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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Friedman’

Sigourney Weaver, Howell Raines and Barbara Walters Enjoying Semi-Retirement

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Wednesdays at Michael’s and then there are Wednesday’s at Michael’s. Today was one of those days. I could hardly keep up with the steady stream of famous faces that sailed past my table and made for some of the best people watching at 55th and Fifth in a long time. First came early arrival Montel Williamswho kept himself busy with ear buds and his phone. Next came Joy Behar (who I didn’t notice until she took off her sunglasses) and two pals who were waiting for another person to join them. A little birdie told me the mystery guest was going to be none other than Barbara Walters, so I kept an eye on the door for what seemed like forever in hopes of grabbing a quick chat with her before she made it to her table. Minutes before Barbara arrived Sigourney Weaver showed up looking absolutely ageless in Prada (and from what I could tell, next to no makeup). The Oscar nominated actress (we loved her best as Ripley!) and The New York Botanical Garden’s biggest cheerleader was clearly concerned she’d kept her guest waiting because she’d gotten stuck in traffic so she dashed by before I could utter a word to her. Drats. When Barbara, who was impeccably dressed in black and white, finally arrived, Michael’s chivalrous GM Steve Millington was waiting by the door to take her by the arm and personally escort her to her table. Let me tell you, a real hush fell over the room when the world’s most famous semi-retiree made her way into the dining room. Throughout lunch, plenty of well-wishers, both famous and “civilians,” stopped by her table to pay their respects.

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

After making my rounds in the dining room and having made sure Barbara, Joy and their friend had finished their lunch, I made my way over to their table. When I told Barbara that her final appearance on The View, where she was joined by what seemed like every female broadcaster who has followed in her trail-blazing footsteps, including all her View cohosts as well as Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung, Joan Lunden and Oprah Winfrey (who managed to score the center square in the iconic photo of the seismic sorority) was one of daytime television’s most memorable moments, she took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m so glad,” she said. “It was really something.” Even more moving, I told her, was her two-hour special that aired last Friday night, where her long-time producing partner Bill Geddie interviewed her about her amazing life and ground-breaking career. What was it like to be the subject rather than the interviewer? “Bill was terrific,” she told me. “We didn’t want to have it be ‘then she did this and then she did that’ so we did it that way. I’m glad everyone seemed to like it.” I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t want to overstay my tenuous welcome (it’s a bit of a delicate dance sometimes) so I left the trio to order dessert. No word on what Barbara has planned for the summer but in her column in The New York Post this week, Cindy Adams wrote that she and Barbara planned to travel abroad together this summer. I’d say Ms. Walters has more than earned some time off after her long good-bye.

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John Catsimatidis and the Next Stop on Dave Zinczenko’s World-Domination Tour

Lunch At MichaelsWe’ve met plenty of driven, multitasking folks in Michael’s dining room over the years — like this week’s man of the hour David Zinczenkowho 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 Elliswho 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.

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Ross Ellis and Diane Clehane

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

Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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The Truth About Rachel Uchitel’s Tweet and a Birthday Party for Ed Rollins

1003_mockup.gifWhen it comes to Wednesdays at Michael’s, the early bird might not always get the best table, but today it did land me something of a timely scoop. Some time before noon, I spotted Rachel Uchitel, the woman whose texts to Tiger Woods helped bring down the golf legend and launched a thousand tabloid headlines in 2009. I half expected her to bolt when I identified myself as a reporter, but she was gracious and downright chatty when I asked about the countless reports that her recent “Everyone deserves a second chance” tweet was a thinly veiled reference to Tiger and Lindsey Vonn‘s joint announcement on Facebook that they were dating.

“Everyone in the media immediately thought it was about Tiger,” she told me exclusively. “I still have not talked about him and never will. I haven’t told anyone about this, but the tweet was about my 94-year-old grandfather, Sam Lionel, who is getting married. His fiancee is 52 and there has been some family drama about it, so that’s what I was referring to. I’m even throwing her a bachelorette party.” Rachel, who just moved back to New York from San Francisco, told me that The New York Post approached her about writing an article about the recent turn of events but she turned them down flat. “First of all, check your facts, thank you very much,” she said referring to their reporting about her tweet. “And also I’d never write anything about that.”

