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Posts Tagged ‘Cathie Black’

Woody Johnson, Jared Kushner and a Haute New Hollywood Handbag Designer

LunchAtMichaelsSince so many media mavens and talking heads have headed to the West Coast for Oscar week, my lunch today with designer Michelle Vale was particularly timely. Just a few days ago, Michelle sent off several of her handbags to LaLa land in hopes that a certain Best Actress nominee will walk down the red carpet carrying one of her creations come Sunday night. If the actress, whose name for the moment is top secret (“But she’s a big Oscar person!”) utters Michelle’s name when she is asked the million dollar question of the night — “Who are you wearing?” — by E!’s Giuliana Rancic, that could mean very big things for the designer. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Michelle told me. “An actress can pick a dress and change her mind at the last minute. She can look in her suitcase and pick up something else. I won’t know until I see her on television.”

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

No stranger to the celebrity scene, Michelle’s collection of sophisticated, versatile designs that allow women to customize their bags by selecting a variety of  different hardware and straps  — all made right her in New York City — have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Kate Bosworth and Kate Beckinsale. Michelle also managed to score valuable television exposure on Gossip Girl, a favorite of fashionistas everywhere where posh Upper East Siders played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester toted around the Amex Black cards in Michelle Vale handbags.

While fashion was part of Michelle’s DNA — dad was a senior vice president of Sasson Jeans, favored by aspiring disco divas everywhere in the 80s, and mom once owned a boutique, she never planned on going into the business as a career. “I used to go to Studio 54 with my father,” Michelle told me. “It was such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to something completely different, so I got a master’s in counseling  children which, as it turns out, has come in handy in this business.” It was when the accidental designer got pregnant quickly after getting married that she decided she wanted to do something that allowed her to stay at home with her newborn son. “I literally started the business with my son in my lap,” she said.

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‘The Cosmo 100′ With Joanna Coles and the Wednesday Celebrity Scene

LunchAtMichaelsAs devoted as we are to covering the Fellini-esque scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, we do occasionally break tradition and report the news from 55th and Fifth on other days of the week when we’re invited to especially dishy lunches with A-listers. Monday’s head-spinning gathering of the “Cosmo 100″ hosted by the hotter-than-hot editrix Joanna Coles more than fit the bill. Boasting one of the year’s most impressive guest lists, the estrogen-fueled confab now in its second year, brilliantly showcased Joanna’s savvy for bringing together her vast network of female overachievers from every conceivable sphere of influence for the dual purpose of some high-profile networking and some serious brand building. “Last year when I came up with the idea for this lunch, people came and didn’t really know what to expect,” Joanna told me as she stood in the lounge accepting air kisses and posing for photos with the growing throng of well-wishers. “This year, we had people calling up asking to come.”

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb; Photo: Greg Pace

Among those that did make the final cut: actresses Sarah Jessica Parker (“This is my new favorite yearly lunch!” she told me) and The Carrie Diaries star AnnaSophia Robb (The original Carrie and Carrie 2.0 met for the first time in the dining room and posed for their first ever joint photo during cocktails); The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee; Arianna HuffingtonMika Brzezinski (whose late arrival during Joanna’s opening remarks earned the Morning Joe cohost some cheeky chiding about her tardiness); celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson; supermodel Coco Rocha (who sported a chic shorter hairstyle and towered over the crowd); producer Desiree Gruber; designers Georgina Chapman and Stacey Bendet; Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon; A&E Network’s Nancy DubucPolitico‘s Kim Kingsley; Atlantic Record’s chairman Julie Greenwald; lobbyist Heather Podesta (whose striking silver locks, sky high Louboutins and flawless makeup earned her my pick as the best-dressed guest); Harvard Business School professor and TED talker Amy CuddyLauren ZalaznickLeslie SloaneLiz KaplowThe Chew‘s Daphne Oz; attorney Robbie Kaplan (who argued Edie Windsor‘s case before the Supreme Court); director and producer Alexandra Kerry (Dad is Secretary of State John Kerry); Laurie Tisch; and aspiring songstress Sky Ferreira, a frequent subject of lensman Terry Richardson. Read more

David Zaslav, David Zinczenko and the Next Big Name in Fashion

1003_mockup.gifOn any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.

Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.

Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Lisa Sun and Diane Clehane

The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”

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The ‘Cosmo 100′ Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Seinfeld; The Wednesday Crowd with Star Jones and Doris Kearns Goodwin

1003_mockup.gifAs you probably know by now, only the most extreme circumstances could keep the faithful from their usual lunch at Michael’s. Since Mother Nature proved to be too formidable a force for us on not one, but two back-to-back Wednesdays, we were only too happy to pull double duty this week.

On Monday, I attended the estrogen-fueled lunch for “The Cosmo 100,” a gals-only power lunch hosted by Joanna Coles who, having been named EIC of Cosmopolitan mere weeks ago, put together a guest list to end all guest lists for her first event. When I arrived  a few minutes before noon, the paparazzi was lined up to capture the arrival of Sarah Jessica ParkerDiane von Furstenberg, Ali Wentworth, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jessica Seinfeld, who seemed to be channeling MC Hammer in some curious gold lame harem pants. Also in attendance: ABC News’ Deborah Roberts, model Carol Alt, bestselling author Jane Green and more A-list Gotham gals than I’ve seen in one place in ages. Hearst’s amazing PR team headed by Deb Shriver, Alexandra Carlin and Holly Whidden deserve some major kudos. I was seated at a fabulous table with Cathie Black, modeling icon Pat Cleveland and Barbara Taylor Bradford, who told me her 29th book will be published early next year. The mind reels.

When the A-list crowd made their way to the Garden Room, Joanna (who was rocking some gorgeous leather pants) greeted everyone with her trademark cheeky humor, telling us she’d prepared ‘binders of men’ as research for her new gig and then quoting Margaret Thatcher with the wise words, ‘Cocks crow but it’s hens that lay the eggs.’ She also advised us “never to underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes.” So true. But Joanna wanted to do more than celebrate fun, fearless females at her kick-off lunch; she surprised everyone by introducing some truly formidable women who’d broken through the glass ceiling during this election cycle. New Hampshire’s first female governor Maggie Hassan talked of having her daughter run her winning campaign, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to congress explained how she won her race in Hawaii by proving wrong the naysayers who told her “it wasn’t her time,” and Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to congress from New York, spoke of the need for women to be mentors to other women. It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Today, I was joined by another trailblazer Marcy Syms, who you must know from those commercials for the legendary off-price retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer”).  It was Marcy’s father, the late Sy Syms who founded the business in 1958 as the first national retailer to sell off-price men’s clothing. At first, it was Sy who gave voice to the slogan in 1974, but he wisely asked Marcy to take his place in 1978 thus tapping into an emerging public consciousness about working women. The rest, as they say, is history.  ”I still remember wearing those bow blouses and those short haircuts!” said Marcy.

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Ann Curry, Calvin Klein and a Real-Life Seinfeld Character

1003_mockup.gifForget about the dog days of summer. The stifling heat couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. In fact, many of the power lunchers showed up early to escape the oppressive temps which made for a jam packed dining room. The always unflappable Loreal Sherman kept everything running smoothly as usual, finding just the right table for everyone despite the SRO crowd. At Michael’s, you are where you sit after all.

I was joined today by Scott Singer, managing director of Discover Digital Group where he helps media companies identify and build e-commerce businesses, as well as assisting them in growing their existing digital assets. When he’s not navigating his clients through the changing world of social media and mobile advertising, Scott is also a passionate author. In his first book, How to Hit a Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business (Portfolio, 2010), Scott took on the question on everyone’s mind at the time: how to survive and thrive after the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. “I’ve spent my career advising companies (including CBS/Viacom and Disney) on how to overcome and confront change,” Scott told me. After enduring his own series of personal and professional ‘curveballs’ —  his job as head of digital media and internet infrastructure at Bear Sterns was a fatality of the tech bubble, his brother was in one of the towers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 but thankfully survived and he got divorced (“My marriage ended in a death spiral,” he writes in the book), Scott told me he learned that “None of us know what the future holds but, once you’ve learned how to confront and overcome the unexpected, it will stop making you anxious. Tomorrow will no longer be something to fear and that’s a great feeling.”

