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Posts Tagged ‘Aly Racer’

Real Housewife Melissa Gorga Dishes on Her Sister-in-Law From Hell

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Slow moving holiday tourists and presidential motorcades be damned. Nothing could keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. With the place decked out in its holiday finery, the mood was like a swanky office party on steroids.  While the usual suspects and a cool visitor from California (producer/composer David Foster) huddled over their tables deep in conversation, there was a little lunch for 14 in the middle of the dining room. I snagged one of the guests, Melissa Gorga, my favorite ‘housewife’ on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, for a chat about the knock-down, drag-out cat fights on last month’s reunion show and to get the real story about her on- and off-camera relationship with her fellow cast mate and sister-in-law, the charming Teresa Guidice.

Melissa, who is an absolute knockout in person, told me that the RHONJ cast (minus Jacqueline Laurita) shot the reunion special the day after wrapping the yet-to-be-aired Season 4, and the women were all seething about battles and betrayals the viewers haven’t even seen. “We had just had a huge blow up the night before, and that was what was on everyone’s mind. It was so hard not to say anything. That’s why Jacqueline wasn’t there,” Melissa tells me. “It was very confusing for us, and we were constantly trying not to say things about things that hadn’t aired yet. Bravo is so sorry they shot them back to back. I don’t think they are ever going to do that again.” Teresa “tried to set me up” and is back to her old tricks, Melissa told me, without giving anything away. After all the kissing and making up seen at the end of last season, Melissa’s husband Joe Gorga is “disgusted” with his table tipping sibling once again. Big surprise.

Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid
Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid

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Roger Ailes, Barry Diller & The Squawk Box Super Heroes

1003_mockup.gifHail! Hail! The Wednesday gang is all here. The lunch scene at Michael’s was firing on all cylinders today as moguls (Barry Diller! Roger Ailes!), high-profile editors (David Zinczenko, Cindi Leive) and a heaping helping of talking heads (Kathie Lee Gifford, Ashleigh Banfield, Joe Kernen, Larry Kudlow and Andrew Ross Sorkin) made for a tasty media stew. There was actually gridlock in the dining room as the famous and fabulous stood in the aisles to intercept friends (and possible future employers?) on their way to their tables.

The biggest crowd was circling around Table One where Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Gerry Byrne (who is on parent company Penske Media Corp’s board) were hosting their monthly lunch where they bring together an interesting mix of folk to “cross-pollinate” says Bonnie, who leads the group as they chew over the latest trends in media (particularly in the digital space) and weigh in on how it affects their respective businesses. Gerry was the lone man among a table full of opinionated, highly successful women who weighed in on everything from reality stars — we learned Ashleigh Banfield is more than a little obsessed with the Kardashian sisters — to intellectual property. Designer Heather Thomson told the group that she spent $2.5 million in a lawsuit against lingerie giant Maidenform when she charged them with copying her patented three-panel tank top. She was awarded $6.57 million as settlement. Her takeaway: “Innovation needs to be protected.”

Leading the cheer for all that is digital, Bonnie said, “I’m so happy I crossed over from print” and is hooked by the immediacy of it all. “As a magazine editor, I felt like I was having a one-way conversation so much of the time,” she said of her stints as editor- in-chief at Glamour, Us Weekly and Cosmo. “At Hollywoodlife.com, we are intensely focused on our relationships with women with a need to know about the things they are about right now.”  Bonnie says the site is now getting 4.7 million monthly uniques who come to get their fix on everything concerning Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Justin Bieber and the Kardashian sisters.

Michael's restaurant NYC
The gang at Table One

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All in the Family with Joe Kernen & A Dark Shadows Star is Reborn

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It was a bustling scene at Michael’s today as the power lunch crowd  crammed in some last minute networking before their late summer vacations. In the mix: talking heads (Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin), hot shot editors (David Zinczenko, Joanna Coles), and beauty gurus (Estee Lauder’s John Demsey and Thia Breen at separate tables).

I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott who I met years ago while working on a piece for TV Guide about the ongoing appeal of the ’60s Gothic soap, Dark Shadows. Long before Twilight, Kathryn starred as the doomed lady love of vampire Barnabas Collins. Like its eternal leading man, Dark Shadows just won’t die. Tim Burton, one of the show’s most fervent fans, is currently shooting a big screen version starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas and scheduled for a May 2012 release. Kathryn just returned from London where she shot a cameo role for the film. I was dying to get her take on how Johnny is sinking his fangs into the role, but Kathryn demurred, “I’ve been sworn to secrecy!”

