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Posts Tagged ‘Cindi Berger’

Melania Trump, Charles Grodin and Princess Di’s Wedding Designer

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The oppressive heat didn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. The joint was jumping with media mavens of every stripe, including one editor who is clearly having a moment (David Zinczenko), high-profile publishers (Connie Ann Phillips, Donna Lagani) and, of course, a boldfaced name (Melania Trump) thrown in the mix.

It seemed as if all anyone wanted to talk about on (and off) the record was the imploding scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch. Said one source close to the action, “This could be bigger than anyone yet knows. Just wait if this thing hits New York. That would be major.” Uber agent and Londoner Ed Victor weighed in with this: “I made a $100 bet with Alfred Taubman that by this time next year [Murdoch] won’t be CEO.” And why? The corporation has no choice but to “throw him under the bus,” he said, adding that the televised hearings that have everyone riveted are “a complete wash.” Stay tuned.

I was joined today by Morgan Stanley’s Patrick Murphy and his sister, author and documentarian Mary Murphy. While I’ve had my share of Michael’s chats with Patrick, who spent four years with the Bloomberg administration and was one of the folks responsible for bringing Fashion Week to Lincoln Center, we’d never had our own lunch. These days, he’s hard at work at Morgan Stanley’s Reiser Group where he manages the finances of families, foundations and pension funds. “It’s so rewarding,” he tells me. “So many people are in need of good financial advice.” Indeed.

I was also glad I got the chance to finally sit down with Mary, having been so impressed by the success of her multimedia project, Hey, Boo: Harper  Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird. The paperback version of the book is out this week, and the DVD, which features interviews with a host of A-listers including Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey reading their favorite passages and reflecting on the novel’s legendary influence, is out and available on Netflix and iTunes today. Mary also just learned that PBS’ American Masters just bought the television rights. “That’s pretty much the biggest thing that can happen to you as a documentarian. I’m thrilled.”

She and I learned we were both inspired to become writers because of our love of the children’s classic, Harriet the Spy written in 1964 by Louise Fitzhugh. “When I think about it, there were definitely some similarities between Harriet and [Mockingbird heroine] Scout,” says Mary. The moral of the story: Parents, turn off the television and read to your children.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Freddie Gershorn

2. Ed Victor and author Will Schwalbe, former Hyperion VP turned author whose new book, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better, has people talking – and texting.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, O Magazine’s Sara Nelson and two other gals we didn’t get to meet.

4. Stephen Swid

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Arianna Huffington, Betty White, and Rosie O’Donnell Celebrate with the Top Women in Media at the Matrix Awards

(Photo courtesy of MaryAnneRussell.com)

The 2011 Matrix Awards were held at the Waldorf-Astoria on Monday, and it was a chance to see the top women in media honor the achievements of each other.

The Matrix Awards take a broad look at the media industry, and recipients include women in television, advertising, public relations, and technology. “I didn’t even know I was in the media until today!” said Broadway actress and Matrix award recipient Idina Menzel.

The lifetime achievement award was given, deservedly, to Betty White, who spoke via satellite from Los Angeles. “It’s wonderful to be a role model at 89… it’s wonderful to be anything at 89,” said White with characteristic good humor.

Her advice to other women: keep doing what you are passionate about, said White, “long after people assume you’re dead.”

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Sinbad & Family Dish on Their New Reality Show

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It would have been hard to beat the head-spinning scene that I witnessed at Michael’s last Wednesday, but this week came close. A camera crew from WNBC-TV’s LX-TV was on hand filming a segment on celebrity lunch spots as the masters of the universe (Barry Diller) and socialites (Melania Trump, swathed in mink) strolled in and air-kissed their way to their tables. When Amy Rosenblum, the show’s producer, heard I was having lunch with comedy icon Sinbad and his family to talk about their new reality show for WE tv, her ears perked up. “Perfect!” she said. “We’ll come over and borrow him for our segment. ”

Having never met the comedian, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that 10 minutes after the family arrived (right on time!) fresh off their morning at SiriusXM, it felt as if I’d known them all forever. They’re the anti-Osbournes! Named one of the Top 100 Stand-up Comedians of All Time by Comedy Central and a sitcom (A Different World, The Sinbad Show) vet, Sinbad told me the new show, Sinbad: It’s Just Family (premiering April 12 at 10 pm on WE tv) is a marked departure of the bumper crop of dysfunctional family fright fests that populate the reality TV landscape.

