We’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.
Posts Tagged ‘Barry Frey’
I 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 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.”
Since so many media mavens and talking heads have headed to the West Coast for Oscar week, my lunch today with designer Michelle Vale was particularly timely. Just a few days ago, Michelle sent off several of her handbags to LaLa land in hopes that a certain Best Actress nominee will walk down the red carpet carrying one of her creations come Sunday night. If the actress, whose name for the moment is top secret (“But she’s a big Oscar person!”) utters Michelle’s name when she is asked the million dollar question of the night — “Who are you wearing?” — by E!’s Giuliana Rancic, that could mean very big things for the designer. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Michelle told me. “An actress can pick a dress and change her mind at the last minute. She can look in her suitcase and pick up something else. I won’t know until I see her on television.”
No stranger to the celebrity scene, Michelle’s collection of sophisticated, versatile designs that allow women to customize their bags by selecting a variety of different hardware and straps — all made right her in New York City — have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Kate Bosworth and Kate Beckinsale. Michelle also managed to score valuable television exposure on Gossip Girl, a favorite of fashionistas everywhere where posh Upper East Siders played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester toted around the Amex Black cards in Michelle Vale handbags.
While fashion was part of Michelle’s DNA — dad was a senior vice president of Sasson Jeans, favored by aspiring disco divas everywhere in the 80s, and mom once owned a boutique, she never planned on going into the business as a career. “I used to go to Studio 54 with my father,” Michelle told me. “It was such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to something completely different, so I got a master’s in counseling children which, as it turns out, has come in handy in this business.” It was when the accidental designer got pregnant quickly after getting married that she decided she wanted to do something that allowed her to stay at home with her newborn son. “I literally started the business with my son in my lap,” she said.
It must have been the summer-like temperatures (well, it was above freezing) that brought out plenty of media mavens (Frank Bennack, David Carey, Jack Kliger, Nancy Berger Cardone) and a heaping helping of talking heads (Matt Lauer, Joan Rivers, Star Jones, Dan Abrams, Bill McCuddy) at Michael’s today. January is always an interesting month at 55th and Fifth. It’s the roller-coaster ride that starts off slow with the deadly quiet of the post-holiday doldrums and peaks during the pre-award show maelstrom (Yes, the Golden Globes were last weekend, but that’s just an excuse for celebrities to get together and drink champagne, resulting in the inevitable ’What the hell were they thinking moment?’” This year, that came courtesy of the clearly astonished winner Jacqueline Bisset). Everyone, it seemed, has hit their stride and with Fashion Week and the Olympics just weeks away, the cognoscenti are getting in their power lunches before departing for the gigs that keep the lights on around town.
I was joined today by Marie Claire‘s editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, fresh off a trip to Beverly Hills. There, she traded compliments with Golden Globe winner Robin Wright (“She was so unguarded and looked so happy with her award and new fiance Ben Foster“) and chatted with her December cover gal Julia Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, at the magazine’s post-awards-show bash. The party was cohosted by The Weinstein Company and Netflix and attended by tons of A-listers, including Taylor Swift, Bono and Diddy (or is it Sean Combs? — we’ve given up trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to call him). “It was a amazing,” she tells me. “You had to be inside the Beverly Hilton by 4 o’clock because at 5 o’clock it goes into lockdown. I watched the awards at a viewing party at the old Trader Vic’s.” On Friday, she’s jetting off to Washington, D.C., to attend the swearing in of Cathy Russell, President Barack Obama‘s pick for the new global ambassador of women’s issues at the State Department. Lest you think Anne’s life is one glam sojourn after the next, today she tells me her commute felt like a hellish version of “trains, planes and automobiles” as she slogged her way in from Brooklyn, thanks to a gushing water-main break.
The artic temperatures and snow (It’s not even Christmas and we’re over it already!) couldn’t keep the faithful from 55th and Fifth today as the towncar set squeezed in the last Wednesday power lunch of 2013.
The usual contingent of media mavens (Connie Anne Phillips, Gerry Byrne), spin meisters (Tom Goodman) and fashionistas (Fern Mallis, Jaqui Lividini and LaVelle Olexa) were well represented, as there was plenty of air-kissing and glad-handing behind every poinsettia. After our own head-spinning schedule of sitdowns with A-listers of every description for our regular Wednesday confabs this season – along with a few “special” lunches (We’re still recovering from last week’s double bill of “The Cosmo 100″ and a Thursday lunch with Downton Abbey executive creator Gareth Neame), I decided to go solo today after my date came down with the flu.
Making the rounds in the dining room gave me the chance to catch up with a lot of folks I’ve spotted as they’ve sailed past my table over the past few months. I just had to go over to Marie Claire editrix Anne Fulenwider‘s table to find out what she was wearing. “It’s Alberta Ferretti,” she told me as she petted her fabulous faux fur shrug. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say Anne’s upped her own personal fashion quotient quite a bit since ascending to the top spot at the Hearst title. Well done!
