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Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Bancroft’

Lunch: Dishing on the Oscars & Obama

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As I’ve been reporting for weeks, it was SRO at Michael’s today as the movers and shakers, undeterred by the unsettling economic news, were out in full force plotting their next big move — or looking for a safe place to land. On the menu today: plenty of talk about President Barack Obama‘s speech last night and the Oscars. There was a strong consensus that one was a big winner, while the other got surprisingly mixed reviews. While everyone in the audience on Oscar night thought Hugh Jackman killed, plenty of folks here were less than impressed. “Movie people don’t like Broadway,” sniped one Hollywood insider. “And it was too Broadway.” Okay then…

Everyone I talked to about President Obama’s speech felt his oratory skills are nothing short of amazing and that he struck just the right tone where he basically told us its time to pay the piper and think of our children’s future. Personally, I was impressed at his unflappable ability to mix his formal and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks with ease — and he didn’t even blink when he forgot to follow protocol and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduce him. She had to stop him mid-sentence, but he never faltered. Talk about cool under pressure. But here’s what wowed the women in the dining room — his affectionate introduction of the First Lady Michelle Obama and her mouthing, ‘I love you’ back to her smitten husband. “They’re marriage is obviously hot,” one divorcee told me. I’m telling you, no one wants to admit it, but that’s what people are really talking about.

As for the president’s remarks, “Inspirational but realistic,” is how one media summed things up. Others were scratching their heads asking why Wall Street wasn’t feeling the same way. More than one person said, “With everyone feeling a little bit hopeful, I don’t get why the market is down.” (It had dropped by more than 100 points by lunch). A question for the ages, no doubt.

On a much lighter note, I asked the always dapper Dr. Gerald Imber what he thought of the Botox-ed beauties on Oscar’s red carpet. But this plastic surgeon to the stars never cuts and tells — “I didn’t watch,” he confessed. He laughed when I asked him why he’d pass up the chance to admire his handiwork and did offer his assessment on why movie stars make better plastic surgery patients than mere mortals: “They come in with headshots saying, ‘I’ve changed a little here, I want to fix this here.’ They know what they want. There’s no whining.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Here’s a fun fact: A little birdie told me that Andy wrote the screenplay for Blazing Saddles. Now you know…

2. Hallmark honcho Henry Schleiff with two other well-dressed fellows

3. No one puts a lunch together like ‘The Mayor’: Joe Armstrong, Glamour editrix Cindi Leive, George Stevens and Kerry Kennedy. I was thrilled to meet George (who was sporting a very patriotic red, white and blue shirt and tie ensemble). He’s the man behind the television broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors and the amazing broadcast of the concert on the Mall in celebration of President Obama’s inauguration. Kerry and I met once before at a lunch given by Henry Schleiff in this very dining room, where we talked about her then yet-to-published book, Being Catholic Now. I was so fascinated by her interviews with the likes of Bill Maher and Gabriel Byrne (who spoke about being abused by a priest) that I got through the terrific tome twice. Today the conversation was all about how stirring and inspirational the group found the president’s speech last night. “It made me proud to be an American,” Kerry told me. And we both totally melted over the young school girl who was seated next to the First Lady having written to the White House looking for aid for her school, which is in a serious state of disrepair. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Kerry. She wasn’t the only one…

4. An early-arriving Matt Blank who chatted with Joe and I before The New Yorker‘s David Remnick and Lisa Hughes joined Showtime’s head honcho for lunch. I was happy to reconnect with Lisa. Way back when, she was my sales rep at Self when I was the marketing honcho for a fashion company. I knew then that Lisa was destined for big things at Conde Nast, and she’s risen through the ranks like the pro she is. Well done and congrats!

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Lunch: Special Post-Inauguration Edition

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The mood was festive at Michael’s today, with plenty of Obama buttons on display and lots of talk about the president’s stirring inaugural address. Jack Kliger told me, “I thought the whole thing was inspiring. His speech was terrific.” Jack had a good laugh about Barack Obama‘s heartfelt thanks to George W. Bush for his “years of service,” only to then turn around and basically rip the departing administration to shreds — in the nicest possible way. A speech for the ages, indeed.

