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Lunch

Barbara Walters, Willow Bay I Going to Great Lengths for Breast Cancer Awareness

LunchAtMichaelsThe power-lunch season is in full swing as the overflowing Wednesday crowd poured into Michael’s. There were plenty of  hard working PR mavens (Peggy Siegal wielding not one — but two — cell phones at once, while she waited for her date to arrive) and famous faces (Barbara Walters and the ageless Willow Bay) among the sea of usual suspects.

I was joined today by Ouidad (Yes, she goes by one name like Madonna and Cher) the renowned hairstylist whose celebrity clients include Minnie Driver, Sean Lennon and Jordin Sparks. The tireless and incredibly exuberant industry icon is considered the “pioneer of the curl” among beauty business insiders since she launched her eponymous business in 1984. Ouidad tells me she’s “all about the curl” — while shaking her own impressive tresses for emphasis – whether she’s cutting and styling clients at her Manhattan or Santa Monica salons, training stylists (600 in all!) across the country on her signature techniques (the “rake and shake”), or formulating her own product line designed to enhance the health and appearance of the manes of her curly-haired customers. ”There is such freedom in letting your hair be!” she told me referring to the fashion set’s obsession with the flat iron (guilty as charged). “This is all about empowerment. I love helping women be free to be who they are. It’s my mission,” she said.

Diane Clehane, Leslie Stevens, Ouidad and Kate Boothby

Diane Clehane, Leslie Stevens, Ouidad, Kate Boothby

Ouidad’s other deeply personal mission is her commitment to raise breast cancer awareness and funds. A breast cancer survivor who lost her own mother to the disease, Ouidad told me the experience was life changing both personally and professionally. After her bi-lateral mastectomy in 2002, she had a newfound respect and understanding for women struggling with the disease and felt deeply connected to her clients who came into the salon facing the difficult diagnosis. “Before I’d try to tell my clients, we can try different wigs, do different things,” she recalled. “Now I’d never say that. Being behind the chair listening to them and having had my own experience, I tell them, ‘Yes, this is awful, but it’s not a death sentence. We’re going to get through this together.’”

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Michael Caine and Doris Kearns Goodwin |
All is Forgiven, Michael Wolff

LunchAtMichaelsThe usual suspects who flocked to Michael’s today were so busy tucking into their Cobb salads they didn’t even notice there was a genuine knight in their midst. No, it wasn’t Michael Bloomberg (he’s off at Vanity Fair‘s inaugural New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, as are, I suspect, several other Wednesday regulars). None other than Michael Caine slipped in after the room had filled up to meet agent Boaty Boatwright. I’m not sure, but I think the Academy-Award winner was wearing a Members Only jacket. Oh well, like my mother always said: it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it — and Sir. Michael looked pretty damn cool.

Fawn Galli and Diane Clehane

Fawn Galli and Diane Clehane

I was joined today by the fabulously talented and delightfully low-key interior designer Fawn Galli, whose latest project in Cornwall, Connecticut, a historic house with a mix of traditional and contemporary spaces, is the subject of an upcoming profile in Saturday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. (The story is available online here.) Unlike many of her peers who strive to be as famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) as their clients, clever, classy Fawn is happy to let her work speak for itself. When I asked her if she’d ever consider doing a reality show, she looked slightly horrified. “I have been approached, but I don’t think I see myself doing that,” she said quietly. Alert the media!

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Jon Steinberg on The MailOnline’s Plans for World Domination, New Hire Piers Morgan

LunchAtMichaelsIt was a true media mashup at Michael’s today as the joint was jam-packed with famous faces (Katie Couric and Barbara Walters at separate tables; Natalie Morales) and moguls (David Zinczenko), while the usual suspects upped the volume to near ear-splitting levels. I had to lean in to catch every word uttered by Jon Steinberg, who joined me for lunch to dish about his new-ish gig as CEO of the Daily Mail‘s MailOnline.com, yesterday’s announcement that Piers Morgan was joining the site and his old guard inspirations in this new-media world.

