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Posts Tagged ‘Fred Zollo’

Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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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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Lunch: ‘Heroine’ Julie Menin Takes On Washington: “Move the 9/11 Trial!”

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When I met Julie Menin a few weeks ago in the Michael’s dining room and made a date for lunch, I was expecting to chat about her fabulous new show, Give and Take, which airs on Sunday night on WNBC’s NY Nonstop news channel. She’s already had Mika Brzezinski, Jane Velez Mitchell, and Barbara Corcoran as guests and is planning to chat with Annie Leibovitz on an upcoming show. Turns out we had a lot more to talk about.

In the past several weeks, Julie has been making headlines rather than reporting on them since she took up the cause of moving the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed out of Lower Manhattan. The regulatory attorney is a strong believer in public advocacy: She founded the not-for-profit Wall Street Rising in the wake of September 11 to revitalize the neighborhood and has served as the chair of Community Board 1 since 2005. After realizing that “no elected official wanted to jump into the fray,” Julie says she had “an Aha! moment” and launched into action. She penned an op-ed for The New York Times entitled “Trial By Ferry” where she proposed Governor’s Island be considered as an alternative and has been working “24/7″ to convince elected officials that a multi-year trial would paralyze the city and effectively shut down Lower Manhattan. “No one had even done a feasibility study before deciding this would happen,” says Julie. “It was foisted on Mayor Bloomberg with no analysis.”

When Bloomberg told Julie he opposed the Governor’s Island idea because he wants to build a school and recreation center there, Julie remained undaunted and came up with three other options: West Point, Otisville Prison, and Stewart Air National Guard Base. That got the attention of The White House who, Julie says, “was looking at the issue too narrowly.” Not anymore. All indications now point to an announcement of a new venue. “It’s really a testament to what a citizen can do if they speak up and insist on having their voice heard,” says Julie. As she was explaining the campaign, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum stopped by our table, shook Julie’s hand, and declared, “She’s our heroine!” I asked if Julie is eyeing a run for office one day, and she didn’t rule out the possibility. “I’ll just have to see where life takes me.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Don Welsh and a table full of impressive gents including Jake Hill and Harold Shain.

2. Long time no see! Producers John Hart and Fred Zollo.

3. Former William Morris honcho Wayne Kabak, who now helms WSK Management LLC, and author Jackie Leo.

4. Mitch Kanner

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Lunch: Town & Country‘s Pamela Fiori & The Getaway Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It seemed only fitting that our lunch today was with Pamela Fiori, whose new book from Assouline, In The Spirit of Capri, celebrates the ultimate getaway spot. While the regulars in the dining room traded air kisses and vacation itineraries, the Town & Country editrix, along with Hearst public relations director Nathan Christopher, chatted with me over heirloom tomato salads about how this beautiful book (with tons of exquisite photos) came to be. Pamela, whose love of travel has taken her to every glamorous port of call imaginable, says the book happened by accident. A longtime fan of Capri, she suggested to Prosper Assouline and his wife Martine that they feature the divine destination in one of the house’s signature illustrated tomes. The publisher told Pamela, ‘I’m sending you a contract!’ That was that, she says. “I wanted him to do the book, but I didn’t mean for me to write it.” It became a weekend project for the busy Hearst editor, and the book debuted this month, brimming with fabulous photos including images of a barefoot Jackie O strolling through the streets with Valentino and shots of actress Marisa Berenson at the peak of her beauty in the ’60s. A launch party is planned for September 4 on Capri, hosted by Diego Della Valle and Tomino Cacace, owner of the Capri Palace. I’m packing as we speak…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Pamela Fiori, Nathan Christopher and yours truly

2. Paul Schaeffer, who sipped a virgin Bloody Mary while he waited for his pal, Law & Order’s SVU‘s Richard Belzer, to arrive.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, looking crisp and cool in his summer linens, with Kathie Berlin. Joe is fresh off his yearly visit to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camp, where he was camp counselor to a cabin of 10-year-old cancer patients. “These kids are so amazing,” Joe told me. “When you see what they’re going through you, realize all the stuff we worry about around here doesn’t mean anything.” Indeed.

4. Esther Newberg, who arrived toting Patricia Cornwall‘s latest (“A New York Times bestseller!”) and a gentleman we didn’t recognize

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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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