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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandre Chemla’

Willie Geist’s Parenting Advice to Kanye West; Star Jones Celebrates a Birthday

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After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”

“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ’President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”

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Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

1003_mockup.gifMaybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try. There was, however, an interesting mix of bold faced names including police commissioner Ray Kelly and the newly crowed Miss USA Nana Meriwether who, despite leaving her sash and crown at home, looked every inch the pageant winner. Being almost six feet tall certainly helps stand out in a crowd.

I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China; Mimi has a little girl and is about to give birth to her first son any minute (we had our fingers crossed she’d make it through lunch!). We all agreed parenthood is an unending source of material.

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Since joining the magazine in February of last year from Time Inc.’s All You, Susan has made some interesting changes to the magazine. “I’ve fallen in love with the reader,” she says. This is not your mother’s Woman’s Day, although Susan is mindful of the generational connection between readers of the 75-year-old Hearst title. “Some readers have been reading the magazine for 60 years, and now their daughters and their daughters’ daughters are reading it,” she explained. When asked just who is the Woman’s Day reader, Susan told me: “She’s the ‘Average Josephine’ — the receptionist, the administrative assistant, the teacher, the nurse. These are the women who I consider to be the backbone of America.” That doesn’t mean, however, these women (more than half work outside the home) are not interested in fashion and the good things in life. Just the opposite. “These women have a lot of joy in their life. They embrace positivity,” says Susan. “That’s why the title of the magazine is so perfect for them. It’s about her day and the joy she gets out of it.” To tap into that, Susan retooled the fashion pages focusing more on value in all its iterations. “Our reader doesn’t want to see a great shoe and then find out it’s $300 or even $150. It has to make sense for her life.” In fact, “Value Tags” appear throughout the magazine to highlight steals, deals and all-around great ideas.

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Harvey Weinstein, David Zinczenko and Peggy Siegal Throws Another Party

1003_mockup.gif‘Tis the season for power lunches disguised as holiday celebrations, and this afternoon at Michael’s it was SRO as the moguls (Harvey Weinstein, Tommy Mottola), a perennial party giver (Peggy Siegal and her indefatigable minions) and boldface names (Star Jones, Muffie Potter Aston) poured into the dining room for one head-spinning scene. While Bonnie Fuller and company shoe-horned 14 people comfortably into Table One, Peggy presided over a lunch for 34 in the Garden Room honoring “The Untouchables.” (Although I didn’t see them, I did spot — I think — Malcolm Gladwell and Stu Zakim in the crowd). The rest of the dining room was full of table hoppers and gladhanders — Harvey Weinstein works a room like nobody’s business — and I noticed there was plenty of glasses of red and white wine all around. Cheers!

I was joined today by Anne Fulenwider who has plenty to celebrate these days having  “come home” to Marie Claire in September. She was tapped for the top job after Joanna Coles departed for Cosmo when Kate White left to write her best sellers full-time. I know, you need a score card for all this, but do try to keep up. Anne’s extraordinary rise to the top of the masthead is a master class on how to succeed in publishing by being very smart, working hard and staying grounded amid all the glitz and glamour (yes, to civilians and the uninitiated this is a glamorous business). The Harvard graduate came to New York in the mid-nineties and landed her first job in magazines working for David Lauren at Swing. An internship at The Paris Review turned into a gig as research assistant to George Plimpton when he was working on his book on Truman Capote. Anne got quite an education diving into boxes of fascinating transcripts, fact checking scores of Plimpton’s interviews and, occasionally ”chopping carrots” at his home and pitching in whenever needed. All in a day’s work.

Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

When the book was done, she went on to become senior editor, moved to Vanity Fair where she was editor of the magazine’s popular “Fanfare” section, and wound up editing the work of Leslie Bennetts, Buzz Bissinger and Dominick Dunne. Except for a brief sojourn to San Francisco, she spent a decade at the magazine where, she said, she “grew up” and was “inspired” by Vanity Fair’s great reporting and writing and learned that “maintaining quality” and upholding the highest journalistic standards (“There were armies of fact checkers and researchers!”) were critical to the vitality and relevance of a successful magazine.

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Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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Ed Rollins’ Wife on His Departure from Bachmann’s Campaign

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Put away those summer whites — but keep that rain gear handy!  Now that Labor Day is history, the town car set has returned from their summer sojourns and is gearing up for the power lunch season. The Wednesday crowd at Michael’s isn’t back to full tilt just yet, but there were enough suits and swells in the dining room to signal that play time is over.

I was joined today by PR maven extraordinaire Catherine Saxton who is gearing up for a very busy fall season. She’s juggling a number of exciting events including Eric Trump‘s charity golf tournament benefiting St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital coming up next week in Westchester (Amanda Seyfried and Brooklyn Decker are both schedule to attend) and a multi-day culinary competition kicking off September 22 and 23 in Times Square. For the latter, 72 Chinese chefs will battle it out to have their cuisine served at the “Emperor’s Banquet” on Sunday, September 25 at Pier 60.

After lunch, Catherine introduced me to Shari Rollins, wife of veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins who yesterday announced he was stepping down as Michele Bachmann‘s presidential campaign chief due to health reasons. When I asked Shari to weigh in on her 68-year-old husband’s headline-making decision, she told me: “Politics is tough — it’s a young man’s game. Ed is young in spirit, but not in body. Those 14-hour days were grueling. He’s a great husband and a great father, and I’m happy he’s taking care of himself. He’s doing great and thinks the world of Michelle.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Warner Music Group’s Lyor Cohen (Tory Burch‘s main squeeze), presiding over a table full of business types

2. Fashionista Mickey Ateyeh, sporting a glorious tan she got while on holiday in the south of France, with Meredith Finney

3. Steve Mosko

4. Wowowow’s Liz Smith (Loved the baby blue leather jacket!) and Joni Evans with, so we’re told, a Dr. Schindler.

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