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Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton South’

David Zinczenko, Jack Kliger and The Man Most Unlikely to Wind Up at Michael’s

LunchAtMichaelsAs faithful readers know, we endeavor to give our rundown of the movers and shakers who show up at Michael’s every Wednesday a cheeky spin so as not to take ourselves too seriously about the whole power lunch thing. Today, aside from the obvious reason not to make light of an already featherweight subject, I’m too dumbstruck by a new acquaintance I made while making my rounds in the dining room to come up with a pithy opener.

When TV Guide‘s acting CEO Jack Kliger motioned me to come over and meet the handsome young man dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, I couldn’t imagine who he might be. An actor starring in a new crime procedural for CBS? A new reality star ready for his close-up? A family friend getting the full-court “Lunch at Michael’s” treatment? Well, I was half right. “This is Jonathan Alpeyrie,” said Jack. “He’s a combat photographer who was kidnapped in Syria and just released a few weeks ago.” The French-American photographer told me he was on his third trip to Syria when he was abducted at gunpoint by masked men at a checkpoint near Damascus and was held for 81 days. During his harrowing time spent in captivity, he was often chained to a bed and narrowly escaped execution after enraging a guard because he went to the bathroom without getting permission. The solider held a machine gun to Jonathan’s head before being called off by the other soldiers standing guard. Jonathan didn’t seem to want to talk much about his experience, so Jack, who is a close friend of Jonathan’s father, filled in the blanks.

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The Truth About Rachel Uchitel’s Tweet and a Birthday Party for Ed Rollins

1003_mockup.gifWhen it comes to Wednesdays at Michael’s, the early bird might not always get the best table, but today it did land me something of a timely scoop. Some time before noon, I spotted Rachel Uchitel, the woman whose texts to Tiger Woods helped bring down the golf legend and launched a thousand tabloid headlines in 2009. I half expected her to bolt when I identified myself as a reporter, but she was gracious and downright chatty when I asked about the countless reports that her recent “Everyone deserves a second chance” tweet was a thinly veiled reference to Tiger and Lindsey Vonn‘s joint announcement on Facebook that they were dating.

“Everyone in the media immediately thought it was about Tiger,” she told me exclusively. “I still have not talked about him and never will. I haven’t told anyone about this, but the tweet was about my 94-year-old grandfather, Sam Lionel, who is getting married. His fiancee is 52 and there has been some family drama about it, so that’s what I was referring to. I’m even throwing her a bachelorette party.” Rachel, who just moved back to New York from San Francisco, told me that The New York Post approached her about writing an article about the recent turn of events but she turned them down flat. “First of all, check your facts, thank you very much,” she said referring to their reporting about her tweet. “And also I’d never write anything about that.”

Rachel told me these days she is “totally obsessed” with her 10-month-old daughter Wyatt Lilly who took her first steps yesterday. (Dad is husband Matt Hahn.) “I love that she wants a big kiss just from me sometimes. It’s the first time that I really have come to understand just what unconditional love is. You think you can get it from a man, but this is so different. She is my whole existence.” Being a mother, says Rachel, has given her a sense of peace and satisfaction that had previously eluded her, but she still is sorting out where she wants to go from here. ”I don’t want to be away from her and miss anything.” Still, though, she’d like to find “meaningful work.” Says Rachel, “For the past three years I have struggled with my identity. I used to be a journalist, but since 2009 it has been difficult to find a job because of the baggage attached to me.” She’s been offered several reality shows and did a stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, but has turned them all down. “It’s hard, but now that I’ve moved back to New York, I’d like to find something interesting to do.” For the woman whose tear-stained face made the cover of The New York Post when she first lost her then fiancé on 9/11 (a tearsheet hangs in the Smithsonian) and then went on to become the poster girl for one of the biggest celebrity scandals of the decade, life in recent years has been a series of headlines. That’s a pretty attractive quality in an employee in certain circles is this town, isn’t it?

Emilio Romano and Diane Clehane

I had a fascinating and enjoyable lunch with Emilio Romano, (pictured, right) president of Telemundo Media and the network’s vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, Michelle Alban. The charming and dynamic Emilio joined the company in 2011 and in his current position runs Telemundo’s broadcast network, its 15 owned stations, as well as the company’s entertainment division and Telemundo Studios, which is the No. 1 producer of original Spanish language primetime content for Hispanics in the United States. He also oversees the news and sports divisions, Telemundo’s digital media group and the company’s sales and marketing arms. I’ve talked to plenty of media titans in this dining room over the years, and I can say without question I found Emilio to be one of the most engaging, genuine and interesting executives I’ve ever met. While telling me about all the exciting things happening at Telemundo these days, he chatted easily with the wait staff about where they were from and asking them in Spanish what they watched on television and why.

