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Lunch

The Media Mob Featuring Bob Barnett and Jack Kliger | Disney’s Fabulous New Foodie

Lunch At MichaelsIf you were to find the appropriate food metaphor for a Wednesdays at Michael’s I’d say it’s a tasty stew served hot with a number of surprise ingredients that can spice things up at a moment’s notice. That’s precisely what happened today when I was joined by passionate foodie and patron saint of farmers everywhere Tessa Edick, founder of FarmOn!, a 501 (c)3 organization, which she launched in 2011 and which was recently featured on Forbes.com. She describes FarmOn! as ”a social responsibility that supports the local food system and funds educational opportunities in agricultural for students pursuing farm-related careers.” In short, Tessa’s mission through FarmOn! is to get the world — or at least all of New York — starting with the Hudson Valley — to recognize the important role farmers (who she calls “starmers” — get it?). My pal, the tireless and terrific Judy Twersky brought us together along with Beyond PR Group’s partner Beth Feldman today and believe me, I learned more about where the food we eat comes from than I could ever hope to tell you in the time allotted to write this column. My head was spinning like never before by the time we said our goodbyes. Trust me, I’ll never buy a container of hard-boiled eggs while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike again.

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Dynamic Tessa is a one-woman empire who has an exciting new deal with Disney (more on that later), has a new book out in September (ditto) and is sure to be a name you’ll know, if you don’t already, very soon. Born and raised in upstate New York, Tessa told me she was born with a passion for food that was nurtured by her Italian-born mother (her great grandparents owned a dairy farm). Despite growing up in an economically depressed area, she and her siblings were “happy and healthy” due in large part, she says, to the way they ate food purchased from local farmers. But, she explained, as she grew older she wanted a life away from the country and went off in search of ”glamour and success” in the big city. At 27, she returned to her roots and started her own food company, Sauces n’ Love with her ex-husband (she sold the company to him in 2010). Just as Tessa was extolling the many virtues of buying from your local farmer (or, at the very least, knowing where the food you are eating comes from), proprietor Michael McCarty sauntered over to our table. When I introduced him to Tessa and told him about her mission on behalf of the farmers, he told us he was once a duck farmer way back when in 1976 when he had the first foie gras farm in the United States. Small world, no?

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Exclusive: David Zinczenko on AMI’s New Deal | Ousted Obama Insider Turns Heads

Lunch At MichaelsThings were pretty quiet at Michael’s today as many of the media mavens, social swans and talking heads were still away in the Hamptons this week. We, not of the summer cottage set, ventured to 55th and Fifth for our lunch with David Zinczenko, who doesn’t have time for a vacation because building a media empire is a 24/7 endeavor. It turned out to be a very fortuitously timed meeting. Between running his own burgeoning media company, Galvanized, helming his own imprint with Random House, Zinc Ink (there’s also Galvanized Books, which publishes branded books from media partners like AMI) and logging plenty of air-time on Good Morning America and other ABC News programs, David is a one-man conglomerate. Oh, in Septemeber he’s also opening another restaurant in Tribeca with his BFF Dan Abrams and Christine Cole.

David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner

David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner

He brought along Sean Bumgarner, who first worked with David back during his tenure at Rodale and is now Galvanized chief digital officer. The guys arrived at the appointed hour and kept one eye peeled to their iPhones (David also kept his Blackberry close at hand) because, as I soon learned, there were big doings afoot. I knew something was up when David was called away several times duiring lunch for calls that just couldn’t wait. It turned out news of AMI’s $515 million buyout offer from investors that keep David Pecker at the helm broke on the New York Post‘s website that very hour. AMI was among Galvanized’s first clients when David launched in March of last year and since then, much of his time has been devoted to acting as consulting editorial director for the company, which included overseeing the extraordinary successful redesign of Men’s Fitness and expansion of the brand across all platforms. When I asked him for his reaction to the news he told he: ”I’m not surprised. David Pecker remains one of the sharpest minds in the media landscape and among the most savvy CEOs I’ve had the good fortune of meeting. A deal of this nature underscores how under-appreciated his legacy has been. And from first glance, this deal underscores that.”

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Tom Brokaw and the Inside Track From New York’s Democratic National Committeeman

LunchAtMichaelsIt was business as usual at Michael’s today as the regulars (Jerry Inzerillo, William Lauder) packed the dining room before the summer vacation season kicks off next week. Plenty of heads swiveled in his direction as Tom Brokaw took his seat at Table Three, but mostly today’s crowd consisted of the usual suspects who were there to see and be seen between bites of their Cobb salads.

