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Posts Tagged ‘Amy Fine Collins’

Deborah Norville, Miss USA and the Man Behind Those Spitzer Ads

1003_mockup.gifAlthough the ghastly heat of last week that made Manhattan feel more like Calcutta is finally just a memory, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the wall-to-wall coverage on ‘Baby Cambridge’ (who finally has a name — Welcome George Alexander Louis!) to come to lunch at Michael’s today. But once we made our way to 55th and Fifth, it was back to business as usual. The Wednesday lunch crowd has been firing on all cylinders all summer long, and today was no exception.

Aside from the usual suspects (Matt Blank, David Zinczenko) there was, of course, plenty of good people watching to keep us occupied, including the random celebrity sighting  (a very tall Miss USA) and an A-list couple who practically glowed with happiness (Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner). Perhaps that’s because their impeccably well-mannered teenage son, Kyle Wellner, who was dining with them, rose and extended his hand with a “nice to meet you” every time a well-wisher came by. Impressive.

I was joined today by Lisa Linden, longtime public relations adviser to Eliot Spitzer, and Jimmy Siegel of Siegel Strategies. Jimmy is the creative force behind Spitzer’s campaign ads that begun popping up last week online and are now airing on cable and broadcast television in New York City. Jimmy spoke with me exclusively to give me the story behind the new campaign ads that have generated plenty of commentary by politicos everywhere. The self-described “political junkie” first met Spitzer, then running for governor, at a fundraising dinner in late 2005. “I wanted to get into politics, and I was a long time admirer of Eliot when he was the state’s attorney general. I thought he did an amazing job,” Jimmy told me. “At the end of the night, I hung around and, fortified by my third glass of Cabernet, I approached him and said, ‘I want to help get you elected.’” Spitzer gave him then-deputy campaign manager’s Miriam Hess‘ card (who, incidentally, now works with Jimmy) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Diane Clehane and Jimmy Siegel

Jimmy spent over 20 years at BBDO, rising from junior copywriter to vice chairman where he was responsible for some of the most memorable ads ever for Visa, Pepsi and Charles Schwab, and had just formed his own company when he met Spitzer. The campaigns he later created for Spitzer’s gubernatorial run were characterized by The New York Times as “emotionally stirring” and “fresh and effective” by The New York Daily News. This time around, while the objective — getting Spitzer elected — may be the same, the game and the stakes have changed considerably. Read more

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Katie Couric, Star Jones & the Fashion Week Flock

1003_mockup.gifThe media A-list has decided that winter is over (did it ever start?) and came out of hibernation in a major way at Michael’s today. Every square inch of the dining room was occupied by boldface names of every description from social swans (Amy Fine Collins) to talking heads (Star Jones, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jeff Greenfield).  The joint was really jumping by the time Katie Couric arrived for a late lunch and stopped by our table to say hello. Since it’s Fashion Week, we just had to ask her about the killer shoes she was rocking. “I got them at the Manolo Blahnik sample sale,” she told me. “They had way too many shoes in size 6 1/2!” From the ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ department: We couldn’t help but notice that Katie, who was sporting a glowing tan and an LBD accessorized with just the right amount of gold bling, looks better than ever. What’s your secret?

I was joined today by a fascinating trio of women. Psychic medium Char Margolis, her literary agent Corinda Carfora (who just happens to sing backup for Bruce Springsteen – I’m not kidding) and my good friend, psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, who is the go-to therapist for the Today show and jewelry designer behind Gems en Vogue II, available on shopnbc.com. We got together to celebrate the publication of Char’s new book, Love Karma: Use Your Intuition to Find, Create, and Nurture Love in Your Life (Sterling Ethos). Char’s been busy taping segments on the book for The Doctors, Dr. Phil, Extra and Dr. Oz (whose segment will air during sweeps this month). She’s filming a segment for Dr. Steve tonight and then she’s off to more appearances in Amsterdam, where she had her own prime time television show for a decade, before going to South Africa for book signings and a speaking tour. (She’s also squeezing in a safari in her spare time). Char, who famously told Kelly Ripa she was pregnant during an appearance on Live with Reigs & Kelly, tells me that the most rewarding aspect of  her work is “connecting people with their loved ones in the spirit world” through private readings and small group sessions.  Not surprisingly, she said the hardest thing is working with someone who has lost a child.