Rachel told me these days she is “totally obsessed” with her 10-month-old daughter Wyatt Lilly who took her first steps yesterday. (Dad is husband Matt Hahn.) “I love that she wants a big kiss just from me sometimes. It’s the first time that I really have come to understand just what unconditional love is. You think you can get it from a man, but this is so different. She is my whole existence.” Being a mother, says Rachel, has given her a sense of peace and satisfaction that had previously eluded her, but she still is sorting out where she wants to go from here. ”I don’t want to be away from her and miss anything.” Still, though, she’d like to find “meaningful work.” Says Rachel, “For the past three years I have struggled with my identity. I used to be a journalist, but since 2009 it has been difficult to find a job because of the baggage attached to me.” She’s been offered several reality shows and did a stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, but has turned them all down. “It’s hard, but now that I’ve moved back to New York, I’d like to find something interesting to do.” For the woman whose tear-stained face made the cover of The New York Post when she first lost her then fiancé on 9/11 (a tearsheet hangs in the Smithsonian) and then went on to become the poster girl for one of the biggest celebrity scandals of the decade, life in recent years has been a series of headlines. That’s a pretty attractive quality in an employee in certain circles is this town, isn’t it?

Emilio Romano and Diane Clehane

I had a fascinating and enjoyable lunch with Emilio Romano, (pictured, right) president of Telemundo Media and the network’s vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, Michelle Alban. The charming and dynamic Emilio joined the company in 2011 and in his current position runs Telemundo’s broadcast network, its 15 owned stations, as well as the company’s entertainment division and Telemundo Studios, which is the No. 1 producer of original Spanish language primetime content for Hispanics in the United States. He also oversees the news and sports divisions, Telemundo’s digital media group and the company’s sales and marketing arms. I’ve talked to plenty of media titans in this dining room over the years, and I can say without question I found Emilio to be one of the most engaging, genuine and interesting executives I’ve ever met. While telling me about all the exciting things happening at Telemundo these days, he chatted easily with the wait staff about where they were from and asking them in Spanish what they watched on television and why.

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Meg Ryan and Judith Regan “Below the Radar” on Table One

1003_mockup.gifThe spring power lunch season has officially begun at Michael’s with plenty of famous faces and talking heads (Charles Grodin, Star Jones, Lawrence O’Donnell) mixed in with the usual suspects today. None other than Meg Ryan turned up with Judith Regan and slipped in practically unnoticed. Ah, but it’s my job to tell you these things.

In the ‘six degrees of separation’ world that is the dining room at 55th and Fifth, Judith and I grew up in the same hometown of Bay Shore on Long Island. Her mother was often my substitute teacher in high school, and we’ve always had interesting chats whenever our paths have crossed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the famously fiery ex-book publisher and she told me she’s adapted a new approach of “staying well below the radar” while working on her Sirius XM show. “No one even knows where I live,” she said. I knew better than to question the strategy of staying out of the limelight by sitting at Table One on a Wednesday at Michael’s, so we talked about mutual friends and exchanged pleasantries about our families. When Meg showed up, she couldn’t have been nicer as we chatted about our daughters who we adopted from China the same year, are the same age and both wear glasses. (Sorry, but it’s all OTR.) Later, on the way out, we talked a bit more and I suspected she had plenty more to say on the subject but didn’t want to get caught it the crush of folks lining up for their coats. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

I was joined today by Stu Zakim, public relations vet and “transformational executive” (How’s that for a title?) Mike Berman. Stu, a veteran marketing guru who has helped shaped the image of Showtime, Universal Pictures and Wenner Media, struck out on his own in 2010 with his own firm, Bridge Strategic Communications. His current clients include the Montclair Film Festival, now in its second year, and Mike, a turnaround specialist and business blogger who dispenses straightforward strategies on his blog, Berman Means Business. Stu has been working with Mike since last fall to extend the reach of his no-nonsense messaging espousing a holistic approach to building businesses. With recent headlines on media mash-ups and corporate meltdowns, we had plenty to talk about. Since Mike penned his first piece for CNBC’s website entitled “Five Turnaround Tips for Ron Johnson, JC Penney and Others” earlier this week, I thought a discussion about JCP’s embattled CEO was a good place to start. In a nutshell, says Mike, Johnson “was set up to fail — he can’t fix Penney’s.”

Mike Berman, Diane Clehane and Stu Zakim

He explains, “What’s happening with Ron Johnson is a metaphor for what’s wrong with business today. You can’t hire a rock star as if he’s just come down from the mountain top with the solution to every problem. No one person is able to do what he’s saying he can do.” According to Mike, Johnson’s first mistake was expecting an already beaten down team to buy into widespread change without first stabilizing the organization and clearly articulating a long term vision for the future. Letting 10,000 people go among a shell-shocked workforce didn’t help matters, either. “In the classic turnaround, you can be a hero by coming in and reducing staff, closing under performing stores or factories for the short-term, but in the long-term that doesn’t create value and kills the economy. Executives have to ask themselves, ‘How can I make sacrifices for the benefit of the entity?” Because so many companies rely on the slash-and-burn strategy as an immediate solution to stem the bleeding of their bottom line, Mike tells me he no longer works on “classic turnarounds” because he finds them “totally souless.” Now there’s something you don’t hear every day.

