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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Mayhew’

Outlander Author Diana Gabaldon on Writing Best Sellers and Playing Nice With Hollywood

LunchAtMichaelsJudging by the decibel level at Michael’s today the media mavens and swells had plenty to talk about between bites of their Korean tacos (delish!) and Cobb salads. There’s always a flurry of activity on the last Wednesday in July before most of the last remaining power lunchers depart for their much-needed vacations in August. You can only be fabulous (or pretend to be) for so long before you have to regroup and refuel.

For us, July isn’t going out with a whisper but rather with a bang as I had one of the most fascinating Michael’s lunches in eons with best-selling author Diana Gabaldon, whose wildly popular Outlander novels rocket right to the top spot on The New York Times best-seller list as soon as they’re published. She has sold a head-spinning 25 million books that have been translated into 24 languages. The mind reels. Her most recent, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (how’s that for a title?) came out in June, the same week Hillary Clinton‘s book did. I guess you know whose publisher had a better week. I was “the last stop” on Diana’s magical mystical media tour, which has included an SRO appearance at Comic-Con, a sell-out conversation at the 92nd Street Y and, just this morning, an appearance on CBS This Morning with the two lead actors of the new original series based on the books that premieres August 9 on Starz.

Diana Gabaldon and Diane Clehane.

Diana Gabaldon and Diane Clehane

It’s always a bit of a crapshoot sitting down with someone I’ve never met to make conversation over lunch with the expressed purpose of learning as much as I can about my companion in about an hour while fielding the numerous “newsflashes” that come courtesy of the diners around the room. I was grateful I got a good night’s sleep last night because simply put, Diana is a force of nature. I could barely keep up as she recounted the story of how she decided “to write a book just to learn what it took to do it; I did it for practice” and how her pragmatic approach to novel writing (which hasn’t changed much, by the way) has catapulted her to international stardom.

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The Media Mob Featuring Bob Barnett and Jack Kliger | Disney’s Fabulous New Foodie

Lunch At MichaelsIf you were to find the appropriate food metaphor for a Wednesdays at Michael’s I’d say it’s a tasty stew served hot with a number of surprise ingredients that can spice things up at a moment’s notice. That’s precisely what happened today when I was joined by passionate foodie and patron saint of farmers everywhere Tessa Edick, founder of FarmOn!, a 501 (c)3 organization, which she launched in 2011 and which was recently featured on Forbes.com. She describes FarmOn! as ”a social responsibility that supports the local food system and funds educational opportunities in agricultural for students pursuing farm-related careers.” In short, Tessa’s mission through FarmOn! is to get the world — or at least all of New York — starting with the Hudson Valley — to recognize the important role farmers (who she calls “starmers” — get it?). My pal, the tireless and terrific Judy Twersky brought us together along with Beyond PR Group’s partner Beth Feldman today and believe me, I learned more about where the food we eat comes from than I could ever hope to tell you in the time allotted to write this column. My head was spinning like never before by the time we said our goodbyes. Trust me, I’ll never buy a container of hard-boiled eggs while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike again.

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Dynamic Tessa is a one-woman empire who has an exciting new deal with Disney (more on that later), has a new book out in September (ditto) and is sure to be a name you’ll know, if you don’t already, very soon. Born and raised in upstate New York, Tessa told me she was born with a passion for food that was nurtured by her Italian-born mother (her great grandparents owned a dairy farm). Despite growing up in an economically depressed area, she and her siblings were “happy and healthy” due in large part, she says, to the way they ate food purchased from local farmers. But, she explained, as she grew older she wanted a life away from the country and went off in search of ”glamour and success” in the big city. At 27, she returned to her roots and started her own food company, Sauces n’ Love with her ex-husband (she sold the company to him in 2010). Just as Tessa was extolling the many virtues of buying from your local farmer (or, at the very least, knowing where the food you are eating comes from), proprietor Michael McCarty sauntered over to our table. When I introduced him to Tessa and told him about her mission on behalf of the farmers, he told us he was once a duck farmer way back when in 1976 when he had the first foie gras farm in the United States. Small world, no?

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Tom Brokaw and the Inside Track From New York’s Democratic National Committeeman

LunchAtMichaelsIt was business as usual at Michael’s today as the regulars (Jerry Inzerillo, William Lauder) packed the dining room before the summer vacation season kicks off next week. Plenty of heads swiveled in his direction as Tom Brokaw took his seat at Table Three, but mostly today’s crowd consisted of the usual suspects who were there to see and be seen between bites of their Cobb salads.