“These producers want meltdowns and dramas, but most of the dramas wouldn’t happen if people weren’t shooting their show. Most reality shows have an agenda and you have to understand that. I got about 80 percent of what I wanted. I was the voice of reason. We picked and chose what we wanted to shoot.” Any scenes in the master bedroom were off-limits, he said. “That’s just not respectful.” Instead, the show focuses on his version of family life — his re-marriage to his ex-wife Meredith Adkins and his relationship with his two “grids” (semi-grown kids) Paige and Royce. When he’s not on the road doing stand-up, he’s home keeping things together — his way. “The show is not about some comedian looking for a comeback because I never went away!” he quipped.

I had to ask him what he thought of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice since he appeared on season three of the show. “Donald Trump likes fights. He likes drama,” he told me. “That’s why Meat Loaf and Gary Busey are still around. That’s what people want to watch.” As for his take on his former cast mates: “Brett Michaels was a baby and Sharon Osbourne has the filthiest mouth of any woman I’ve ever met. She faked being sick just so she could miss being project manager for the first three weeks.” He also has choice words for Ozzy Osbourne. “That show they did made him look like a fool. Do you really want people to remember you like that? These people are stars and they don’t really think about how they want to be perceived.”

For their show, Sinbad and the family ”focused on the positive” and shot weeks of 12-14 hour days for six episodes, which was quite an adjustment. “It’s the most time we’ve spent together since the kids were babies,” says Meredith. “We were miked all the time and had to remind ourselves that they were recording everything.”

Royce is a college student studying audio sound engineering, and Paige is an R&B artist (Meredith is her manager) who co-wrote all the songs on her new album, Imperfect Me. Both had to be convinced to do the show at first, but wound up enjoying the experience. Proud Papa says of their TV debut: “He surprised me and she turned out to be quite the daredevil.”  In one episode, Paige convinced the family to try out a trapeze park, and the producers were only too happy to get it all for the show. “That’s what was so great about the show.  If we wanted to do something and the producers thought it was a great idea, they made it happen,” says Paige. “The flip side was we were having family barbecues, and there was someone standing on the driveway handing out releases for our friends to sign. That was a little strange but we got used to it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Sinbad, his wife Meredith Adkins, daughter Paige, son Royce and yours truly.

2. Project Playlist CEO John Sykes and Brian Bedol

3. Melania Trump and designer Rachel Roy. I was nearly blinded when I happened to look over at The Donald’s better half  and spotted the sparkler on her ring finger. And, yes, she is even more gorgeous in person.

4. Barry Diller

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Rachel Uchitel Creates A Stir at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Having covered the scene at Michael’s for some time now, I’ve been witness to plenty of Fellini-esque tableaus where the head-spinning mix of stars and strivers, masters of the universe, and alien-like actors never ceases to amuse and occasionally amaze me, but today was off the charts. What started as an afternoon of ramped up power lunches (Harvey Weinstein and James Dolan! RogerAiles and Jon Meacham!) turned into a game of Spot The Tabloid Temptress. I just happened to be at the front desk when regular Henry Schleiff came in followed by a blonde, pillow-lipped gal hiding behind her huge sunglasses. I immediately recognized her as Rachel Uchitel.  What was Tiger Woods‘ infamous mistress doing with Henry? I couldn’t wait to ask him. Before I could, she darted around us, averting my eyes and making her way into the dining room. Turns out she was on her way to meet Vanity Fair’s Michael Callahan. “Did you see who that was?” I asked Henry. When I told him, he quipped, “I didn’t recognize her with her clothes on!”

Even though the party girl-turned-private eye (according to The New York Post, she’s on her first case here in New York and awaiting her gun license) and Callahan were seated behind a pillar in the back of the room, word of her arrival spread like wildfire.  I wonder what the two of them talked about during their fairly quick lunch. Could it be that Graydon Carter has greenlit yet another piece on Woods? It would be quite cheeky of him to put Uchitel on Tiger’s tail, wouldn’t it? It seems more likely that Callahan is penning a piece on Uchitel’s post-Tiger life as a self-confessed recovering “love addict.” Stay tuned …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. It’s Harvey’s world and we just live in it. Shortly after noon, Harvey Weinstein arrived with two guys — one looked like Robert Pattinson‘s younger brother and the other like Vladmir Putin. Once the trio was seated, Harvey busied himself playing with his phone while his two babysitters? bodyguards? couldn’t sit still. One spent the entire time pacing between the table and the front door, while the other hopped up every other minute to look out the window as he talked on the phone. Could they have been tracking Harvey’s lunch date? All I know is when Cablevision’s James Dolan finally arrived, they took off.  Harvey then took out a pair of earphones to listen to a recording of some importance while Dolan sat by impassively. I don’t know what the hell really went on, but observing the scene felt like watching an episode of Mission Impossible.

