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Posts Tagged ‘Deborah Norville’

Sigourney Weaver, Howell Raines and Barbara Walters Enjoying Semi-Retirement

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Wednesdays at Michael’s and then there are Wednesday’s at Michael’s. Today was one of those days. I could hardly keep up with the steady stream of famous faces that sailed past my table and made for some of the best people watching at 55th and Fifth in a long time. First came early arrival Montel Williamswho kept himself busy with ear buds and his phone. Next came Joy Behar (who I didn’t notice until she took off her sunglasses) and two pals who were waiting for another person to join them. A little birdie told me the mystery guest was going to be none other than Barbara Walters, so I kept an eye on the door for what seemed like forever in hopes of grabbing a quick chat with her before she made it to her table. Minutes before Barbara arrived Sigourney Weaver showed up looking absolutely ageless in Prada (and from what I could tell, next to no makeup). The Oscar nominated actress (we loved her best as Ripley!) and The New York Botanical Garden’s biggest cheerleader was clearly concerned she’d kept her guest waiting because she’d gotten stuck in traffic so she dashed by before I could utter a word to her. Drats. When Barbara, who was impeccably dressed in black and white, finally arrived, Michael’s chivalrous GM Steve Millington was waiting by the door to take her by the arm and personally escort her to her table. Let me tell you, a real hush fell over the room when the world’s most famous semi-retiree made her way into the dining room. Throughout lunch, plenty of well-wishers, both famous and “civilians,” stopped by her table to pay their respects.

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

After making my rounds in the dining room and having made sure Barbara, Joy and their friend had finished their lunch, I made my way over to their table. When I told Barbara that her final appearance on The View, where she was joined by what seemed like every female broadcaster who has followed in her trail-blazing footsteps, including all her View cohosts as well as Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung, Joan Lunden and Oprah Winfrey (who managed to score the center square in the iconic photo of the seismic sorority) was one of daytime television’s most memorable moments, she took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m so glad,” she said. “It was really something.” Even more moving, I told her, was her two-hour special that aired last Friday night, where her long-time producing partner Bill Geddie interviewed her about her amazing life and ground-breaking career. What was it like to be the subject rather than the interviewer? “Bill was terrific,” she told me. “We didn’t want to have it be ‘then she did this and then she did that’ so we did it that way. I’m glad everyone seemed to like it.” I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t want to overstay my tenuous welcome (it’s a bit of a delicate dance sometimes) so I left the trio to order dessert. No word on what Barbara has planned for the summer but in her column in The New York Post this week, Cindy Adams wrote that she and Barbara planned to travel abroad together this summer. I’d say Ms. Walters has more than earned some time off after her long good-bye.

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Bette Midler, Al Roker & Bravo’s Bickering Brokers From Million Dollar Listing New York

LunchAtMichaelsWhen it comes to Bravo’s ever-expanding slate of reality stars, it’s hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard. Between the Housewives, hipsters and wannabe singers, few have retained more than a few seasons of fame (or infamy) outside the realm of their melodramatic universe give or take a few Life & Style covers. I can count the number of Bravolebrities on one hand that have left an impression on me beyond registering their sheer delight at their own insta-fame. That’s why my lunch with Luis D. Ortiz and Fredrik Eklund, stars of the network’s Million Dollar Listing New York, was such a pleasant surprise.

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Besides being charismatic, funny and extremely well dressed (more on that later), these guys are driven beyond belief and smart as hell. Over the course of our lunch to dish about the new season, (premiering next Wednesday, April 2 at 9 p.m) I learned quite a bit about Fredrik and Luis (unfortunately their castmate Ryan Serhant was tied up at a pitch meeting and never made it to Michael’s.) Fredrik heads up the country’s top selling real estate team (which he founded) at Douglas Elliman. Between bites of his Cobb salad, he told me he sold 36 apartments last year, raking in 2.2 million in commissions during season two. So far this year, he’s sold $400 million (yes, you read that right) worth of real estate. Luis, who now works with Fredrik at Elliman, where he heads up his own real estate group, has sold over $300 million in residential real estate in the past three and a half years.

Almost thirty minutes before the appointed hour, Luis arrived at Michael’s and we sat at the bar chatting about the fickle finger of reality television fate waiting for the rest of our party. Besides being struck by Luis’ impeccable made for GQ style (a perfectly cut, made-to-measure suit “from a tailor in Mexico,” Patek Philippe watch and a Zara coat I’d kill for), I couldn’t help but notice his laser-like focus on my questions. The guy knows how to listen (a very underrated character trait, if you ask me). When I inquired if he thought the show had created a ‘character’ for him he said, “Television can’t edit you differently if you are yourself. I respect myself and I’m myself at all times. I understand the need for drama, but the business is inherently dramatic enough that we don’t have to make things up. I feel like the camera is telling the truth.”

