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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Balthazar’

Jennifer Aniston Serves ‘Cake’ to Gayle King, Arianna Huffington and Marlo Thomas

LunchAtMichaelsIt was one for the books today at Michael’s. While the SRO crowd of mavens, moguls and machers was celebrating at full tilt, the joint got an extra jolt of adrenaline when word spread that Jennifer Aniston would be hosting an intimate lunch for twenty as she continues her unofficial Oscar campaign for her role in her latest film, Cake. In case you haven’t heard, Jen goes without makeup (gasp!) and does the whole ‘I can look like a real person’ thing as she portrays a widow and chronic pain sufferer in the film. Today, though, she was in full movie-star mode as she arrived with a bodyguard in tow who stood watch over her table in the corner of  The Garden Room to keep away the curious. This intrepid reporter tried to get a few words with the former Friends star, but when I introduced myself to her handler Stephen Huvane and asked him if I could ask her a few questions about the film, I got a big smile and a ”I don’t think so.”

Diane Clehane and Nancy Lee

Diane Clehane and Nancy Lee

Too bad, because I also wanted to tell Jen I think her fiance Justin Theroux was unjustly snubbed by the Globes and SAG Awards for his outstanding work in The Leftovers. Oh well. Among those who were invited to the gathering: Gayle King, who stopped by our table to say hello, Marlo Thomas, Arianna Huffington and one of her daughters. I caught up with Deborah Roberts, who was also on the guest list who told me, “The whole thing was very low key. I kept waiting for someone to make a speech about the film, but there was none of that. Just a nice lunch with some great people.” We’re told Jennifer was gracious to the staff on the way out, but no one dared ask for a selfie or a quick chat. If you want to see some shots of all the big doings,  photographer Kevin Mazur was there to document this momentous occasion, which is sure to show up on the usual sites soon.
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Harvey Weinstein, Ron Meyer and the Secrets of Sheryl Sandberg’s Media Coach

LunchAtMichaelsIt was the usual mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein and Ron Meyer at Table Four), seasoned with a smattering of stylistas, social types and a generous side order of  publicists at Michael’s today. The mood was downright festive in the dining room with a birthday celebration for Shari Rollins, who was feted by hubby politico Ed Rollins and a table full of BFFs at Table One, while a group of fashion folks led by Laurie Haspel toasted the return of National Seersucker Day in the center of the room. As the festivities grew more spirited and the decibel level rose, I leaned in to hear every fascinating utterance by my lunch date, Emmy-Award-winning correspondent and media coach to the famous and fabulous, Bill McGowan.

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

As founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, Bill, who describes himself as a “total Cyrano de Bergerac,” has coached a head-spinning roster of newsmakers, captains of industry and media types to say the just right thing at the right time on air and in front of an audience when it really counts. He’s crystallized all his best advice and culled it down into a highly digestible, compulsively readable book, Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time (HarperBusiness), which was published in April. “I’ve been coaching HarperCollins authors for 12 years; now I am one,” said Bill. And, trust me, he’s got plenty of material. In the course of his 25-year career in television, Bill conducted thousands (!) of interviews and worked on ABC News’ 20/20, CBS News’ 48 Hours, Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel and Current Affair. He also worked with the “very generous” Bill O’Reilly back in the day at WCBS News as a desk assistant when Fox’s future front man gave him his first on-air shout-out. “I was 21 at the time and he was always really good to me.”

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Bonnie Fuller, Jill Zarin and Why Jeff Greenfield Skipped This Year’s State of the Union Address

LunchAtMichaelsYou’d never know hell had officially frozen over if you’d been at Michael’s today. The forsythias were in bloom, a few intrepid media mavens were barelegged (I kid you not) and the power-lunch scene was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, my date was detained in the studio shooting a popular television show, but I soldiered on into Manhattan, bundled up in my long-forgotten fur coat (No judgment, thank you) that makes me look like Yogi Bear’s wife to make my appointed Wednesday rounds. And it’s a good thing I did. At Table One, Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller had assembled a particularly interesting roster of media types (including CNN’s Christine Romans, AOL’s Brian Balthazar , ”Mayor” Joe Armstrong and our own Chris Ariens among them) as well as the requisite reality-show refugee who, in this case, was Jill Zarin. A little birdie told me the former Real Housewives of New York City cast member is getting the Where Are They Now? treatment from none other than Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode. The fickle finger of fate has quite the sense of humor.

Lunch at Michaels

Meta moment: Does a power lunch at 55th and Fifth count if no one’s there to see it? I think we know the answer to that one.