Diane Clehane and Jon Steinberg

Diane Clehane and Jon Steinberg

I suggested Jon and I do “Lunch” after I interviewed him earlier this year for a Gotham cover story I was doing on New York City’s most powerful millennials, for which he talked about his role in creating  BuzzFeed as its president and chief operating officer. During Steinberg’s tenure, BuzzFeed became a global brand and went from a staff of 15 to more than 500. Turns out our chat was fortuitously timed. Days before the story was set to go to press in May, Jon announced that after four years at the helm of the social news and entertainment site, he was stepping down to pursue his next big adventure. “Having built this place with Jonah [Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO] and the rest of the team, I want to go through that rush again, and there is a certain amount of freedom that I want,” he said at the time. Since when we spoke for the Gotham piece, he’d told me he believed “freedom and independence are the new status symbols,” I was eager to see what his next move would be. A short time later, he announced he was joining MailOnline as chief executive officer of North America. Today he arrived fresh off the set of CNBC, where he appears three times a week as a contributor on Squawk on the Street. Said Jon of his television gig: “I love it because they operate it like a startup. They had the idea for it and just weeks later, it was on the air. It’s a great team.” But clearly, he’s even more enthusiastic about his top spot at MailOnline. “I wasn’t the CEO before and that’s something I’ve always wanted. I get to make a lot more decisions now,” he told me today, between bites of chicken paillard. And he’s making plenty.

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The Dish on a Formidable Female CEO From Inc.‘s List of Fastest Growing Companies

LunchAtMichaelsWith much of Manhattan tied up in the nightmare traffic scenario that comes courtesy of the spate of diplomats and politicians in town for the United Nations General Assembly this week, we were happy to make it to Michael’s for our regular Wednesday confab with this week’s movers and shakers and, boy, are we glad we did. While much of the excitement during our weekly trips to 55th and Fifth comes courtesy of the steady stream of famous faces, talking heads and random celebrity sightings, every once in a while, I’m introduced to influencers whose faces might not be familiar but whose accomplishments and goals clearly set them apart. Today’s headliner Monica Smith was no exception. As CEO and founder of Marketsmith, a New-Jersey-based marketing firm that recently scored a spot on Inc.’s annual list of the Fastest Growing Companies in America for the second time, she presides over a company whose mission is to provide direct response omni-channel marketing strategies to companies that focus on fostering strong connections to customers through differentiated product. The company posted $72 million in revenue last year. She is also the founder and CEO of i.Predictus, an on-demand television platform with built-in analytics and customer data warehousing with capabilities used to manage large television campaigns. “I think i.Predictus will be as transformative for omni-channel marketing as Bloomberg was to the financial markets.”

Diane Clehane and Monica Smith

Diane Clehane and Monica Smith

Monica’s success is a true testament to perseverance and believing in your own abilities. The New Jersey native grew up in an Irish Catholic home as the only girl with six brothers and was sent to Catholic school because that’s what her mother wanted for all her children. “I had no say in the matter,” she recalls with a laugh. Self-described as “severely learning disabled,” Monica endured years of an undiagnosed condition of celiac disease, which resulted in getting less than stellar grades. She struggled though school but says, “I understood vocabulary at a very high level and I was one of those kids that could do a Rubik’s Cube. I had a chip on my shoulder about those people who always got A’s.” An accomplished athlete, she went all the way to college (“My parents knew how to work the system”) before a teacher gave her a D on her first paper and asked  ’Do you speak English at home?’

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Ed Rollins, Norah O’Donnell and New England’s Next Late Night Star

LunchAtMichaelsThe mood was downright festive at Michael’s today as the usual suspects celebrated various milestones between bites of their Cobb salads. On Table One, Politico Ed Rollins and his wife, Shari Rollins, toasted Ed’s good health and the close-knit circle of good friends who stuck by the couple’s side during Ed’s heath issues last year. Nearby, best-selling author Linda Fairstein donned a bridal veil (albeit briefly) to celebrate her nuptials with several girlfriends, including Lynn Scherr and Faye Wattleton. Across the room, The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford helped hubby Lewis Stein celebrate his 70th, while Michael’s GM Steve Millington serenaded the birthday boy. It was almost too much fun for one lunch.

