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Lunch

Woody Johnson, Jared Kushner and a Haute New Hollywood Handbag Designer

LunchAtMichaelsSince so many media mavens and talking heads have headed to the West Coast for Oscar week, my lunch today with designer Michelle Vale was particularly timely. Just a few days ago, Michelle sent off several of her handbags to LaLa land in hopes that a certain Best Actress nominee will walk down the red carpet carrying one of her creations come Sunday night. If the actress, whose name for the moment is top secret (“But she’s a big Oscar person!”) utters Michelle’s name when she is asked the million dollar question of the night — “Who are you wearing?” — by E!’s Giuliana Rancic, that could mean very big things for the designer. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Michelle told me. “An actress can pick a dress and change her mind at the last minute. She can look in her suitcase and pick up something else. I won’t know until I see her on television.”

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

No stranger to the celebrity scene, Michelle’s collection of sophisticated, versatile designs that allow women to customize their bags by selecting a variety of  different hardware and straps  — all made right her in New York City — have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Kate Bosworth and Kate Beckinsale. Michelle also managed to score valuable television exposure on Gossip Girl, a favorite of fashionistas everywhere where posh Upper East Siders played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester toted around the Amex Black cards in Michelle Vale handbags.

While fashion was part of Michelle’s DNA — dad was a senior vice president of Sasson Jeans, favored by aspiring disco divas everywhere in the 80s, and mom once owned a boutique, she never planned on going into the business as a career. “I used to go to Studio 54 with my father,” Michelle told me. “It was such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to something completely different, so I got a master’s in counseling  children which, as it turns out, has come in handy in this business.” It was when the accidental designer got pregnant quickly after getting married that she decided she wanted to do something that allowed her to stay at home with her newborn son. “I literally started the business with my son in my lap,” she said.

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A Conversation with Robert De Niro’s Film Archivist | New Dish on Gone With The Wind

LunchAtMichaelsI was joined today by my good friend ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong who I first met (where else?) in this very dining room seven years ago. Joe has introduced me to countless interesting folks over the years including Carl Bernstein, Elton John and the late Elizabeth Edwards. He’s had a long and storied career in journalism having been at the top of the masthead of Rolling Stone and New York Magazine as publisher and has served as a trusted advisor to ABC News. These days when he’s not holding court here at Michael’s or dispensing invaluable advice to his faithful friends in the media biz, he’s a tireless champion of many worthwhile causes and institutions including the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin where he sits of the board of directors. Back in the day, Joe was editor in chief of the Texas Law Forum at the University of Texas School of Law. (Harry Ransom was his beloved mother’s English teacher — “Everything comes full circle!”) Today, he invited me to join the Center’s film curator Steve Wilson,  Alicia Dietrich, public affairs representative and  Jennifer Tisdale director of public affairs who dazzled me with fascinating stories about the Center’s extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia among many other types of cultural and literary artifacts — just in time for the upcoming Oscars.

At Table One: Front (from left) Steve Wilson, Diane Clehane, Jennifer Tisdale; Back: Alicia Dietrich and Joe Armstrong

At Table 1: Front (from left) Steve Wilson, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Tisdale; Back: Alicia Dietrich and Joe Armstrong

The gang was in town to meet with various news outlets to discuss the Center’s upcoming ’The Making of Gone With the Wind” exhibition, timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of one of the most iconic movies of all time. The exhibition will run from Sept. 9 through Jan. 4, 2015 and is a must-see for film buffs. Gone With the Wind was the most nominated film of 1939, scoring 13 Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to be nominated and win for Best Supporting Actress. No small feat since that year was truly one of Hollywood’s best with Wuthering Heights and The Wizard of Oz also competing for little gold men that year. Among the 300 items drawn from the Center’s collection from David O. Selznick‘s archives that will be on view: rare audition footage, storyboards from the film and three original gowns worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, including the famous “green curtain” dress, marking the first time these costumes were on view together in 25 years. A gloriously illustrated exhibition catalog of the same title was published by the Center and University of Texas Press last fall with a foreword written by Turner Classic Movie host and film historian Robert Osborne.

