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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Guccione’

Anderson Cooper, Harold Ford, Jr and Bob Guccione, Jr

1003_mockup.gifAfter a long holiday weekend left the usual Wednesday lunch crowd without their weekly power lunch fix, the town car set who could tear themselves away from their Hampton cottages returned to Michael’s today. I say we outlaw any more midweek July 4th holidays. Too confusing!

I was joined today by Bob Guccione, Jr. who I met last year when we weighed in on the ever expanding culture of celebrity for a journalism panel for Names Not Numbers. After crossing paths in this dining room several times over the past year, we decided it was time for a proper Michael’s lunch once and for all.

I wasn’t disappointed. Bob ventured in for our lunch and some other important business in town from his home in rural Pennsylvania (“I’m one postage stamp away from being the unabomber!’). A few years ago, having grown “sick of New York” he decamped to Mississippi to teach journalism and has decided country life beats living in Manhattan hands down. ”It’s so peaceful,” he says.

Bob tells a terrific tale of his fascinating career in media that started at the age of 18 in the UK when he became Britain’s youngest ever publisher. A year later, he launched Rock Superstars making him the youngest publisher in America. As the son of one of publishing’s most colorful figures, it seems his career path was predetermined but, says Bob, “I knew I loved it. I wanted to be a writer but I had no life experience.”

That changed pretty quickly. In 1985, he launched SPIN, sold it in 1997 t0 Vibe Ventures, and launched Gear in 1998. Then, in 2005 he bought Discover from Disney. He remembers the moment well. “The staff regarded  me with some trepidation. When I told them  ‘We’re in the entertainment business,’ there was an audible gasp in the room.” By the time he stepped down as chairman two years later, the magazine had returned to profitability.

Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione
Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione

Our conversation revolved around passion for the business and the elusive quest for profitability and Bob had plenty to say on both fronts. Besides being incredibly funny (sorry, but his best remarks are off the record), the tireless entrepreneur proved to be a fascinating lunch date as he shared his extremely well-reasoned take on why he believes writers will one day be able to make a living online and why magazines are far from over. ”Everything about digital media happened too fast, and people back the wrong model too quickly,” he told me. Exhibit A: The Huffington Post, which Bob says is “doomed to fail” and called it “a white elephant — it’s the default model.”

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Anderson Cooper, Andrew Stein and Serenading Socialites

1003_mockup.gifThe scene at Michael’s today was positively Fellini-esque. Just when the joint was firing on all cylinders (even every seat at the bar was spoken for),  the dining room was stunned into silence when the ladies who lunch led by Joan Jakobson at Table One gave an impromptu acapella performance of “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” You get it all here, folks. Cobb salads with a serenade on the side. This being Michael’s, of course, the power lunch crowd gave the gals the floor just long enough to belt out their tune and then, without missing a beat, turned their attention back to hatching their next big deal. Alrighty then.

I was joined today by Janis Provisor and Debi Wisch, the dynamic duo behind Janis Provisor Jewelry whose business cards boast the tagline “wildly eccentric beaded collectibles.” They are also just gorgeous. Janis, an accomplished artist and painter whose work has been shown all over the world, including at the National Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, got into the jewelry business by accident. “It started out as a hobby, turned into a job-y, and now it’s a full-fledged business!” Janis told me.

It all began in 2006 when Debi, a former marketing consultant and publicist, got Janis to do a trunk show in Debi’s Manhattan home.  Janis and Debi had met a decade before when they were both living in Hong Kong and Janis, who was developed a carpet collection, showed up at Debi’s home with a swatch. Years later, over lunch, both women were wanting to do something new and came up with the idea for Janis to make one-of-a-kind necklaces from the stones she’d collected from her worldwide travels. Voila! Janis’ oversize beaded necklaces, luxurious lavalieres and chunky chokers (all boasting unexpected pairings of precious and semi-precious stones) were an immediate sell-out among the stylish set. “Our customers are smart, independent women with their own money,” Debi told me. “Rarely do I hear, ‘I have to ask my husband’ before someone buys something.” And it’s a good thing. Entry points range from $1,400 for earrings to $4,000 to $7,000 for a necklace. Not exactly something you could pass off with the usual, “Oh no, this isn’t new. I’ve had it forever.”

Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch
Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch

While most of the collection is sold at invitation-only trunk shows at swanky locales (If you happen to be in Kona in August, you might want to drop in on the next show at Seaside Luxe, but do RSVP first ), the luxe looks are also sold at Julianne in Port Washington and Gail Rothwell in East Hampton. Janis also has an exhibition of the jewels at Winston Wachter Gallery in Chelsea. By foregoing the usual retail route, the partners have been able to build the business (“People just find us”) carefully offering one-of-a-kind pieces and other collectibles to a very discriminating clientele. (CNN’s Alina Cho is a fan) ”The goal is to make only what we’d want to own, and that’s what we continue to do,” said Debi, who was adorned with several of Janis’ dazzling designs today.

