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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Wassong’

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bo Dietl and The Post-Election Posse

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The votes are in and this week’s big winner is Michael McCarty whose dining room has been packed every day with A-list celebs  and politicos of every stripe in town this week to dissect every nuance of election night. The star of Monday’s lunch was none other than Jessica Lange, and on Tuesday James Carville, Cokie Roberts and Tina Brown made the scene. Kirk Douglas was also spotted accepting well wishes for son Michael Douglas, who is keeping a low profile having just finished his treatment for throat cancer.

Today, politics were the topic and I overheard plenty as I made my rounds in the dining room. “Who the hell knows what this all means?” said one shell shocked Obama supporter of the midterm election results. His friend wearily replied, “It’s over. The president is in for it now.” An interested party across the room offered this assessment: “The Republican Party may think this is their time, but they’ll shoot themselves in the foot. You’ll see. ” Another friend told me, “Until we stop thinking of ourselves as a red nation or blue nation and figure out this is a red, white and blue country, we’re screwed.”

At my table, we avoided politics and stuck to dissecting the latest moves in media. My good friend Andy Amill, who this summer got a much deserved promotion and is now Vice President of Weight Watchers Media Group overseeing all print and digital media, is feeling pretty optimistic these days. And he’s got reason to be. It seems celebrity pitch woman Jennifer Hudson, who sensibly shrunk down from a size 16 to a svelte size six on the tried and true program, has been a home run for the brand. “The impact of Jennifer Hudson has been phenomenal,” Andy told me. “We’ve seen an increase in membership at meetings and on-line and an increase in magazine sales.” And, unlike the usual blink-and-you miss-’em celeb endorsement deals, Andy reports that the divine Ms. Hudson will be sticking around to spearhead some top secret programs the company will unveil in 2011.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Early Show: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. Second seating: My pal, attorney Suzanne Bracker, and Dan Wassong.

2. Peter Brown and Michael Holtzman

3. Fortune‘s Patricia Sellers — whose cover story last month on Oprah‘s next act still has people buzzing – and, we’re told, John Needham.

4. Felicia Taylor with another chic blonde gal we didn’t recognize.

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Vernon Jordan, Paul Shaffer and Richard Belzer Grab a Bite at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Harvey Keitel (who, we hear, is a pretty nice guy) by a day, but the usual suspects kept things hopping in the dining room at Michael’s today. By now, we’ve grown used to seeing Richard Belzer with his dog Bebe (pronounced Bay-Bay en Francais, in case you were wondering) in tow for his 1 pm lunches every now and again. But we did perk up when Vernon Jordan came in. Talk about presence!

I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite regulars, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstong who, when I first started writing this column, made it his personal mission to introduce me to as many movers and shakers as possible. The native Texan with the heart of gold just can’t help himself when it comes to do-good deeds. This afternoon he was full of fire telling me about the upcoming benefit for The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp on October 21 at Lincoln Center. Joe spent seven years as a camp counselor during the summer at the original Connecticut camp — He now proudly bears the title of ‘Mr. Ambassador’ for the organization — and can’t say enough about the kids whose lives are forever changed thanks to Paul Newman. “They make you realize what is really important, ” says Joe.

So, if you want to help continue Newman’s good works and spend an evening rubbing shoulders with Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Joanne Woodward and Renee Zellweger, get out those checkbooks and buy a ticket to the gala. Tell them Joe sent you …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Self‘s Lucy Danziger and some leggy leather clad gals from L’Oreal talking ‘stress management’

2. Law & Order SVU’s Richard Belzer and David Letterman‘s band leader Paul Shaffer

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and O’s book editor Sara Nelson.

4. Leonard Lauder and a casually elegant gal who, upon greeting the cosmetic king exclaimed, “This is the high point of my week!”

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Chris Matthews Stops by Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Now that summer is unofficially over and the glitterati have shuttered their cottages in the Hamptons, the regulars have begun to trickle into Michael’s for catch-up power lunches. Things weren’t exactly operating at full tilt today, but there were enough media mavens and moguls scattered around the dining room to signal that the city’s busy social season is upon us. So, pack up those summer whites and buckle down. It’s back to business.

