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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth’

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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Lunch: Bill Bradley, Norman Pearlstine & The Media Mavens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a lo-cal edition of lunch today. We’re chalking it up to near Spring-like weather (I don’t know about you, but I’m burning my winter coat when we finally have two days over 60) and plenty of recent rumblings about companies tightening the reins on expense accounts. What’s a media maven to do? You’ve still gotta eat. And if there’s business to be done — or you’re looking for your next big thing — Michael’s is still the place to be to connect with the power brokers that aren’t chained to their desks. Today, besides the regulars, the crowd was sprinkled with a liberal (no pun intended) dose of media mavens and business types with a former senator (Bill Bradley) thrown in for good measure. The mood in the dining room was a bit low-key, but I’m guessing there was still plenty of deals being struck over those burgers.

I was lunching today with my pal Brian Balthazar, HGTV’s director of programming. Brian and I met at Michael’s when he was working as supervising producer of Today‘s fourth hour with those chatty gals Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Now that Brian is getting up at a far more civilized hour, he’s got time for things besides television, including doing stand-up (His next gig is on April 15 at Comix). His new-ish job at HGTV is keeping him plenty busy, though, overseeing 18 shows with some great new projects in the works, including programming that will offer viewers an up close and personal look at celebrity homes. Brian also tells me he’s retooling the network’s popular House Hunters series to inject a bit “more reality” into the show and reflect more of what buyers are going through during these recessionary times. Still, though, there’s plenty of escapism (Thank God!) on offer. “During tough times, people really like to see beautiful homes and be inspired. There’s a voyeuristic quality to real estate that people love.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Laurie Tisch and a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Kerry Kennedy and James Wolfensohn, former head of The World Bank. Second seating: producers Jon Hart and Fred Zollo

4. Steve Rubenstein and Norman Pearlstine

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