Diane Clehane and Scott Singer
Diane Clehane and Scott Singer

Cleverly outlining his insights using baseball terminology, Scott leads the reader from ‘spring training’ all the way through ‘an extra inning’ and includes the wisdom of those who have always aimed for the fences, like CBS honcho Les Moonves, former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and Michael J. Fox.

Scott’s best advice: Step up to the plate and accept what is, be the batter and keep your eye on the ball. A self-proclaimed enthusiast for the latest and best gadgets on the market, Scott says these rules are easily applicable in business, especially when it comes to new technology. Change is happening every minute and the only way to win is to embrace it and be an early adapter. Just look at our kids.

“Every child today is born digital. It’s in their DNA, while those people that are passing away are analog. We’re digital immigrants,” he says. “My 14 year-old son is my IT support. It’s amazing to think of all the innovations the digital generation is going to create.”

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The A-List Returns! Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, Barry Diller Hold Court at Michael’s

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As Januarys go, this one has been a bit of a snoozer, but things are finally picking up now that the boldface names have returned to their regular perches at Michael’s. The joint was jumping today as morning talkers (Charlie Rose, Barbara Walters), media moguls (Barry Diller) and fashionistas (Marie Claire‘s Joanna Coles) were all in full power lunch mode. It’s about time!

I was joined today by Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket and Hearst executive director of public relations Alexandra Carlin. It’s been a while since Seventeen was required reading in my house (I still remember begging my father to drive me to the stationary store,  so I could be the first to get the magazine’s coveted September back to school issue). Back then, I’d devour every oversize page, finding tons of inspiration and validation about surviving the treacherous teenage years in one piece — and in style.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ann, who celebrated her fifth anniversary with the magazine last week, says she feels a “huge responsibility” to readers, which means addressing the issues they care most about (a tall order to say the least). Between dealing with ‘sextortion’ (boyfriends threatening to dump girls if they don’t submit sexually) and the barrage of unrealistic images of physical perfection all around them, today’s teenage girls, says Ann, are under “huge pressure” all while dealing with the requisite drama that comes with being a high school girl.  Seventeen‘s mission is to empower teenage girls (the average reader is 16), often by reporting on celebrities who can be a source of inspiration.  For next month’s cover, the magazine scored the first interview with a post-rehab Demi Lovato who opens up about how she battled back from anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder and cutting. “Demi was amazing. It’s so refreshing to have a celebrity be honest about their struggles. It’s great for girls to read about someone like that.”

Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin
Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin

Seventeen, says Ann, is also a resource for girls about subjects they might want to talk about with their parents, but can’t. Topic A: ‘Digital Drama’ – the magazine’s clever moniker for ‘cyber bullying’ which “sounds so nineties.” Seventeen is so committed to wiping out the epidemic that Ann created the ‘Delete Digital Drama’ campaign for the magazine. “We only had to deal with the mean girl phone calls, but today social media has created so many more outlets for bullying to happen. It’s a serious problem.”

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Real Housewife Melissa Gorga Dishes on Her Sister-in-Law From Hell

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Slow moving holiday tourists and presidential motorcades be damned. Nothing could keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. With the place decked out in its holiday finery, the mood was like a swanky office party on steroids.  While the usual suspects and a cool visitor from California (producer/composer David Foster) huddled over their tables deep in conversation, there was a little lunch for 14 in the middle of the dining room. I snagged one of the guests, Melissa Gorga, my favorite ‘housewife’ on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, for a chat about the knock-down, drag-out cat fights on last month’s reunion show and to get the real story about her on- and off-camera relationship with her fellow cast mate and sister-in-law, the charming Teresa Guidice.