I was joined today by jewelry designer Lisa Salzer and my good pal Miriam Driot, who is handling international public relations and marketing for Lisa’s line of vintage costume jewelry, Lulu Frost. The gals were all abuzz about Lisa’s first-ever Fashion Week presentation with live models at MAC & Milk Studio next Monday. Lisa says the show will have an “elegant, fifties feel” and feature Mad Men-inspired period clothes from Amarcord. Despite the frenzy going on in showrooms all over town, this afternoon Lisa was the embodiment of Grace Kelly cool. “It’s the calm before the storm,” she joked.

In just six years, Lisa went from being a Dartmouth college student who sold jewelry out of her dorm room to respected talent whose vintage pieces are carried in Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and overseas in Paris and Japan. “It’s my passion,” she said. She also told me she inherited her love of all that glitters from her grandmother who ran an antique estate jewelry firm in England.

When I asked her how her business has been affected by the lingering recession, she said: “We’ve been lucky. Things have been very good. Because the collection is costume, women are still buying the pieces they love. It’s much different than selling apparel.” I’ll say. In fact, Lisa is so optimistic about her clients’ bling obsession that she’s planning to launch a fine jewelry collection next year.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Diana Taylor and Susan Mercandetti

2. Terry Allen Kramer and James Nederlander

3. Women’s Day‘s Carlos Lamadrid

4. Public relations scion Steve Rubenstein

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Lunch: Tim Gunn Talks ‘Age Appropriate Fashion’ with Grace Mirabella

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If we’d come by on Monday, we would have run into Tyra Banks at breakfast and Harold Ford, Jr. at lunch. Oh, well. Michael’s was still brimming with plenty of the usual suspects today, and more than a few did a double take when Tim Gunn arrived with legendary editor Grace Mirabella on his arm.

When Project Runway‘s unflappable designer mentor sat down with the former Vogue editor, I wasn’t surprised to overhear their conversation turn immediately to fashion. Tim was all ears when asking Ms. Mirabella (whose namesake magazine remains one of my all-time favorites) about her thoughts on age-appropriate looks for everything from jeans to evening wear. Gathering intelligence for all those fledgling fashionistas, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Advisory Group, presiding over a table of social media gurus: Huffington Post’s CEO Eric Hippeau, president Greg Coleman and senior vice president Phil Cara with Stephen Cannon of Mercedes Benz, Virgin Mobile’s Stacy Schwartz and Tom Cuniff of Combe Inc.

2. Peter Brown and John Reid

3. Producer John Hart (long time, no see!) with another distinguished looking white-haired gent

4. My good friend and publicist extraordinaire Catherine Saxton and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of AdGenesis, beezag, and koppr. Catherine tells me she’s jetting off in a few days to Marabella to visit with “some Khashoggis.” Send us a postcard!

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Lunch: Happy Birthday Donna Hanover & Paula Zahn

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If it’s Wednesday, it’s party time at Michael’s. We’re still recovering from the head spinning spectacle of last week’s A-list lunch for James Cameron. This week, the celebration was a tad more low-key at Table One as public relations maven Joannie Danielides hosted her annual birthday luncheon for her good pal and long time client, Donna Hanover, whose actual birthday was February 15. Joannie, who is busier than ever these days with a full roster of clients in health care and education, told me it was actually a double celebration since it was guest Paula Zahn‘s birthday as well.

I caught up with Paula before she joined the party to chat about her new show, On the Case with Paula Zahn, on Discovery ID. “We’ve just been renewed for a second season,” said Paula, who looked better than ever in a chic leopard print top and some killer stiletto boots. “It’s been great. I’m getting to do some amazing stories. Right after this, I’m getting on a plane and heading to an Alabama prison.” Some people have all the fun.

I had lunch with two of my favorite people today: producer Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, partner of the Long Island based marketing firm, Zimmerman/Edelson. Joan arrived first and told me about her recent trip to Vietnam with her husband, Don Aronson. Both Joan and Don were anti-war activists back in the day and are still true believers. On this trip, the couple spent some time visiting orphanages and were “shocked and appalled” to see the awful effects that Agent Orange has wrought on the country. “It was horrifying to see the stark reality of what war can do to a people — and what we did to these people,” Joan told me.

