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Posts Tagged ‘George Malkemus’

David Zaslav, David Zinczenko and the Next Big Name in Fashion

1003_mockup.gifOn any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.

Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.

Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Lisa Sun and Diane Clehane

The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”

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Ann Curry, Calvin Klein and a Real-Life Seinfeld Character

1003_mockup.gifForget about the dog days of summer. The stifling heat couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. In fact, many of the power lunchers showed up early to escape the oppressive temps which made for a jam packed dining room. The always unflappable Loreal Sherman kept everything running smoothly as usual, finding just the right table for everyone despite the SRO crowd. At Michael’s, you are where you sit after all.

I was joined today by Scott Singer, managing director of Discover Digital Group where he helps media companies identify and build e-commerce businesses, as well as assisting them in growing their existing digital assets. When he’s not navigating his clients through the changing world of social media and mobile advertising, Scott is also a passionate author. In his first book, How to Hit a Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business (Portfolio, 2010), Scott took on the question on everyone’s mind at the time: how to survive and thrive after the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. “I’ve spent my career advising companies (including CBS/Viacom and Disney) on how to overcome and confront change,” Scott told me. After enduring his own series of personal and professional ‘curveballs’ —  his job as head of digital media and internet infrastructure at Bear Sterns was a fatality of the tech bubble, his brother was in one of the towers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 but thankfully survived and he got divorced (“My marriage ended in a death spiral,” he writes in the book), Scott told me he learned that “None of us know what the future holds but, once you’ve learned how to confront and overcome the unexpected, it will stop making you anxious. Tomorrow will no longer be something to fear and that’s a great feeling.”

Diane Clehane and Scott Singer
Diane Clehane and Scott Singer

Cleverly outlining his insights using baseball terminology, Scott leads the reader from ‘spring training’ all the way through ‘an extra inning’ and includes the wisdom of those who have always aimed for the fences, like CBS honcho Les Moonves, former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and Michael J. Fox.

Scott’s best advice: Step up to the plate and accept what is, be the batter and keep your eye on the ball. A self-proclaimed enthusiast for the latest and best gadgets on the market, Scott says these rules are easily applicable in business, especially when it comes to new technology. Change is happening every minute and the only way to win is to embrace it and be an early adapter. Just look at our kids.

“Every child today is born digital. It’s in their DNA, while those people that are passing away are analog. We’re digital immigrants,” he says. “My 14 year-old son is my IT support. It’s amazing to think of all the innovations the digital generation is going to create.”

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David Zinczenko, Keith Kelly and The Media Mavens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sorry, but you can’t expect dish about an Oscar winner every week. (We’re still reeling from our brush with Cate Blanchett in the dining room last Wednesday!) We’re chalking it up to school vacations, but the scene was relatively quiet at Michael’s today where the regulars had to be contented dishing with their dates rather than people watching.

Because we aim to please, I’ll fill you in on who has been spotted in the dining room since we filed our last column. On Friday, I was thrilled to be seated near Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Marlo Thomas, Liz Smith (looking better than ever!) and Cynthia McFadden. I don’t know if the feeling was mutual since I had my six year-old with me. Yesterday, my pal and accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh popped in with designer Carlos Falchi and actress Brenda Vaccaro. Here’s hoping there’s more to report next week!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Media Advisory Group’s chairman Jack Myers with Dave Jackson and Orlando Reece of Grab Networks.

2. Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko and The New York Post’s media guru Keith Kelly. Before Keith arrived, I caught up with David at the bar. David  is among the Elaine’s loyalists who are completely aghast at Michael Wolff’s vicious depiction of  the late Elaine Kaufman in the March issue of British GQ. According to an item on Page Six today, Wolff likens the beloved restaurateur to a ”low class madam” and describes the food at her iconic celebrity haunt as “inedible.” Very nice.

3. Producer Jean Doumanian and a pal we didn’t get to meet.

4.  The Metropolitan Museum’s John O’Keefe (loved the bow tie!) who passed the time waiting for his lunch date, Tim Mulligan, by sipping chardonnay and skimming the latest issue of Star.

