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Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

To coincide with SELF‘s fresh, new look in print, a redesigned website and free mobile app were introduced in February keeping with the energized, “slightly younger” editorial content which includes more fashion coverage. (By hovering over pages in the magazine with their smart phones or androids, readers can get bonus content in every section of the magazine.) Thanks to editor Lucy Danziger and Laura’s mutual obsession with social media and mobile technology, the results have paid off big time for the title. Laura, a publishing vet who has had held key positions at YM, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and most recently at Teen Vogue before joining SELF in 2010, told me she has one important question she keeps at the forefront: “How do we innovate?” With SELF’s signature events like Women Doing Good and Workout in the Park, Laura turned to technology and social media to reach the all-important “millennial generation” of  twenty and thirty-something readers.

Laura McEwen and Diane Clehane

Laura McEwen and Diane Clehane

Laura and her team created a social game on Facebook for “Workout in the Park” last April that allows readers to create an avatar in their likeness and see it slim down as the player accrues more points. Powered by hercampus.com, the game allows readers to “join the team” of  the school of their choice and is now being played on 125 college campuses across the country including Harvard, Yale and Boston University (American University is currently in the lead). The winning school will receive its own “Workout on the Quad” to be staged on their campus in May.

SELF’s website is Conde Nast’s largest with 6.9 million uniques and over 40 million page views per month.  Laura tells me that ad revenue is up from last year with a 20 percent bump in beauty with prestige brands Dior, Shiseido and Lancome (in every issue!) now gracing its pages. New advertisers this year include CK Fragrances and Swatch group. Fashion brands are also taking note of SELF‘s renaissance. “We just broke JC Penney,” says Laura. The company will join LeSportsac and debut in the April issue. Fashion is clearly a priority for the title. Laura tells me they have just hired their first Milan-based European rep to cover the haute territory of Milan, Paris and London.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. PR maven Catherine Saxton, Katlean De MonchyMarcia Levine of Marlborough Galleries, Vanity Fair scribe John Connolly and partners in the real estate empire Platinum Properties,  Khashy Eyn and Danny Hedaya 

2. Showtime’s Matt Blank, who has gotten more than his fair share of shout-outs during this awards season from Homeland stars during their statuette sweep. Congrats!

3. Michael J. Wolf

4.  Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at this table: Ron Perelman and Lyor Cohen who, according to Page Six, is now Tory Burch‘s ex

5. Peter Peterson; Second seating: comedian (Arliss ) Rob Wuhl with, we’re told, his brother Evan Wuhl and his sister-in-law

6. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

7.  Laura McEwen, Lauren Theodore and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Debbie Bancroft

9. Gus Oliver

10. CNBC’s Ron Insana

11.  Hearst design guru Newell Turner and a stylish blonde gal we didn’t get to meet

12. UBS’s Aryeh Bourkoff

14.  Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew

15. Abernathy & MacGregor’s Jim Abernathy

16. PR princess Lisa Linden, Beth Shapiro of City Meals on Wheels and the always elegant (in head to toe Chanel!) Suri Kasirer

81. Harriet Weintraub

17. Former New York City Council president Andrew Stein who arived toting The Patriarch, the fascinating Joseph P. Kennedy biography by David Nasaw

18. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman

20.  Uber agent Rob Weisbach

21. Jacques Azoulay (who just so happens to be the main squeeze of  The Real Housewives of New York City‘s LuAnn de Lesseps — that’s the ‘Countess’ to you) and Jennifer Simonetti Bryan

22. Martha Stewart Living Ominmedia’s Dawn Bridges and former Conde Nast PR head Maurie Perl

23. Media man Barry Frey and Celebrity Buzz director Peter Borish

25. PR impersario Tom Goodman

26. Richard Bressler and Jay Kriegel

27. Cablevision’s Tad Smith and former cast member of The Real Housewives of New York City, Kelly Killoren Bensimon. I grabbed a quick chat with Kelly who I worked with during her days at Elle after I spied her trying to keep a low profile in lounge. (I couldn’t help but notice her giant faux fur Prada bag and black eyelet anklets!). She told me she doesn’t watch the Bravo show that made her a household name, because she’s too busy taking care of her two teenage daughters and getting her MBA from Northeastern University online (“I even have my books with me right now,” she told me as she patted her handbag). I would have liked to ask her what she thought of her arch enemy Bethenny Frankel‘s headline-making marital woes, but she scooted off with a wave and a smile before we got around to that. Next time…

28. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein

Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.

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