We had plenty to talk about anyway. Kathryn’s  latest novel, Dark Passages (Pomegranate Press) is a love letter to Dark Shadows and is already getting rave reviews. Set in the swinging ’60s, it tells the tale of an actress moonlighting as a Playboy bunny who just happens to be vampire and is determined to make it in New York City without her supernatural powers. While working on the cult hit Dark Passages, she meets her nemesis, a 300-year-old witch. ”Anyone who, as a kid, ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows will love it,” Kathryn told me. (We’re starting it tonight.) On the 17th of this month, she’ll be at Barnes & Noble at 86th and Lexington signing copies. Then, on August 19 through the 21, she’ll join several of the original cast members at the annual Dark Shadows festival at the Brooklyn Marriott.

Kathryn is one author who has always taken that old chestnut ‘write what you know’ to heart.  Having worked as a Playboy bunny herself in the ’60s, she interviewed over 250 former bunnies, including Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry, for her 1999 release The Bunny Years. The book was recently acquired by Imagine Television for potential use in upcoming episodes of The Playboy Club premiering this fall on NBC. With renewed interest in the subject, Simon & Schuster is releasing an updated edition next month with a new forward written by none other than Hugh Hefner.

While Kathryn is over the moon about The Bunny Years getting a new lease on life, she is livid with one former bunny who worked with her back in the day. None other than Gloria Steinem was part of a class of seven women who trained at The Playboy Club at the same time — but Gloria’s stint was a ruse so she could write a scathing expose on the women and the club. While she didn’t identify any of the women by name, she used stories they’d shared thinking they were talking to a friend. “What kind of feminism is it when you put down the women you work with?” asked Kathryn. “All of us were just as ambitious. She knew I was a scholarship student trying to build a career in acting.” What burns Kathryn the most is that Gloria is still bad mouthing the bunnies. “I’m in warrior mode,” she told me, “because this 46 year-old rant is tiresome.” Ms. Steinem, I think you’ve met your match.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne, a Penske board member, presiding over their monthly lunch. On the guest list:  Activate’s co-founder and managing director, Michael J. WolfKatherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment; Ritu Trivedi of Mindshare Interactive; Tribeca Enterprise”s Jon Patricof; Estee Lauder group president John Demsey; WWD‘s AmyWicks; J. Walter Thompson CEO Bob Jeffrey; and Penske Media president Aly Racer; and the company’s head of strategy and operations, Will Lee.

2. Marie Claire’s publisher Nancy Cardone and editor Joanna Coles (Loved that Alexander McQueen dress!) with Estee Lauder’s Thia Breen.

3. Discovery ID’s head honcho Henry Schleiff. Henry tells me last night’s premiere of Big Law starring former boxer Eric Esch who returns to his hometown of Jasper, Alabama as ‘Deputy Butterbean’ to exact some big justice was “a knockout.”

4. CNBC’s Squawk Box host Joe Kernen with  his lovely wife and adorable daughter, Blake (co-author of Your Teacher Said What? with her dad). The family stopped in for a quick bite before catching today’s matinee performance of Wicked.

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Matt Lauer, Harold Ford Jr. & Neil Sedaka

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If the scene at Michael’s today is any indication, summer vacations are so 2010. The place was full of magazine honchos (the cafeteria at Hearst must have been empty), media mavens (Does Jason Binn ever sleep?) and bold face names who were all working the room like nobody’s business. I knew this group meant business when the chatter rose to such a decibel-splitting level that I could barely hear what my lunch dates were saying. So forget about playing hooky this week because the weather is so good, get to work on making that next big deal happen!

When I arrived a little before noon today I got a chance to catch up with Harold Ford Jr. I asked the former congressman, now MSNBC analyst, what he thought of the contentious negotiations between President Obama and the Republicans on raising the debt ceiling. Will the two sides reach an agreement before the August deadline? “They’ll strike an 11th hour deal,” Harold told me. “They have to.” Harold thinks the president is “acting responsibly” while the freshman Republicans are “playing with fire.” His solution: “If I were advising the president, I’d say get out on a ten-city tour and talk to people and explain (in his plan) there would be no new taxes until the end of 2012.” When it comes to raising taxes, Harold espouses raising the tax threshold for individuals and households. Eat your peas, indeed.

