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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Mayhew’

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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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.”

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Naomi Campbell and Her Supermodel Castmates Dish About Their New ‘Face’

We were more than a little disappointed to learn that we missed Dan Stevens aka Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey when he lunched with producer Paula Wagner at Table One on Monday. (Doesn’t he know Wednesday is the day for lunch at Michael’s?) Luckily, today’s oh-so-fabulous lunch with the cast of Oxygen’s new ’supermodel competition’ series, The Face, more than made up for it. While in town to promote the new series, which premieres Tuesday, February 12 at 9 pm on Oxygen, supermodels Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Coco Rocha and renowned photographer Nigel Barker decided to make ‘Lunch’ their sole joint appearance on their whirlwind media tour.

I couldn’t imagine what yet another reality competition series about fashion could bring to the party, but when I watched the screener of the premiere episode in anticipation for our lunch I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from its stellar production values, The Face has some serious fashion cred thanks to executive producer and supermodel coach Naomi Campbell’s considerable star power (along with fellow coaches Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha) and unrivaled sense of what works. As host, Nigel Barker is a commanding yet reassuring presence. Everything on the show has an authenticity that real fashionistas will appreciate, while giving ‘civilians’ a true glimpse into what it really takes to make it in modeling. The most refreshing twist the series offers is in its approach to working with the 12 hopefuls vying to be the new face of ULTA Beauty. The contestants also get some major opportunities in the course of the show, including photo shoots with the legendary Patrick Demarchelier and challenges with W magazine. Celebrities Wendy Williams and Amare Stoudemire make appearances as guest judges.

Coco Rocha and Diane Clehane

The three supermodels act as mentors to their respective teams and took their roles very seriously. Even though the show wrapped months ago, Naomi, Karolina and Coco forged such strong bonds with their ‘girls’ that all of them remain in touch with the wannabe models, offering career advice whenever the need should arise. “I really worry about my girls,” Naomi told me. “It’s funny, when I’m working in New York or Paris, I always feel like I’m going to miss everyone when the week is over, but after a few days you get on with it. When we finished shooting the show, I felt a little sad. I still talk to my girls and I’m texting them all the time. I really grew quite fond of them.”

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Power Lunching with Eliot Spitzer, Star Jones and Joanna Coles

1003_mockup.gifIt’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steven Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch.

I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” he told me. “I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.” Pausing for a moment he added, “Somebody needs to buy the network.” And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system.  Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. “I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Best-selling author Linda Fairstein, hosting her annual holiday lunch for her former colleagues from her days as head of the city’s sex crimes unit. “I love doing this for these women who are all tops in their field. We’ve been having this lunch every year for over a decade, and for one afternoon they are treated like queens of the world,” Linda told me as she placed artfully decorated gift bags at each place setting embellished with the words ‘Boss Lady.’ The incredible women who were taking a break from their usual daily grind of solving and prosecuting the city’s most heinous crimes: New York Supreme Court Judge Ann Donnelly, Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, trial division chief; Audrey Moore, chief the Special Victims’ Unit; cold case division head Melissa Mourges, who just this week got a conviction on the ‘Dating Game’ murder; Kerry O’Connell, chief of the trial bureau; and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit. Ladies, I salute you.

2.  Peter Brown

3. ’Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko (Happy Belated Birthday!)

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

The holiday scene at Michael's

The holiday scene at Michael’s

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The ‘Cosmo 100′ Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Seinfeld; The Wednesday Crowd with Star Jones and Doris Kearns Goodwin

1003_mockup.gifAs you probably know by now, only the most extreme circumstances could keep the faithful from their usual lunch at Michael’s. Since Mother Nature proved to be too formidable a force for us on not one, but two back-to-back Wednesdays, we were only too happy to pull double duty this week.

On Monday, I attended the estrogen-fueled lunch for “The Cosmo 100,” a gals-only power lunch hosted by Joanna Coles who, having been named EIC of Cosmopolitan mere weeks ago, put together a guest list to end all guest lists for her first event. When I arrived  a few minutes before noon, the paparazzi was lined up to capture the arrival of Sarah Jessica ParkerDiane von Furstenberg, Ali Wentworth, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jessica Seinfeld, who seemed to be channeling MC Hammer in some curious gold lame harem pants. Also in attendance: ABC News’ Deborah Roberts, model Carol Alt, bestselling author Jane Green and more A-list Gotham gals than I’ve seen in one place in ages. Hearst’s amazing PR team headed by Deb Shriver, Alexandra Carlin and Holly Whidden deserve some major kudos. I was seated at a fabulous table with Cathie Black, modeling icon Pat Cleveland and Barbara Taylor Bradford, who told me her 29th book will be published early next year. The mind reels.

