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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Towbin’

Tim Gunn, Pharrell Williams and a Flock of Fashionistas

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Today’s dreary downpour didn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s. After missing our usual Wednesday lunch last week (It seems the flu season is starting early this year), we were happy to see that the joint was jam packed with the usual suspects, plenty of fashionistas, and some interesting new folks we hadn’t run into before. (Tim Gunn and Grace Mirabella get my vote as the most interesting set of stylistas we’ve come across in this dining room for quite a while.)

But I knew someone important must be here when I spotted two formidable fellows at the bar. It turns out they were the bodyguards of multi-hyphenate Pharrell Williams who, I must admit, I didn’t immediately recognize because he was somewhat hidden under his red ski cap. The musician-producer-composer and fashion designer (Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream Clothing) sure knows who to dress to impress. We were coveting his Chanel sneakers. A man of unique personal style to be sure.

I was joined today by my good friend Dr. Phillip Romero who is keeping pretty busy these days. Phil is in the process of moving into chic new midtown digs where, in addition to seeing patients for his practice as a family therapist, he’ll be launching a new business venture which will include classes and seminars on ”family resilience”  for parents. In his spare time, he’s also getting a lot of interest from several media companies who want to bring his fascinating book, The Art Imperative, to television. I just had to ask Phil what he thought of New York’s cover story about the recession era, post-hope generation who are grappling with the harsh reality of coming of age in this era of uncertainty. One reason these young people are struggling so much, says Phil, is because they were “over parented” and “didn’t learn to take care of themselves.” He says many overprotective parents will inflict the  same fate on their children if they’re not careful. “It’s a cultural problem,” he says. “Parents want to protect their kids from the things they struggled with but, in doing so, focus on their own past instead of being involved in the present and their child’s own needs. They wind up saddling kids with the parents’ problems that have nothing to do with their own life. Kids have to be free to create themselves.”

When it comes to dealing with the ‘new normal’  on a macro level, Phil offers this bit of advice which, to me, sounds like a universal prescription: “The enemy is not the economy, or your spouse, or all the new technology. Today the enemy is chronic relationship stress that tears families apart. When it takes hold, you forget how to love. When we can learn to master this stress and we can change our brain response to the stress triggers in our relationships at home, at work and in the world.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Lynn de Rothschild (Andrew Stein‘s ex, in case you were wondering)

2. Wayne Kabak and UTA’s Simon Trewin

3. Michael Fuchs

4. Jacqui Safra (Jean Doumanian‘s hubby)

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Lauren Berger Writes New Book for Young People Entering "Real World"

Lauren Berger Welcome to the Real WorldCareer Expert, Lauren Berger, releases her second book, Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), on April 22nd. In this book, Berger shares everything she wishes someone told her after graduation. Her book is the essential guide to anyone starting their first, second, or third job. She encourages readers to be fearless, step outside of their comfort zones, and go after what they want.

Glenn Close and Damages Cast Celebrate Season Four

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Before dashing off to their summer cottages in the Hamptons for the long holiday weekend, the media mavens and moguls were at their regular perches at Michael’s today for a bit of last minute networking. It was SRO at the bar and the dining room was jam packed, because the Garden Room was reserved for a party hosted by the cast of Damages, the water cooler legal drama starring Glenn Close as a ruthless Manhattan attorney.

Last year, FX cancelled the show after three seasons, but it got a stay of execution from Direct TV which will air the season four premiere on July 13. I caught up with the series’ co-creator and show runner Daniel Zelman (who happens to be Debra Messing‘s husband, in case you didn’t know) before the party to find out what he thought of the move. “FX was wonderful and terrifically supportive, and Direct TV has been great. We’re thrilled about their commitment to the show,” he told me, adding that Damages will be the first stateside television series to air exclusively on the company’s new Audience Network. (They also aired the beloved but viewer deprived Friday Night Lights, which they shared with NBC.)

I asked Daniel what ripped-from-the-headlines news story would serve as the inspiration for the upcoming season. “The privatization of  war industry,” he told me, saying that the new scripts are “loosely based” on those stories about for-hire firms like Blackwater who are paid to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. “The stories behind the for-profit companies involved in the war effort are very interesting. There is a lot to explore,” he said.  Last season’s scalding Shakespearean version of  the Madoff saga certainly made for very compelling human drama, and Daniel says that while there is no single larger than life figure this season, faithful viewers will be rewarded. “At the end of it, we hope they feel like they’ve been watching a 13-hour movie and feel satisfied with their investment.” With a stellar cast (all in attendance today) headed by Close, Rose Byrne (loved you in Bridesmaids!), John Goodman and Dylan Baker, we’re sure viewers will have plenty to chew on. We’ll be watching.

