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Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Weintraub’

Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

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The ‘Cosmo 100′ Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Seinfeld; The Wednesday Crowd with Star Jones and Doris Kearns Goodwin

1003_mockup.gifAs you probably know by now, only the most extreme circumstances could keep the faithful from their usual lunch at Michael’s. Since Mother Nature proved to be too formidable a force for us on not one, but two back-to-back Wednesdays, we were only too happy to pull double duty this week.

On Monday, I attended the estrogen-fueled lunch for “The Cosmo 100,” a gals-only power lunch hosted by Joanna Coles who, having been named EIC of Cosmopolitan mere weeks ago, put together a guest list to end all guest lists for her first event. When I arrived  a few minutes before noon, the paparazzi was lined up to capture the arrival of Sarah Jessica ParkerDiane von Furstenberg, Ali Wentworth, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jessica Seinfeld, who seemed to be channeling MC Hammer in some curious gold lame harem pants. Also in attendance: ABC News’ Deborah Roberts, model Carol Alt, bestselling author Jane Green and more A-list Gotham gals than I’ve seen in one place in ages. Hearst’s amazing PR team headed by Deb Shriver, Alexandra Carlin and Holly Whidden deserve some major kudos. I was seated at a fabulous table with Cathie Black, modeling icon Pat Cleveland and Barbara Taylor Bradford, who told me her 29th book will be published early next year. The mind reels.

When the A-list crowd made their way to the Garden Room, Joanna (who was rocking some gorgeous leather pants) greeted everyone with her trademark cheeky humor, telling us she’d prepared ‘binders of men’ as research for her new gig and then quoting Margaret Thatcher with the wise words, ‘Cocks crow but it’s hens that lay the eggs.’ She also advised us “never to underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes.” So true. But Joanna wanted to do more than celebrate fun, fearless females at her kick-off lunch; she surprised everyone by introducing some truly formidable women who’d broken through the glass ceiling during this election cycle. New Hampshire’s first female governor Maggie Hassan talked of having her daughter run her winning campaign, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to congress explained how she won her race in Hawaii by proving wrong the naysayers who told her “it wasn’t her time,” and Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to congress from New York, spoke of the need for women to be mentors to other women. It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Today, I was joined by another trailblazer Marcy Syms, who you must know from those commercials for the legendary off-price retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer”).  It was Marcy’s father, the late Sy Syms who founded the business in 1958 as the first national retailer to sell off-price men’s clothing. At first, it was Sy who gave voice to the slogan in 1974, but he wisely asked Marcy to take his place in 1978 thus tapping into an emerging public consciousness about working women. The rest, as they say, is history.  ”I still remember wearing those bow blouses and those short haircuts!” said Marcy.

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Star Jones, Henry Schleiff & A Squadron of Spinmeisters

1003_mockup.gifAfter several back-to-back weeks of a somewhat boisterous SRO crowd at Michael’s, it was a bit of a relief to find a more subdued dining room today. The dreary rain (will it ever end?!) seems to have kept some of the town car set at their desks. But, this being Wednesday, the usual suspects (Star Jones, Henry Schleiff) made their way to their perches to scope out the scene and be seen. Lunch is never just lunch, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

I was joined today by Town & Country‘s editor-in-chief Jay Fielden and Holly Whidden, Hearst’s executive director of public relations. After chatting about our mutual bewilderment about the sometimes ‘insular’ life in suburban Connecticut and the Mad Men season finale — it was agreed we could have lived without seeing Roger Sterling nude in all his LSD-fueled glory — we had a fascinating chat about the reinvigorated and decidedly more engaging Town & Country.

Since joining T&C from Men’s Vogue last March, Jay has endeavored to infuse the book with more wit and insight into the rarefied world of the one percenters while respecting the mag’s storied history (something it had somehow forgotten to do over time). “So many magazines are good at going back and reminding people about what they’re really good at. Town & Country didn’t do as good a job at that as it could have. I admire the modesty, but I also think we have to own what we have,” said Jay. ”The magazine been around since 1846, so there’s a reason to be respectful, but I wanted to interpret and channel that richness differently.” And he has. Eschewing the usual route of “a glorified catalog” of conspicuous consumption that defines so many in the luxury category, Jay has chosen to examine the life of America’s rich from the inside, profiling people ”who have ascended to prominence based on their achievements and earned their position.” What a concept.

Since his first issue last September, Jay has carefully chosen cover subjects that readers wouldn’t find on any other magazine. Among his most noteworthy choices: Ali McGraw during her Love Story days (with a profile and stunning recent photos of the actress today) as a valentine for February, The Richard girls (as in Keith‘s daughters) and The Hemingways. “There’s a real freedom with not having to pick the same old people that other magazines do,” Jay told me. “We want to take some risks, sharpen our point of view. It might not be for everyone, but we’re not doing a warmed over version of something else. We want to be original.”