When the A-list crowd made their way to the Garden Room, Joanna (who was rocking some gorgeous leather pants) greeted everyone with her trademark cheeky humor, telling us she’d prepared ‘binders of men’ as research for her new gig and then quoting Margaret Thatcher with the wise words, ‘Cocks crow but it’s hens that lay the eggs.’ She also advised us “never to underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes.” So true. But Joanna wanted to do more than celebrate fun, fearless females at her kick-off lunch; she surprised everyone by introducing some truly formidable women who’d broken through the glass ceiling during this election cycle. New Hampshire’s first female governor Maggie Hassan talked of having her daughter run her winning campaign, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to congress explained how she won her race in Hawaii by proving wrong the naysayers who told her “it wasn’t her time,” and Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to congress from New York, spoke of the need for women to be mentors to other women. It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Today, I was joined by another trailblazer Marcy Syms, who you must know from those commercials for the legendary off-price retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer”).  It was Marcy’s father, the late Sy Syms who founded the business in 1958 as the first national retailer to sell off-price men’s clothing. At first, it was Sy who gave voice to the slogan in 1974, but he wisely asked Marcy to take his place in 1978 thus tapping into an emerging public consciousness about working women. The rest, as they say, is history.  ”I still remember wearing those bow blouses and those short haircuts!” said Marcy.

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Donald Trump, Star Jones, Wendy Williams, Plus Dish on the New Dark Shadows Movie

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Who knew there was a pre-Easter rush? Michael’s dining room was jam packed today with moguls (Donald Trump!), fashion mavens (Rachel Roy, Fern Mallis) and talking heads (Star Jones, Wendy Williams and Joe Kernen) before the town car set jets off to Florida and other more exotic ports of call for the holiday. We arrived early so as not to miss a minute of the mixing and mingling of the power lunch scene and were glad we did. Trump made quite an entrance with his bodyguard in tow. The last time we spotted anyone with protection stationed inside the restaurant was when Elton John met with some bigwigs at Table One several years back. Life can be so complicated when you have money.

I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott, who starred in one of my favorite television shows of all time, Dark Shadows. If you grew up in the 60′s, then you — or someone you knew – probably ran home after school in time to catch the iconic gothic soap opera which aired on WABC at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Kathryn played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres who was the ill-fated lady love of Barnabas Collins, one of television’s most famous vampires memorably depicted by Jonathan Frid. She also starred opposite Jonathan in the hit MGM film House of Dark Shadows (soon to be re-released on DVD and BlueRay).

Well, everything old is new again and next month Tim Burton‘s big screen homage to the show, Dark Shadows, starring super fan Johnny Depp hits theaters May 11. Kathryn, Jonathan as well as her former castmates Lara Parker (the original Angelique) and David Selby (Quentin Collins) have cameos in the film. “Lara and I plan to walk the red carpet together at the Los Angeles premiere wearing age-appropriate gowns and have a glass of champagne. This is really something to celebrate,” said Kathryn who has high hopes for the film. “It has all the elements the show had (fantasy, horror, romance and comedy), but it’s their playground with their own spin on things.”

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane
Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane

The timing of the film couldn’t be better for Kathryn’s new book, Dark Shadows Return to Collinwood which has just come out to rave reviews. Designed by Cheryl Carrington, the book contains hundreds of rare photos from the show, as well as stunning images from the new film.

Kathryn told me she is “so grateful to Warner Brothers and to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp” for their “huge trust in me.”  The movie studio released the images from the film to her before they’d finished their own trailer or movie poster and did not ask for approval over their usage. The photos of Depp in full Barnabas regalia standing alongside the original cast members is really something to see, and Kathryn’s behind the scenes account of the experience of being in Burton’s film make the book a must-have for fans both old and new.