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David Hockney, Lawrence O’Donnell And The Scandal-Scarred Manhattanite

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When I arrived at Michael’s today and found myself engulfed in a sea of suits, I chalked up the relatively quiet dining room to the usual January doldrums. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the reason things seemed a bit quieter than usual was that there were more than a few folks present who preferred to fly a bit under the radar considering what they might be talking about.  (Just a thought: This isn’t the place if you’re looking to have a low-profile lunch). An acquisitive media mogul dining with one of the city’s most respected media columnists?  A scandal plagued Manhattanite dishing with the Times’ financial columnist? The last thing on the minds of these guys was table hopping. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to see what they cooked up over lunch.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Artist David Hockney holding court with a table full of ‘suits’

2. Allyn Magrino and pals

3. Abernathy & MacGregor’s Jim Abernathy and some pretty preppy looking folks.

4. Uber literary agent Esther Newberg and a bookish bloke we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley Stops By — and Hugh Jackman is Coming Tonight!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Our invitation to tonight’s party for Joel Grey hosted by Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborah Lee Furness, must have gotten lost in the mail. Oh well. The dining room was jam-packed with the Wednesday regulars in action, so there was plenty to keep us entertained. I was also happy to catch up with some pals I hadn’t seen in a while. When my friend Andre Leon Talley swept through the door resplendent in a rose-hued Prada coat and “raspberry velvet” custom-made Manolo Blahnik sandals, I was thrilled that he had time for a chat before joining George Malkemus for lunch.

I just had to ask him what he thought about Morley Safer‘s segment on Anna Wintour that aired on 60 Minutes a few weeks back. “I was really impressed with their research,” said Andre, who reported that the show spent weeks at Vogue‘s offices and trekked to Europe for the collections to cover Anna in action and get many of fashion’s most famous faces to weigh in on her decades-long reign at the style bible. We both agreed that Morley sounded a wee bit contemptuous of the players and the game. The newsman’s occasional barbs thrown into the piece — including an observation that Karl Lagerfeld dressed like Count Dracula (“He’s had that look for eight years!”) and that all Vogue‘s young staffers have to be skinny — were “a bit dismissive,” said Andre. (I did love when Anna said that on a recent trip to Minnesota she found most of the folks resembled “little houses.”) Andre reports Anna was “thrilled” with the piece. “It’s 60 Minutes — she was on the same show as Secretary Gates. It was fabulous,” proclaimed Andre.

Today, he was taking a break between the resort presentations that designers were hosting around town in their showrooms this week. “The resort shows are fabulous,” he reports. “It’s become a much more interesting season where people are really doing some fabulous things.” Among the highlights so far: Diane von Furstenberg‘s “Going to Rio”-inspired collection with everything a girl needs all packed into one bag (“It’s her best collection in three years”), Zac Posen‘s ruched silk lame jeans and “major” shoes — especially the sexy lace d’Orsay numbers. Andre also gave high marks to Michael Kors‘ batik prints. “There are a lot of great clothes and great items that women will want to buy.” Music to a lot of retailers’ ears, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Conde Nast’s Lou Cona and the dashing Daniel Lalonde, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers.

2. Peter Brown

3. Judith Verno

4. Stephen Swid and a blonde gal we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: Dishing With Dolly Parton

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sure, it’s fun checking in with the media mavens and moguls during our weekly Wednesday outings at Michael’s, but sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting that can be the most entertaining. When I heard that Dolly Parton was coming today, I was really looking forward to chatting with her. I first sat down with her and Jane Fonda way back when there was some big anniversary for her breakthrough film, 9 to 5. Of all the celebrities I’ve interviewed over the years, Dolly was by far one of the least pretentious. The hair, the outrageous outfits, the nails — the boobs — it’s all part of a perfectly calibrated persona that is as compelling today as it was back then.

