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Posts Tagged ‘Harold Ford’

Laurie Dhue, Harold Ford and the Man Who Once Ruled Primetime

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re serving up a low-cal version of “Lunch” today because the catastrophic events in Harlem kept us from doing our scheduled interview at the appointed hour. Despite the transportation disruptions in and around the city, it was business as usual for the mavens, moguls and strivers who turned up at Michael’s for their weekly Wednesday confab. Keep calm and carry on indeed.

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Elizabeth Vargas, Harold Ford and the Latest on The Matrix Awards

Lunch At MichaelsI was joined today by Liz Kaplow, president and CEO of the eponymous marketing communications firm she started in 1991. Kaplow’s client list is full of industry leaders, including Target, Unilever, Timex, CVS and Laura Mercier. I’ve known Liz forever and seen her in this very dining room presiding over many a power lunch — the last time with Microsoft executives who were meeting with her to talk about the latest technological innovations from Skype, another client. We chatted briefly that day and realizing we’d never had a proper sit down, decided then and there to make a date. So here we are. In preparing for our lunch, I did a quick read through of Kaplow’s website and was blown away by the awards and accolades that Liz and her team have collected recently. The New York Observer ranked Kaplow No. 13 on their inaugural PR Power List last year. Kaplow’s “Branded Journalism” program with Skype was named one of the top global PR campaigns of 2013 by The Holmes Report (which also named Kaplow Consumer Agency of the Year in 2011). And to think all this started because, Liz told me, “I wanted to have more flexibility to be with my kids” when her two daughters were growing up.

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz opened her own agency in 1991 with the costume jewelry company Monet as her first client and quickly added to that list with forward-thinking strategic planning. By the mid-90s, Kaplow ventured into the technology sector with iVillage as a client. “We didn’t have the technical background, but we understood women and how to reach that consumer — we won the business while we were in the room doing the pitch.” Over the past two decades, Liz has become one of the most respected women in PR and is known for her approach in developing and executing marketing and public relations campaigns across all platforms that connect her clients’ brands with consumers through, as she likes to say, “the art of storytelling.” As she explained it: “Every brand has a different story to tell and today they want to tell it through all different platforms.” With that as a guiding principal, Kaplow has focused on integrating social media and emerging technologies with well-established media platforms to ensure clients’ get the maximum impact from their PR campaigns. “PR has to be much more holistic today,” she told me. “Traditional print media is still very, very important as a third party and ‘earned’ versus ‘paid’ media. Clients say the power of influence comes in very different ways. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client needs a customized approach.”

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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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A Regis & Kathie Lee Reunion, Plus Harold Ford Jr., Carl Bernstein and Star Jones

1003_mockup.gifI love it when Michael’s is firing on all cyclinders. After a nasty bug kept me away from 55th Street last week, it was good to see the dining room jam packed with celebs of all stripes. Everywhere you looked there was a famous face — Kathie Lee Giffordwas first on the scene and did double duty. She had a glass of wine at the bar with Eduardo Verastegui and then joined the party celebrating Charlene Nederlander‘s birthday in the dining room. Between bites, she caught up with her former co-host  Regis Philbin, who was today’s most popular celeb among the high-wattage crowd and was nice enough to pose for a whole lot of pictures.

While waiting for my lunch date, I chatted with my Greenwich neighbor Kathie Lee about her kids (son Cody Gifford is graduating from USC Film School and Cassidy Gifford is graduating from high school). We both agreed that kids today are under more pressure than ever before and are being buried under mountains of homework (my first grader gets an hour’s worth every night). Kathie Lee told me her honor student daughter has passed up numerous opportunities to pursue her love of acting in order to keep her grades up in school.  But Kathie Lee has always made a practice of taking her kids out of school when there was an opportunity to experience something not found in books.  “I think that’s so important for kids. Some of the most important things I learned as a child I learned outside the classroom.  We’re not letting kids be kids.” I couldn’t agree more.

When Kathie Lee went off to join her pals, I watched the dining room fill up with plenty of boldface names, including Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones and late arrival Carl Bernstein. I grabbed Harold before he sat down to lunch to ask him what he thought of the heat the president is getting from his opponents for his secret trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden. “I think the race will pivot on the issues of the economy and jobs,” he told me. “But I’m all for defining what the ten year plan with Afghanistan will be. If there’s one thing that both republicans and democrats agree on it’s getting out of Afghanistan. If the media wants to blow up one issue, that should be it.”