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Deborah Norville, Miss USA and the Man Behind Those Spitzer Ads

1003_mockup.gifAlthough the ghastly heat of last week that made Manhattan feel more like Calcutta is finally just a memory, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the wall-to-wall coverage on ‘Baby Cambridge’ (who finally has a name — Welcome George Alexander Louis!) to come to lunch at Michael’s today. But once we made our way to 55th and Fifth, it was back to business as usual. The Wednesday lunch crowd has been firing on all cylinders all summer long, and today was no exception.

Aside from the usual suspects (Matt Blank, David Zinczenko) there was, of course, plenty of good people watching to keep us occupied, including the random celebrity sighting  (a very tall Miss USA) and an A-list couple who practically glowed with happiness (Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner). Perhaps that’s because their impeccably well-mannered teenage son, Kyle Wellner, who was dining with them, rose and extended his hand with a “nice to meet you” every time a well-wisher came by. Impressive.

I was joined today by Lisa Linden, longtime public relations adviser to Eliot Spitzer, and Jimmy Siegel of Siegel Strategies. Jimmy is the creative force behind Spitzer’s campaign ads that begun popping up last week online and are now airing on cable and broadcast television in New York City. Jimmy spoke with me exclusively to give me the story behind the new campaign ads that have generated plenty of commentary by politicos everywhere. The self-described “political junkie” first met Spitzer, then running for governor, at a fundraising dinner in late 2005. “I wanted to get into politics, and I was a long time admirer of Eliot when he was the state’s attorney general. I thought he did an amazing job,” Jimmy told me. “At the end of the night, I hung around and, fortified by my third glass of Cabernet, I approached him and said, ‘I want to help get you elected.’” Spitzer gave him then-deputy campaign manager’s Miriam Hess‘ card (who, incidentally, now works with Jimmy) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Diane Clehane and Jimmy Siegel

Jimmy spent over 20 years at BBDO, rising from junior copywriter to vice chairman where he was responsible for some of the most memorable ads ever for Visa, Pepsi and Charles Schwab, and had just formed his own company when he met Spitzer. The campaigns he later created for Spitzer’s gubernatorial run were characterized by The New York Times as “emotionally stirring” and “fresh and effective” by The New York Daily News. This time around, while the objective — getting Spitzer elected — may be the same, the game and the stakes have changed considerably. Read more

Anderson Cooper, Andrew Stein and Serenading Socialites

1003_mockup.gifThe scene at Michael’s today was positively Fellini-esque. Just when the joint was firing on all cylinders (even every seat at the bar was spoken for),  the dining room was stunned into silence when the ladies who lunch led by Joan Jakobson at Table One gave an impromptu acapella performance of “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” You get it all here, folks. Cobb salads with a serenade on the side. This being Michael’s, of course, the power lunch crowd gave the gals the floor just long enough to belt out their tune and then, without missing a beat, turned their attention back to hatching their next big deal. Alrighty then.

I was joined today by Janis Provisor and Debi Wisch, the dynamic duo behind Janis Provisor Jewelry whose business cards boast the tagline “wildly eccentric beaded collectibles.” They are also just gorgeous. Janis, an accomplished artist and painter whose work has been shown all over the world, including at the National Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, got into the jewelry business by accident. “It started out as a hobby, turned into a job-y, and now it’s a full-fledged business!” Janis told me.

It all began in 2006 when Debi, a former marketing consultant and publicist, got Janis to do a trunk show in Debi’s Manhattan home.  Janis and Debi had met a decade before when they were both living in Hong Kong and Janis, who was developed a carpet collection, showed up at Debi’s home with a swatch. Years later, over lunch, both women were wanting to do something new and came up with the idea for Janis to make one-of-a-kind necklaces from the stones she’d collected from her worldwide travels. Voila! Janis’ oversize beaded necklaces, luxurious lavalieres and chunky chokers (all boasting unexpected pairings of precious and semi-precious stones) were an immediate sell-out among the stylish set. “Our customers are smart, independent women with their own money,” Debi told me. “Rarely do I hear, ‘I have to ask my husband’ before someone buys something.” And it’s a good thing. Entry points range from $1,400 for earrings to $4,000 to $7,000 for a necklace. Not exactly something you could pass off with the usual, “Oh no, this isn’t new. I’ve had it forever.”

Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch
Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch

While most of the collection is sold at invitation-only trunk shows at swanky locales (If you happen to be in Kona in August, you might want to drop in on the next show at Seaside Luxe, but do RSVP first ), the luxe looks are also sold at Julianne in Port Washington and Gail Rothwell in East Hampton. Janis also has an exhibition of the jewels at Winston Wachter Gallery in Chelsea. By foregoing the usual retail route, the partners have been able to build the business (“People just find us”) carefully offering one-of-a-kind pieces and other collectibles to a very discriminating clientele. (CNN’s Alina Cho is a fan) ”The goal is to make only what we’d want to own, and that’s what we continue to do,” said Debi, who was adorned with several of Janis’ dazzling designs today.

Janis told me she often sits with the artisans in China while the pieces are being made to personally describe her vision for the design (“I don’t cast”), and she works with the craftsman in Bali where her 22kt gold work is done. “I am very hands-on,” she said, “with everything.” I’ll say. The company is 100 percent self-supported, and the women wouldn’t have it any other way. It seems to be working. Janis Provisor Jewelry will be moving into a brand new studio salon this summer where Janis and Debi hope to put together small groups of “interesting women” to exchange ideas, network and, of course, buy some serious jewelry.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Manhattan’s A-List Turns Out for Harvey Weinstein’s Giants Pep Rally

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I’ve been covering  Wednesday’s at Michael’s for five years and have never seen anything like the head-spinning scene that unfolded there today. Harvey Weinstein and Steve Tisch threw a pep rally to end all pep rallies, and the media A-list all came out to cheer on their favorite team. Peggy Siegal and her minions descended on the place before the crowd rushed in with plenty of New York Giants paraphernalia, transforming the California cool decor into an indoor tailgate party.

By noon, I counted at least a dozen paparazzi staked out at the entrance, and they certainly weren’t disappointed. Drew Nieporent was the first to arrive (“What’s for lunch?”), and in short order the lounge was flooded with famous folks, including Brian Williams, Gayle King, Piers Morgan, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb (wearing newly identical red dresses and looking fabulous), former governor George Pataki, Matt Lauer and various members of the Tisch family.

Katie Couric and Harvey Weinstein
Katie Couric and Harvey Weinstein

Everyone’s mind was on the big game; conventional wisdom says the Giants will be this year’s Super Bowl champs, but it’s going to be a close one.  (All except Jerry Della Femina, who predicts the Patriots will take it 27-24.) “I think it’s going to be a squeaker,” offered Andrew Ross Sorkin. “At least I hope so because it will be a better game.”

Not surprisingly, Giants legend Frank Gifford, who will be watching the game from his home in Greenwich with family and friends, predicts a 30-10 win for his former team. “Eli Manning has really come into his own as a quarterback,” he told me. “But a quarterback is only as good as his team. They’re a great team. If you were playing for the Giants, you’d be a great quarterback.” Doubtful, but we appreciate the sentiment. Brian Williams, who’ll be going to the game, refused to speculate on the final score for fear of tempting the gods. ”You just don’t do that,” he told me.

Diane Clehane and Brian Williams
Diane Clehane and Brian Williams (Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris)

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WCBS 880 Traffic Reporter Tom Kaminski Honored By Alma Mater

It was a special day for WCBS 880′s veteran man in the chopper, Tom Kaminski. No, it wasn’t an easy getaway on the roads. 

Kaminski was named the Allen B. Dumont Broadcaster of the Year from his alma mater, Montclair State University. As Kaminski wrote on his Facebook page, his boss, WCBS news director Tim Scheld and longtime reporter Rich Lamb were attendance, along with Tim’s wife Lyn and son JT.

Past winners include WWOR/Channel 9 anchor Brenda Blackmon, WABC/Channel 7 reporter N.J. Burkett, and Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville.

Kaminski has been a traffic mainstay at WCBS since 1988.

He graduated from Monclair State University in 1984.

War of Words with New York State Broadcasting Association Leaves Family of New Hall of Famer William B. Williams ‘Speechless’

Though he’s virtually unknown to today’s younger generation, during a four-decade span, nobody was smoother at spinning records on New York radio than the incomparable William B. Williams (right).

Williams was synonymous with hosting the Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW 1130, which he started in 1957. He is credited with giving Frank Sinatra his famous title “Chairman of the Board.”  