Things lightened up a bit when Robert arrived. Between the two of them, they know just about everyone in New York and, trust me, the conversation is never dull. (Most of the juiciest stuff is, of course, off the record.) Since Joan is a die-hard Democrat and Robert is an in-demand political commentator for all the cable channels, we had plenty to talk about. When Evan Bayh‘s surprise resignation from Congress came up, Robert offered this assessment: “Saying he’s fallen out of love with Congress is something a 14 year-old adolescent would say. There’s a lot more to it than being in love; it’s about getting the job done.” Robert had these words of advice for jump-starting the stalled government: “The challenge for the Democrats is to come out of group therapy and get things started again. The ball is in our court. Success depends on us acting on our message.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Birthday girls Donna Hanover and Paula Zahn, Joannie Danielides, Gayle King, Time Inc’s Ann Moore, Linda Stacey, Karen Scott, Sue Leibman and Matilda Cuomo. A little birdie told me the girls dug into two birthday cakes: one carrot cake and one chocolate. It seems like the group couldn’t get enough sweet treats. We spied doggie bags stuffed with cookies being packed into a few purses.

2. Most of ‘The Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Jeff Greenfield

3. Gerry Byrne, who just launched Fidelis Global Enterprises LLC. New clients of his advertising media consultancy agency include Adgenesis and Beezag. I caught up with Jerry until his guest, Jane Hanson, arrived. I told Jane I loved the stuff she’s been doing on LX New York, showing the fledgling talking heads how it’s done.

4. A bespectacled Mike Ovitz and a fellow we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: ‘Heroine’ Julie Menin Takes On Washington: “Move the 9/11 Trial!”

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When I met Julie Menin a few weeks ago in the Michael’s dining room and made a date for lunch, I was expecting to chat about her fabulous new show, Give and Take, which airs on Sunday night on WNBC’s NY Nonstop news channel. She’s already had Mika Brzezinski, Jane Velez Mitchell, and Barbara Corcoran as guests and is planning to chat with Annie Leibovitz on an upcoming show. Turns out we had a lot more to talk about.

In the past several weeks, Julie has been making headlines rather than reporting on them since she took up the cause of moving the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed out of Lower Manhattan. The regulatory attorney is a strong believer in public advocacy: She founded the not-for-profit Wall Street Rising in the wake of September 11 to revitalize the neighborhood and has served as the chair of Community Board 1 since 2005. After realizing that “no elected official wanted to jump into the fray,” Julie says she had “an Aha! moment” and launched into action. She penned an op-ed for The New York Times entitled “Trial By Ferry” where she proposed Governor’s Island be considered as an alternative and has been working “24/7″ to convince elected officials that a multi-year trial would paralyze the city and effectively shut down Lower Manhattan. “No one had even done a feasibility study before deciding this would happen,” says Julie. “It was foisted on Mayor Bloomberg with no analysis.”

When Bloomberg told Julie he opposed the Governor’s Island idea because he wants to build a school and recreation center there, Julie remained undaunted and came up with three other options: West Point, Otisville Prison, and Stewart Air National Guard Base. That got the attention of The White House who, Julie says, “was looking at the issue too narrowly.” Not anymore. All indications now point to an announcement of a new venue. “It’s really a testament to what a citizen can do if they speak up and insist on having their voice heard,” says Julie. As she was explaining the campaign, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum stopped by our table, shook Julie’s hand, and declared, “She’s our heroine!” I asked if Julie is eyeing a run for office one day, and she didn’t rule out the possibility. “I’ll just have to see where life takes me.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Don Welsh and a table full of impressive gents including Jake Hill and Harold Shain.

2. Long time no see! Producers John Hart and Fred Zollo.

3. Former William Morris honcho Wayne Kabak, who now helms WSK Management LLC, and author Jackie Leo.

4. Mitch Kanner

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Lunch: Kathie Lee Gifford and Friends Grab a Bite Before Broadway

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s nice to see there are still plenty of writers who can afford to eat at swanky restaurants these days. Today, the dining room at Michael’s was brimming with scribes of every stripe and their fabulous friends. I was heartened to hear from a handful of fellow scribes that they’ve got lots of new projects in the works. Good news indeed!

