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Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Bancroft’

Paul Caine Sounds Off on Radio’s Next Act

LunchAtMichaelsIt was wall-to-wall mavens and moguls at Michael’s today with EICs of those swanky design books (Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Veranda) holding court in one corner of the dining room (I guess living well really is the best revenge), while the usual bold-faced names and social swans exchanged air kisses in the other. I was joined today by Paul Caine, CEO of audio content syndicator Westwood One, one of the nicest and most successful guys in the media biz (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you just how rare a description that is around here). Paul has had himself one heck of a year having joined Westwood One (back when it was known as Dial Global — more on that later) in March from Time Inc., where he was EVP Chief Revenue Officer and Group President.

Since joining the newly christened Westwood One, Paul has been doing what he does best — positioning his brand in the best possible light for prospective advertisers. It was clear from talking to him he’s found a new calling as an audio content advocate. I had to begin by asking Paul why he left the Time Inc. mothership after 23 years and ahead of Time Inc’s planned spin-off  after having had such a successful tenure and largely considered one of its rising stars. He had been responsible for global ad revenue for all of the company’s magazines, including People and Sports Illustrated, while spearheading new initiatives to roll out new ad products across all platforms. His name had been floated in several published reports as a possible successor to Time Inc.’s former CEO Laura Lang (coincidentally the man who got the job, Joseph Ripp, was seated on the other side of the dining room), but Paul told me that when he was first approached in January about his current job, “Initially, I wasn’t interested. I was not looking to leave.”

Diane Clehane and Paul Caine

Diane Clehane and Paul Caine

It was only after talking to advertisers when, during conversations, the question ‘What about radio?’ came up time and again that Paul began to seriously consider making a move.” I had a great time at Time Inc.,” he told me. “The brands are fantastic. (Time Inc. editor-in-chief) Martha Nelson is fantastic and I’m optimistic about their future.” As far as the prospects after the spin-off: “What I know from afar is that they are uniquely positioned to succeed. Print is healthy.”

But audio content is what the future is all about, says Paul, and Westwood One has got over 225 million listeners a week to prove it. “We spend one third of our day listening to audio content — music, talk radio, sports, news.” The company is the only broadcast medium with exclusive rights to the NFL, NCAA, the Masters and EPL (English Premier League soccer) as well as serving as home for the radio broadcasts of John Tesh (who just celebrated ten years with the company), Charles Osgood, Dennis Miller and Billy Bush.  Read more

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Willie Geist’s Parenting Advice to Kanye West; Star Jones Celebrates a Birthday

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After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”

“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ’President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”

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Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

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Moguls on the Menu: Brian Grazer, Tom Freston and Isaac Mizrahi

1003_mockup.gifWe missed LL Cool J by a day. Oh, well. That’s the great thing about Michael’s: If it’s Wednesday, you can pretty much count on an interesting scene.

Today, there was plenty of tasty people watching. On the menu: Brian Grazer and Tom Preston (together!), one of our favorite designers (Isaac Mizrahi, who, we’re happy to report, wasn’t wearing those unfortunate sandals he chose for a recent appearance on QVC) and, just for good measure, a random reality star (Ramona Singer who, was no doubt dishing the dirt on the newest Housewives to join the New York City catfight. This season’s previews look downright scary!)

I was joined today by EIC Dara Caponigro and publisher Jennifer Levene Bruno, the dynamic duo at the helm of  Veranda, a magazine devoted to showcasing the homes, gardens and passions (by which we mean plenty of jewelry) of the moneyed but genteel set. The typical reader’s median household income is $149,000. Veranda isn’t a magazine to flip through while you’re in the elevator on the way to your apartment, but is best enjoyed sitting in your living room sipping a glass of wine. Get the picture?

This year marks the magazine’s 25th anniversary, and Dara just celebrated her second year at the helm, having assumed the title from founding editor Lisa Newsom, whose new book The Houses of Veranda is a stunning coffee table tome. Dara, formerly a founding editor of Domino (another one of our favorites!) told me she had long been an  admirer of Veranda‘s “gracious tone” and wanted to continue with the magazine’s mission to “make Veranda about living well through the lens of home.” Since taking the top spot on the masthead, she’s expanded the book’s jewelry coverage (“Our readers are collectors”) and “beefed up the front of the book.” I told her I loved the “Personal Luxuries” column where style makers from around the country share their lists of must-haves from perfume to pillows. “That’s one of our most popular features,” said Dara whose love of gracious living was something she inherited from her mother who was a decorator.

Jennifer, who is only the magazine’s second publisher, is equally enthusiastic about the book. “Everything in the magazine is carefully curated,” she told me. Advertisers obviously like what they see. In Jennifer’s first full year with Veranda, ad pages were up 17% with over 95 new brands.

Michael McGraw, Dara Caponigro, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Levene Bruno
L to R: Michael McGraw, Dara Caponigro, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Levene Bruno

Dara and Jennifer have been working as a team for about 18 months. “[Hearst president of marketing & publishing director] Michael Clinton knew what he was doing,” said Dara. The duo spends a lot of time traveling around the country hosting panels with industry leaders and talking to readers.

