed from her home in Wyoming to England to visit friends and met his father, Henry. When she went back to the states, says Harry, ”He chased her to Wyoming and wound up marrying her.” Read more

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