Melissa, who is an absolute knockout in person, told me that the RHONJ cast (minus Jacqueline Laurita) shot the reunion special the day after wrapping the yet-to-be-aired Season 4, and the women were all seething about battles and betrayals the viewers haven’t even seen. “We had just had a huge blow up the night before, and that was what was on everyone’s mind. It was so hard not to say anything. That’s why Jacqueline wasn’t there,” Melissa tells me. “It was very confusing for us, and we were constantly trying not to say things about things that hadn’t aired yet. Bravo is so sorry they shot them back to back. I don’t think they are ever going to do that again.” Teresa “tried to set me up” and is back to her old tricks, Melissa told me, without giving anything away. After all the kissing and making up seen at the end of last season, Melissa’s husband Joe Gorga is “disgusted” with his table tipping sibling once again. Big surprise.

Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid
Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid

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Cathie Black Resurfaces, Jann Wenner at Table One, and Dish from The Millionaire Matchmaker

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Despite the worst case of Gotham gridlock in months (Thanks, Mr. President), there were plenty of media heavy hitters (Jann Wenner, John Huey),  high-profile editors (Martha Nelson, Kate White) and a spin sister (Peggy Siegal) at Michael’s today. While the power lunch set was chewing over their next big deal between bites, I had a dishy lunch with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger and my good friend, the network’s SVP of communications, Jennifer Geisser. If you’ve seen any part of Matchmaker, you know that Patti tells it like she sees it no matter what. “I’m a truth-teller; that’s it,” she told me after sharing some particularly searing commentary on some boldface names we all know. Sorry, but it’s off the record.

Fortunately, Patti did let loose over lunch and share her thoughts on her ‘overnight success’ — “Total bullshit. I worked my ass off for years,” she said. It certainly sounds that way. Before starting Millionaire’s Club International in 2000, she toiled in a number of positions ranging from garment center executive to astrologer before finally landing at Great Expectations, the country’s largest matchmaking service, running their Florida division and then as their director of marketing. Quickly realizing she had a knack for finding dates for just about everyone she met, she started her own firm and, she tells me, grossed $1 million the first year.

In 2001, she had a fateful meeting with Telepictures and pitched an idea for a reality show where one man would find love by ‘dating’ a group of women. Sounds familiar? Thanks to an inept agent at ICM (“He was terrible,” says Patti),  The Bachelor premiered without Patti’s involvement and went on to become TV ratings gold. Undeterred, Patti “cried for a night,” got a new agent and moved on. After a few other stops and starts involving, among others, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, Patti found a television home with Bravo in 2008 with The Millionaire Matchmaker and is currently in her fifth season of the show. Her dating pet peeves? Rude guys:  ”I want to teach young men some manners. They’ve got to learn to be gentlemen.” Scantily clad girls: “I always tell them ‘leave the Fredrick’s at home.’” And mothers who think their sons walk on water: “Jewish and Italian mothers are the worst. They think their sons are messiahs and expect everyone to treat them like one. It makes dating them impossible.”

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Bloomberg Sued by Reporter for Access to Cathie Black Emails

Sergio Hernandez, a reporter for ProPublica, is suing Michael Bloomberg. Hernandez says that when Bloomberg hired Cathie Black from Hearst, he attempted to gain access to the emails between Bloomberg and Black, because as everyone knows, it was a shocking choice.

Hernandez explains that New York laws designate any mayor’s office correspondence as public records. However, after some time, Hernandez was denied access to the emails by a city lawyer. Hernandez then appealed that decision, but was denied again.

Now he’s suing Bloomberg, attempting to get to the bottom of not only why he hired Black in the first place, but now, why he would be denied access to seemingly bland emails.

This is going to be interesting.

Ousted Cathie Black talks to Fortune About Making a Comeback

After being ousted as the chancellor of New York City public schools after merely 95 days, former Hearst magazines boss Cathie Black granted one of her first interviews to Fortune, and seemed to be in good spirits.

“It was like having to learn Russian in a weekend — and then give speeches in Russian and speak Russian in budget committee and City Council meetings,” she said about her brief stint in the public sphere.

Before managing magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Oprah’s O, Black also built USA Today for Gannett. But her media success has not shielded her from the barrage of criticism since she began the chancellor post.

“And the worst pictures!” Black told Patricia Sellers, “obviously referring to a horrid closeup shot of her on a February cover of New York magazine.”

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