I had a lively lunch today with Self’s editor-in chief Lucy Danziger who arrived on her scooter with entertainment director Laura Brounstein. Rounding out our foursome was Huffington Post’s new women’s editor Lori Leibovich who is busy these days getting ready to launch a host of new verticals including ones devoted to parenting, baby boomers and pets.

Lucy just celebrated her 10th anniversary at Self , and she’s more energized than ever. She gave Lori and me a quick tour of Self’s July issue with cover girl Zooey Deschanel on the magazine’s iPad App which featured videos of fashion spreads with Cobra Starship set to music and stop action video demonstrating the exercise moves in the fitness features. This being ‘The Music Issue,’ Lucy and her team came up with some clever ways to get readers’ heart rates up, including playlists designed to motivate and slim them down. “Music is scientifically proven to be a powerful fitness tool,” she says. Just ask May’s cover girl Gwyneth Paltrow.

It was clear from seeing Lucy zip her way around her iPad during lunch that she has completely embraced her magazine’s digital doppelganger (which just launched in April with cover girl Kim Kardashian hosting live chats) and sees it as a way to connect with her readers like never before.  ”The print magazine is great. It refreshes a reader’s commitment on a monthly basis,” she explained. “But we can reach the same reader every day with something new with our App. We refresh our content every day and are constantly coming up with new ways to make our readers feel more involved. We had three million uniques last month and, in the digital world, we can reach those readers 24/7.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  Lucy Danziger, Laura Brounstein, Lori Leibovich and yours truly

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Sherrie Westin

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

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Jon Meacham, Desiree Gruber And A Squadron of Spinmeisters

1003_mockup.gif— DIANE CLEHANE

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: On Wednesdays, all roads lead to Michael’s. Exhibit A: This week, one of my best friends from Bay Shore High School, Scot Safon, was featured in a New York Times piece by mediabistro.com alum Brian Stelter. So I was thrilled to catch up with Scott when he walked into the dining room this afternoon on his way to meet Fortune‘s Pattie Sellers (one of his best friends from college).

Scot’s come a long way from his days as one of the editors of our school newspaper, The Maroon Echo. Having risen through the ranks at Turner, he is now helming CNN sister network HLN and shepherding shows headlined by Nancy Grace, Joy Behar, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jane Velez-Mitchell. The Times piece chronicled HLN’s runaway ratings thanks to their coverage of Casey Anthony‘s headline-grabbing murder trial. As Scot sees it, the trial “has so many layers” for his stable of talent to explore as they relate to each host’s area of expertise. As Nancy continues to hold “tot mom” Casey’s feet to the fire seeking  ”justice for [Anthony's late daughter] Caylee,” Dr. Drew explores the myriad psychological issues unearthed during testimony. On their respective shows, Joy and Jane chew over the day’s events and keep viewers up to the minute on all the developments. “It is a fascinating case that has viewers riveted,” says Scot. “It’s a once in a lifetime trial.” (That is, at least until the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray starts in September.)

I was joined today by Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne, and we had a terrific chat about the state of the media business. Gerry, who has run an incredible stable of publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, is involved in a head spinning number of projects these days that cross all platforms. He recently added the role of managing partner at Black Ocean, a diversified media holdings company launched by Oliver Ripley, founding partner of the UK-based Ocean Group, and Tremor Media founder Andrew Reis. Gerry also hosts monthly ‘Influencer’ lunches with Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller. (He sits on the board of its parent company, Penske Media.)

Having presided over so many print titles during their heyday, Gerry says he’s invigorated by the “wild west of digital opportunities” he and his partners have discovered, and created, online. His belief that companies that own the next generation’s digital paths will be the big winners going forward is keeping him thinking big and moving forward. “The consumer is king!” says Gerry. “Long live the consumer!”

1.  A trio of ladies who launch: public relations maven Christine Taylor, producer Desiree Gruber and Katherine Oliver, commissioner of The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

2. Socialite Sugar Rautbord just in from Chicago — with two gal pals

3. Thomson Reuters’ global head of PR Jolie Hunt, looking terribly chic in all white

4. Uber agent Esther Newberg, at her usual perch with Random House EVP Jon Meacham

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Blake Lively, Charlie Rose And An Ex-Caped Crusader

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I just love it when the random celebrity turns up at Michael’s for lunch. It’s always entertaining to watch the usual suspects try to simultaneously network and star gaze. Today’s out-of-left-field appearances represented both new and old Hollywood (just like this year’s Oscars but without James Franco‘s near comatose involvement). For fans of eighties screen gems like the original Batman and Beetlejuice, there was Michael Keaton. The younger demographic was represented by Gossip Girl star Blake Lively, who, it should be said, is even more beautiful (and taller) in person.