While everyone agreed the president was near perfection in every possible way, the verdict was somewhat mixed on the First Lady’s fashion sense. A few media mavens told me they were less than thrilled with Michelle Obama‘s Isabel Toledo dress and coat (“A little dowdy,” sniped one stylista), but gave her higher marks for her Jason Wu ivory gown. I admit, I didn’t love the “lemongrass” lace daytime look at first, but by day’s end it had grown on me. I will say that Sasha and Malia looked darling in their custom J.Crew Crewcuts coats. When my good pal Fern Mallis, looking sleek and chic in her Tracy Reese Obama shirt, stopped at the bar for a chat, I asked her what she thought about Michelle’s fashion choices for the big day. “I’d give her a 10,” said Fern. “I could not think of a better ambassador for the fashion industry right now. She looked great.”

Today I was lunching with Lisa Silhanek and Justin Brown, CEO of First Global Xpress. Lisa, who knows everyone in the fashion biz, is working with Justin as his relationship manager, helping to broaden the business within the industry. Justin, whose clients include HBO, ICM and Conde Nast, has built an impressive business (that will be profiled in next month’s Business Week and the March issue of Inc.) by catering to companies that care about reducing their carbon footprint with smart shipping that lops off miles using direct flights. And, perhaps just as important, Justin says: “We deal with divas very well.” He’s shipped everything from a helicopter (New York to Eastern Europe) to Marilyn Monroe’s velvet headboard bought at auction by an adoring fan, so chances are he can handle whatever daunting task Seventh Avenue can serve up.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Imber Gang: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Jerry Della Femina. I asked Jerry about the awful news about the demise of Full Frontal Fashion. His wife, the tireless Judy Licht, made the show a must-see for fashionistas and civilians alike with its wall-to-wall coverage of Fashion Week. (Truth be told, I’ve skipped a show or two knowing that I could watch the whole shebang from my living room without having to battle the crowds). “It’s true,” reports Jerry. “But Judy has a lot of things going and will be covering Fashion Week for The Huffington Post.” You heard it here first, folks. Smart move, Arianna.

2. Peggy Siegal dining with a mystery gal. Clever Peggy ordered her lunch in advance so as not to waste a minute.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and uber-agent Ed Victor

4. Jack Kliger, Tom Donahue and a gent named Nick, so we’re told.

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Lunch: Musical Chairs With Sir Paul McCartney

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— DIANE CLEHANE

So you think you’ve got problems? Paul McCartney (that’s Sir Paul to you) arrived at Michael’s today shortly before noon to scope out a table for a quiet lunch with Barbara Walters. When he was ushered to Table One, situated in the bay window, he passed on perching at the power spot and asked to check out the room before settling on a primo corner table. Babs arrived shortly thereafter, as did a dark-haired beauty that some thought might be Paul’s gal pal Nancy Shevell (but we think not) and a distinguished mystery gent. But alas, the happy foursome couldn’t enjoy their lunch because the eagle-eyed former Beatle spied a pesky video cameraman taking it all in from the sidewalk, shooting through the window. We’re guessing it was those intrepid folks from TMZ who regularly stake out the joint. Well, Paul wasn’t about to give up on his quest for some privacy, so the gang moved once again to the back of the dining room and finally settled in for some good dish. Whew!