Today I was joined by two of my favorite regulars, marketing/PR man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and producer Joan Gelman for our semi-annual Michael’s lunch, where there’s always a lot of laughs and plenty of juicy dish on the menu. (Sorry, but most of the good stuff is OTR.) Today, the two passionate democrats who first met 15 years ago in East Hampton at the home of a mutual friend, wanted to talk politics and there was plenty of fodder for us to chew on. Robert was fresh off  last night’s appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and The Kelly File on Fox News where, he said, he engaged in a “fiery debate” with Peter Hegseth on Iraq. “He was fantastic!” enthused Joan. Robert’s take on the issue: “The Iraqi government doesn’t deserve a second chance.” And, he said, he’s clearly not alone in believing that. Despite the contentiousness of his conversation with Hegseth as Megan Kelly played referee, Robert said with every passing day, “the consensus that opposes going back into Iraq cuts across party lines.”

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

After the segment aired, Robert told me he discovered that polarizing and profane points of view are alive and well on Twitter. A relative newcomer to the social media site (“My account got a baptism by fire!”), he was floored by the venomous comments lobbed at him by some “followers.”  ”The kindest ones wanted to save my soul. There were people speculating on my sex life,” he said with a laugh. “I’m glad anyone is interested.” As for the haters, he still sounded a bit shocked, they were “so vulgar I couldn’t believe the language.”

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Kerry Kennedy, David Zinczenko and Exclusive Dish From Monica Lewinsky’s New PR Guru

LunchAtMichaelsWe missed all the big doings on Monday when President Bill Clinton was at Michael’s for a private lunch in the Garden Room and stuck around to press the flesh in the dining room on his way out the door. Oh well, next time. Today, the usual suspects were, as usual, operating at full tilt around the room, where the decibel level made it hard to hear all the dish my fascinating lunch date was serving up.

I was joined by Dini von Mueffling, co-founder of HvM Communications, a boutique public relations firm that represents a myriad of clients, including hotter-than-hot The Organic Pharmacy and wine expert Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. Having launched the business with partner Laura Henson just five years ago, HvM toils in an impressively diverse number of disciplines, including beauty, wellness, fashion, art and design, business, real estate, nonprofits, and startups.

Diane Clehane and Dini von Mueffling

Diane Clehane and Dini von Mueffling

But to pigeon hole the former intrepid journalist (more on that later) turned entrepreneur is to greatly understate her impressive CV. She is also the co-founder of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, which she founded in 1992 when her dear friend died of the disease. Dini ran the foundation for three years and currently sits on the board of directors. Love Heals is the leading provider of HIV/AIDS education in New York City and, reports Dini, has helped educate over 650,000 young people in person and tens of thousands of others through its programs.

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Harvey Weinstein, Ron Meyer and the Secrets of Sheryl Sandberg’s Media Coach

LunchAtMichaelsIt was the usual mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein and Ron Meyer at Table Four), seasoned with a smattering of stylistas, social types and a generous side order of  publicists at Michael’s today. The mood was downright festive in the dining room with a birthday celebration for Shari Rollins, who was feted by hubby politico Ed Rollins and a table full of BFFs at Table One, while a group of fashion folks led by Laurie Haspel toasted the return of National Seersucker Day in the center of the room. As the festivities grew more spirited and the decibel level rose, I leaned in to hear every fascinating utterance by my lunch date, Emmy-Award-winning correspondent and media coach to the famous and fabulous, Bill McGowan.

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

As founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, Bill, who describes himself as a “total Cyrano de Bergerac,” has coached a head-spinning roster of newsmakers, captains of industry and media types to say the just right thing at the right time on air and in front of an audience when it really counts. He’s crystallized all his best advice and culled it down into a highly digestible, compulsively readable book, Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time (HarperBusiness), which was published in April. “I’ve been coaching HarperCollins authors for 12 years; now I am one,” said Bill. And, trust me, he’s got plenty of material. In the course of his 25-year career in television, Bill conducted thousands (!) of interviews and worked on ABC News’ 20/20, CBS News’ 48 Hours, Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel and Current Affair. He also worked with the “very generous” Bill O’Reilly back in the day at WCBS News as a desk assistant when Fox’s future front man gave him his first on-air shout-out. “I was 21 at the time and he was always really good to me.”