Janis told me she often sits with the artisans in China while the pieces are being made to personally describe her vision for the design (“I don’t cast”), and she works with the craftsman in Bali where her 22kt gold work is done. “I am very hands-on,” she said, “with everything.” I’ll say. The company is 100 percent self-supported, and the women wouldn’t have it any other way. It seems to be working. Janis Provisor Jewelry will be moving into a brand new studio salon this summer where Janis and Debi hope to put together small groups of “interesting women” to exchange ideas, network and, of course, buy some serious jewelry.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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A Regis & Kathie Lee Reunion, Plus Harold Ford Jr., Carl Bernstein and Star Jones

1003_mockup.gifI love it when Michael’s is firing on all cyclinders. After a nasty bug kept me away from 55th Street last week, it was good to see the dining room jam packed with celebs of all stripes. Everywhere you looked there was a famous face — Kathie Lee Giffordwas first on the scene and did double duty. She had a glass of wine at the bar with Eduardo Verastegui and then joined the party celebrating Charlene Nederlander‘s birthday in the dining room. Between bites, she caught up with her former co-host  Regis Philbin, who was today’s most popular celeb among the high-wattage crowd and was nice enough to pose for a whole lot of pictures.

While waiting for my lunch date, I chatted with my Greenwich neighbor Kathie Lee about her kids (son Cody Gifford is graduating from USC Film School and Cassidy Gifford is graduating from high school). We both agreed that kids today are under more pressure than ever before and are being buried under mountains of homework (my first grader gets an hour’s worth every night). Kathie Lee told me her honor student daughter has passed up numerous opportunities to pursue her love of acting in order to keep her grades up in school.  But Kathie Lee has always made a practice of taking her kids out of school when there was an opportunity to experience something not found in books.  “I think that’s so important for kids. Some of the most important things I learned as a child I learned outside the classroom.  We’re not letting kids be kids.” I couldn’t agree more.

When Kathie Lee went off to join her pals, I watched the dining room fill up with plenty of boldface names, including Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones and late arrival Carl Bernstein. I grabbed Harold before he sat down to lunch to ask him what he thought of the heat the president is getting from his opponents for his secret trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden. “I think the race will pivot on the issues of the economy and jobs,” he told me. “But I’m all for defining what the ten year plan with Afghanistan will be. If there’s one thing that both republicans and democrats agree on it’s getting out of Afghanistan. If the media wants to blow up one issue, that should be it.”

Eduardo Verastegui, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin
Eduardo Verastegui, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin

I was joined today by Bernard Clair, one of Manhattan’s most sought after divorce lawyers among the one percenters. Bernard grew up on Long Island, attended Adelphi University on an athletic scholarship, and graduated from St. John’s University School of Law. Bernard and his law partner penned what came to be regarded as the definitive book on the legal issues facing couples who decide to live together, Love Pact.  In a bit of fortuitous timing,  Bernard met famed matrimonial attorney Marvin Mitchelson whose claim to fame at that moment was creating ‘palimony’ and found himself handling the Mitchelson’s New York based cases by the ripe old age of 30.   Bernard, who has consistently been named one of the city’s “Best Lawyers” by New York magazine, has handled plenty of headline-making cases, representingCarolyne Roehm, Georgette Mosbacher and Jocelyn Wildenstein (aka The Cat Lady) when their marriages imploded.

There’s been so much talk about celebrity hookups and uncouplings lately that I hardly knew where to start, so I decided to jump in with deconstructing the upcoming Brangelina nuptials. “I’m sure there’s a 500-page pre-nup,” Bernard speculated, ”which makes sense when there’s 1,200 kids in the mix. I have no doubt in the world that the timing for the wedding will depend on when the prenup is executed.” On the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries 72-day publicity stunt wedding, Bernard offered this: “She’s not necessarily upset it’s being held up because of his claim of fraud that he was bamboozled. It’s keeping her name in the papers.” As for the hapless basketballer’s hopes of getting his $2 million ring back, he can forget it. “You never get the engagement ring back.” Oh, well. Better luck next time.

In this 24-7 media age, there are a whole new set of issues when it comes to celebrity divorces, Bernard told me. Namely, the unwanted attention these cases draw to the children of high-powered couples. “Most courtrooms are open to the public. The idea is Jeffersonian, but divorce law was not part of Thomas Jefferson’s ideals. Today, the open courtroom brings kids into the fray, because the media covers every aspect of these cases and that includes kids. Everything is grist for the mill.” Bernard’s suggestion for a legal remedy: “I think we should revisit the idea of closed courtrooms for the most contentious divorce cases.”

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Penthouse Mag Founder Bob Guccione Dead At 79

Bob Guccione, the founder and publisher of Penthouse magazine, died Wednesday in Plano, Texas after a long battle with lung cancer.

Brooklyn-born Guccione began Penthouse while living in England in 1965. He brought the mag to America in 1969, and eventually grew it into a media empire. Penthouse magazine provided a raunchy alternative to Playboy, showing pubic hair at a time when doing so was considered obscene.

Guccione went on to launch other magazines, including Omni, Longevity, and Viva. Notably, it was at Viva that Anna Wintour had her first job as a fashion editor.
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Bob Guccione, The Man Behind Penthouse Magazine, Dead At 79

Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione died yesterday at the age of 79.  The AP reported that the adult entertainment magnate passed away at a hospital in Plano, Texas after a long bout with cancer.

Guccione was a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn in 1930.  He created Penthouse in the mid-’60s, however the magazine first gained international notoriety before it was welcomed to the states.  According to Biography.comPenthouse debuted in 1965 in the U.K.  prior to its introduction to U.S. readers in 1969.  Penthouse would grow to rival Playboy by printing more suggestive and racier material than Hugh Hefner‘s title.

Forbes.com states that Guccione’s Penthouse empire earned nearly $4 billion over his 30 year tenure.  He was featured on the first-ever Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans with an estimated net worth of $400 million in 1982.

Some of Penthouse‘s memorable exploits under Guccione’s reign include printing nude pictures of the first ever black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, and an interview and nude photo layout of Paula Jones.