The rest of the room was buzzing, with tables shoehorned in all over the place to deal with the overflow of media A-listers. When I made my rounds, I stopped by my good pal Fern Mallis‘ table to say hello. She was nice enough to introduce me to her charming niece, Brooke Lampley, an assistant vice president at Christie’s, and internationally acclaimed museum designer Stuart Silver. The always-optimistic Fern wanted to talk about how well things are going as she prepares for next month’s Fashion Week. (We can’t wait for the Barbie show!) Contrary to published reports, says Fern, there are plenty of exciting designers and companies that are spending money to show at the tents — some for the first time. “I don’t understand why people want to focus on so much negativity,” says Fern. “Why not write about what new things people are doing to help their businesses?” It’s a good question. Many folks that I’ve talked to in the fashion biz say the reporting in this area is far too much gloom and doom, and it’s becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So come on, people! How about some industry cheerleading? It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Imber Gang: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman. We’re guessing Jeff Greenfield is a bit busy for lunch this week…

2. John Sykes (who was overheard telling Paul McCartney that he had dinner with Clint Eastwood last night and was singing the praises of his latest film, Gran Torino. ‘It’s great,’ enthused John!) and Frederic Fekkai

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. Fox 5′s Rosanna Scotto with her former colleague, newly-minted real estate mogul Penny Crone

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Lunch: Why So Glum, Anna Wintour & Ralph Lauren?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was standing room only at Michael’s today with a head-spinning assortment of movers and mavens doing some serious table-hopping between bites. We were brightened to see there was a dash of celebrating between all the intense conversations that were going on all around. It’s the holidays, remember?

I was lunching today with Gerry Byrne, senior vice president of The Entertainment Group at Nielsen Business Media. One of the truly good guys in the industry, Gerry has had an amazing career in media that started after he served as a United States Marine Corps Officer in Vietnam, when he took a job at The New York Daily News working in business development. You name an important showbiz publication, and chances are Gerry has been at the helm. He was president and CEO of Stagebill, served as group publisher and president of Variety and Daily Variety (and launched the Gotham edition), started Electronic Media (now Television Week) and Crain’s New York Business. He was consulting for Nielsen when they lured him back into corporate life earlier this year with his current gig. “I never expected to be back doing this, but I’m having a great time,” says Gerry. He’s keeping busy overseeing the company’s entertainment properties and exhibitions including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Backstage, Kirkus Reviews, The Bookseller and expos like ShoWest. Whew!

We had a fascinating conversation about the state of the entertainment and media industry, with Gerry offering some valuable insights. “It’s all about brand management and creating new partnerships,” he told me. “More people than ever are willing to listen to new ideas about partnerships.” That, says Gerry, is good news for everyone willing to acknowledge what’s in the past is gone and it’s a brave new world. So buck up, all you naysayers, put your thinking caps on and get out there and reinvent yourself. Speaking of reinvention, I asked him to weigh in on NBC’s decision to offer Jay Leno a nightly show on their prime time schedule. “They’re protecting their franchise. Jeff Zucker made a dramatic statement.” The “game-changing” move is sure to change the face of television, says Gerry, who noted, “It couldn’t have been done 10 years ago.” Timing is everything, isn’t it?

The scene spilled over into the Garden Room where Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell and David Gregory were seated. The newly-minted host of Meet The Press gave us a big hello and a smile as he made his way to the back, but slipped out early before we could ask him about his new gig. mediabistro.com’s founder Laurel Touby was a few tables away with metacafe’s CEO Erick Hachenburg and SVP Jack Rotherham and Michael A. Vorhaus of Frank N. Magid Associates. So take that, all you strivers — power is where you find it!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. There were plenty of fireworks: Jerry Inzerillo, Paul Grucci and some lively fellows who were celebrating some big news with champagne

2. Judy McGrath and a gent we didn’t recognize…

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with a trio of interesting — and enterprising — women: Democratic booster Maureen White, Sarah Rosenthal and Cynthia Brill, who told me the Clear Card biz we chatted about some months ago for this very column is going great guns. The brainchild of Cynthia and her husband Steve, ‘The Easy Pass of airports’ designed to help users ‘fly through airport security,’ is now in 21 airports and coming soon (in ’09, she says) to LAX. We’re all for anything that will improve the hellish experience of surviving a stay in that confounding maze.