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George Lucas and Joan Hamburg’s Next Act I David Zaslav at The Mirror Awards

LunchAtMichaelsOur weekly lunches at Michael’s always deliver plenty of star power and today was no exception. When I arrived a little before noon, I was followed in the door by none other than George Lucas, who, I’m told, happened to be walking by the restaurant yesterday with his new baby daughter and her nanny in tow when he inquired if there might be a way to “squeeze him in” today. I kid you not. He’s always seemed incredibly low key on his many visits to 55th and Fifth any time I’ve seen him here. Today, the multiple Academy Award winner showed up casually clad in his signature look: a sport short, jeans and sneakers and headed right for his table, forsaking the glad handing that is favored by his fellow West Coast brethren. Despite being the first one there, he was one of the last to leave, spending the entire time deep in conversation with an elegant white-haired lady we didn’t recognize. Talking about the joys of fatherhood, perhaps?

George Lucas with a friend at Michael's

George Lucas with a friend at Michael’s

The room filled up quickly with plenty of familiar faces, including social types and publishing big wigs (Kerry Kennedy, Jay FieldenJay McInerney, Jack Kliger) as well as a fair number of fashionable folks (Joe Zee, Tomas Maier, Fern Mallis). Unfortunately my date was under the weather, so after I made my rounds I hightailed it over to Cipriani 42nd Street, where there were plenty of Michael’s regulars on hand to salute Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, who was honored with the Fred Dressler Leadership Award at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University’s Mirror Awards. In attendance: Gayle King (mistress of ceremonies), Discovery ID’s Henry Scleiff and Tom Freston, who came back from a trip to Afghanistan so he could present the award to his longtime pal “The Zas.” Tom affectionately called David “a colorful cowboy” and reminisced of David’s earliest days in cable when he “kicked some ass!”

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Art Garfunkel and Good Housekeeping‘s Campaign to End Childhood Hunger

LunchAtMichaelsThere wasn’t much that could top last week’s head-spinning celebrity scene at Michael’s, so today was pretty quiet by comparison except for the random appearance of Art Garfunkel. I guess I could have asked him about Paul Simon‘s recent trip to a Connecticut courtroom and perhaps gotten him to weigh in on his erstwhile partner’s domestic woes, but I only noticed him on the way out the door. It’s hard to fathom, I know, but in the era that spawned Kimye there are some celebrities who prefer to go unnoticed. However, the same cannot be said the mavens and machers who are Wednesday regulars at 55th and Fifth. After all, if your power lunch isn’t documented for posterity, what good is it? Present and accounted for: Star Jones, Jonathan Wald (most recently of the now-defunct Piers Morgan Tonight), ex-CNBC talker Larry Kudlow, Ed Klein and Andrew Stein (together at Table 3) among the crowd of familiar faces.

Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco

Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco

I was joined today by Good Housekeeping‘s smart, vivacious new-ish EIC Jane Francisco, and we had plenty to talk about. We shared horror stories over malfunctioning tape recorders during celebrity interviews (more on that later) and traded favorites among our mutual passions, which included books (she’s a big Jane Austen fan) and scripted TV drama (she’s a “binge watcher” of The Good Wife, Scandal and past seasons Mad Men – no spoiler talk, please). But I was also interested in finding out what the transplanted Canadian (who was born in Michigan, but headed for The Great White North with her family when she was 4) had to say about her experience taking the reigns at GH, a quintessential American brand. Having come from Chatelaine, Canada’s leading women’s lifestyle brand and the country’s largest paid circulation magazine, Jane was no stranger to helming a major media franchise with a broad audience when she was tapped for the top job in November of last year. “When I first met with Ellen Levine (Hearst’s editorial director and former GH EIC), we had lunch and she told me Good Housekeeping was ‘uniquely American,’ but I grew up with it and both my mother and grandmother read it in Canada.”

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Sigourney Weaver, Howell Raines and Barbara Walters Enjoying Semi-Retirement

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Wednesdays at Michael’s and then there are Wednesday’s at Michael’s. Today was one of those days. I could hardly keep up with the steady stream of famous faces that sailed past my table and made for some of the best people watching at 55th and Fifth in a long time. First came early arrival Montel Williamswho kept himself busy with ear buds and his phone. Next came Joy Behar (who I didn’t notice until she took off her sunglasses) and two pals who were waiting for another person to join them. A little birdie told me the mystery guest was going to be none other than Barbara Walters, so I kept an eye on the door for what seemed like forever in hopes of grabbing a quick chat with her before she made it to her table. Minutes before Barbara arrived Sigourney Weaver showed up looking absolutely ageless in Prada (and from what I could tell, next to no makeup). The Oscar nominated actress (we loved her best as Ripley!) and The New York Botanical Garden’s biggest cheerleader was clearly concerned she’d kept her guest waiting because she’d gotten stuck in traffic so she dashed by before I could utter a word to her. Drats. When Barbara, who was impeccably dressed in black and white, finally arrived, Michael’s chivalrous GM Steve Millington was waiting by the door to take her by the arm and personally escort her to her table. Let me tell you, a real hush fell over the room when the world’s most famous semi-retiree made her way into the dining room. Throughout lunch, plenty of well-wishers, both famous and “civilians,” stopped by her table to pay their respects.