Today I was joined by two of my favorite regulars, marketing/PR man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and producer Joan Gelman for our semi-annual Michael’s lunch, where there’s always a lot of laughs and plenty of juicy dish on the menu. (Sorry, but most of the good stuff is OTR.) Today, the two passionate democrats who first met 15 years ago in East Hampton at the home of a mutual friend, wanted to talk politics and there was plenty of fodder for us to chew on. Robert was fresh off  last night’s appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and The Kelly File on Fox News where, he said, he engaged in a “fiery debate” with Peter Hegseth on Iraq. “He was fantastic!” enthused Joan. Robert’s take on the issue: “The Iraqi government doesn’t deserve a second chance.” And, he said, he’s clearly not alone in believing that. Despite the contentiousness of his conversation with Hegseth as Megan Kelly played referee, Robert said with every passing day, “the consensus that opposes going back into Iraq cuts across party lines.”

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

After the segment aired, Robert told me he discovered that polarizing and profane points of view are alive and well on Twitter. A relative newcomer to the social media site (“My account got a baptism by fire!”), he was floored by the venomous comments lobbed at him by some “followers.”  ”The kindest ones wanted to save my soul. There were people speculating on my sex life,” he said with a laugh. “I’m glad anyone is interested.” As for the haters, he still sounded a bit shocked, they were “so vulgar I couldn’t believe the language.”

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George Lucas and Joan Hamburg’s Next Act I David Zaslav at The Mirror Awards

LunchAtMichaelsOur weekly lunches at Michael’s always deliver plenty of star power and today was no exception. When I arrived a little before noon, I was followed in the door by none other than George Lucas, who, I’m told, happened to be walking by the restaurant yesterday with his new baby daughter and her nanny in tow when he inquired if there might be a way to “squeeze him in” today. I kid you not. He’s always seemed incredibly low key on his many visits to 55th and Fifth any time I’ve seen him here. Today, the multiple Academy Award winner showed up casually clad in his signature look: a sport short, jeans and sneakers and headed right for his table, forsaking the glad handing that is favored by his fellow West Coast brethren. Despite being the first one there, he was one of the last to leave, spending the entire time deep in conversation with an elegant white-haired lady we didn’t recognize. Talking about the joys of fatherhood, perhaps?

George Lucas with a friend at Michael's

George Lucas with a friend at Michael’s

The room filled up quickly with plenty of familiar faces, including social types and publishing big wigs (Kerry Kennedy, Jay FieldenJay McInerney, Jack Kliger) as well as a fair number of fashionable folks (Joe Zee, Tomas Maier, Fern Mallis). Unfortunately my date was under the weather, so after I made my rounds I hightailed it over to Cipriani 42nd Street, where there were plenty of Michael’s regulars on hand to salute Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, who was honored with the Fred Dressler Leadership Award at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University’s Mirror Awards. In attendance: Gayle King (mistress of ceremonies), Discovery ID’s Henry Scleiff and Tom Freston, who came back from a trip to Afghanistan so he could present the award to his longtime pal “The Zas.” Tom affectionately called David “a colorful cowboy” and reminisced of David’s earliest days in cable when he “kicked some ass!”

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Bob Barnett, Million Dollar Decorators and the Guys Behind Bradley Cooper’s Boxer-Briefs

LunchAtMichaelsWe, not of the town car set, braved the elements to get to Michael’s today and once we dried off, found plenty of the usual suspects at their perches doing the power lunch thing, despite the monsoon. In attendance: attorney-to-the-A-List Bob Barnett with Susan Zirinsky, Bravolebrities Kathryn Ireland and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, The Post’s Keith Kelly and a squadron of publicists ordering Dover sole and billing their media clients for time served.

I was joined today by Adam Dinkes and Yarden Gagnon of Tani USA, a “premium” brand of underwear and loungewear that originated in Asia under the name Tanitex. The luxe line is family-owned and was founded over an decade ago with 300 stores in China alone. Adam, the brand’s president and creative director Yarden are launching Tani USA for men in the states on Nordstrom.com in June. (The line is currently available on their website, taniusa.com) The body conscious briefs with “unprecedented stretch and recovery” are a favorite of Neil Patrick Harris, Daniel Craig and Bradley Cooper. (If you’d like to take a moment to ponder this, we’ll wait.)

Adam Dinkes, Diane Clehane and Yarden Gagnon

Adam Dinkes, Diane Clehane and Yarden Gagnon

Clearly not for the guy who buys his Fruit of the Looms at Target, a pair of Tani’s boxers start at $40 and loungewear can run up to $300. But why so pricey? Tani “meets the demands of the growing population of consumers who appreciate the very best in performance fabrics.” Obviously, if you want any item of your wardrobe to perform, it should be your underwear.

