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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Musmanno’

Kerry Kennedy, David Zinczenko and Exclusive Dish From Monica Lewinsky’s New PR Guru

LunchAtMichaelsWe missed all the big doings on Monday when President Bill Clinton was at Michael’s for a private lunch in the Garden Room and stuck around to press the flesh in the dining room on his way out the door. Oh well, next time. Today, the usual suspects were, as usual, operating at full tilt around the room, where the decibel level made it hard to hear all the dish my fascinating lunch date was serving up.

I was joined by Dini von Mueffling, co-founder of HvM Communications, a boutique public relations firm that represents a myriad of clients, including hotter-than-hot The Organic Pharmacy and wine expert Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. Having launched the business with partner Laura Henson just five years ago, HvM toils in an impressively diverse number of disciplines, including beauty, wellness, fashion, art and design, business, real estate, nonprofits, and startups.

Diane Clehane and Dini von Mueffling

Diane Clehane and Dini von Mueffling

But to pigeon hole the former intrepid journalist (more on that later) turned entrepreneur is to greatly understate her impressive CV. She is also the co-founder of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, which she founded in 1992 when her dear friend died of the disease. Dini ran the foundation for three years and currently sits on the board of directors. Love Heals is the leading provider of HIV/AIDS education in New York City and, reports Dini, has helped educate over 650,000 young people in person and tens of thousands of others through its programs.

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Mediabistro Course

Travel Writing

Travel WritingStarting September 23, learn how to turn your travel stories into published essays and articles! Taught by a former Vanity Fair staff writer, James Sturz will teach you how to report, interview, and find sources, discover story ideas and pitch them successfully, and understand what travel editors look for in a story. Register now! 

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

Cristina Cuomo and Fern Mallis Lunch Among The Stylistas Plus Cindy McCain Slips By

1003_mockup.gifSometimes the most interesting lunchtime encounters at Michael’s happen before the crowd rushes in. Today was one of those days. When I arrived before noon, there were a handful of people already sitting in the lounge. One woman stuck out, because she was dressed in an oh-s0-tasteful head to toe Pepto Bismol-colored sweater ensemble (cashmere from St. John, I’m guessing) on such a warm day. She kept her head down when the rest of us got to chatting. I knew I knew her, but I couldn’t catch her eye. Imagine my surprise when she stood up to go to her table, and I realized it was Cindy McCain. In my defense, a tan, well-dressed blonde woman is hardly an oddity at Michael’s, and her black ‘scrunchie’ threw me. The funny thing is  no one seemed to notice when she walked back to her table in the Garden Room, proving that, in New York  when your 15 minutes are up, they’re up.

I was joined today by producer Joan Gelman and public relations and marketing executive Robert Zimmerman, who is also a political analyst for CNN and Fox News. I’ve gotten to know both of them over the years through my Wednesdays at Michael’s, and I can tell you they are really solid citizens. When we meet for lunch every so often, I know the conversation is going to be lively. These two passionate democrats can talk politics like nobody’s business, and there was plenty of dish to go around today.

Robert is headed to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in September as the democratic national committee man from New York. “Conventions play a huge role in the campaign. They are defining moments,” he told me. “They make people stop, watch and listen to what they parties are saying.” No matter which devices voters plan to watch on, says Robert, they can’t help but note the obvious difference between the two parties. “At the convention, the republicans stay in their seats and are wearing ties and dresses. Our party is a little more eclectic — there’s yoga mats in the corner. We have Jon Bon Jovi, they have Ted Nugent.”

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman
Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

On a more serious note, Robert said key differences between the parties for this election couldn’t be more obvious. “This is the first democratic convention where marriage equality will be part of the democratic platform. Our party represents the future and that’s very significant.” But, Robert explained, it’s critical that President Barack Obama communicate the achievements of his administration, because ”the administration fell short in outlining a clear agenda” despite its accomplishments in the past. “2008 was about hope and change; 2012 has to be about progress and results,” he told me. The other important objective: remind voters that many of republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney‘s positions are a “retake of George Bush‘s policies.” In the end, predicts Robert, “The election is going to be about the economy.” Isn’t it always?