Some of their stops this year have included Atlanta (“The women in the south love dishes!” said Dara) and Los Angeles, where they hosted a ‘Bucket List’ panel on decorating with celebrated designers, including Mary McDonald of Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators. Their winning formula is obviously working. Published six times a year,  newsstand sales are up 7 percent and, says Jennifer, 35 percent of the ad pages year-to-date through July-August are ”new business.” See, gracious living does pay.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Star Jones, Kerry Kennedy & Publicists APlenty

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We’re still recovering from last week’s A-list on steroids pep rally for the Giants (it was like shooting fish in a barrel — thanks, Harvey Weinstein!), but today it’s back to Michael’s for another heaping helping of the power lunch crowd. The scene was dominated by spin meisters of every stripe, social swans and money men. (Is the expense account for middle management making a comeback? Discuss.) Representing the celebrity squad was Star Jones who is always fun for a quick, dishy chat.

I was joined today by House Beautiful editor-in-chief Newell Turner, the magazine’s new food contributor Gabrielle Hamilton, who is the owner/chef of Prune, and publicist Michael McGraw. Newell, who usually eats at his desk, decided he may have to rethink his lunch plans when he spied so many Hearst colleagues sprinkled around the room. Indeed.

As a longtime reader of the magazine, I told Newell that its monthly features on the best paint colors for different types of spaces were indispensable to me when I took on the daunting task of painting the interior of our new home last year. Color, or more precisely, how to choose the best ones to enhance your living space, is one of the guiding principles of the magazine. The March ‘Green’ issue will offer a myriad of takes on how to live with the soothing shade. “Our deep-dive color issues always result in a lot of reader response,” Newell told me. He didn’t know what to expect when he devoted an entire issue to pink but was pleasantly surprised. “We had less complaints about it than when we did our ’Blue’ issue.”  In the April issue, readers will have the chance to pick “America’s Favorite Paint Color” from 10 options in a contest on HouseBeautiful.com. The results will be published in September.

Gabrielle Hamilton, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner
Gabrielle Hamilton, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner

Newell, who became top editor in 2010, decided to focus more on American designers, because “American decorating has come into its own despite the economy.” Readers seem to agree. Last year’s June and July-August issues had the highest newsstand sales since November 2002.

Newell recently brought Gabrielle on board as House Beautiful’s food contributor because, he says, “I liked her sensibility and her appreciation for good, simple food.” For her part, Gabrielle, a self-taught cook, has never fallen victim to precious, of-the-moment trends in foods. The voted Best Chef  in New York City in 2010 by the James Beard foundation, Gabrielle attributes her successful run at Prune, which she opened in 1999, to “luck” but then said, “I work very, very hard.” Somehow, she’s found time to write pieces for The New Yorker and The New York Times among many other outlets and had her book,  Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef  (Great title!) land on the Times bestseller list. “People have become obsessed with food — how it looks, how it’s prepared. Look at all the shows there are now on food preparation. I wanted to include it in the magazine in a fresh, new way,” says Newell. “Gabrielle is the perfect person to do that.”

These days, Newell is also working to develop more digital content for the mag’s website and enhanced digital edition available on iTunes. He added videos featuring the magazine’s staff in October. When developing content for that platform, he told me he guards against anything looking “too polished” because “looking a bit rougher” online lends an air of authenticity. Interestingly enough, he also revealed there is only a 7 percent crossover between House Beautiful’s print reader (the target demo is women in their 40s and 50s) and the digital reader who is younger and hipper. (Don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger). “It’s the same content but a different voice. The digital tone is younger and a bit more irreverent.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ladies who lunched: Debbie Bancroft, Anne Hearst, Patty Smythe and Laurie Waters

2. Investigation Discovery’s president and GM, Henry Schleiff, and Kerry Kennedy

3.  ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who stopped by our table to say hello to his old pal Newell Turner and deliver an unexpected little treat to me. This ‘little birdie’ says thanks!

4. Jacqui Safra (Jean Doumanian‘s husband, in case you didn’t know)

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Barbara Walters and Vernon Jordan Make Appearances; NBC’s David Corvo Serves Up TV Dish

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s been hard enough to keep track of the steady stream of A-listers that pour into Michael’s on any given Wednesday, but this afternoon really kept me hopping. While the usual roster of boldface names traded air kisses and table hopped in the front room, the garden room was filled to the brim for a luncheon hosted by Patricia Duff to celebrate The Gray Zone, the first novel from her longtime pal, producer and screenwriter Daphna Ziman. Perched at the bar with my friend, designer David Biscaye who will soon be off to London and Torino, Italy in search of treasures for his clients, I nabbed Daphna for a quick chat before she could join her guests that included author Naomi Wolf, Debbie Bancroft, Patty Raynes, artist Mark Kostabi and actress Beverly Todd. (You might recall Beverly’s scene stealing performance in Crash as a drug addicted mother devastated by the death of her son.)