Lest you think these guys are newcomers to the business, let me enlighten you. Yarden’s CV includes over two decades at Calvin Klein, where he oversaw product and design for the the designer’s iconic underwear during the era that spawned the company’s much talked about advertising campaigns featuring Christy Turlington, Zoe Saldana, Eva Mendes, Hillary Swank, Djimon Hounsou and Jamie Dornan (whose ads must have factored into the producer’s decision to cast him as the lead in the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey).

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Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and the Skinny on Wacoal’s Sexy New Ad Campaign

LunchAtMichaelsAs Wednesdays at Michael’s go, it was a relatively quiet scene at 55th and Fifth today, but the joint was still jam packed with the usual suspects doing their power lunch thing. You know who they are by now, but your intrepid Lunch columnist is here to serve: Star Jones and Donny Deutsch represented the talking head contingent, while Jeff Greenfield and Jerry Della Femina held court at their usual table (6) with pals Dr. Gerald Imber and Michael Kramer (the boys have been meeting for their weekly lunches for decades!) There was also the requisite representation of PR mavens, including Hearst’s Deb Shriver, Susan Blond and Lisa Linden in attendance. Perhaps all the celebs were saving their strength for tonight’s offerings at The Tribeca Film Festival.

Susan Malinowski, Diane Clehane and Leslie Stevens

Susan Malinowski, Diane Clehane and Leslie Stevens

If you ask me, our table was having the most fun because I was joined by two of my favorite Gotham power gals Leslie Stevens and Susan Malinowski. We’ve known each other since preschool (not really, but you get the picture) and our paths have crossed in interesting ways throughout the years through various jobs and clients. Back in the day, Susan, now vice president of marketing at Wacoal America, was my boss at Danskin-Pennaco Hosiery. Leslie, who helms her own PR firm, LaForce + Stevens, with partner James LaForce, worked with us as a consultant. Today, Susan is shaking things up at Wacoal America and Leslie’s agency is handling spreading all the big news about what’s happening with the brand. Read more

Michael Strahan, Maria Shriver and Dishing With LuAnn de Lesseps

LunchAtMichaelsAnother Wednesday, another “Bravolebrity.” For the final leg of this month’s reality-show trifecta, I was joined today by LuAnn de Lesseps (the “Countess” to you), fresh off her trip to Chicago for an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show where she made over a few fashion-impaired civilians with oh-so-stylish looks from her new clothing line, the Countess Collection. (It will debut on Shop HQ, formerly known as Shop NBC, in May.) LuAnn is a regular contributor to Steve’s show, weighing in on all kinds of haute topics, from text etiquette while dating to how to dress like a million bucks without breaking the bank. When I lunched with her last summer, the conversation focused mainly on her role on Real Housewives of New York City and her fledgling music career. But these days the clever and stunning LuAnn, who clearly knows when to say when, has scaled back her presence on the Bravo screechfest (she’s now being billed as a “special guest star”) and is focusing primarily on “brand-building” her eponymous lifestyle brand, which, she says, is founded on the principle of “chic made easy.” After six seasons on Housewives and one of only two of the original New York City cast members left standing (tabloid favorite Ramona Singer is the other), LuAnn says, “I’m grateful for the platform the show has given me. I came into it with no preconceived notions. I didn’t watch reality television and I didn’t know what I was getting into. I signed on to do “Manhattan Moms” and thought it was going to be this nice little family-oriented show, but it turned into something else. I’m fearless and  have always had a real sense of adventure.” I’ll say.

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

LuAnn’s pre-Bravo life already read like something out of a Danielle Steel novel. The Connecticut native and nursing student who dabbled in the pageant circuit went to Europe to try her hand at modeling, but when that didn’t work out, a series of whirlwind events landed her a gig on Italian television even though she didn’t speak a word of the language. ”I was a big star — the Vanna White of Italy — paired with a man that was like their Bob Hope. Twelve million people a week were tuning in!” By the time she left three years later, she was fluent. Between bites of her crab cakes, she told me when she met her now ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, it was “magic.” As for her much-discussed title as a result of her marriage, LuAnn thinks it’s ridiculous that people assume it’s some trumped up affectation. “The de Lesseps have played a very important part in French history,” she explained, citing her husband’s descendant Ferdinand de Lesseps as the architect of the Suez Canal and the man who played a huge role in gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

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Carole Radziwill on Her New Book and Dueling With Bravo’s Delusional Diva