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David Zaslav, John Sykes, Susan Spencer and the Dish on What Bill Clinton Did Last Night

LunchAtMichaelsIt turns out the third time was the charm for my long-delayed lunch with Woman’s Day EIC Susan Spencer. Having been kept away from Michael’s first by the onset of the polar vortex and then, a few weeks later, by the snowstorm of the week, we finally managed to meet at 55th and Fifth today. Perfect timing, after all, because Susan was still buzzing about The 11th Annual Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards held last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The sold-out event, benefiting the American Heart Association, boasted a glittering gallery of A-list stars, including actress and singer Rita Wilson who acted as host; her Oscar-winning husband Tom Hanks (who, we’re told, was happy to relinquish the spotlight to his wife); actress Jennie Garth, who received the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Heart Award; and the Today show’s Hoda Kotbwho introduced singer Sara Bareilles and The Voice winner Judith Hill. None other than President Bill Clinton was on hand to accept an award on behalf of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for its work towards improving heart health by fighting childhood obesity. “I guess people hadn’t read their programs,” Susan told me, “But when I was introducing him and said, ‘Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States,’ there was an audible gasp in the room. Something happened when he appeared on stage. He really drew people in and set the tone for a truly memorable evening.”

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Susan told me that Clinton made some ”very personal” and “humble” remarks about his own experience as an overweight youngster. “Don’t clap!” he told the crowd, who was clearly charmed by his story. “This is a serious issue.” So serious, in fact, that virtually every star who attended the awards has a personal connection to the disease. Rita Wilson’s father suffered from heart disease and Jennie Garth discovered she had a leaky heart value when she was just 30 years old. The disease, which is the number one killer of women, also hits very close to home for many Woman’s Day readers. So much so, that last June Susan and her team launched the magazine’s Live Longer & Stronger Challenge, for which they selected six women from around the country who had or were at risk of heart disease and designed a nutritional and lifestyle program for them with nutrition columnist Joy Bauer. The group stayed connected to the magazine and Bauer through a private Facebook page, texts and emails. “We want to raise awareness that this doesn’t just happen to women in their 50s; it can happen in your 20s and 30s,” she said.

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

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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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Taking a Lunch Break…

Lunch At Michaels

Unfortunately, today’s Lunch at Michael’s fell victim to the Polar Vortex, Part Deux. Apparently, few VIPs wanted to trudge through the city’s slushy, slippery sidewalks. And we don’t blame them.

Our intrepid columnist Diane Clehane will be back to dishing about New York’s media moguls and glitterati next week. In the meantime, grab a mug of cocoa and catch up on some recent Lunch chatter:

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

Diane Clehane on the Lunch That Changed Her Life

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

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.

anne-fulenwider

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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Diane Clehane on the Lunch That Changed Her Life

DrOzDianeClehaneEvery Wednesday, as many of you already know, our “Lunch” columnist Diane Clehane catches up at Michael’s with all sorts of interesting media folks. Most recently and exclusively, Dr. Oz.

But this is about a different kind of lunch. A lunch that completely changed the make-up of Clehane’s domestic dining arrangements. Per Clehane’s essay in the February issue of Reader’s Digest for the magazine’s “True Stories” section, she and her husband were dealing a decade ago with the trauma of three recent miscarriages. Shopping one day at Sak’s, Clehane took a break at the cafe for lunch and met Jill Totenberg, a public relations consultant who proudly showed a picture of an adopted Chinese daughter. Not long thereafter, thanks to the Saks encounter, Clehane began her own, similar odyssey:

In early 2003, we registered with an adoption agency and began an 18-month “paper pregnancy.” During that time, I kept in touch with Jill, e-mailing her occasionally. I promised to visit so I could meet her daughter, but as often happens, life got in the way. Still, the little girl in the Snow White costume and her mother were never far away in my thoughts.

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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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