Daphna told me she got the idea for the book two years ago in the midst of watching her marriage implode. She found it “empowering” to write about a heroine who flees an abusive household and becomes involved in a personal crusade to stop human trafficking. “I was stuck in the horrific reality of a divorce but I was able to live in another world through my character,” said the author. While the novel is a work of fiction, Daphna knows her subject matter well. She is founder of CUN (Children Uniting Nations) and the chairperson of ABC LOVE (Adoption Brings Children Love). An adoptive mother of two, she is passionate about stopping the trafficking of children and will be speaking out on the subject during her book tour that includes a spot on tonight’s broadcast of NBC’s Nightly News.

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  David Poltrack of CBS presiding over a table full of business types

2. Peter Brown

3. Producer Jean Doumanian, Barbara Lieberman and Vidicom’s Christy Ferer

4. Mike Ovitz with a well-heeled gent we didn’t get to meet

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Separate Tables for Jann Wenner and Neal Boulton

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We were grateful that several faithful Lunch readers emailed to let us know  Bill Clinton was at Michael’s yesterday. Thanks guys! I guess Mr. Clinton didn’t get the memo stipulating that all A-listers book their lunch dates for Wednesdays. Oh, well. Seems the former president was lunching with Harvey Weinstein to settle a bet on Harvey’s little production company winning an Oscar for The King’s Speech. These two under-the-radar guys were accompanied by a squadron of (Clinton) handlers and Secret Service men who were stationed all over the restaurant.  Sorry we missed all the excitement!

Today, things got off to a slightly late start (1:00 pm is the new noon if you’re keeping tracking of such things), but the dining room quickly filled up with plenty of master of the universe types (Barry! Woody!) who are always interesting to observe in their  natural habitat.  All I can say is french fries must be brain food.  I expect the place to be going full-tilt tomorrow night when The Kelly Gang hosts The 7th Annual Kelly Gang St. Patrick’s Day Benefit. The organization’s founders include The New York Post’s Keith Kelly, House Beautiful publisher Kate Kelly Smith and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. The ‘Gang’ is back in full swing after taking a hiatus last year and is expecting a huge turnout to raise money for this year’s beneficiaries: Catholic Relief Services in Haiti and Tuesday’s Children. So, if you’re looking for a great St. Pat’s celebration that is doing a lot of good, stop by Thursday night and bring your checkbook.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Legendary crooner Neil Sedaka, sporting sneakers and a jaunty beret with a chic looking lady and a fellow we didn’t get to meet. We overheard Neil say that his son, Marc Sedaka, was on the Today show this morning alongside wife Samantha to talk about Marc’s new book, What He Can Expect When She’s Not Expecting. The book deals with how a spouse can support a wife’s struggle with infertility. Talk about an evolved man! Impressive.

2. Jets owner Woody Johnson, who hobbled in on crutches. Hope you’re on the mend soon.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Peter Jennings’ widow, Kayce Freed.  Kayce, a former producer of 20/20, is the co-founder of The Documentary Group which produced the much lauded To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports for ABC News which chronicled his recovery from his near fatal brain injury.

4. Barry Diller and an unidentified important looking gent

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David Carey, Steve Madden and The Power Blondes

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Not even the seventh snow storm of the season (we’re begging for mercy — enough!) could keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. There were power gals aplenty and media mavens galore who braved the elements to make it to 55th Street. We marvel at your stamina. (Is it me or do all successful women over a certain age in this city eventually wind up with the identical shade of blonde?)

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Literary agent Esther Newberg, presiding over a table of wonder women  including bestselling crime novelist Linda Fairstein, author and ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr, CBS’ Lesley Stahl, and the Honorable Kimba Woods.

2. Fashionista Fern Mallis (We miss you on The Fashion Show!), whose consulting business is thriving, and a stylish gent we didn’t get to meet.

3. Hudson News’ James Cohen.

4. 2 Degrees Ventures’ Mitch Kanner.

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David Hockney, Lawrence O’Donnell And The Scandal-Scarred Manhattanite

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When I arrived at Michael’s today and found myself engulfed in a sea of suits, I chalked up the relatively quiet dining room to the usual January doldrums. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the reason things seemed a bit quieter than usual was that there were more than a few folks present who preferred to fly a bit under the radar considering what they might be talking about.  (Just a thought: This isn’t the place if you’re looking to have a low-profile lunch). An acquisitive media mogul dining with one of the city’s most respected media columnists?  A scandal plagued Manhattanite dishing with the Times’ financial columnist? The last thing on the minds of these guys was table hopping. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to see what they cooked up over lunch.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Artist David Hockney holding court with a table full of ‘suits’

2. Allyn Magrino and pals

3. Abernathy & MacGregor’s Jim Abernathy and some pretty preppy looking folks.

4. Uber literary agent Esther Newberg and a bookish bloke we didn’t recognize

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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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