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Posts Tagged ‘Bettina Zilkha’

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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David Zinczenko, Jack Kliger and The Man Most Unlikely to Wind Up at Michael’s

LunchAtMichaelsAs faithful readers know, we endeavor to give our rundown of the movers and shakers who show up at Michael’s every Wednesday a cheeky spin so as not to take ourselves too seriously about the whole power lunch thing. Today, aside from the obvious reason not to make light of an already featherweight subject, I’m too dumbstruck by a new acquaintance I made while making my rounds in the dining room to come up with a pithy opener.

When TV Guide‘s acting CEO Jack Kliger motioned me to come over and meet the handsome young man dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, I couldn’t imagine who he might be. An actor starring in a new crime procedural for CBS? A new reality star ready for his close-up? A family friend getting the full-court “Lunch at Michael’s” treatment? Well, I was half right. “This is Jonathan Alpeyrie,” said Jack. “He’s a combat photographer who was kidnapped in Syria and just released a few weeks ago.” The French-American photographer told me he was on his third trip to Syria when he was abducted at gunpoint by masked men at a checkpoint near Damascus and was held for 81 days. During his harrowing time spent in captivity, he was often chained to a bed and narrowly escaped execution after enraging a guard because he went to the bathroom without getting permission. The solider held a machine gun to Jonathan’s head before being called off by the other soldiers standing guard. Jonathan didn’t seem to want to talk much about his experience, so Jack, who is a close friend of Jonathan’s father, filled in the blanks.

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Mogul Mania with Jack Welch & David Geffen

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today with moguls Jack Welch and David Geffen holding court at their respective tables while the celebrity du jour, none other than George Hamilton, caused more than his fair share of double takes. We overheard one fan gush, “I loved you on Dancing With the Stars!” (So did we, but we’re too cool to say so.) Meanwhile, the rest of the crowd was so busy air kissing and table hopping between bites it’s a miracle anyone actually got to eat anything. We’re glad we did, because the new fall menu is fabulous!

I was joined today by Debbie Phillips, life coach and founder of Women On Fire, and Sophfronia Scott, author and founder of The Done For You Writing & Publishing Company. Debbie is busier than ever with her Women on Fire tea parties that have been helping women from all walks of life ignite their true passions since 2004. She’s hosting one at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon in Gramercy Park on Friday, and there are others scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Santa Fe and Naples this fall. Debbie is on track to reaching her important goal of “connecting 50,000 women to each other” through Women on Fire this year. You go, girl!

Sophfronia, who I first met when we worked at People together another life ago, got to know Debbie after she attended one of her tea parties. She is really on a roll. This mom of an adorable six year-old boy has been regularly cranking out books since she published her first novel All I Need to Get By in 2004. She recently published How The Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times (Two Harbors) in which she compiles words of wisdom from high rollers, including Donald Trump and Jack Canfield. Just how does she juggle it all? “I can write for about four hours at a time; then I have to get up and do something else,” Sophfronia tells me. See, it’s just that simple.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

2. Peter Brown and Grace Hightower (That’s Mrs. Robert De Niro to you.)

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong

4. Alan Grubman, David Geffen and Bob Daley

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Lunch: Johnny Weir Is “Not From Mars,” Nate Berkus Readies Transformations

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You just never know who’s going to turn up at Michael’s, and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected during my weekly lunches. That’s just what I got when U.S Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and his agent Tara Modlin showed up to join Rob Weisbach, uber agent and former president and CEO of Miramax Books, at Table One. I loved every minute of the drama on and off the ice at this year’s games, so I just had to go over and introduce myself to Johnny.

The usually flamboyant and outspoken star, who was wearing a red ruffled sweater, black pants and flat boots, was downright subdued as I offered my congratulations on his Olympic performance but perked up when I asked if the trio might be discussing a possible book. “Yes, I want to do a book. I write a blog for my Web site and I’d like to write about a lot of the things that happen behind the scenes in figure skating,” Johnny told me. “I’ve got a cool background. I’d like people to know I’m not from Mars.” I also asked the sixth place finisher to weigh in on silver medalist Yevgeny Plushenko‘s controversial remarks about Evan Lysacek winning the gold medal without doing a quadruple jump. “I’m good friends with Yevgeny and his comments were taken out of context,” says Johnny. “He’s Russian. English is his second language.” So there you have it; it was all just a simple misunderstanding.

Speaking of books, I was joined today by literary agent Fredi Friedman who helms her own agency and has an impressively diverse list of clients including hedge fund king (and former Morgan Stanley honcho) Barton Biggs, Pat Buchanan, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, and her Republican counterpart Kellyanne Conway. “I go from one side of the aisle to the other!” says Fredi.