As devoted as we are to covering the Fellini-esque scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, we do occasionally break tradition and report the news from 55th and Fifth on other days of the week when we’re invited to especially dishy lunches with A-listers. Monday’s head-spinning gathering of the “Cosmo 100″ hosted by the hotter-than-hot editrix Joanna Coles more than fit the bill. Boasting one of the year’s most impressive guest lists, the estrogen-fueled confab now in its second year, brilliantly showcased Joanna’s savvy for bringing together her vast network of female overachievers from every conceivable sphere of influence for the dual purpose of some high-profile networking and some serious brand building. “Last year when I came up with the idea for this lunch, people came and didn’t really know what to expect,” Joanna told me as she stood in the lounge accepting air kisses and posing for photos with the growing throng of well-wishers. “This year, we had people calling up asking to come.”
Among those that did make the final cut: actresses Sarah Jessica Parker (“This is my new favorite yearly lunch!” she told me) and The Carrie Diaries star AnnaSophia Robb (The original Carrie and Carrie 2.0 met for the first time in the dining room and posed for their first ever joint photo during cocktails); The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee; Arianna Huffington; Mika Brzezinski (whose late arrival during Joanna’s opening remarks earned the Morning Joe cohost some cheeky chiding about her tardiness); celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson; supermodel Coco Rocha (who sported a chic shorter hairstyle and towered over the crowd); producer Desiree Gruber; designers Georgina Chapman and Stacey Bendet; Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon; A&E Network’s Nancy Dubuc; Politico‘s Kim Kingsley; Atlantic Record’s chairman Julie Greenwald; lobbyist Heather Podesta (whose striking silver locks, sky high Louboutins and flawless makeup earned her my pick as the best-dressed guest); Harvard Business School professor and TED talker Amy Cuddy; Lauren Zalaznick; Leslie Sloane; Liz Kaplow; The Chew‘s Daphne Oz; attorney Robbie Kaplan (who argued Edie Windsor‘s case before the Supreme Court); director and producer Alexandra Kerry (Dad is Secretary of State John Kerry); Laurie Tisch; and aspiring songstress Sky Ferreira, a frequent subject of lensman Terry Richardson. Read more
After being felled by a brutal bug (which I picked up in my doctor’s office while waiting for my flu shot) last week, I was glad to be back at 55th and Fifth today where I embarked on the second leg of my own personal trifecta of reporting on every aspect of my television obsession, Downton Abbey. I interviewed cast member Lesley Nichol two weeks ago and am planning a very special Downton lunch for December (No spoilers here! It’s top secret for now). Today I was thrilled to dine and dish with Harry Herbert, the second son of the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, who was in town on a whirlwind three-day visit to New York to meet a few Upper East Side swells and talk to them about his glamorous and highly successful racehorse syndication business, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. As the company’s founder, Henry puts together racing syndicates — small groups of people with deep pockets — to share in owning a racehorse. So what’s Harry’s Downton Abbey connection, you ask? Harry’s ancestral home is none other than Highclere Castle, the stunning setting — and very much its own character — on Downton Abbey. I kid you not.
If you’re like me and have watched the specials that have aired on Highclere on PBS and HG-TV, you’ve seen Harry’s sister-in-law Fiona, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, who is married to his brother George, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, giving behind-the-scenes tours of the great house and talking about what it’s like to have your home taken over by the cast of one of Britain’s most popular television programs. (They actually live in another home on the sprawling estate) Harry painted a fascinating picture for me of the real life cast of characters who have populated Highclere, worthy of their own PBS series. It turns out his parents’ love story mirror the one which plays out on Downton between the elder Grantham’s British-American union. Harry’s mother, Jeannie, was 19 years old when he journeyed from her home in Wyoming to England to visit friends and met his father, Henry. When she went back to the states, says Harry, ”He chased her to Wyoming and wound up marrying her.” Read more
There are Michael’s lunches and then there are Michael’s lunches. Over the course of all the years I’ve been chronicling the scene on Wednesdays at 55th and Fifth for this column, I’ve had plenty of occasion to dine and dish with the famous and infamous, strivers and stars and more than my fair share of pop cultural icons. When I think about what I love most about this gig, I have to paraphrase Forrest Gump: Each Wednesday at Michael’s is like a box of (very expensive) chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get. Today, I got the chance to spend a delightful few hours with Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore, the blustery and big-hearted cook on Downton Abbey, my absolute favorite television show. As anyone who follows my posts on Facebook and minute-by-minute recaps for XFinity knows, I am beyond obsessed with the PBS hit, so I was more than a little excited about the chance to have a lengthy sitdown with one of my favorite actors of the series. And Lesley didn’t disappoint.
