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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.

Anne certainly looked none the worse for wear in her chic black Jason Wu sweater and skirt, but of course dressing to impress is part of the job when you’re helming one of Hearst’s most fashionable titles. Since rejoining Marie Claire in September 2012 (she’d previously been the magazine’s executive editor and departed for a nearly year-long stint as EIC of Bride‘s), Anne admits she’s upped her fashion quotient. “I’ve had to shop and meet the designers,” she told me. “I love going to shows, and I’m gearing up for my fourth Fashion Week. Some people have been going for 20 years, but this is only my fourth time, so I still really love it.” Her job also affords her a coveted front-row seat at the shows, and she’s also going to Paris and Milan (with a week back in New York in between the two to close the April issue).

2014 is a milestone year for Marie Claire. It’s the magazine’s 20th anniversary in the United States and Anne tells me she’s got plenty of big things in the works. In March, they’ll celebrate fashion director Nina Garcia‘s fifth anniversary with a five-year retrospective in print and online. Plans are in the works for a big to-do next fall. The magazine is also increasing its television presence. In addition to Project Runway and Project Runway All-Stars, senior fashion editor Zanna Roberts Rassi will be appearing as a judge on Tim Gunn‘s new show, Under the Gunn, which debuts tomorrow night on Lifetime. Since landing the top spot, Anne has brought in an entirely new art department, resulting in “a complete redesign” that was completed in September 2013. Check out the dazzling February cover, boasting one of the most stunning photographs of Drew Barrymore by Jan Welters (his first for Marie Claire) I’ve ever seen, to get the full effect of the team’s efforts.

Inside the magazine, Anne has “pumped up” the career coverage with an extensive @Work section. “The rest of the culture seems to have caught up (on the topic),” she says. “But we’ve been here for four years.” The difference between Marie Claire‘s take on life at the office, explains Anne, is that “We really get into the things women want to know, like how do you really handle those awkward moments during a salary negotiation. A lot of women’s magazines give lip service to these kinds of topics. We delve into it in a very specific way.”

Marie Claire‘s readers in their 20s and 30s, says Anne, want to hear from “women who have made it and are one step above them and sometimes from other women on their way up.” In order to deliver this “insider information” in a fresh, inspiring way, the editors have come up with clever ways of extracting the real dish from moguls and mavens in quirky Q&As and features like “Mogul Maintenance,” where women share “the kind of tips traded over lunch or drinks,” says Anne. “No one tells you how to really navigate through times when you’ve just had a baby and gotten a big job or how to really work a business meeting.” Not to put too fine a point on it but at work, says Anne, sisterhood is powerful.

To bring the “New Guard” together Marie Claire hosted it’s own “power lunch” at Hearst Tower last year where women in technology, entertainment, business and even politics talked business and traded emails. It’s all about making those connections that help women get to the next step, says Anne. ”Networks are the new companies. Power isn’t always measured by the size of your paycheck; it’s who you know.” So true.

But it isn’t all business at Marie Claire. Far from it. The February issue is devoted to “The Single Girl” and it’s jam-packed with tips and tricks for enjoying a woman’s unattached status to the fullest. There’s a guide to the best places to be single. Both Omaha, Nebraska and Minneapolis ranked high on the list. Who knew? Our favorite feature: “The Text Whisper,” written by the magazine’s new columnist — Lodro Rinzlerwho decodes the confusing texts guys send to the women they date. LOL.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Joan Rivers, Matt Lauer and his wife Annette Roque, and a tall dark-haired gal whose name escapes us. Joan told me the gang got together for their “long, overdue Christmas lunch.” Afterwards, ever-the-gentleman Matt gallantly stood by with Joan’s Dennis Basso fox fur in hand while she made the rounds on her way out the door. What a guy.

2.  Newly installed Wednesday regular Rikki Klieman with Shirley Lord and Kathy Lacey

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and longtime pal Michael Berman. I went over to catch up with the mayor, who has been traveling far and wide “catching up with my ten grandkids.” I first met Michael in this very dining room (where else?) years ago when he and his wife designer Victoria Hagan were here with Joe and a squadron of A-listers who had gathered at Table One to meet Elizabeth Edwards. What a difference a few years make.

4. Glenn Horowitz and Academy-Award-winner Robert Benton

5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman

6. The New York Post‘s Richard Johnson, Bill McCuddy with Donna and Richard Soloway

7. Anne Fulenwider and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with HeadButler’s Jesse Kornbluth and his wife, Karen

10. PR maven Susan Blond

11. Nightline‘s Dan Abrams (in jeans and sneakers) and journo Vicky Ward

12. Star Jones with Marie Claire‘s publisher Nancy Berger Cardone and associate publisher/marketing Brent Allen. The magazine’s “dynamic duo,” Nancy told me, was talking about “a big project” they’ve got in the works with Star between bites of their salads. Stay tuned….

14. Hearst’s head honcho David Carey

15. Attorney Richard DeScherer

16. United Stations Radio Networks’ Nick Verbitsky

17. Discovery ID’s chief Henry Schleiff

18. Patriarch Partners’ Randy Jones with PR guru Dan Scheffey

20. Producer Joan Gelman and radio diva Joan Hamburg

21. Digital Place-Based Advertising Association CEO Barry Frey and Magma’s Inbar Haham

22. Jim Smith

24. Jim Cassella

25. Ralph Destino

26. Gus Wenner (yes, Jann Wenner‘s son), who gives new meaning to the term “bed head.” Yikes.

27. Stu Zakim

29. Christine Friedman

81. PR maven Lisa Linden and Vin Cipolla

Faces in the crowd: TV Guide magazine’s Jack Kliger and Frank Bennack at separate tables in the Garden Room.

Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.

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