When she arrived in the dining room, every head turned. Trust me, she’s like no one you’ve ever seen. At 63, she looked like a living doll with her expertly made-up ageless face, Barbie doll suit (paired with sheer black leggings), that famous platinum mane, and shoes that no other human being could possibly walk in. When I stopped her to chat, she gave me a big smile and grabbed my hand. “Of course I remember you!” she drawled when I explained when we last spoke. I almost believed her — she’s that genuine. When I asked her how things were going with 9 to 5 set to debut on Broadway next week (she wrote 40 songs for the show; 16 made it into the production), she said, “We’re working like crazy just tweaking little things until we get it right. We’re working ’til midnight. I’m really enjoying myself!” Then she sailed in to meet her producer Bob Greenblatt (Showtime’s president), Matt Blank and the rest of her table.

I was dining today with my good pal Kathryn Leigh Scott, who is one of the most prolific women I know. She’s written so many books I’ve lost count (and is currently working on two — one fiction and one nonfiction). But her really big news involves the article she’s penned on “the star and the stalker” for Opera News, due out in August. Kathryn has left no stone unturned in the account of the downside of divadom, which chronicles the complicated and chilling relationship between legendary opera star Birgit Nilsson and her stalker, model Nell Theobald. Kathryn uncovers some startling details in her report, which has attracted the attention of some Hollywood bigwigs: “There’s some interest in the dramatic rights,” Kathryn tells me. Like they say in Tinseltown, stay tuned…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Dolly Parton, Showtime’s Matt Blank and Bob Greenblatt and Lee Resnick. There was also an imposing looking fellow at the table who, from the looks of things, keeps things running smoothly for Dolly. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to mess with him…

2. The first lady of New York, Michelle Paterson, and Jackie Rogers. For the moment, at least, it seems as if her husband’s dismal poll numbers weren’t top of mind: We spotted Michelle yukking it up as she enjoyed some white wine with her friend.

3. Dan Abrams and CNBC’s Brian Steel (Glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ loyalist!)

4. Expectant father Les Moonves (congrats!) and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. When Michael McCarty offered the television titan a hearty greeting of “Dad!” Les looked a little sheepish and uttered, “I’m an old man.” What’s that old saying about kids keeping you young? Please extend our congratulations to the missus, Julie Chen.

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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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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: The British Are Coming — Tomorrow!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We’re still exhausted from hob nobbing with last week’s overflow of A-listers, so we were almost glad things were a bit more subdued at 55th & Fifth today. It gave us a chance to catch up and chat with some our favorite regulars. Imagine my chagrin when I stopped by Matt Blank‘s table and Showtime’s CEO told me had I switched my weekly reservation to tomorrow, I’d be chatting with some of the biggest stars of his network. On Thursday, Matt and entertainment president Bob Greenblatt are hosting their own “British invasion” at table one when the entire glorious cast of The Tudors — the dreamy Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Peter O’Toole and Natalie Dormer will be breaking bread with the network’s other stars — including Tracy Ullman, whose show State of the Union, will premiere March 30, the same night as the new season of The Tudors. Thank God, something to watch! (I’ve been completely depressed over the fast approaching season finale of HBO’s In Treatment…) Also in attendance, says Matt, will be Billie Piper, who stars in — and we’re not kidding — the upcoming Secret Diaries of a Call Girl, which will premiere in June. Talk about timely. Perhaps the newly unemployed Eliot Spitzer can make a cameo appearance.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and the gang with Fox News’ Monica Crowley.

2. Showtime’s chairman and CEO Matt Blank with über producer Michael Davies.

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamoureditrix Cindi Leive (Glad you hear you’re a loyal “Lunch” reader!). The Mayor was celebrating with his friend Cindi over a glass of red wine — and a few asparagus spears — about her big news. Minutes before lunch, Cindi found out Glamour is a finalist for the fourth year in a row for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. No woman’s magazine has ever been so honored! The worthy competitors: Time, People, National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living. Congrats! Before Cindi and Joe tucked into their lunch, we unanimously decided New York‘s Spitzer cover this week is one for the ages. Brilliant!

4. Norman Pearlstine and a young gent no one seemed to know …

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Fashion Week: ‘Lunch’ at The Tents

Fashion Week has many of the stylish regulars who break bread (or at least nibble on their salads) on Wednesdays at Michael’s taking a pass today. At the tents ourselves, we found out what top media fashion plates are dishing up instead…

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