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Barbara Walters, Harold Ford, Jr. and Bravo’s Chris March

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We could barely keep up with the steady stream of A-listers who poured into Michael’s today. When we arrived a little before noon, there was a handful of power brokers quietly hunkering down to business over their Cobb salads in the back of the room. By the time Bravo’s latest star, designer Chris March arrived with Jennifer Geisser, the network’s senior vice president of communications, and publicist Alana McElroy, there was a palpable party vibe in the dining room.  Late arrival Harold Ford, Jr. worked the room like nobody’s business while social swans Muffie Potter Aston and Suzanne Johnson doled out air kisses like they were candy.

While it was a little hard to hear over the chattering crowd, I thoroughly enjoyed dishing with Chris, whose new show, Mad Fashion, premiered Tuesday night on Bravo. Chris, you might recall was a finalist on Project Runway. (Christian Siriano was the winner that season). His quirky couture and good natured personality ( gotta love that laugh!) made him a fan favorite. Chris tells me when Bravo’s resident boy wonder, Andy Cohen, got wind he was shopping a show around, he got in touch with Chris and insisted Bravo see it first. The deal was done in a matter of days.

Unlike most of those ubiquitous Bravolebrities, Chris isn’t into the fame game. “I didn’t do either show to get famous,” he tells me. “I did it to get to do the type of work I wanted to do.” Things have worked out pretty well on that score. On the Wednesday before the I Heart Radio concert in Las Vegas, Chris got a call from Lady Gaga’s office requesting he make something fabulous for her appearance at the show. In less than a week, he delivered the studded motorcycle cape she wore on stage. “That wouldn’t have happened without being on television.” Maybe, but the guy has definitely got it.  This is the same man who made Meryl Streep‘s last Oscar dress at his kitchen table. His secret weapon: a drama-free attitude when dealing with people who live and die for style.

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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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Lunch: Harold Ford, Jr., Ken Starr, and a Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There was definitely something in the air (besides all that pesky pollen) at Michael’s today. The dining room was so jam packed with every conceivable type of boldfaced name I could barely keep track of all the wheeling and dealing that was going on around me. While the fashionistas and socialites traded air kisses and picked at the salads, the media mavens were spinning like there was no tomorrow. The power lunch is back, folks, so break away from your desk and go make something happen.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers, presiding over a table of movers and shakers: Huffington Post’s Greg Coleman, Eric Hippeau and Phil Cara; Colgate’s Jack Haber, Pattie Glod of Limited Brands; and E*Trade’s Nick Utton.

2. Peter Brown and Dan Scheffey, who joins Fairchild Fashion Group on May 10 as the new director of communications for the trade and business sector of Conde Nast. Dan tells me he’ll be working on all the titles including WWD and WWD.com. He reports to president Gina Sanders. Congrats!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Vanity Fair’s Wayne Lawson and Punch Hutton and a chic blonde gal we didn’t get to me. Joe, fresh off another trip to his home state of Texas was all jazzed up to tell the group about the The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas. (He’s on the board.) Joe reports that the center has acquired an impressive array of archives of literary legends including Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, and even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Joe also reports that none other than Robert De Niro has given the center his script archive and actually footed the bill for two 18-wheelers to deliver the costumes he’s worn in his films. So, the next time you’re in Austin, you might want to check it out.

4. Sean Cassidy — no, not the eighties pop icon — this fellow works for Dan Klores.

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Lunch: Joan Collins Holds Court at Table One, Plus Barbara Walters & Vernon Jordan

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dining room at Michael’s was buzzing as boldface names settled in to plot their next big move and dish over their Cobb salads. We overhead plenty of chatter about the David Letterman and 48 Hours Mystery producer Robert “Joe” Halderman scandal — sorry, but it’s all off the record. The one thing everyone agrees on is that this tawdry tale is far from over. “There’s got to be a lot more to it,” said one flack. “This is going to be interesting if and when it gets to court.”