Diane Clehane and Bianca de la Garza

Diane Clehane and Bianca de la Garza

I was dining today with Bianca de la Garza, who was celebrating a milestone of her own. (Thank you to Steven Stolman, who after lunching with Bianca at Michael’s, decided the two of us should meet and made an introduction.) After 17 years in television news, the last seven spent as co-host of New England’s top-rated newscast, The Eye Opener, at WCVB-TV and anchor of the midday news for the Hearst-owned ABC affiliate in Boston, Bianca signed off in May to start her own production company, Lucky Gal. Now Bianca is about to launch her own lifestyle show that highlights the latest trends in everything from travel to fashion “for New England and beyond.” In her first interview about her latest venture, Bianca gave me exclusive details about the program, which will air in a “late-night weekend spot” on WCVB and will be taped in front of a live studio audience. “It’s not a talk show,” Bianca told me. “It’s more of an entertainment-variety show.” A press conference at The Four Seasons in Boston is scheduled later this fall to reveal more details.

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Special Fashion Week Edition! Dishing With the Designer Who Makes Taylor Swift Shine

LunchAtMichaelsWith Fashion Week in full swing, the crowd at Michael’s today was full of stylistas (Glamour‘s Connie Anne Phillips, Tom Ford‘s CEO Tom Mendenhall) and media moguls (David Zinczenko and Jim Smith) refueling for the home stretch of shows. (Big guns Ralph, Donna and Calvin still have their runway shows to do) After all, surviving the crowds at Lincoln Center requires nothing short of herculean strength. We prefer to watch the shows the most clever designers livestream (thank you, Oscar de la Renta!) or post to their sites afterwards because we can only pretend to be fabulous one day a week — on Wednesdays, of course.

Diane Clehane, Paige Novick and Mickey Ateyeh

Diane Clehane, Paige Novick and Mickey Ateyeh

Speaking of fabulous, I was joined today by jewelry designer Paige Novick and our mutual friend, accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh and had a terrific time dishing about the fashion biz. (Sorry, but some of the best stuff is off the record.) Paige launched her signature costume jewelry collection at Bergdorf Goodman in 2008 and then added Phyne by Paige Novick, her fine jewelry collection, with Saks Fifth Avenue in 2013. She recently celebrated an important milestone, having been admitted into the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) last month. “It was surreal,” Paige told me of being surrounded by the top guns in the industry at the welcoming reception and being congratulated by CFDA president Steven Kolb and designer Stan Herman. “I was so happy to be part of ‘the club’ in the best sense of the word.”

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Exclusive: The Dish on That Book About Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour

LunchAtMichaelsSchool is back in session for the cool kids and they showed up in droves at their favorite cafeteria at 55th and Fifth. Come on, it’s just like high school — but with better clothes. In attendance: NBCUniversal’s Ron Meyer and Steve Burke, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Tom Brokaw, Donny Deutsch and Showtime’s Matt Blank among the media mob scene. It seemed more than a bit ironic that Michael’s looked like an old boys club since I was joined today by Sheila Weller for an exclusive first interview about her new book, The News Sorority (Penguin Press), which chronicles the rise of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour in television news. While the book’s press release paints the book as a thoughtful, “astute” guide to the behind-the-scenes goings on in television broadcast news and a paean to the accomplishments of these three incredibly ambitious women amid the “impenetrable newsroom boys club,” early reports have instead latched on to the more juicy tales of rivalry and the occasional missteps among the women. Shocking, I know. “It pains me that the news aggregators focused on the catfights,” Sheila told me. “It showed me the knives are out for women who succeed.”