As usual, there were also plenty of famous faces to liven things up. Kathie Lee Gifford was first to arrive with her pal Sunny Lucani. Despite the frigid temps outside, the Today show host was rocking open-toed Gucci heels (without hosiery, of course) and a jade sleeveless sheath. “I’m always hot!” she joked. I just had to compliment the seemingly ageless morning show vet on her longer, blonder locks. “The same woman (Jacquie Poldoro) has been coming to my house for years to do my nails and hair,” she told me. That’s quite a house call. As she does every Wednesday, Kathie Lee was having an early lunch before heading off to see a Broadway show with friends. (Her co-host and fellow Michael’s regular, Hoda Kotb, dished about their girls’ nights and meeting Kathie Lee’s mom in an interview with us last year.) This week, the gals were going to check out David Mamet ‘s Race. Kathie Lee tells me the hands down favorite of the season so far has been A Little Night Music with Angela Lansbury (“She’s incandescent!”) and Catherine Zeta Jones. “It was just fabulous!” We’re getting our tickets this week.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, enjoying a friendly lunch with pals, including author Chris Buckley, Jean Halberstam, Michael Clurman, and Sharon Hoge.

2. Patrick Murphy, Joan Jakobson, and Betsy Gottbaum

3. Kathie Lee Gifford with Today show co-host Hoda Kotb and pal Sunny Lucani

4. Barry Diller and a bespectacled gent we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: The Usual Suspects Today — But Sarah Palin Was Here Last Night!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was packed with plenty of familiar faces this afternoon. Seems the gang was out in force before disappearing for the true dog days of August. The real side show in the dining room took place last night, when none other than Sarah Palin dropped in with Bob Barnett and took the staff completely by surprise. A little birdie told me Bob was dining with a couple of folks, left and came back with Palin and her husband Todd, the ex-’First Dude.’ According to all accounts, the former governor was clearly enjoying her new role as a private citizen last evening: She drank Deutz champagne and ordered lobster ‘off the menu.’ Could she have been celebrating some big soon-to-be announced TV deal? As they say on the small screen, stay tuned!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cablevision’s Barry Frey presiding over a table full of Red Bull marketing execs

2. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden (loved that amazing handbag!) with Silda Spitzer, who was wearing a pretty summer toile dress

3. Jim Wiatt, Tim Armstrong, and another gent we didn’t recognize.

4. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and ex-Portfolio editrix Joanne Lipman

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Lunch: Power Blondes Rule! Katie Couric, Tina Brown and Barbara Walters Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Today at Michael’s, they were dishing like it was 2007. As if the head-spinning assortment of media alpha gals (Katie! Tina! Barbara!) wasn’t enough to keep us busy, the dining room, bar and lounge was jam-packed with mavens and moguls of all stripes who barely made time to peck at their Cobb salads between all the table-hopping. It was hard to keep up! I made my rounds in the dining room to check in with the regulars, and all anyone wanted to know was ‘Who else is here today?’ (I’ve always thought this place was just like a high school cafeteria, but with better clothes.) Plenty of heads turned when Katie Couric breezed in sporting a chic, shorter ‘do and a pretty polka dot summer dress. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “She looks 35!” We have to agree. I caught Katie on her way to her table just long enough to ask what she has planned for her summer vacation next month. No trips to Wasilla for the CBS News’ anchor: “I’m going to the beach with my daughters to enjoy my time with them before Ellie goes off to college!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Katie Couric, Lifetime’s CEO Andrea Wong, Deborah Roberts, Sherrie Westin and Cynthia McFadden

2. Jeanine Pirro with publicist Adam Schiff and an unidentified bespectacled gal. I hadn’t talked to Jeanine since I profiled her for Westchester magazine last fall on the eve of the premiere of her show, Judge Jeanine. With one season under her robe, Jeanine is thrilled — “We’re in syndication now!” Life must be pretty good for the former Westchester DA — she was tan and dressed to the nines, toting a gorgeous alligator bag.

3. The ladies who lunch: Somers Farkas (in Pucci) with three other social swans

4. Barbara Walters and Diana Taylor

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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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