Before the overflow crowd sat down to discuss Justin Bieber‘s latest contretemps and why Madonna looked like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West at the Grammys, I spent some time mingling with the crowd. Bonnie introduced me to her 23-year-old daughter Sofia Fuller who was “helping out” at today’s luncheon since Bonnie is currently without a publicist (but not for long, I suspect). Clever Sofia told me that she is “definitely” interested in a career in media and has her heart set on landing something in e-commerce.

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Brian Balthazar Joins AOL as Exec Producer and Head of Programming

Brian Balthazar is joining AOL as executive producer and head of programming for AOL.com. Balthazar comes to AOL from HGTV, where he served as director of original programming and development. He had been with HGTV since 2008.

Prior to his time at HGTV, Balthazar worked at NBC, where he developed the fourth hour of the Today show.

“Brian’s experience is unparalleled and unique – he has original TV programming expertise as well as a world-class production background,” wrote Maureen Sullivansenior VP of brand, marketing and communications, president of AOL.com and lifestyle brands, in an announcement. “He will play a leading role in the future of AOL.com as we program a loved and engaging destination for our loyal viewers.”

Balthazar will join AOL in January.

Shirley MacLaine Stops by a Birthday Party for Liz Smith

1003_mockup.gifI knew it was going to be quite the scene at Michael’s today when a little birdie told me that there was going to be a lunch for Liz Smith celebrating the grand dame of gossip’s upcoming birthday at Table One. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed. None other than Shirley MacLaine stopped by to say hello to Liz (more on why later), and I got to chat with the legendary actress about her guest-starring stint on Downton Abbey. While the entire restaurant swiveled in our general direction, I jumped up from my seat to ask about her experience on PBS’ smash hit and she couldn’t have been more gracious.

“I loved doing the show,” she told me. “Everyone was so welcoming and great about everything. I was amazed that no matter what the weather — because it rained a lot when we were shooting — they all went on as if the sun was shining. They were wonderfully professional.” Her character, Martha Levinson, appeared in only two episodes but left quite an impact on viewers — particularly when Martha sparred with Violet, the Dowager Countess played by the legendary Maggie Smith. “That was one of my favorite days on the set,” Ms. MacLaine told me of the scene where she and Ms. Smith sat for hours in a church pew waiting for the ill-fated wedding of Lady Edith to begin. “We spent eight hours talking about life, and we never ran out of things to say.” I bet. Before she dashed out the door — she only stayed long enough to say her hellos — I asked whether she’d be returning to the series and she said, “Yes. We start shooting soon. I’m looking forward to it.” So are we.

Liz Smith with her party pals and her armadillo cake

Now, back to Liz’s lunch (described as a “southern confab”), which Hearst’s Deb Shriver put together with scribe Julia Reed and ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong. Deb was putting the finishing touches on the table, which included a bouquet of yellow roses arranged in Joe’s Texas bronzed boot and a specially designed menu (fried chicken, collard greens and corn bread) featuring a photo of Liz at a year old. Liz and Joe have a long friendship that dates back to 1968 when Joe first arrived in New York and met the fellow Texan. They forged an unbreakable bond. “I didn’t know one person when I came here and found out she was raised a block from where my mama grew up in Fort Worth. She was the only person I met who I thought didn’t talk with an accent.” The two have been great pals ever since.

Shirley MacLaine stops by Michael’s

Southern belle Deb, who has written two fabulous books on New Orleans including the gorgeous Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, surprised Liz with one of the most unusual birthday cakes ever served at Michael’s or anywhere else for that matter, and had a Brooklyn baker recreate the Steel Magnolias armadillo red velvet cake. Ms. MacLaine, as you might recall, was one of the stars of the 1989 film, and she arrived with the film’s screenwriter Robert Harling to jazz up the festivities. They departed before Michael’s staff paraded through the dining room with the life-size armadillo on a platter, raising  more than a few eyebrows. Clearly thrilled by the gesture, Liz was served the head of the baked beast while the rest of the guests dug into the ‘carcass.’ Mmm… yummy.

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Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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Back to Business With Norma Kamali, Jeanine Pirro and William Lauder

1003_mockup.gifSpring break is over, so it’s back to business for the movers and shakers at Michael’s. Today’s crowd was the usual mix of media mavens (Keith Kelly, Jonathan Wald), stylistas (Norma Kamali, John Galantic) and money men (William Lauder), with plenty of strivers and a slew of pretty young things thrown in for good measure.

I was joined today by Kelly Langberg, who I met at Michael’s last month when she was celebrating her birthday at Table One with her nearest and dearest. When I got a gander of the fabulous jewelry she was wearing, I just had to go over to get a closer look. It turned out that Kelly had designed the pieces herself and had a thriving  business selling the beautiful bling to her well-heeled clients. At today’s lunch, Kelly explained how her jewelry inadvertently served as a launch pad for her now four-year-old business as the makeover maven to Manhattan’s chic set.