Eduardo Verastegui, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin
Eduardo Verastegui, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin

I was joined today by Bernard Clair, one of Manhattan’s most sought after divorce lawyers among the one percenters. Bernard grew up on Long Island, attended Adelphi University on an athletic scholarship, and graduated from St. John’s University School of Law. Bernard and his law partner penned what came to be regarded as the definitive book on the legal issues facing couples who decide to live together, Love Pact.  In a bit of fortuitous timing,  Bernard met famed matrimonial attorney Marvin Mitchelson whose claim to fame at that moment was creating ‘palimony’ and found himself handling the Mitchelson’s New York based cases by the ripe old age of 30.   Bernard, who has consistently been named one of the city’s “Best Lawyers” by New York magazine, has handled plenty of headline-making cases, representingCarolyne Roehm, Georgette Mosbacher and Jocelyn Wildenstein (aka The Cat Lady) when their marriages imploded.

There’s been so much talk about celebrity hookups and uncouplings lately that I hardly knew where to start, so I decided to jump in with deconstructing the upcoming Brangelina nuptials. “I’m sure there’s a 500-page pre-nup,” Bernard speculated, ”which makes sense when there’s 1,200 kids in the mix. I have no doubt in the world that the timing for the wedding will depend on when the prenup is executed.” On the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries 72-day publicity stunt wedding, Bernard offered this: “She’s not necessarily upset it’s being held up because of his claim of fraud that he was bamboozled. It’s keeping her name in the papers.” As for the hapless basketballer’s hopes of getting his $2 million ring back, he can forget it. “You never get the engagement ring back.” Oh, well. Better luck next time.

In this 24-7 media age, there are a whole new set of issues when it comes to celebrity divorces, Bernard told me. Namely, the unwanted attention these cases draw to the children of high-powered couples. “Most courtrooms are open to the public. The idea is Jeffersonian, but divorce law was not part of Thomas Jefferson’s ideals. Today, the open courtroom brings kids into the fray, because the media covers every aspect of these cases and that includes kids. Everything is grist for the mill.” Bernard’s suggestion for a legal remedy: “I think we should revisit the idea of closed courtrooms for the most contentious divorce cases.”

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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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It’s An A-Lister Buffet! Cate Blanchett, Debra Messing, Star Jones and The Morning Joe Team

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a sure sign that spring is actually on its way when the A-list comes out of hibernation and flocks to Michael’s once again. The appearance of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing holding court at their respective tables had the whole place buzzing. Wendy Williams, seated in the middle of the action, could barely focus on her own table because she was so excited. We also have to imagine that the grub at the NBC cafeteria must be wanting these days, because there were so many of the network’s bold face names (Joe! Mika! David!) all around the room.

I was joined today by my good friend, Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR and Kristen Vigrass, president of The Brandman Agency. We were celebrating Kristen’s promotion to to president of the firm which was announced earlier this year. A public relations vet with a long history in the luxury market for companies including Calvin Klein, Kristen started at The Brandman Agency as a supervisor and worked her way up during her decade with the company. Bravo!

Kristen tells me she and founder Melanie Brandman are planning to celebrate a decade of working together with a possible  sojourn to Borneo. The exotic port of call will be on the intinerary later this year when the agency’s client Orion Expedition Cruises sets sail to the destination with a new ship. Kristen’s suitcase is always packed and ready to go somewhere. The Brandman Agency also represents Intercontinental Hotels Group and Orient-Express Hotels. When do we leave?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Debra Messing, looking every inch the star in a luxe white fur vest with her manager Molly Madden (the gals co-produced Messing’s now cancelled series The Starter Wife for USA Networks) and producer Desiree Gruber.