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Tom Brokaw, Randi Zuckerberg and David Zinczenko’s Next Chapter

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As any self-respecting power luncher knows, December is no time to slack off and dip into the egg nog. Quite the contrary. The noontime hour during the holidays may be reserved for a little shopping for those that still go the brick and mortar route, but the regulars at Michael’s know that now is the time to get real business done, score some valuable face time and plot your next big move. As one mogul told me today, “I’ll celebrate in January. Now is the best time to get in there when the competition isn’t looking.” Consider yourself warned.

Judging from the interesting combinations of folks at the tables around the dining room today, I’d say there are plenty of movers and shakers whose New Year’s resolutions involve making some changes to the resume and fattening up that portfolio (even if the tax man is going to come looking for a bigger piece of the action come 2013). There were so many suits in the lounge eagerly awaiting to be seated when I showed up that I thought there was some kind of Wall Street holiday hoo-ha going on.  The appearance of Mark Zuckerberg‘s sister Randi Zuckerberg with AOL’s Jolie Hunt caused a bit of stir, and I spotted more than a handful of mavens “in transition” who have seemingly aligned themselves with some interesting power players in hopes for a brighter new year. Here’s hoping.

I was invited to join ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko for a dishy lunch. While Joe and I waited for Dave to arrive, I noticed that the Mayor’s omnipresent, tri-colored western boot that doubles as a centerpiece when he’s in the house had been replaced by a bigger, bronze version. The Mayor tells me that he decided to keep the red, white and blue version at home for safe keeping. It’s signed by music men Jimmy Buffet, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino and Elton John (on the day Joe hosted a lunch for Elton in celebration of the Broadway debut of Billy Elliot in this very dining room), as well as Laura Bush who happened to spy it on Joe’s table during a visit a while back and whipped out a Sharpie before Joe knew what hit him.

Diane Clehane, David Zinczenko and Joe Armstrong

I couldn’t wait to catch up with Dave when he arrived. His headline-making departure from Rodale a few weeks ago after his incredibly successful tenure at the top has gotten plenty of coverage. Just this week Women’s Wear Daily and AdAge weighed in, with the latter speculating on “Rodale’s Rocky Road” in the face of Dave’s exit. As you undoubtedly know, Dave was the high-profile  face and voice of the Men’s Health brand, with regular appearances on the Today show and scores of other shows from Ellen to Oprah. His much imitated Eat This, Not That bestsellers became their own franchise for Rodale, cementing the company’s place in pop culture as long as Dave kept churning out different versions.

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Spike Lee, Jon Meacham and a Real Housewife of New York City

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It’s been a big week for movie moguls at Michael’s. Harvey Weinstein was here on Monday, and Spike Lee showed up for the second time in a six days. Who needs Hollywood?

Besides the slew of  ‘producers’ cooking up their next big deal over their Cobb salads (now available with turkey bacon!), there was the usual mix of media mavens (EW’s Jess Cagle, Investigation Discovery’s Henry Schleiff) and plenty of stylish spinmeisters for fashionable firms like Chanel, Louis Vuitton  and Estee Lauder.

Speaking of fashion, I was joined today by Steven Stolman who knows a thing or two about catering to stylistas, particularly those with a predilection for all things preppy. The Parson’s School of Design grad apprenticed at Albert Nipon and was then tapped to return 12 years later as the house’s design director. “It was a magical time,” Steven said, until the bubble burst when parent company Leslie Fay, in the midst of its own financial meltdown, shuttered the Seventh Avenue design house. Steven moved on to Lilly Pulitzer (he was curator of  their 50th anniversary retrospective) where he presided over the modernization of the iconic Palm Beach label.

“Lilly inspired me to go out on my own,” Steven told me. And he did, opening stores under his own label in bastions of preppydom Palm Beach, Nantucket and Southampton, as well as Beverly Hills and New York. Some of Steven’s best memories of that time are of personally assisting some famous faces, which led to some wonderful encounters with folks like Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Walters. One day in Palm Beach, Steven spied Dominick Dunne walking down the avenue and stopped him to chat, bemoaning the fact that he’d been reading one of Dunne’s books and would have loved to get it autographed. Dunne affably replied that he’d watch the store while Steven ran home to get the book. When he returned with the tome, Dunne dutifully reported to Steven that he’d sold a skirt and that Steven had missed his mother’s call. Hilarious.