Corinda Carfora, Char Margolis, Diane Clehane and Dr. Robi Ludwig
L to R: Corinda Carfora, Char Margolis, Diane Clehane and Dr. Robi Ludwig

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Ringing in the Holidays With Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones & Donny Deutsch

1003_mockup.gifThe holiday revelry was in high gear today at Michael’s. Those miracle workers at reception — the amazing Loreal Sherman and Joana Andrade were working overtime to keep the high maintenance crowd happy. (Trust me, doing the seating chart here is an art form!) A little lunch for 13 hosted by Michael McCarty’s wife Kim McCarty was keeping things hopping at table one while a heaping helping of talking heads (Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones, Donny Deutsch), socialites (Becca Thrash, Muffy Potter Aston) and media mavens (Cindi Leive) were toasting the season with plenty of wine and good cheer. Don’t you just love those one percenters?

Diane Clehane & Joan Gelman

I was lunching today with producer Joan Gelman who I met in this very dining room when I first began doing the column. Joan and I have had plenty of great conversations over the years about television (Joan’s amazing resume includes producing stints at CBS and ABC in news and as David Letterman’s producer who remains “a god” to her — “He’s so talented” ) and politics. These days Joan is busier than ever working on a television show she’s got in development in Canada. (The details are top secret at the moment) Shuttling back and forth between here and there is nothing new for her since she produced the hit Triple Sensation there a while back.  Joan is also a passionate Democrat who cares deeply about the issues consuming the country right now — especially the financial inequities that have ignited protests around the country. “We have to do more to even things out,” she told me. Just this morning Joan attended a gathering where U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren spoke. “She is such an amazing woman,” marvels Joan. “She’s smart, she cares and she wants to restore the spirit of the country.” Joan told me Ms. Warren’s message was a “positive” one and that she believes fervently in healing “the great divide” that has consumed the country and seeped into national politics. We both agreed that she’s facing a tough battle against incumbent Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown because female candidates are held to a different standard than their male counterparts. “She’s a brave woman.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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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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Sinbad & Family Dish on Their New Reality Show

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It would have been hard to beat the head-spinning scene that I witnessed at Michael’s last Wednesday, but this week came close. A camera crew from WNBC-TV’s LX-TV was on hand filming a segment on celebrity lunch spots as the masters of the universe (Barry Diller) and socialites (Melania Trump, swathed in mink) strolled in and air-kissed their way to their tables. When Amy Rosenblum, the show’s producer, heard I was having lunch with comedy icon Sinbad and his family to talk about their new reality show for WE tv, her ears perked up. “Perfect!” she said. “We’ll come over and borrow him for our segment. ”

Having never met the comedian, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that 10 minutes after the family arrived (right on time!) fresh off their morning at SiriusXM, it felt as if I’d known them all forever. They’re the anti-Osbournes! Named one of the Top 100 Stand-up Comedians of All Time by Comedy Central and a sitcom (A Different World, The Sinbad Show) vet, Sinbad told me the new show, Sinbad: It’s Just Family (premiering April 12 at 10 pm on WE tv) is a marked departure of the bumper crop of dysfunctional family fright fests that populate the reality TV landscape.

“These producers want meltdowns and dramas, but most of the dramas wouldn’t happen if people weren’t shooting their show. Most reality shows have an agenda and you have to understand that. I got about 80 percent of what I wanted. I was the voice of reason. We picked and chose what we wanted to shoot.” Any scenes in the master bedroom were off-limits, he said. “That’s just not respectful.” Instead, the show focuses on his version of family life — his re-marriage to his ex-wife Meredith Adkins and his relationship with his two “grids” (semi-grown kids) Paige and Royce. When he’s not on the road doing stand-up, he’s home keeping things together — his way. “The show is not about some comedian looking for a comeback because I never went away!” he quipped.

I had to ask him what he thought of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice since he appeared on season three of the show. “Donald Trump likes fights. He likes drama,” he told me. “That’s why Meat Loaf and Gary Busey are still around. That’s what people want to watch.” As for his take on his former cast mates: “Brett Michaels was a baby and Sharon Osbourne has the filthiest mouth of any woman I’ve ever met. She faked being sick just so she could miss being project manager for the first three weeks.” He also has choice words for Ozzy Osbourne. “That show they did made him look like a fool. Do you really want people to remember you like that? These people are stars and they don’t really think about how they want to be perceived.”

For their show, Sinbad and the family ”focused on the positive” and shot weeks of 12-14 hour days for six episodes, which was quite an adjustment. “It’s the most time we’ve spent together since the kids were babies,” says Meredith. “We were miked all the time and had to remind ourselves that they were recording everything.”

Royce is a college student studying audio sound engineering, and Paige is an R&B artist (Meredith is her manager) who co-wrote all the songs on her new album, Imperfect Me. Both had to be convinced to do the show at first, but wound up enjoying the experience. Proud Papa says of their TV debut: “He surprised me and she turned out to be quite the daredevil.”  In one episode, Paige convinced the family to try out a trapeze park, and the producers were only too happy to get it all for the show. “That’s what was so great about the show.  If we wanted to do something and the producers thought it was a great idea, they made it happen,” says Paige. “The flip side was we were having family barbecues, and there was someone standing on the driveway handing out releases for our friends to sign. That was a little strange but we got used to it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Sinbad, his wife Meredith Adkins, daughter Paige, son Royce and yours truly.