2. A Fox5 reunion: Rosanna Scotto, Penny Crone and Lynne White.

3. Sony Pictures Television head Steve Mosko with Tom Bernard and Michael Barker

4. Here’s an interesting trio: Uber celeb handler Cindi Berger, Hearst honcho Ellen Levine and Conde Nast front woman Maurie Perl

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Eliot Spitzer Dishes It Out, Jeff Zucker Takes It In

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— DIANE CLEHANE

They were lined up into the street to get into Michael’s today for that last gasp of revelry before heading out of town for the holidays. (We were impressed by how patient Eliot Spitzer seemed on the coat check line.) The red wine was flowing as VIPs cooled their heels in the lounge waiting for their dates to arrive. “Can’t anyone get anywhere on time in this city?” groused one well-heeled gent as he sipped his pinot noir while compulsively checking his iPhone. Apparently not. By the time Jonathan Wald, Becca Thrash and Harold Ford, Jr. strolled in, the place was going at full tilt — just the way the regulars like it.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Dan Rather, Eliot Spitzer, Tom Tuggle and another ‘suit’ we didn’t recognize. For the record, it looked like ‘The Steamroller’ did most of the talking …

2. Today show’s Marc Victor, frequent morning show guest security expert Bill Stanton and Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko. Did you happen to catch the cover story in the Style section of this Sunday’s New York Times chronicling Dave’s relationship with BFF Mediaite founder Dan Abrams? All we can say is: Gentlemen, give your publicists a raise.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and money man George Farias.

4.  Departing NBC Uni honcho Jeff Zucker, who we spied listening intently to the whisperings of  CNBC Squawk Box anchor Joe Kernen. Stock tips, perhaps?

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Lunch: Tim Gunn Talks ‘Age Appropriate Fashion’ with Grace Mirabella

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If we’d come by on Monday, we would have run into Tyra Banks at breakfast and Harold Ford, Jr. at lunch. Oh, well. Michael’s was still brimming with plenty of the usual suspects today, and more than a few did a double take when Tim Gunn arrived with legendary editor Grace Mirabella on his arm.

When Project Runway‘s unflappable designer mentor sat down with the former Vogue editor, I wasn’t surprised to overhear their conversation turn immediately to fashion. Tim was all ears when asking Ms. Mirabella (whose namesake magazine remains one of my all-time favorites) about her thoughts on age-appropriate looks for everything from jeans to evening wear. Gathering intelligence for all those fledgling fashionistas, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Advisory Group, presiding over a table of social media gurus: Huffington Post’s CEO Eric Hippeau, president Greg Coleman and senior vice president Phil Cara with Stephen Cannon of Mercedes Benz, Virgin Mobile’s Stacy Schwartz and Tom Cuniff of Combe Inc.

2. Peter Brown and John Reid

3. Producer John Hart (long time, no see!) with another distinguished looking white-haired gent

4. My good friend and publicist extraordinaire Catherine Saxton and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of AdGenesis, beezag, and koppr. Catherine tells me she’s jetting off in a few days to Marabella to visit with “some Khashoggis.” Send us a postcard!

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Lunch: Cindi Leive, Harold Ford, Jr. & The Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We heard we missed quite a scene yesterday when the dining room was filled with the likes of dirty joke diva Sarah Silverman, Pedro Almodovar, Harvey Weinstein and his oh-so-fashionable wife, designer Georgina Chapman, Ron Perelman and a long list of other movers and shakers. But there were plenty of fabulous folks to chat with today, so I made the rounds before they got down to business over their Cobb salads.

I was delighted to see ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who had been across the pond enjoying some time in London and missing from his regular perch at Michael’s for several weeks. He’s right back into the swing of things, having been at Sunday night’s Tony Awards to see his friend Sir Elton John, who wrote the music for 10-time award winner Billy Elliot celebrate with the cast on their big night. Monday night Joe attended the benefit for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp hosted by Julia Roberts, Robert Redford and some other A-listers. “We raised $2.5 million,” reports Joe, who volunteers at the camp every summer. “It’s great to see all of Paul’s work is still going strong.” Joe was lunching today with the charming — and funny — Harold Ford, Jr., chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council who moonlights as a news analyst for MSNBC.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield and Andy Bergman.

2. A dapper duo: Nielsen Business Media’s Gerry Byrne and Henry Schleiff. I stopped by Gerry’s table to catch up since we last crossed paths at Showtime’s party for Nurse Jackie and its star, Edie Falco. Coincidentally, Gerry, who is one of the greatest guys in the business, is getting a ‘Made in New York’ Award from the mayor’s office next Monday night and his fellow honoree is none other than Edie. Small world.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Harold Ford, Jr.

4. Stan Shuman with another gent 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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