Sheila Weller and Diane Clehane

Sheila Weller and Diane Clehane

What Sheila is referring to is the headline-grabbing items in the New York Daily News and The Daily Beast. The Daily News ran an item on the book for Father’s Day with the headline “Hate-y Katie” and an unflattering picture of her, which, said Sheila, didn’t exactly thrill her rep, Matthew Hiltzik. “I told him I didn’t plant any of it,” she told me. Lloyd Grove PM’d Sheila on Facebook asking: “What’s this book being passed around the networks like a crack pipe?” and then wrote a lengthy piece about the book for The Daily Beast, which recounted some of the more gossipy exchanges involving the women. “Once a book is sent to a media organization, you can’t control what happens with it,” said Sheila. “I was stunned by the Father’s Day item.”

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Taking a Lunch Break…

Lunch At Michaels

Our resident Lunch reporter Diane Clehane begins her annual August hiatus. But, worry not, she’ll be back on the beat after Labor Day (Sept. 3, to be exact) when the media bigwigs return to Michael’s in full force.

Until then here are some recent columns to chew on…

Outlander Author Diana Gabaldon on Writing Best Sellers and Playing Nice With Hollywood

Fern Mallis and One Criminally Dressed Designer | Dishing With a Global Ambassador

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

Outlander Author Diana Gabaldon on Writing Best Sellers and Playing Nice With Hollywood

LunchAtMichaelsJudging by the decibel level at Michael’s today the media mavens and swells had plenty to talk about between bites of their Korean tacos (delish!) and Cobb salads. There’s always a flurry of activity on the last Wednesday in July before most of the last remaining power lunchers depart for their much-needed vacations in August. You can only be fabulous (or pretend to be) for so long before you have to regroup and refuel.

For us, July isn’t going out with a whisper but rather with a bang as I had one of the most fascinating Michael’s lunches in eons with best-selling author Diana Gabaldon, whose wildly popular Outlander novels rocket right to the top spot on The New York Times best-seller list as soon as they’re published. She has sold a head-spinning 25 million books that have been translated into 24 languages. The mind reels. Her most recent, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (how’s that for a title?) came out in June, the same week Hillary Clinton‘s book did. I guess you know whose publisher had a better week. I was “the last stop” on Diana’s magical mystical media tour, which has included an SRO appearance at Comic-Con, a sell-out conversation at the 92nd Street Y and, just this morning, an appearance on CBS This Morning with the two lead actors of the new original series based on the books that premieres August 9 on Starz.

Diana Gabaldon and Diane Clehane.

Diana Gabaldon and Diane Clehane

It’s always a bit of a crapshoot sitting down with someone I’ve never met to make conversation over lunch with the expressed purpose of learning as much as I can about my companion in about an hour while fielding the numerous “newsflashes” that come courtesy of the diners around the room. I was grateful I got a good night’s sleep last night because simply put, Diana is a force of nature. I could barely keep up as she recounted the story of how she decided “to write a book just to learn what it took to do it; I did it for practice” and how her pragmatic approach to novel writing (which hasn’t changed much, by the way) has catapulted her to international stardom.

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Fern Mallis and One Criminally Dressed Designer | Dishing With a Global Ambassador

LunchAtMichaelsIt’s been somewhat of a mixed bag at Michael’s this month with plenty of the famous faces usually spotted on Wednesdays having already hightailed it outta here for the Hamptons, Nantucket and other chichi vacation spots. Between TCA, Allen & Co.’s recent summit for movers and shakers and the seemingly daily announcements touting seismic changes in publishing, we’ve also noticed it’s been a bit quieter (in terms of bold face names, not decibel level) at 55th and Fifth in recent weeks. Still, in service to our faithful readers, we kept our weekly date to check in on those intrepid power lunchers who are still dishing despite summer’s siren call.

Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane, Bisila Bokoko and Judy Agisim.

Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane, Bisila Bokoko and Judy Agisim.

Today I was joined by fashion industry insider Mickey Ateyeh, fresh off her vacation in Italy, who, it must be said, knows everyone who is anyone. Mickey put together today’s lunch to introduce me to her longtime pal, PR maven Judith Agisim, who, in turn, brought along her client Bisila Bokoko. I’d seen Judith in this very room many times but never had the occasion to meet her. And, as you already know, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

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