Over 200 fans turned out last night at Barnes & Noble on 86th Street to meet Kathryn, get their books signed, and talk about the show and the upcoming film.  They also got a surprise gift of posters from the new movie provided by Warner Brothers. “It was wonderful because it was a real mix of people,” she told me. “There were young fans who were excited to learn more about the show, and there were some of the longtime fans who were children when they stood outside the stage door of the show here in New York in the 60s. The legacy of Dark Shadows lives on!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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George Lucas, Jon Meacham and the Usual Suspects

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The media movers and shakers are starting to trickle back into the dining room at Michael’s for another year of power lunches, but the place isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders quite yet. Maybe it’s because the Golden Globes are this weekend (we are so rooting for Downton Abbey to sweep!), but the famous faces and TV titans we’ve become used to seeing were largely absent this week. Luckily, a sighting of Oscar winner and master of the Hollywood universe, George Lucas, more than made up for the dearth of divas. Practically every head in the dining room swiveled in that general direction when he walked to Table One. The force was definitely with him.

I was joined today by Tom Yellin, co-founder and executive producer of The Documentary Group, and Lisa Kovitz, executive vice president and media strategist for consumer marketing at Edelman. Tom, who previously worked at ABC News with Peter Jennings and still consults for the network, has produced a fascinating four-part documentary series, America in Primetime, which aired on PBS late last year and is just out on DVD.

Diane Clehane, Tom Yellin and Lisa Kovitz
Diane Clehane, Tom Yellin and Lisa Kovitz

Each one-hour episode, explained Tom, focused on one character archetype that has remained a prime time staple throughout the decades and has evolved over time. They are ‘The Independent Woman,’ ‘The Man of the House,’ ‘The Misfit’ and ‘The Crusader.’ The idea first came to Tom after he and Jennings had finished the much lauded The Century for ABC, and he became intrigued by the idea of “telling the story of television: the creative process from the perspective of the people who make it.” Tom soon discovered that the problems that arose from trying to produce such a series for ABC and getting the necessary clips from the other networks proved insurmountable.

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Al Roker, Barbara Bush and Peggy Siegal Fetes Elizabeth Olsen

1003_mockup.gifWe were disappointed to hear that we’d missed seeing Wendy Williams who’d come by on Monday for lunch with her parents. A little birdie told me that the talk show diva issued this rallying cry to mom and dad before departing to face the lone paparazzo waiting outside: “Get ready! Here we go! Here we go!”  Today the few shooters milling around outside had a little more to work with since starlet of the moment, Elizabeth Olsen, was being feted in the Garden Room. Meanwhile, the main event in the dining room featured its usual mix of moguls (Barry Diller, Ron Perelman),  talking heads (Al Roker) and high-profile editors (Jon Meacham). Just business as usual for Wednesday at Michael’s.

I was joined today by Good Housekeeping editor-in-chief Rosemary Ellis, the magazine’s new money columnist Carmen Wong Ulrich and Hearst’s executive director of public relations, Alexandra Carlin. With 24 million (yes, you read that right) readers, this is not your mother’s Good Housekeeping. With Ellis at the helm, GH is a must read for the multi-tasking, multifaceted woman (Is there any other kind?) and filled with smart, savvy content that covers everything from food and fashion to family and finances.  And, while many books have retooled their marketing message for a niche reader, Good Housekeeping is a media behemoth with some really impressive reach. “We’re not age specific. We have kazillions of 28-year-old readers and kazillions of 34-year-old readers,” says Ellis. “More than the magazines that target them.”  Rosemary, whose editor letters are often inspired by her own family life and her adorable daughter, Lucy (“I figure I have a few more years before she says no more”) says Good Housekeeping offers “one stop shopping  — Who has time to read seven different magazines?”

We all agreed that the one topic on every woman’s mind these days is money. It makes sense, says Rosemary, because 80 percent of all  spending decisions are made by the woman of the house. So, Rosemary tapped Carmen to dispense her unique brand of uncommon financial common sense culled from years of experience deciphering today’s often confusing and confounding financial landscape. “I live for this,” says Carmen, who first became interested in money through her father. “I’ve been watching stocks since I was eight.”

Carmen Wong Ulrich, Diane Clehane and Rosemary Ellis
Carmen Wong Ulrich, yours truly and Rosemary Ellis

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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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