4. Frank Gifford and Ron Kanecke

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Lunch: Joy Behar, Star Jones & Another Sarah Palin Doppelganger

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— DIANE CLEHANE

What recession? The joint was jumping at Michael’s today. Media mavens, television types and fashionistas were still trying to digest the week’s head spinning events but, in true New York style, weren’t letting a worldwide tanking economy get in the way of a good time. There was plenty of buzz about last night’s debate — a few folks in the dining room today watched the whole thing go down at Denise Rich‘s house. The verdict: Obama won and will win.

The ‘other side of the aisle’ was more than represented when Loreal Sherman, Michael’s tireless and terrific maitre d’, launched into a dead-on imitation of Gov. Sarah Palin for departing diners Joy Behar and CNN’s Jon Klein. Ducking inside the coat closet after donning some clear square framed glasses and using the door as her debate podium, Loreal had the gathering crowd in stitches as she improvised a performance of Palin’s indelible one-liners from her debate with Joe Biden last week. Afterwards, when I told her I marveled at her ability to do spontaneous stand-up, Loreal confessed she’s a professionally trained performer who once sang at Carnegie Hall. Memo to Tina Fey: You can’t be everywhere, so if you’re ever in need of a stand-in (who even looks like you!) Loreal is your girl. You know where to find her.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Star Jones, who called minutes before noon after “a really important meeting” for a table for herself and her entourage. The mood was pretty upbeat (we overheard Star cracking some Sarah Palin jokes) and there was wine all around. When I asked the usually chatty Star about what she was dishing about with her pals, she slipped on her shades and said, “Business, Business,” before sauntering out with nary a look in Joy Behar’s direction.

2. CBS spinmeister Gil Schwartz (who is always smart enough to make his reservation for Wednesday!) with Madison Square Garden’s human resource honcho John D. Moran.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong sporting his Obama button — and talking (what else?) politics — with Cynthia Brill and major democratic booster Maureen White.

4. New York’s First Lady Michelle Paterson with Alexa Eaton and Debbie Bancroft. Word is Mrs. Paterson is “not pleased” with New York magazine’s cover story on her husband. Well, we’ll say this, the cover line “David Paterson Didn’t Ask For This” was perfect.

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Lunch: Captain Picard, I Presume?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Al & Meredith Talk Skateboarding

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpg On the menu today: a tasty stew of media moguls and television titans with a dash of talking heads to spice things up. After making the rounds and checking in with some of our favorite regulars, we were thrilled to chat with our good pals Today’s Meredith Vieira and Al Roker. The always affable Ms. Vieira (who we’ve not seen at Michael’s before) and Mr. Roker told lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane that plans are in the works for the show to travel to China this summer to do some segments as a walk up to next year’s blowout Olympic coverage in Beijing. “Meredith is going to be skateboarding on the Great Wall,” joked Al. Somehow, we wouldn’t put it past Today.

Here’s the rundown on the rest of the crowd:

1. The Early shift: Charlie Rose and Neal Shapiro; late shift: Cheri Kaufman of Kaufman Astoria Studios.

2. Nightline‘s Cynthia McFadden (sporting a great tan), Silda Wall Spitzer (wife of Governor Spitzer) and her director of Children for Children Margo Jones.

3. Mayor Joe Armstrong (who was happy to show us that Jimmy Buffett signed his “boot” — which doubles as a vase — on his last visit while Joe was away). Joe was dining with two lovely ladies: Dr. Sarah Simms Rosenthal and Jane Hartley. When we complimented Dr. Simms Rosenthal, an Ali McGraw lookalike, on her stunning summer ensemble, she told us she’s actually turned last year’s dress into a fabulous white embroidered skirt which she was wearing with a classic black T-shirt. Tres chic!

4. Time Inc.’s John Huey.

5. Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Schubert Organization.

6. Fashion central: Cece Cord, Cameron Silver, owner of Decades, the haute Los Angeles boutique, Becca Cason Thrash and IMG’s The Daily Jim Shi. (Thanks for filling us in, Jim!)

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