I was joined today by Redbook’s editor-in-chief Jill Herzig and Hearst PR director Alexandra Carlin and we had a lively conversation that ranged from raising kids to keeping up (literally) with the Kardashians. Jill just celebrated her first anniversary at Redbook in May and has made some savvy tweaks to Hearst’s magazine for smart, style-conscious women who juggle work and family. The biggest change? A shift in tone from “commiserating to celebrating” life in all its glorious, modern day chaos. “We love it when we hear about that from our cover celebrities. Brooke Burke was very honest about it recently. She said balance doesn’t exist. It’s just life.” In the new August issue, Jada Pinkett Smith gives some very frank — and emotional — answers about raising a family of budding superstars, her “excruciating” choices and how she wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wouldn’t want to go home to Will Smith?

Speaking of celebs, Jill gave me the rundown on which cover gals have scored on the newsstand this year. The big winners were the multiple covers featuring reality/competition show queens Bethenny Frankel, Allison Sweeney and Padma Lakshmi, and the issue featuring country star Miranda Lambert right before she married Blake Shelton. The top seller? The May issue which featured the women of the Kardashian clan clad all in white. Jill tells me ‘momager’ Kris earned her complete respect by rounding up her daughters and arriving early for a 6 am call to the set. “They were incredibly professional and all genuinely seemed to enjoy each other. They were just lovely.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Niche Media’s Jason Binn (Loved the seersucker suit!) presiding over a table of young bucks.

2. Producer Francine LeFrak and some well-heeled pals.

3. Cosmo‘s publisher Donna Lagani and Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller. A little birdie told me that Bonnie and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne moved their monthly ‘Influencer’ luncheon from Tuesday to Wednesday this month because Jay Penske, whose company Mail.com Media owns Hollywoodlife.com, was in town and didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. Just in case you were wondering who joined the terrific trio here’s the list: social swan and Vanity Fair scribe Amy Fine Collins , designer Stacey Bendet, Ogilvy Entertainment president Doug Scott, Maybelline’s Deborah Marquardt, ION Media Networks’ CEO Brandon Burgess, Razorfish VP of media Julie Weitzner, Charlie Corwin, founder of Original Media,  publicist Matt Hiltzik and Aly Racer, president on PMC.

4. Producer Freddie Gershorn.

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Rick Fox, Arianna Huffington and a Real Housewife of New York City

1003_mockup.gif— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today with movers and shakers jammed into every corner. I was so glad I got there early and was able to chat with Rick Fox and his girlfriend Eliza Dushku (who we loved on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when they arrived at the stroke of noon. Having watched the former LA Laker morph into a serious ballroom dancer during his stint on Dancing With the Stars, I just had to ask him if he’d kept up with his smooth moves. “No I haven’t,” he told me with a laugh. “I guess I need to call [professional partner Cheryl Burke] if I ever need to do that again.”

Rick said he was in town for Internet Week to promote Off Season, a podcast production he is working on with Michael Eisner as producer. “It’s great and that’s where the future seems to be. I’m having a lot of fun with it.” As for Eliza, who is truly stunning in person, she’s in town to film an episode of  White Collar. When asked if she is playing a good girl or femme fatale on the USA Network series, she demurred. “A little of both, I think.” With that, the dazzling couple sailed off to take their place at their table in the center of the room.

I was lunching today with Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of thirdage.com, the longest-running site devoted to female baby boomers. Ever since Web entrepreneur Josh Speyer bought the site in 2010 and brought Myrna, who was once the guiding force of Ladies Home Journal and More, on board, over two million visitors have been flocking to the site for everything from boomer celebrity news to the latest health breakthroughs. While magazines seem to shun the 50-plus crowd, which Myrna thinks is a “big mistake,” thirdage is welcoming ‘women of a certain age’ who have have real buying power and who want talk  — and talk — about what matters to them online. “I think it’s wonderful to give such a powerful group the voice they deserve,” says Myrna. “Thirdage is for the woman who wasn’t born yesterday and wants to make the most of today.”

Here’s the rundown on todays’ crowd:

1.  Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com‘s Bonnie Fuller, presiding over their second monthly “Influencers” lunch. The table was so jam packed that we could barely make out all the attendees, but we were able to spot Cosmo editrix Kate White; Neil Vogel, co-founder of the Webby Awards; Cablevision’s Tad Smith; Real Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps (that’s Countess de Lesseps to you!); Veronika Ward of MediaCom Interaction; Estee Lauder’s Marisa Thalberg; MMC’s chief revenue officer Aly Racer; and WNBC-TV’s Jane Hanson.

2. Michael Holtzman

3. Alan Grubman and NBC’s Richard Engel

4. Michael Fuchs and producer Jean Doumanian

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