2. PMK’s Cindi Berger and a handsome fellow we didn’t get to meet

3. Political commentator and marketing maestro Robert Zimmerman and Tad Smith

4. Random House EVP Jon Meacham and Fox News chief Roger Ailes, chowing down on burgers and fries. Jon arrived early and spent the time waiting for Ailes by chatting with the staff. We couldn’t help but notice that the ex-Newsweek editor looks a lot more relaxed since leaving the struggling magazine. It’s Tina Brown‘s problem now! Their table was clearly the center of gravity today as pretty much anyone who is anybody (read: all the suits in the room) stopped by to pay homage.

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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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Joel Klein, Diana Taylor and the December Diehards

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was good to be back on the Michael’s beat after a two week absence (Word to the wise: Get that flu shot!). I’m happy to report the monsoon-like rains didn’t keep those dining room diehards away, although the mood was a bit more subdued than usual. The place was festively decked out with holiday finery though, and we particularly liked the Christmas carols being piped in. God knows you don’t hear those enough around town.

I was joined today by my good friend Dr. Robi Ludwig who managed to squeeze in our lunch between her appearance this morning on Today discussing options in caring for one’s aging parents and a spot this evening on Jane Velez Mitchell’s chatfest on HLN. Between weighing in on the issues that keep us all up at night on every show you could possibly name, Robi still manages to see a full slate of patients in her own private practice as a psychologist. Funny coincidence: none other than fame addict Kate Gosselin, who, I’m sure, will be discussed in plenty of therapy sessions for the next several decades, shared Today’s green room with Robi this morning. The deluded mother hen appeared to talk about the reports that her children are having anger issues and defend her decision to keep them in front of the cameras. Nope, no issues there. Robi reports that Kate brought along hunky bodyguard Steve Neild for protection. We all know how dangerous those hallways at 30 Rock can be!

After Robi and I finished dishing about Kate, she told me all about her new line of jewelry set to debut next month on ShopNBC.  She’s calling her collection, Vice Mari (Romanian for ‘big dreams’). The pieces will be sterling silver and gold vermeil with genuine stones, and the designs will all have “symbolic meaning.” Why do a jewelry line? “I wanted to do something to make people feel good without therapy,” says Robi. Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman.

2. PMK/HBH managing director Cindi Berger

3. Producer Terry Allen Kramer, looking chic as ever.

4. Discovery’s main man David Zaslav

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Ralph Lauren, Jenna Bush, and the Media Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was good to be back at my regular perch at Michael’s today after a nasty bug kept me home last week. I returned to a scene buzzing with a head-spinning mix of fashion designers, famous faces, and the requisite media moguls. Don’t these people ever take a day off? I’m guessing not.

Today I was joined by W. Randall Jones (‘Randy’ to his friends), who I got to know right here in the dining room. Randy is, without fail, always the best dressed man in the room. (He credits Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn-based tailor to Bill Clinton and Colin Powell, for his sartorial success.) When Randy arrived looking as dashing as ever in his three-piece navy pinstriped suit, we got right down to dishing.

This is a man who knows just about everyone, which is no surprise considering he’s had a stellar 30-year career in media. He launched Worth magazine in 1992 and was the youngest publisher in magazine history when he nabbed the top spot at Esquire at the ripe old age of 29. The self-described “serial entrepreneur” also launched The American Benefactor, the first magazine about philanthropy from the donor’s perspective and released his first book, The Greatest Stock Picks of All Time, to plenty of attention in 2004.

The tastiest dish is off the record, but I can tell you his latest tome, The Richest Man in Town, has been a big success. It vaulted to the number one spot on Amazon right after Randy appeared on Wall Street Week with Maria Bartiromo. These days, he’s working on a top secret television project. We can’t wait to hear more.

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. A photographer from The New York Times was on hand to capture everything for an upcoming piece on the good doctor for the Style section. We’ll be looking for it.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and The Daily Beast’s Bryan Curtis who, when I asked what he did for the website replied, “Whatever Tina tells me to do.” Nice to meet you!

4. Ralph Lauren (who kept his sunglasses on throughout lunch) and Buffy Birrittella, the designer’s longtime executive vice president of women’s design and advertising. We spotted them celebrating Buffy’s birthday with champagne and nibbling on some chocolate confection while chatting with the steady stream of well wishers, like Harper’s Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey.