LunchAtMichaelsWhen I first made my date to have lunch with Carole Radziwill some time ago, I was looking forward to talking to her about her first novel, The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating (Henry Holt) as well as her astonishing best-selling memoir, What Remains, in which she chronicled the aftermath of her husband’s death in a deep, affecting and intricately personal way. It was fascinating to me to see that she had approached the earth-shattering event of losing her husband, Anthony Radziwill, from two diametrically different perspectives and chosen to write about young widowhood twice. While her memoir came first, published six years ago, Carole told me the novel was ten years in the making. “It started percolating around that time, but I wasn’t in that state of mind. The novel was written in a much more whimsical state of mind.” But she made headlines in the tabloids this morning for another reason — a fellow castmate of The Real Housewives of New York City, Aviva Drescher, wrongly accused her of hiring a ghostwriter for What Remains, detonating the requisite explosion (this one dubbed “Bookgate”) that fuels the Bravo squawkfest, which Andy Cohen clearly lives for.

Carole Radziwill and Diane Clehane

Carole Radziwill and Diane Clehane

Here’s a primer on “Bookgate.” If you’re not a regular viewer, try to follow along: When Carole joined the show last season, Aviva could not have been more fawning, going so far as to tell her that What Remains inspired her to look at her own life differently. Fast forward a few episodes and this season, Aviva and Carole have become full-fledged enemies (the women didn’t know each other before the show), mainly because Carole deals in what is actually going on, while Aviva seems to be hell-bent in doing whatever it takes to stay relevant on Housewives. In this case, Aviva first asked Carole to vet a ghostwriter she was going to use on her book (and now denies she even used one) and then somehow turned the whole thing around by telling the other women on the show that “word on the street” was that Carole used a ghostwriter for What Remains. Said Carole: “There’s always one housewife on every show that’s completely contrived and that’s her. Everything she does, she does for the show.” And then of the subsequent blow-up: “If I’ve helped Aviva sell books, I’m sure my thank you note is in the mail. This is supposed to be a reality show, so I’m interjecting some reality here. I’m honest about my life.” Got it?

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Laurie Dhue, Harold Ford and the Man Who Once Ruled Primetime

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re serving up a low-cal version of “Lunch” today because the catastrophic events in Harlem kept us from doing our scheduled interview at the appointed hour. Despite the transportation disruptions in and around the city, it was business as usual for the mavens, moguls and strivers who turned up at Michael’s for their weekly Wednesday confab. Keep calm and carry on indeed.

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Elizabeth Vargas, Harold Ford and the Latest on The Matrix Awards

Lunch At MichaelsI was joined today by Liz Kaplow, president and CEO of the eponymous marketing communications firm she started in 1991. Kaplow’s client list is full of industry leaders, including Target, Unilever, Timex, CVS and Laura Mercier. I’ve known Liz forever and seen her in this very dining room presiding over many a power lunch — the last time with Microsoft executives who were meeting with her to talk about the latest technological innovations from Skype, another client. We chatted briefly that day and realizing we’d never had a proper sit down, decided then and there to make a date. So here we are. In preparing for our lunch, I did a quick read through of Kaplow’s website and was blown away by the awards and accolades that Liz and her team have collected recently. The New York Observer ranked Kaplow No. 13 on their inaugural PR Power List last year. Kaplow’s “Branded Journalism” program with Skype was named one of the top global PR campaigns of 2013 by The Holmes Report (which also named Kaplow Consumer Agency of the Year in 2011). And to think all this started because, Liz told me, “I wanted to have more flexibility to be with my kids” when her two daughters were growing up.

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz opened her own agency in 1991 with the costume jewelry company Monet as her first client and quickly added to that list with forward-thinking strategic planning. By the mid-90s, Kaplow ventured into the technology sector with iVillage as a client. “We didn’t have the technical background, but we understood women and how to reach that consumer — we won the business while we were in the room doing the pitch.” Over the past two decades, Liz has become one of the most respected women in PR and is known for her approach in developing and executing marketing and public relations campaigns across all platforms that connect her clients’ brands with consumers through, as she likes to say, “the art of storytelling.” As she explained it: “Every brand has a different story to tell and today they want to tell it through all different platforms.” With that as a guiding principal, Kaplow has focused on integrating social media and emerging technologies with well-established media platforms to ensure clients’ get the maximum impact from their PR campaigns. “PR has to be much more holistic today,” she told me. “Traditional print media is still very, very important as a third party and ‘earned’ versus ‘paid’ media. Clients say the power of influence comes in very different ways. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client needs a customized approach.”

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