Williams was honored for his iconic role in radio with a spot in the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Radio Halls of Fame.

Fittingly, Williams was to be enshrined last month in the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

Williams, sadly, died before receiving any of the well-deserved accolades.

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Richard Belzer, Deborah Norville & the Real Ari Gold!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dog days have arrived. Just ask Richard Belzer, who showed up in the Michael’s dining room today with his pooch tucked under his arm. (No word on what Fido ordered.) The rest of the crowd barely noticed as the usual media mavens, publicists and Hollywood types table hopped and air kissed like crazy. Who has time for a summer vacation when there’s business to be done?

I was lunching today with Dr. Brent Ridge, one of the stars of Planet Green’s new reality show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys. The show chronicles the lives of Brent and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, as the fish-out-of-water couple turn their Sharon Springs, New York farm into the epicenter of their new organic lifestyle brand. It’s the perfect antidote, says Brent, to the tawdry and toxic tone of other reality shows (Jersey Shore, anyone?). “It’s inspirational and educational,” says the TV star and cookbook author.

However, it’s not without the requisite drama as the boys attempt to juggle their big city careers with life down on the farm with their goats, pigs and llamas. Brent says the biggest adjustment living life in front of the camera has been dealing with how much time it takes to shoot a single episode. Since producers wanted to show just what happens season-to-season on a working farm, the shooting has stretched over several months versus the usual few weeks. “I had no concept what it took,” says Brent, who found himself scrambling after wrapping one episode when he had mere hours to get 14,000 bars of his organic soap hand wrapped and shipped.

Brent, who once toiled under Martha Stewart as vice president of Healthy Living, is also the creative force behind an upcoming auction of heirloom vegetables at Sotheby’s benefiting The New Farmer Development Project NYC and The Sylvia Center. It’s the kick off event of “Eat Drink Local” week and, says Brent, will bring out the who’s who of the city’s culinary community, many of whom will be cooking a course at the launch dinner. If you’ve got a craving to get an up close and personal look at life with Brent and Josh, you can bid on a weekend at the farm on Ebay next month or just tune in. The Fabulous Beekman Boys airs tonight at 9 on Planet Green.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Half of ‘The Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer

2. Public relations maestro Paul Wilmot

3. William Morris’ Sam Haskell and a bespectacled gal we didn’t recognize.

4. Producers John Hart and Fred Zollo with a young mystery gal.

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Deborah Norville, Cindi Leive & A Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Michael’s, and today was no exception. Everyone in the place seemed connected by less than six degrees of separation, as we observed plenty of old friends and former colleagues exchanging air kisses before dining and dishing. Then there was the completely random fashion moment that caught our eye. Did you know it was ‘Seersucker Day’ here in New York City? Now you do. So it was only fitting that Michael’s GM Steve Millington was sporting his summer seersucker suit in honor of the sweltering heat. Earlier today, a little birdie told me that the outdoor set of The Early Show was filled with men (including the show’s weatherman Dave Price) in Haspel seersucker suits in honor of the company’s 100 anniversary. Who made Steve’s suit? Why Haspel, of course. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with Susan Silver, who I met in this very dining room a while back when I was lunching with our mutual pal Brian Balthazar at the next table. When I found out Susan was one of the brilliant writers behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show (the first and best one), I just had to get to know her better. Today we talked TV — of course — and Susan weighed in on her favorite sitcoms of the season. She gives high marks to ABC’s Modern Family (“Genius!”) and The Middle (“It is laugh out loud funny!”). It turns out we share a mutual obsession with reality television; specifically Bravo’s wild and wacky Housewives. I can’t get enough of the New York City divas — except for Jill Zarin. Susan loves ‘em all.

These days Susan is turning up everywhere on television (most recently with Rosanna Scotto on Fox 5) and radio (chatting with Bill Bennett) to talk about the baby boomer generation, spurred by a column she did a few years back, “The Search for Mr. Adequate,” for New York Social Diary. Now she’s on a mission to become “The Martha Stewart of The Baby Boomers,” offering her take on everything from fashion to travel and, of course, relationships for this “underserved market.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Chris Taylor presiding over a table of fabulous females, including Desiree Gruber and CNN’s Alina Cho

2. Bonnie Timmermann and two pals

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. The Early Show: It was a family affair for sisters Andrea Barzvi (who works at ICM) and Alexandra Barzvi (a clinical psychologist), who were celebrating mom Bianca’s birthday. We simply had say hello to this stylish trio because Bianca’s hat just dazzled us. Second seating: Peggy Siegal.

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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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