The usual suspects were (mostly) present and accounted for at Michael’s today. The people watching parade included the money men (Henry Kravis), entertainment moguls (Richard Plepler), and social types (Binky Urban) with the random reality show curiosity (Kardashian sidekick Jonathan Cheban) thrown in for good measure. You were expecting a Real Housewife again, were you? Sorry, we just can’t deliver a Bravolebrity every week.
I was thrilled when Atria Book’s founder and publisher Judith Curr invited me to lunch, since I’ve long been a fan of the Simon & Schuster imprint. Next year marks Atria’s 10th anniversary, and Judith has plenty of big things lined up for the 80 books she’ll publish in 2012. “It’s our birthday, but ‘the reader’ gets all the presents,” she told me. I’ll say.
Since launching Atria in 2002 with Marlo Thomas‘ runaway best seller, The Right Words at the Right Time, Judith has been the guiding force behind many books that tapped into the zeitgeist. It was Judith who brought Rhonda Byrne‘s The Secret into the cultural lexicon and helped it sell 20 million copies worldwide in 51 languages. In March, she’ll publish Byrne’s latest, The Magic, which takes readers on a 28-day personal discovery based on the power of gratitude. “I’m up to Day 10,” she told me, explaining that Byrne instructs readers to write down 10 things to be thankful for on a daily basis and to use recitation and affirmations to bring all good things into their lives. “It’s working for me!” she said. We can’t wait to read it.
Curr’s love of all things books extends to how one looks (“They should be gorgeous!”) and to how a story should resonate with readers. Having worked for Christian Dior in public relations and marketing in her native Australia before landing her first job in publishing in 1996 for Bantam Doubleday Dell, aesthetics have always been a key element in the packaging of her titles. She arrived at lunch today with a copy of the just out Culo By Mazzucco, a stunning tome with over 200 photographs and works of art by Raphael Mazzucco celebrating the female form. Never one to rely on looks alone, Judith also made sure the book had an interesting and headline making point of view. To wit: Culo is edited by Jimmy Iovine and Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Speaking of celebs, Judith has worked with her fair share of A-listers-turned-authors and has plenty of dishy stories (sorry, most are OTR) to prove it. On her speed dial: Shirley Maclaine (“Totally cool”), Shania Twain (“She wrote every word of her book”), Pamela Anderson (“Very sweet”) and Tommy Lee. (“He cried when I told him his book was on the best seller list because it meant so much to him — he never finished high school.) Next year, she’ll publish Dancing With the Stars’ finalist Ricki Lake‘s Never Say Never with a foreword written by Hairspray director John Waters. I’m hoping she dishes on what really goes on behind the scenes at the ABC hit show. What can I say, I’m obsessed!
Curr is just as apt to take a writer without a “platform” (“If you have one, we’ll pay for it; if you don’t, we’ll build you one”) and make a fledgling author a star. “We rarely take on people mid-career,” she explains, instead preferring to nurture a talent and see where it goes. “We’re curators of people’s careers.” It certainly worked out well for Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, two of today’s most commercially successful female writers who have come to define their respective genres thanks in large part to the marketing muscle Atria employs with every new title. Both have new books coming out next year: the prolific Picoult with Lone Wolf, Weiner with The Next Best Thing.
These days, Curr is also hard at work developing new ways for readers to have a sensory bookstore-like experience amid the shrinking landscape of brick and mortar stores. She’s working with Gary Schwartz, the author of The Impulse Economy, on ways to connect readers with new technology that brings a ‘storefront’ to their mobile devices. She’s also going the low-tech route with a 13-city seven-day ‘Mystery Bus Tour’ which will take four mystery writers (Liza Marklund, John Connolly, M.J. Rose and William Kent Krueger) around the country to connect with their fans. At the same time, she will publish a ‘Mystery Sampler’ with 15 first chapters from different novels featuring ongoing characters. “The organizing principle is you can be killed anywhere in the world.”
Looking back on a decade of presiding over an impressive array of best sellers, Judith sums up her philosophy on book publishing this way: “Lightning only strikes if you already have some conductivity inside of you.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
3. KKR’s Henry Kravis
4. Producer Freddie Gershorn and pals
5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman
6. Sherrie Westin (Loved the suit!) and friends.
7. Judith Curr and yours truly
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and a chic, dark haired gal
9. Hollywoodlife.com’s editor-in-chief Bonnie Fuller and Kim Kardashian‘s BFF, publicist-turned-reality show fixture Jonathan Cheban. I’m guessing that Bonnie, who never tires of the chronicling every move of the Kardashian clan, is hot on the trail of the latest headline from the duo of dysfunction, Kim and Kris Humphries.
11. Publicist-turned-producer Desiree Gruber (aka Mrs. Kyle Maclachlan)
14. Jim Abernathy, managing partner of Abernathy MacGregor Group
15. Radio personality Mark Simone
16. Harrison LeFrak
17. Black Ocean’s Gerry Byrne
21. Worth Interactive’s president and CEO, Vin Cipolla
22. Antonio Weiss
24. Producer/writer Paul Blake
25. MEC Global’s Chet Fenster
27. Mort Hamburg
28. Harlem Village Academies’ Debra Kenny
29. Simone Levinson
Faces in the crowd: designer David Biscaye, who passed the time by sketching in a notebook while perched at the bar…. On his way to the Garden Room, actor Gregory Jbara (Billy Elliot), who was overheard telling his gal pal he loved “the smell of Christmas” in the dining room. Cheers!
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