Having had a successful career pre-motherhood in investment banking and commercial real estate, Kelly was looking for something new that would allow her to have more time to spend with her children when they were little. Some years ago while on vacation at a swanky resort,  not one, but two different women who she’d run into over the course of her stay and admired her personal style asked her if she’d accompany them (separately) to the hotel’s pricey jewelry boutique to pick out something fabulous. “It was so random,” Kelly recalled, “but I did it for fun and wound up having things made for them at a fraction of the price. I thought to myself, ‘I think I found a business.’”

Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg
Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg

In no time at all, Kelly found herself advising her jewelry clients on everything from their hairstyles and makeup to plastic surgery options. “I’d show up at apartments to talk about jewelry and a client would say, ‘What do you think about my neck? What should I do with my hair?” said Kelly.  ”In 20 years in business, people have shown me just about everything you could imagine. I’ve seen it all.”

The enterprising Kelly decided to turn her exhaustive knowledge of the beauty business (“The best doctors, stylists, makeup artists — I know them all”) into a bonafide business. Today, she works individually with every client, listening carefully to their desires and needs (“A lot of this is therapy”) and even accompanies them to doctor’s offices and salons to ask the tough questions or just give her honest opinion on what works and what doesn’t.

While Kelly advises the creme de la creme of Manhattan on the very best places to go for those big ticket items like plastic surgery (she’d just come from a surgeon’s office with a client) and cosmetic dentistry, she is completely obsessed with helping clients find the perfect hairstyle. ”It all starts with the hair,” Kelly says. “You could have a great smile, terrific posture and a great wardrobe. If your hair is wrong, it’s all wrong.” As if on cue, proprietor Michael McCarty came by (he and Kelly go way back) to say hello, and we complimented him on his new, shorter locks which we decided made him look downright boyish. He told us his wife Kim McCarty had suggested he try her stylist who recently relocated from London to Malibu, where the couple lives. “I have a great person for you here in town, because you need one when you’re here,” Kelly told him. “I’m taking you over there. Let me know when you want to go.” And that was that.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Ed Rollins’ Wife on His Departure from Bachmann’s Campaign

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Put away those summer whites — but keep that rain gear handy!  Now that Labor Day is history, the town car set has returned from their summer sojourns and is gearing up for the power lunch season. The Wednesday crowd at Michael’s isn’t back to full tilt just yet, but there were enough suits and swells in the dining room to signal that play time is over.

I was joined today by PR maven extraordinaire Catherine Saxton who is gearing up for a very busy fall season. She’s juggling a number of exciting events including Eric Trump‘s charity golf tournament benefiting St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital coming up next week in Westchester (Amanda Seyfried and Brooklyn Decker are both schedule to attend) and a multi-day culinary competition kicking off September 22 and 23 in Times Square. For the latter, 72 Chinese chefs will battle it out to have their cuisine served at the “Emperor’s Banquet” on Sunday, September 25 at Pier 60.

After lunch, Catherine introduced me to Shari Rollins, wife of veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins who yesterday announced he was stepping down as Michele Bachmann‘s presidential campaign chief due to health reasons. When I asked Shari to weigh in on her 68-year-old husband’s headline-making decision, she told me: “Politics is tough — it’s a young man’s game. Ed is young in spirit, but not in body. Those 14-hour days were grueling. He’s a great husband and a great father, and I’m happy he’s taking care of himself. He’s doing great and thinks the world of Michelle.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Warner Music Group’s Lyor Cohen (Tory Burch‘s main squeeze), presiding over a table full of business types

2. Fashionista Mickey Ateyeh, sporting a glorious tan she got while on holiday in the south of France, with Meredith Finney

3. Steve Mosko

4. Wowowow’s Liz Smith (Loved the baby blue leather jacket!) and Joni Evans with, so we’re told, a Dr. Schindler.

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Matt Lauer, Harold Ford Jr. & Neil Sedaka

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If the scene at Michael’s today is any indication, summer vacations are so 2010. The place was full of magazine honchos (the cafeteria at Hearst must have been empty), media mavens (Does Jason Binn ever sleep?) and bold face names who were all working the room like nobody’s business. I knew this group meant business when the chatter rose to such a decibel-splitting level that I could barely hear what my lunch dates were saying. So forget about playing hooky this week because the weather is so good, get to work on making that next big deal happen!

When I arrived a little before noon today I got a chance to catch up with Harold Ford Jr. I asked the former congressman, now MSNBC analyst, what he thought of the contentious negotiations between President Obama and the Republicans on raising the debt ceiling. Will the two sides reach an agreement before the August deadline? “They’ll strike an 11th hour deal,” Harold told me. “They have to.” Harold thinks the president is “acting responsibly” while the freshman Republicans are “playing with fire.” His solution: “If I were advising the president, I’d say get out on a ten-city tour and talk to people and explain (in his plan) there would be no new taxes until the end of 2012.” When it comes to raising taxes, Harold espouses raising the tax threshold for individuals and households. Eat your peas, indeed.