2. Project Playlist CEO John Sykes and Brian Bedol

3. Melania Trump and designer Rachel Roy. I was nearly blinded when I happened to look over at The Donald’s better half  and spotted the sparkler on her ring finger. And, yes, she is even more gorgeous in person.

4. Barry Diller

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Lunch: Harold Ford, Jr., Ken Starr, and a Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There was definitely something in the air (besides all that pesky pollen) at Michael’s today. The dining room was so jam packed with every conceivable type of boldfaced name I could barely keep track of all the wheeling and dealing that was going on around me. While the fashionistas and socialites traded air kisses and picked at the salads, the media mavens were spinning like there was no tomorrow. The power lunch is back, folks, so break away from your desk and go make something happen.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers, presiding over a table of movers and shakers: Huffington Post’s Greg Coleman, Eric Hippeau and Phil Cara; Colgate’s Jack Haber, Pattie Glod of Limited Brands; and E*Trade’s Nick Utton.

2. Peter Brown and Dan Scheffey, who joins Fairchild Fashion Group on May 10 as the new director of communications for the trade and business sector of Conde Nast. Dan tells me he’ll be working on all the titles including WWD and WWD.com. He reports to president Gina Sanders. Congrats!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Vanity Fair’s Wayne Lawson and Punch Hutton and a chic blonde gal we didn’t get to me. Joe, fresh off another trip to his home state of Texas was all jazzed up to tell the group about the The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas. (He’s on the board.) Joe reports that the center has acquired an impressive array of archives of literary legends including Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, and even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Joe also reports that none other than Robert De Niro has given the center his script archive and actually footed the bill for two 18-wheelers to deliver the costumes he’s worn in his films. So, the next time you’re in Austin, you might want to check it out.

4. Sean Cassidy — no, not the eighties pop icon — this fellow works for Dan Klores.

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Lunch: Special Evening Edition as Michael’s Celebrates 20 Years

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As much as we enjoy observing the social customs of the various media tribes during our Wednesday lunches at Michael’s, we jumped at the chance to mingle with the natives last night as they roamed free from the pecking order in the dining room. Michael McCarty threw himself quite a blowout to celebrate 20 years at 55th & Fifth, and a few hundred of his closest friends came out to mark the occasion.

By the time I arrived a little after six there was a line out the door where I crossed paths with my good pals — and Michael’s stalwarts — Lisa Linden and Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne. “I thought I’d get here early and beat the crowd,” Lisa told me. Nothing doing as we inched our way into the packed dining room. A camera crew from LX New York was there as the man of the hour personally greeted each guest at the door with a slap on the back (for the guys) and air kisses (for the gals). Michael’s wife, the talented artist Kim McCarty, whose artwork adorns the restaurant’s walls, beamed with pride. Just another fabulous night out in New York …

Here’s a rundown of the ‘cool kids’ who finished their homework in time to make it out Wednesday night.

Glamour editrix Cindi Leive (loved the leopard!) was chatting with attorney Lorie Almon (“She knows everybody!”) about next Monday night’s Women of the Year awards. Thanks for the invite; we can’t wait. When I asked Cindi what keeps her coming back to Michael’s she told me, “I like the food; I don’t even have to look at the menu. And I get to see people in my world, so I can check off that box. I’m a creature of habit.” Makes sense to us.

The fabulous fashionista, Fern Mallis sailed by, and I just had to ask her whether she’d heard if there was going to be another season of her reality show, The Fashion Show with Isaac Mizrahi. No word yet from Bravo, says Fern. Stay tuned.

I stopped by the bar to say hello to HarperCollins’ David Hirshey and my old friend Michael Solomon, and we got into a lively discussion about our mutual obsession with Mad Men. The show’s season finale airs Sunday, and we’re all on the edge of our seats wondering if desperate housewife Betty will leave her unraveling husband Don Draper for that irksome Henry Francis. We decided that if it were up to us the couple would stay together unhappily ever after, but chances are series creator Matt Weiner has something else in store. Michael, who I got to know when we were both working for TV Guide, now toils for The Daily Beast as features director. After some catching up, we had a nice OTR chat about the good old days when people could still make a living as print journalists.

When I bumped into Investigation Discovery honcho Henry Schleiff, I offered my congratulations on his network’s new show, On the Case with Paula Zahn, which is garnering some good reviews. Kudos!

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