There was plenty of Tinseltown talk at my table, too. I was lunching today with producer Joan Gelman and marketing consultant and political commentator Robert Zimmerman, who is keeping busy with appearances on CNN and Fox News. Joan, who has more than paid her dues in television, had this to say about the Oscars: “You need a heavyweight to carry that show. You need a comedian who can make the audience laugh. It was a horribly produced show.”

Maybe so, but we all agreed that Bravo’s Andy Cohen was way out of line to trash the performance of the school kids from Staten Island who closed out the show by singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Appearing on Morning Joe, Cohen told the incredulous hosts that the kids’ performance (which got a standing ovation from the audience) “ruined everything” and that he was so pained by the sight of kids in t-shirts (evidently, he thought they should have dressed up) that he was “looking for a knife to stick in his eyes.”

To that, Robert asked, “The man who is responsible for such high-brow television as The Real Housewives franchise is suddenly the arbiter of good taste and glamour in Hollywood?” Don’t expect an apology anytime soon, either. In the current media climate, said Robert, it’s more than likely Cohen is relishing the attention he’s getting for taking aim at the elementary schoolers. “Creating buzz is more relevant than making sense.” Apparently so.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywood heavyweight Freddie Gershon (Loved the sweater!) with Linda Janklow

2. Spotted: Blake Lively and Vivi Nevo. When this unlikely duo showed up without a reservation, things got a lot more interesting. (One pesky paparazzo seemingly transfixed by the sight of the actress stationed himself outside of the window overlooking the dining room for the entire lunch and refused to move no matter how many times he was asked to leave) We’re more intrigued by Vivi, who, we hear is an Israeli-born venture capitalist and was once engaged to the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi. Could this be the start of another Hollywood romance? Maybe he’s just interested in fashionable folk. After all, the last time we spotted him at Michael’s he was sitting at this very table with Anna Wintour.

3. A trio of social swans: Margo McNabb Nederlander and producers Terry Allen Kramer and Francine LeFrak.

4.  Charlie Rose (who we overheard introducing himself to Michael Keaton) and Universal Pictures CEO Stacey Snider

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It’s An A-Lister Buffet! Cate Blanchett, Debra Messing, Star Jones and The Morning Joe Team

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a sure sign that spring is actually on its way when the A-list comes out of hibernation and flocks to Michael’s once again. The appearance of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing holding court at their respective tables had the whole place buzzing. Wendy Williams, seated in the middle of the action, could barely focus on her own table because she was so excited. We also have to imagine that the grub at the NBC cafeteria must be wanting these days, because there were so many of the network’s bold face names (Joe! Mika! David!) all around the room.

I was joined today by my good friend, Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR and Kristen Vigrass, president of The Brandman Agency. We were celebrating Kristen’s promotion to to president of the firm which was announced earlier this year. A public relations vet with a long history in the luxury market for companies including Calvin Klein, Kristen started at The Brandman Agency as a supervisor and worked her way up during her decade with the company. Bravo!

Kristen tells me she and founder Melanie Brandman are planning to celebrate a decade of working together with a possible  sojourn to Borneo. The exotic port of call will be on the intinerary later this year when the agency’s client Orion Expedition Cruises sets sail to the destination with a new ship. Kristen’s suitcase is always packed and ready to go somewhere. The Brandman Agency also represents Intercontinental Hotels Group and Orient-Express Hotels. When do we leave?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Debra Messing, looking every inch the star in a luxe white fur vest with her manager Molly Madden (the gals co-produced Messing’s now cancelled series The Starter Wife for USA Networks) and producer Desiree Gruber.

2. A Fox5 reunion: Rosanna Scotto, Penny Crone and Lynne White.

3. Sony Pictures Television head Steve Mosko with Tom Bernard and Michael Barker

4. Here’s an interesting trio: Uber celeb handler Cindi Berger, Hearst honcho Ellen Levine and Conde Nast front woman Maurie Perl

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Does Sopranos Creator David Chase Ever Smile?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Michael Douglas by a day. Oh well, there was enough going on with the usual suspects in the Michael’s dining room that we barely had time to eat. After making the rounds to check in with the regulars, I saw that Sopranos creator David Chase had slipped in practically unnoticed. What really caught my eye was the downright miserable expression on Chase’s face. Does this guy ever smile? Apparently not. One insider told me, “Chase is a guy that has a pretty dark view of life. How else could he have come up with Tony Soprano?” We’ve heard of method acting, but method living? Whatever works, I guess.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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

2. Kris Fuchs and Joan Tisch

3. Gerry Byrne (who treated me to the latest pics of his new granddaughter on his iPhone) with The Ito Partnership’s president and CEO David Melancon and partner Joseph Sutherland.

4. Kathy Lacey — making the scene two days in a row!

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