She arrived — and looked quite chic in leather pants and high heel boots! — right on the dot of 12:15 for our lunch and promptly charmed everyone in the place, telling GM Steve Millington the dining room was “gorgeous” and graciously chatting with a few fans who stopped by the table to say their hellos. As she looked around the mercifully subdued dining room, I explained that Michael’s was the place to be for all sorts of movers and shakers and, of course, the random celebrity. “Joan Collins was here a few weeks ago,” I told her searching my mental Rolodex for the name of a British star I could mention. “Probably ate a few lettuce leaves,” said Lesley. I knew I’d love her.
We quickly dispensed with ordering (Dover sole for two) and settled in for our chat — and after five minutes I felt as if I’d known her forever. Lesley told me she was in town for a flurry of meetings with her new New York agents at Bauman Redanty & Shaul, who she’d hadn’t yet met, and with casting director Avy Kaufman. Her PR rep, Andrew Freedman, who moved his firm from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago, had managed to arrange our lunch between all these big doings. She’d also found time to take in a Brooklyn production of Julius Caesar, whose all-female cast included her good friend Susan Brown as Casca. But, she confided, she was really looking forward to tonight’s after-party for Thor on the off chance she’d get to meet her celeb crush, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who appears in the film. “He is just gorgeous,” she said as she speared a Brussels sprout, “If he’s there, I’ll probably be too tongue tied. I’ll just drop down and die.”
We’ve met plenty of driven, multitasking folks in Michael’s dining room over the years — like this week’s man of the hour David Zinczenko, who continues his quest for (media) world domination with his new book (read on). He was front and center at Table One today celebrating the completion of the first of his books to be published as part of his headline-making deal earlier this year with Random House. And, of course, there is no end to the list of type-A power lunchers (fill in the name of your favorite here) whose burning ambition is to see their name in print every time they ink a deal.
Then there’s Ross Ellis, who I met in this very room a while back. Ross started out in public relations and marketing and has toiled for several Fortune 500 firms. For the past eight years, she’s worked as a residential real estate broker for Halstead Property LLC. Since then, she has become a widely recognized expert on the Manhattan marketplace, quoted in the New York Daily News and CBS MarketWatch, among other outlets. While that would be enough for even the most ambitious Gothamite, Ross somehow found the time — and energy — to launch STOMP Out Bullying, an extraordinary non-profit whose mission is to eradicate bullying, the true scourge of the modern age. While Ross has developed many fundraising initiatives to fund the organization’s initiatives, many of them involving celebrities who also believe passionately in the charity’s mission, she also donates a portion of her commissions from her real estate sales to the charity.
Somehow, between finding luxurious lairs for Manhattan’s movers and shakers, Ross, drawing very little attention to herself — instead, insisting the spotlight be focused on her cause — has built STOMP Out Bullying into the nation’s leading national anti-bullying and cyber-bullying organization for kids and teens in the United States. Not too coincidentally, October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, so our talk today was particularly timely. Ross told me STOMP came out of her first not-for-profit, Love Our Children, which she founded in 1999; its mission was to prevent child abuse and all forms of violence and neglect against children. “I knew this was something that deserved a lot more attention than it was getting at that time,” she says. “Bullying was the signature issue at Love Our Children, and I wanted to do more.” Read more
Neither rain nor snow (not yet anyway) or a meltdown on Metro North’s Connecticut line (don’t ask!) can keep us from our appointed rounds on Wednesdays at Michael’s. Who else would tell you which talking heads (Star Jones, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin) were holding court in the dining room while pointing out the random sighting of a former beauty queen and even some titled ladies and lords? (Read on and you’ll find out.) We, not of the town car set, braved a very crowded train from Westchester (Note to fellow passengers: garlic on your breakfast isn’t a good thing!) to bring you all the earth-shattering goings on at 55th and Fifth today so you can eat at your desk while searching for Internet spoilers on Sunday’s series finale of Breaking Bad.
I was joined today by my intrepid Greenwich neighbor Andy Amill, VP of Media Sales at Weight Watchers. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since my days heading up Danskin’s PR department (just try having to wear spandex to work) and wanted to get the skinny on all the incredible innovations the company has implemented over the past year. Have you seen Jennifer Hudson lately? Exactly. Andy tells me that Jennifer has been “an inspiration” to Weight Watcher members. The dynamic multi-media campaign featuring the brand ambassador which launched in 2010 has helped attract plenty of new members. I am also fascinated by the technology behind the company’s barcode scanner app, which members can download to their smart phones. It lets the user zap the UPC of thousands of products in the supermarket and instantaneously get the Weight Watchers PointsPlus value. What will they think of next?
When I mentioned that the Weight Watchers center where I attend meetings had undergone a pretty dramatic makeover a few months back, Andy explained that many stores have been redesigned in the past few years with a contemporary look and feel. “They’re all uniform so members can find a center anywhere and they all look the same,” he tells me. “It really helps them stay connected.” Read more
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