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Lisa Vanderpump Dishes on the Beverly Hills Housewives, Wendy Williams Holds Court

1003_mockup.gifHappy New Year — now let’s get  back to business. The power lunch season is back in full swing at Michael’s, so we’re serving up a double helping of ‘Lunch’ this week.

On Tuesday, Lisa Vanderpump and her husband Ken Todd joined me along with Bravo’s Jennifer Geisser and Jodi Davis at Table One to talk about her new Bravo series, Vanderpump Rules and, of course, dish about the current season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Lisa was wrapping up a whirlwind 48-hour stop in New York to promote her new show and in the last 24 hours appeared on Good Morning America, The Wendy Williams Show, Joy Behar, Anderson Live and Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen where, so I heard, things got a little bawdy. It took a few minutes for Lisa and Ken to make their way to our table, because several RHOBH fans stopped them to ask to take a photo with Giggy, their Pomeranian who accompanies them everywhere. It turns out Giggy also has a famous fan in Alec Baldwin, who Lisa told me, jumped out of his town car at 30 Rock that very morning and asked, “Can I hold him?” He then snapped his own photo with the four-legged reality star who has his own Twitter handle. See, Andrea Peyser, the 30 Rock star does have a heart.

When Lisa and Ken settled in for our chat and Giggy, who was wearing a jewel encrusted sweater that I’m pretty sure cost more than my dress, was safely seated and drinking water out of a champagne glass (you can’t make this stuff up) — I just had to ask why this very successful, smart and even-keeled couple jumped into the reality show pool of insanity in the first place. It turns out Ken was “extremely apprehensive” about letting in the cameras in, and Lisa turned down requests many times before deciding to give it a try. None other than Jennifer Flavin (Mrs. Sylvester Stallone), who was obsessed with the New York housewives, encouraged Lisa to try out. “We were sitting on Jennifer and Sly’s bed and she said, ‘You have to watch this.’ I did and thought, ‘I’d never do anything like that.’” Well, never say never. After finally auditioning for the show and then waiting months to hear from the producers, Lisa decided she did want in. “Once I thought it might not happen then I wanted it,” said Lisa with a laugh. While awaiting word from Bravo, Lisa had attached herself to another reality show with friend Kathy Hilton, but when Andy Cohen came calling she was in. And that, as they say, was that.

Ken Todd, Diane Clehane, Giggy the dog, Lisa Vanderpump

Ken Todd, Diane Clehane, Giggy the dog, Lisa Vanderpump

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Harvey Weinstein, David Zinczenko and Peggy Siegal Throws Another Party

1003_mockup.gif‘Tis the season for power lunches disguised as holiday celebrations, and this afternoon at Michael’s it was SRO as the moguls (Harvey Weinstein, Tommy Mottola), a perennial party giver (Peggy Siegal and her indefatigable minions) and boldface names (Star Jones, Muffie Potter Aston) poured into the dining room for one head-spinning scene. While Bonnie Fuller and company shoe-horned 14 people comfortably into Table One, Peggy presided over a lunch for 34 in the Garden Room honoring “The Untouchables.” (Although I didn’t see them, I did spot — I think — Malcolm Gladwell and Stu Zakim in the crowd). The rest of the dining room was full of table hoppers and gladhanders — Harvey Weinstein works a room like nobody’s business — and I noticed there was plenty of glasses of red and white wine all around. Cheers!

I was joined today by Anne Fulenwider who has plenty to celebrate these days having  “come home” to Marie Claire in September. She was tapped for the top job after Joanna Coles departed for Cosmo when Kate White left to write her best sellers full-time. I know, you need a score card for all this, but do try to keep up. Anne’s extraordinary rise to the top of the masthead is a master class on how to succeed in publishing by being very smart, working hard and staying grounded amid all the glitz and glamour (yes, to civilians and the uninitiated this is a glamorous business). The Harvard graduate came to New York in the mid-nineties and landed her first job in magazines working for David Lauren at Swing. An internship at The Paris Review turned into a gig as research assistant to George Plimpton when he was working on his book on Truman Capote. Anne got quite an education diving into boxes of fascinating transcripts, fact checking scores of Plimpton’s interviews and, occasionally ”chopping carrots” at his home and pitching in whenever needed. All in a day’s work.

Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

When the book was done, she went on to become senior editor, moved to Vanity Fair where she was editor of the magazine’s popular “Fanfare” section, and wound up editing the work of Leslie Bennetts, Buzz Bissinger and Dominick Dunne. Except for a brief sojourn to San Francisco, she spent a decade at the magazine where, she said, she “grew up” and was “inspired” by Vanity Fair’s great reporting and writing and learned that “maintaining quality” and upholding the highest journalistic standards (“There were armies of fact checkers and researchers!”) were critical to the vitality and relevance of a successful magazine.

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Anderson Cooper, Harold Ford, Jr and Bob Guccione, Jr

1003_mockup.gifAfter a long holiday weekend left the usual Wednesday lunch crowd without their weekly power lunch fix, the town car set who could tear themselves away from their Hampton cottages returned to Michael’s today. I say we outlaw any more midweek July 4th holidays. Too confusing!

I was joined today by Bob Guccione, Jr. who I met last year when we weighed in on the ever expanding culture of celebrity for a journalism panel for Names Not Numbers. After crossing paths in this dining room several times over the past year, we decided it was time for a proper Michael’s lunch once and for all.

I wasn’t disappointed. Bob ventured in for our lunch and some other important business in town from his home in rural Pennsylvania (“I’m one postage stamp away from being the unabomber!’). A few years ago, having grown “sick of New York” he decamped to Mississippi to teach journalism and has decided country life beats living in Manhattan hands down. ”It’s so peaceful,” he says.

Bob tells a terrific tale of his fascinating career in media that started at the age of 18 in the UK when he became Britain’s youngest ever publisher. A year later, he launched Rock Superstars making him the youngest publisher in America. As the son of one of publishing’s most colorful figures, it seems his career path was predetermined but, says Bob, “I knew I loved it. I wanted to be a writer but I had no life experience.”

That changed pretty quickly. In 1985, he launched SPIN, sold it in 1997 t0 Vibe Ventures, and launched Gear in 1998. Then, in 2005 he bought Discover from Disney. He remembers the moment well. “The staff regarded  me with some trepidation. When I told them  ‘We’re in the entertainment business,’ there was an audible gasp in the room.” By the time he stepped down as chairman two years later, the magazine had returned to profitability.

Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione
Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione

Our conversation revolved around passion for the business and the elusive quest for profitability and Bob had plenty to say on both fronts. Besides being incredibly funny (sorry, but his best remarks are off the record), the tireless entrepreneur proved to be a fascinating lunch date as he shared his extremely well-reasoned take on why he believes writers will one day be able to make a living online and why magazines are far from over. ”Everything about digital media happened too fast, and people back the wrong model too quickly,” he told me. Exhibit A: The Huffington Post, which Bob says is “doomed to fail” and called it “a white elephant — it’s the default model.”

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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: Happy Birthday, Cathie Black!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Evander Holyfield by a day, but there was plenty of action to keep our attention in Michael’s jam-packed dining room today. Between the surprise birthday party for Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black on Table One, a smattering of fashionistas, and the bumper crop of beauty industry bigwigs holding court here and there, I suspect there was a fair share of business being done between bites of Cobb Salad. I noticed another interesting trend from my usual perch at the bar: This crowd really likes their cocktails. “For some reason, we are doing a lot of different drinks today,” said my friend Melinda, the bartender. Besides serving up some Shirley Temples, Melinda poured Pernod, Bellinis and Danish Murrays (That’s Aquavit and Bloody Mary mix). One diner who sat down promptly at noon ordered a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks straight away. It beats iced tea, I guess. Bottoms up!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black celebrating with a table full of media mavens (and plenty of presents!), including Harper’s Bazaar publisher Valerie Salembier and power players Jeannette Chang (long time, no see!), Michael Clinton, Ellen Levine and Donna Lagani.

2. Peter Brown, Paige Peterson and a handsome young gent.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and George Stevens. I was thrilled to see the mayor at his regular perch after his recent trip to Austin, where he’s joined the board of his alma mater, the University of Texas. (He got both his law and journalism degrees there.) Joe was staying with his good pal Lance Armstrong, who, he told me, will be competing in this year’s Tour de France and saddling up for the major ‘Tour’ race in Italy. Lance has completely “bounced back” from his shattered collarbone, reports Joe. Just thought you’d like to know…

4. Leonard Lauder and two well-dressed gals we didn’t recognize …

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