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman
Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

After a brief sabbatical from fashion to serve as development director for a Florida non-profit raising funds for a community health center for the uninsured, Steven then served as design director for Jack Rogers (love those sandals!) before landing his current gig.

Steven is coming up on his first anniversary as president of Scalamandre, the legendary fabric house favored by tastemakers who cater to those who live the luxe life. The house’s iconic signature red zebra print has popped up in a whole host of hip spots from the film The Royal Tannenbaums to the dressing rooms at Barneys. “It just makes people happy,” said Steven. Chances are if you’ve seen some swanky swag on a window uptown, it’s from Scalamandre. The fabrics are in all the best places, from the tastefully traditional upholstery seen in The White House, to the grandeur found at the Metropolitan Opera, to two hipster chic rooms being unveiled next week at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse.

So, how did a fashion designer wind up as its president? Read more

Bob Schieffer, Carl Bernstein and The Shopaholic Squadron

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It was a tasty mix of media mavens and fab fashionistas at Michael’s today as the town car set dined and dished before jetting off to their summer cottages. While Rupert Murdoch was still topic A for plenty of regulars, talk of the stalemate over the debt ceiling appeared to be on plenty of folks’ minds, too. “I’ve got clients who are on the brink of spending some serious money,” one stylista told me. “I’m praying I can get the deals signed and sealed before something happens to scare them away.” We’ve got our fingers crossed.

I was joined today by Jaqui Lividini whose company, Lividini & Co. specializes in brand development for fashion and lifestyle companies. Having spent two decades at Saks Fifth Avenue — when she left to start her own firm, she was senior vice president of fashion merchandising and communications –  Jaqui now works with an impressive roster of fab fashionistas, including fine jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann, silversmith Georg Jensen and lingerie designer Josie Natori who, says Jaqui, has transformed her business into a “lifestyle brand” with a new East-West inspired home accents line and a lower-priced intimate apparel collection for Target due in October. Jaqui’s company also counsels a long list of retailers, like Scoop and my personal favorite, Lord & Taylor.

Richard Baker, CEO of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company, which owns and operates Lord & Taylor, brought Jaqui on board six years ago when the store began its transformation from a staid, somewhat traditional specialty retailer into the go-to, chic shopping emporium it is today. “What [CEO] Brendan Hoffman and  the whole team at Lord & Taylor have done is fantastic,” says Jaqui. And rev up those credit cards — Jaqui reports the Westchester store (the most profitable location in the chain) is adding home to its offerings, plus two new locations are planned for New Jersey. Ready, set, shop!

1.  Joel Chase and a table full of suited up movers and shakers.

2. Cosmo editrix Kate White (loved those sky high sandals!) and Estee Lauder’s Marisa Thalberg.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Carl Bernstein, who told me he’s hot on Rupert Murdoch‘s trail for The Daily Beast and Newsweek. The intrepid journo, who knows a thing or two about covering wire tapping stories, says the story of Murdoch’s imploding media empire is “complicated.” He also told me he’s not as sure as some other media watchers seem to be about Murdoch’s eventual ouster as chairman of his company. “It’s more about him being able to put one of his kids in there,” Carl told me. We’ll be reading your future dispatches from the front lines with interest.

4. The Early Show: Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer with his lovely wife Pat

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Ina Garten, Joanna Coles And The Fashion Flock

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dreary winter weather (Will it ever end?!) didn’t keep the loyalists away from Michael’s today. There were plenty of fab fashionistas and social swans in the dining room who braved the elements in inappropriate footwear to exchange air kisses and gossip about who knows what.  The usual mix of media moguls and mavens were there, too. Here’s hoping the sun and the celebrity A-List returns next week.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Marie Claire editrix Joanna Coles with actor Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park, Dracula, and the upcoming The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep) and three stylish looking folks. We  were so excited to see Richard up close and personal. (He’s blond now!) We’re dating ourselves a bit here, but he was absolutely the best Bob Cratchit ever a few years back in the TNT version of A Christmas Carol opposite another one of our favorite British actors, Patrick Stewart.

2. Literary agent Esther Newberg, enjoying soup with a handsome fellow whose face we definitely recognized but whose name escapes us.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dorothy Kalins. I stopped by the table to check in with these two longtime friends. Joe couldn’t stop talking about last night’s screening at MoMa of The Restaurateur, the documentary about Danny Meyer by Dorothy’s husband Roger Sherman. The beloved museum, incidentally, is home to one of our favorite Meyer restaurants, The Modern. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Meyer and was a foodie’s delight, we hear. Speaking of food, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys written by David Tanis, chef at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and edited by Dorothy was among the nominees for the 2011 James Beard Awards announced yesterday. Congrats!

4.  Mrs. Army Archerd and pals.

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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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