I was lunching today with Jason Allen Ashlock, who I first met a while back when he was toiling at The Marianne Strong Literary Agency. In January of this year, Jason struck out on his own and opened Movable Type Literary Group with his partner Meredith Dawson. Things have been going great guns for Jason despite the less than fortuitous timing for launching his business. “It was completely accidental, but because it was counter intuitive, I was able to meet with people and houses that would have otherwise been more difficult to get to, if for no other reason than they wanted to find out what I was doing,” says Jason.

So far, he’s inked 17 deals for his authors this year. Just last week he landed first-time author Adrienne Arieff a deal with Random House to publish her memoir, The Sacred Thread, which chronicles her decision to use a foreign gestational surrogate in India. Arieff decided to move in with the woman who was carrying her child, and the book chronicles their fascinating and unique bond. Jason also got that strangely fascinating husband and wife team of The Real Housewives of New York City, Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen, a deal from Sterling & Ross to pen their upcoming parenting tome, Little Kids, Big City due in March of next year. He brought me a copy of Robert Rave‘s novel Spin, which tells the tale of a wide-eyed publicist who finds himself working for one of Manhattan’s most notorious divas. Robert, by the way, once worked for Lizzie Grubman. We’re sure that’s just a coincidence.

I asked Jason what he thought of the news that Tina Brown will be doing ebooks in association with her website, The Daily Beast. “Tina has said books are the new magazines. I worry about that. Look what’s happening to magazines,” Jason reasoned. “As books become more ‘temporary,’ we lose what they are most useful for: authority. Books that take time, that are well researched, and edited offer a comprehensive point of view on a subject that you can’t get from a magazine article or on the Internet. Publishers can’t just be printers.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Francine LeFrak with a bunch of ‘suits’ and surprise guests Joan Collins with her much younger husband Percy Gibson. Our favorite ’80s TV villainess was doing her best Alexis Carrington by sporting a leopard print cowboy hat.

2. Peter Brown with a distinguished looking fellow we didn’t recognize.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (Long time, no see!). Joe is just back from a humanitarian mission to Cuba where he helped deliver supplies to several orphanages. “These kids really need a lot of help,” says Joe of the heartbreaking poverty he witnessed first-hand. He came brandishing a cane today because of some back trouble as a result of — we’re not kidding — laughing too hard at a fellow Texan’s joke recently. Here’s hoping you’re on the mend soon.

4. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and Vernon Jordan. I noticed that several times during lunch this intriguing duo had their heads together and seemed to be amused at something or another as they observed the noontime crowd. One can only imagine.

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Lunch: Barbara Walters, Frank Langella & Kathie Lee Gifford

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was a tasty mix of media mavens, social types and the random celebrity (Frank Langella was in the house!) on the menu at Michael’s today: The dining room was so packed, they were shoehorning tables in everywhere. I was glad I got there early so I was able to grab some of the regulars on the way to their tables before they got down to some serious dining and dishing. Kathie Lee Gifford was one of the first to arrive, announcing, “Ah, springtime!” as she came through the door. She’s got plenty to smile about these days as her latest book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg (Ballantine), hit the New York Times bestseller list. I just has to ask Kathie Lee what she thought about her pal Joan Rivers winning The Celebrity Apprentice, besting her arch enemy poker player Annie Duke and the nasty showdown the women had on the finale. “I was thrilled for her. Anyone that knows Joan knows she’s a friend to the end — and any time a 75-year-old wins anything, it’s good for all of us!”

I was lunching today with Alexandra Trower, Estee Lauder’s executive vice president of global communications. This consummate public relations pro has been with the company just over a year now, having made the switch from banking (she was SVP of media relations for Bank of America) to the beauty biz. This week, Alex scored a major hit with a front-page story on Estee Lauder’s new CEO Fabrizio Freda in WWD Beauty Biz. We had a terrific chat about the famous faces and captains of industry we’ve both come to know. It’s amazing what a small world Manhattan can be!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today show twosome Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Kathie Lee’s right-hand gal Christine and Hoda’s chic pal Sunny

2. Literary lioness Lynn Nesbitt and Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong dining with Kerry Kennedy and her charming young daughter Michaela

4. Barbara Walters and Frank Langella

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