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Lunch: Hoda Kotb & Bravo’s Housewives Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today, and although the place was filled to the brim with movers and shakers of every stripe, all eyes were on table one: Today‘s Hoda Kotb presided over a raucous lunch with a trio of Real Housewives from Bravo’s compulsively watchable franchise. Tongues wagged aplenty as the crowd watched the reality TV stars saunter in. First to arrive was Tamra Barney (Orange County) with her husband Simon, followed by NeNe Leakes (Atlanta). Danielle Straub (New Jersey) was, of course, the last to arrive — all the better to make a grand entrance. The gals have been guest-hosting Today‘s fourth hour this week, filling in for the vacationing Kathie Lee Gifford.

I just had to make my way over to their table to chat with the headline-making Danielle, who just last night precipitated a catfight for the ages on the season finale of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. As faithful fans of the series know, Danielle’s former life as a stripper who ran with a bad crowd was chronicled in Cop Without A Badge, written, she says, by an ex-husband more than two decades ago. Since then, Danielle reinvented herself and settled in suburbia hoping to keep the past buried. Lucky for Bravo, her frenemies on the show discovered her story, and the fur started flying. Last night, things came to a head when Danielle confronted the other Housewives about their role in bringing the long-forgotten tome to town.

I asked Danielle if the Sopranos-style last supper where everyone gathered for a ‘friendly’ dinner had been staged. “Of course,” she said. “Why else would I have been invited?” Things got really ugly when Teresa Giudice started letting the profanities fly in front of Danielle’s two young daughters and the group ganged up on her. Despite putting up a strong front, Danielle told me the episode “ripped her apart” and afterward, she and her girls retreated to her home where they stayed curled up in her bed for a few days. “We were sick from it, and it was the one place we felt safe.” But, like the tough survivor she is, the breakout star of the series is back with a vengeance with plans to write a book (“It will be something empowering to help women”) and is being repped by Maura Teitelbaum at Abrams Artists Agency. According to Danielle, her daughters have adjusted to the limelight nicely. Her eldest, Christine, is fielding offers from modeling agencies, including Elite. And get this — she says if Bravo wants a second season, she’s there. “Oh my God, of course I’d do it!”

I was glad I was lunching today with my new friend Dr. Phillip Romero, who specializes in family and couple’s therapy. Phil is currently hard at work on two books, Phantom Stress and The Art of Impermanence. I asked him why we like to watch these reality shows that are such spectacles of dysfunction. “It’s voyeurism that makes us feel better about ourselves,” says Phil. These days when “our collective anxiety is higher than at any other time in human history” because of the “sweeping changes occurring at all levels of society” Phil says these shows offer a diversion, “a media quick fix” that takes our mind off the serious issues at hand. Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today‘s Hoda Kotb, producer Tammy Filler, Bravo’s Real Housewives NeNe Leakes, Tamra Barney (with husband Simon), and Danielle Straub.

2. Andrew Stein with a distinguished dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive rocking a LBD and pearls. Joe tells me he’s off to Cuba on a ‘humanitarian mission’ for a few weeks. Safe travels, and we’ll see you when you return!

4. Esther Newberg and Jeffrey Toobin. We caught Jeff on CNN the other day deconstructing the effect of David Letterman‘s joke about Sarah Palin‘s daughter. While the other pundits debated whether the former vice presidential nominee’s daughters were fair game, Jeff weighed in by saying he thought Letterman crossed the line by calling Governor Palin’s look ‘slutty.’ Chivalry is not dead after all…

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Kingsley Steps Down at PMK/HBH

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All of Tinseltown’s top publicists will be barking around about this story today: THR‘s Borys Kit reports that “uber-entertainment publicist” Pat Kingsley is stepping down from her post as CEO of PMK/HBH.

And it takes two to replace her: Cindi Berger and Simon Halls have been upped to co-CEOs while Nate Schreiber will take a president title.

Kingsley is now 76 years old and while she will still head into the office, she tells THR that her new nonexecutive chairman title will allow her to keep working with her clients (Michael Mann, Jodie Foster and Sally Field) and not be bogged down with paperwork.

“I’m going to be coming to work, but you won’t see a balance sheet in front of me,” she told THR. “I won’t have to do any administration work. I can do creative work with clients, which is the part that I think I do best.”

She is a legend in the personal publicity field and is known for protecting the private lives of her clients while still skyrocketing them to superstardom. And she’s perhaps best known for her longtime work with now former client Tom Cruise.

- CHRIS GARDNER

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