We were deep in conversation when Today show producer Marc Victor stopped by to introduce us to Oprah‘s favorite design guru, Nate Berkus. His new syndicated show, Nate Berkus (catchy title!) is set to premiere in September on NBC. Nate tells me he’s branching out from home makeovers. The show will air as a lead-in to Ellen DeGeneres‘ chatfest and will include a variety of different segments. “I’ll be doing some design, but I’ll also be doing interviews and focusing on the idea of transformations.” You might recall Oprah has sent Nate to several viewers’ homes for missions that go beyond a bathroom gone bad. One of my favorite recent episodes had Nate making over a woman who wanted him to glam her up and take her to her 25th high school reunion. “It’s tricky terrain when you’re picking out clothes for someone,” says Nate, who will also “have a presence” on Oprah’s OWN network when it launches. But he came through with flying colors and is now confident enough to give it a go on his own show. “We’re going to be focusing on transformations.”

Fredi, who is always thinking about new book ideas, told Nate he really had something there. “You should do a book!” she said. “Maybe I will,” Nate replied with a smile as he said his good-byes. “Thanks for the feedback!” At Michael’s, lunch is never just about lunch. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Rob Weisbach, Johnny Weir, and Tara Modlin

2. Today show producer Marc Victor (long time, no See!), Nate Berkus, and Nate’s agent Kristen Giese

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, Ed Victor, and his gorgeous wife, Carol.

4. Jean Doumanian with two gents, including producer Jerry Frankel.

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Lunch: Charlie Rose, Dan Abrams & The Rain-Soaked Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The biblical rain kept most of the moguls and media mavens away today. So, rather than people watch, I passed the time by flipping through the latest issue of Avenue featuring an ultra-glam Katie Couric on the cover. The glossy devotes eight (!) pages to the CBS Evening News anchor and photographed her dripping in diamonds and sporting gowns by red carpet favorites Alberta Ferretti and Monique Lhuiller. Interviewed by Law & Order SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay, Katie says, “Looking sexy is not my goal when I’m at work.” Obviously, it’s a different story when she’s not sitting behind the anchor desk.

I lunched today with my longtime pal Trica Jean-Baptiste, who is the principal of her own public relations firm specializing in the travel and tourism industries. We met years ago through New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) where she served on the board. Trica brought along another NYWICI member, Ross Ellis, who works on the organization’s tireless Matrix committee. We all agreed that Brian Williams will be a fabulous host for next year’s Matrix Awards. Remember Rosie O’Donnell‘s disastrous expletive-fueled turn at hosting a few years back? We’ll never forget it — and we’ve tried. Besides working on Matrix, Ross helms the not-for-profit group, Love Our Children USA, which works to end abuse and educate families about stopping violence against children. The organization has been going strong for eleven years and Ross, who was an abused child herself, has garnered the support of an impressive roster of celebrities including Bette Midler and Elton John. Both have donated great items for the group’s online auction going on right now at charityfolks.com. (Get your bids in soon, because it ends Friday.) These days, Ross is hard at work on next year’s National Love Our Children Day which is scheduled for April 10. Mark your calendars!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

2. Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne and Fox5′s Greg Kelly

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and HarperCollins’ publisher Jonathan Burnham. I couldn’t wait to get some dish-y morsel about Sarah Palin‘s new book Going Rogue due November 17. “What was the most surprising thing about working with her?” I asked. Jon deferred with a wry smile saying, “My lips are sealed.” I guess we’re going to have to wait for her appearance on Oprah the day before the book is released for the scoop. Here’s hoping the former governor includes a Wednesday lunch at Michael’s on her itinerary for what’s sure to be a whirlwind media tour.

4. Dan Abrams (in jeans!) and John Josephson

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Lunch: Barry Diller, Jeff Zucker & The Magazine Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

What recession? The usual power quotient found on any given Wednesday at Michael’s went into overdrive today as the gals at the front desk had so many media moguls, magazine mavens and talking heads lining up to dine and dish today, they had to shoehorn in extra tables all over the dining room. Luckily, I scored some prime real estate for my lunch with my old pal Jeffrey Slonim and new-found friend Bettina Zilkha. Jeffrey and I have stood side by side on many a red carpet over the years and have bonded over the histrionics that goes with covering A-list events. These days Jeffrey is busier than ever as Interview‘s society editor (a prestigious gig once held by Truman Capote!) and Allure‘s special correspondent where he fearlessly asks all those publicity shy celebs questions we all really want to ask (bedtime rituals, what they really eat after parties — that sort of thing). It was nice to see him out in daylight. Bettina was recently named Special Projects Editor for Elle Decor and has a fascinating profile of designer Dennis Basso in this month’s Avenue. We had a lively lunch trading stories about Gotham’s gadflys we all know and love (all off the record, sorry to say). I can’t wait until to our next get together.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Crooner Steve Tyrellwith Frank and Jamie McCord (owners of the LA Dodgers, in case you were wondering), James McBride (the GM of The Carlyle where Steve is performing through New Year’s Eve) and my good pal Amy Rosenblum.

2. Peter Brown

3. Jim Abernathy and Dawn Bridges

4. Barry Diller and the Financial TimesChrystia Freeland who was warding off today’s chill with a killer fur hat. Fab!

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