I was joined today by Redbook’s editor-in-chief Jill Herzig and Hearst PR director Alexandra Carlin and we had a lively conversation that ranged from raising kids to keeping up (literally) with the Kardashians. Jill just celebrated her first anniversary at Redbook in May and has made some savvy tweaks to Hearst’s magazine for smart, style-conscious women who juggle work and family. The biggest change? A shift in tone from “commiserating to celebrating” life in all its glorious, modern day chaos. “We love it when we hear about that from our cover celebrities. Brooke Burke was very honest about it recently. She said balance doesn’t exist. It’s just life.” In the new August issue, Jada Pinkett Smith gives some very frank — and emotional — answers about raising a family of budding superstars, her “excruciating” choices and how she wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wouldn’t want to go home to Will Smith?

Speaking of celebs, Jill gave me the rundown on which cover gals have scored on the newsstand this year. The big winners were the multiple covers featuring reality/competition show queens Bethenny Frankel, Allison Sweeney and Padma Lakshmi, and the issue featuring country star Miranda Lambert right before she married Blake Shelton. The top seller? The May issue which featured the women of the Kardashian clan clad all in white. Jill tells me ‘momager’ Kris earned her complete respect by rounding up her daughters and arriving early for a 6 am call to the set. “They were incredibly professional and all genuinely seemed to enjoy each other. They were just lovely.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Niche Media’s Jason Binn (Loved the seersucker suit!) presiding over a table of young bucks.

2. Producer Francine LeFrak and some well-heeled pals.

3. Cosmo‘s publisher Donna Lagani and Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller. A little birdie told me that Bonnie and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne moved their monthly ‘Influencer’ luncheon from Tuesday to Wednesday this month because Jay Penske, whose company Mail.com Media owns Hollywoodlife.com, was in town and didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. Just in case you were wondering who joined the terrific trio here’s the list: social swan and Vanity Fair scribe Amy Fine Collins , designer Stacey Bendet, Ogilvy Entertainment president Doug Scott, Maybelline’s Deborah Marquardt, ION Media Networks’ CEO Brandon Burgess, Razorfish VP of media Julie Weitzner, Charlie Corwin, founder of Original Media,  publicist Matt Hiltzik and Aly Racer, president on PMC.

4. Producer Freddie Gershorn.

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Deborah Norville, Cindi Leive & A Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Michael’s, and today was no exception. Everyone in the place seemed connected by less than six degrees of separation, as we observed plenty of old friends and former colleagues exchanging air kisses before dining and dishing. Then there was the completely random fashion moment that caught our eye. Did you know it was ‘Seersucker Day’ here in New York City? Now you do. So it was only fitting that Michael’s GM Steve Millington was sporting his summer seersucker suit in honor of the sweltering heat. Earlier today, a little birdie told me that the outdoor set of The Early Show was filled with men (including the show’s weatherman Dave Price) in Haspel seersucker suits in honor of the company’s 100 anniversary. Who made Steve’s suit? Why Haspel, of course. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with Susan Silver, who I met in this very dining room a while back when I was lunching with our mutual pal Brian Balthazar at the next table. When I found out Susan was one of the brilliant writers behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show (the first and best one), I just had to get to know her better. Today we talked TV — of course — and Susan weighed in on her favorite sitcoms of the season. She gives high marks to ABC’s Modern Family (“Genius!”) and The Middle (“It is laugh out loud funny!”). It turns out we share a mutual obsession with reality television; specifically Bravo’s wild and wacky Housewives. I can’t get enough of the New York City divas — except for Jill Zarin. Susan loves ‘em all.

These days Susan is turning up everywhere on television (most recently with Rosanna Scotto on Fox 5) and radio (chatting with Bill Bennett) to talk about the baby boomer generation, spurred by a column she did a few years back, “The Search for Mr. Adequate,” for New York Social Diary. Now she’s on a mission to become “The Martha Stewart of The Baby Boomers,” offering her take on everything from fashion to travel and, of course, relationships for this “underserved market.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Chris Taylor presiding over a table of fabulous females, including Desiree Gruber and CNN’s Alina Cho

2. Bonnie Timmermann and two pals

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. The Early Show: It was a family affair for sisters Andrea Barzvi (who works at ICM) and Alexandra Barzvi (a clinical psychologist), who were celebrating mom Bianca’s birthday. We simply had say hello to this stylish trio because Bianca’s hat just dazzled us. Second seating: Peggy Siegal.

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