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

After making my rounds in the dining room and having made sure Barbara, Joy and their friend had finished their lunch, I made my way over to their table. When I told Barbara that her final appearance on The View, where she was joined by what seemed like every female broadcaster who has followed in her trail-blazing footsteps, including all her View cohosts as well as Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung, Joan Lunden and Oprah Winfrey (who managed to score the center square in the iconic photo of the seismic sorority) was one of daytime television’s most memorable moments, she took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m so glad,” she said. “It was really something.” Even more moving, I told her, was her two-hour special that aired last Friday night, where her long-time producing partner Bill Geddie interviewed her about her amazing life and ground-breaking career. What was it like to be the subject rather than the interviewer? “Bill was terrific,” she told me. “We didn’t want to have it be ‘then she did this and then she did that’ so we did it that way. I’m glad everyone seemed to like it.” I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t want to overstay my tenuous welcome (it’s a bit of a delicate dance sometimes) so I left the trio to order dessert. No word on what Barbara has planned for the summer but in her column in The New York Post this week, Cindy Adams wrote that she and Barbara planned to travel abroad together this summer. I’d say Ms. Walters has more than earned some time off after her long good-bye.

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Vanessa Williams, Senator Chris Dodd and Carlos Falchi on His Encounter With Jackie O

LunchAtMichaelsThey don’t call this “Upfront Week” for nothing. It was clear from the SRO dining room at Michael’s today everyone who’s anyone (at least among certain circles) wanted to be up front at 55th and Fifth. Of course, this delicate dance was pulled off with aplomb by the clever and infinitely gracious Loreal Sherman. We don’t know how she does it. After all, at Michael’s you are where you seat. TV titans (Matt Blank, Steve Mosko, Henry Schlieff), actress Vanessa Williams (rocking a hippie look and some cool shades) and even a U.S. senator (Chris Dodd) were all high up in the pecking order as the usual suspects filled in the blanks. We were thrilled to score our favorite table (7) for a fun-filled and fascinating confab with iconic designer Carlos Falchi, his incredible daughter Kate Falchi and trusted friend and adviser Mickey Ateyeh — who, incidentally, happens to know every single person in the city and did her best to introduce us to anyone who walked by our table today.

Front: Diane Clehane and Carlos Falchi; Back: Kate Falchi and Mickey Ateyeh

Front: Diane Clehane and Carlos Falchi; Back: Kate Falchi and Mickey Ateyeh

I first met the Brazilian-born designer in this very room (where else?) when Mickey introduced us. But I’d certainly known of his work for many years. While the word “legend” is as commonplace as tech startups these days, Carlos is one of the few designers today who is actually more than worthy of the moniker. His signature handbags and accessories in exotic skins have always been manufactured in New York City and have earned him legions of fans that range from the ladies who lunch of the Upper East Side and in those cities in Texas where big spenders rule (“Those ladies love their handbags!”) to their fashion-savvy granddaughters. But lest you think that Carlos is the dowagers’ designer of choice, think again. His roots go back to his days of making hand-stitched leather clothing for Miles Davis, Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. And his rock-and-roll sensibility is very much a part of his individualistic ethos today. Before our lunch he’d just come from a meeting with HSN executives, during which he was formulating plans to be part of the shopping network’s designer collective of limited-edition pieces being produced as an homage to the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary.

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Taking a Lunch Break…

Lunch At Michaels

Sad to say, our fearless Lunch columnist Diane Clehane was feeling under the weather today, so she had to skip her usual rounds at Michael’s.

We have no doubt she’ll be back in top form next week and ready to dish about the latest and greatest goings-on of New York’s elite. In the meantime, here are some recent columns to chew on…

Bob Barnett, Million Dollar Decorators and the Guys Behind Bradley Cooper’s Boxer-Briefs

Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and the Skinny on Wacoal’s Sexy New Ad Campaign

Walter Isaacson, Harvey Weinstein and Johnny Weir I Linda Fairstein Emcees Authors In Kind

Michael Strahan, Maria Shriver and Dishing With LuAnn de Lesseps

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