Holly Whidden, Jay Fielden and Diane Clehane
Holly Whidden, Jay Fielden and Diane Clehane

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Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bo Dietl and The Post-Election Posse

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The votes are in and this week’s big winner is Michael McCarty whose dining room has been packed every day with A-list celebs  and politicos of every stripe in town this week to dissect every nuance of election night. The star of Monday’s lunch was none other than Jessica Lange, and on Tuesday James Carville, Cokie Roberts and Tina Brown made the scene. Kirk Douglas was also spotted accepting well wishes for son Michael Douglas, who is keeping a low profile having just finished his treatment for throat cancer.

Today, politics were the topic and I overheard plenty as I made my rounds in the dining room. “Who the hell knows what this all means?” said one shell shocked Obama supporter of the midterm election results. His friend wearily replied, “It’s over. The president is in for it now.” An interested party across the room offered this assessment: “The Republican Party may think this is their time, but they’ll shoot themselves in the foot. You’ll see. ” Another friend told me, “Until we stop thinking of ourselves as a red nation or blue nation and figure out this is a red, white and blue country, we’re screwed.”

At my table, we avoided politics and stuck to dissecting the latest moves in media. My good friend Andy Amill, who this summer got a much deserved promotion and is now Vice President of Weight Watchers Media Group overseeing all print and digital media, is feeling pretty optimistic these days. And he’s got reason to be. It seems celebrity pitch woman Jennifer Hudson, who sensibly shrunk down from a size 16 to a svelte size six on the tried and true program, has been a home run for the brand. “The impact of Jennifer Hudson has been phenomenal,” Andy told me. “We’ve seen an increase in membership at meetings and on-line and an increase in magazine sales.” And, unlike the usual blink-and-you miss-’em celeb endorsement deals, Andy reports that the divine Ms. Hudson will be sticking around to spearhead some top secret programs the company will unveil in 2011.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Early Show: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. Second seating: My pal, attorney Suzanne Bracker, and Dan Wassong.

2. Peter Brown and Michael Holtzman

3. Fortune‘s Patricia Sellers — whose cover story last month on Oprah‘s next act still has people buzzing – and, we’re told, John Needham.

4. Felicia Taylor with another chic blonde gal we didn’t recognize.

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Peggy Siegal, Pamela Fiori & the Winner of Lunch with Laurel

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— DIANE CLEHANE

While the regulars in the dining room at Michael’s chatted about their plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, it seemed only fitting that my lunch today was with Laurie Haspel Aronson, president of Haspel, the quintessential American company responsible for the creation of the classic seersucker suit. Laurie tells me it was the brainchild of her great grandfather, Joseph Haspel, who wanted to turn the fabric once favored by laborers for its cool comfort into a natty summertime staple of bankers and businessman everywhere.

Haspel, which was founded back in 1909, has dressed some pretty iconic fellows including Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Jimmy Smits, who wore Haspel during his stint on The West Wing, will be sporting seersucker this weekend when he hosts PBS’ July 4th special and on his upcoming series Outlaw that premieres this fall.

Laurie explains how the venerable label remains a current fashion favorite (Russell Brand is a fan) but hasn’t alienated its old school clientele this way: “The great thing about it is it can be worn by everyone and looks good on everybody. It takes on the personality of the wearer.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Former Chanel president Arie Kopelman and his wife Coco with Pamela Fiori (in Chanel) and a distinguished looking gent we didn’t recognize.

2. A very blonde Peggy Siegal and a handsome young fellow.

3. Scribe Phoebe Eaton, looking very glam

4. Abernathy & MacGregor’s Jim Abernathy

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Jimmy Buffett, Dr. Ruth and the Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Those corporate bean counters that put a crimp in expense accounts all over town must be loosening up a bit, because it was SRO today at Michael’s. A slew of magazine folks (See, print isn’t dead after all!), media mavens and the requisite flock of social swans were packed into the dining room. Jimmy Buffett showed up half way through lunch, and the place was so crowded I couldn’t even make out where he landed.

I had a dishy lunch today with MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman. (Sorry, but most of the good stuff was off the record). Jon, who has toiled for USA Today, BusinessWeek, and Bloomberg, has been writing an online media column since 2005 that’s a must-read for the Michael’s crowd. These days he churns out an average of three columns a week. His recent piece on whether Brian Williams is the new Walter Cronkite generated plenty of buzz and sent HuffPost commenters into overdrive. Jon’s take: Williams is fascinating because, even after getting “the job of a lifetime,” he’s “the rarest case of success because he’s still ambitious.” We both agreed that Brian really came into his own once he loosened up a little off the set and let audiences in on his dry sense of humor and self-deprecating wit through appearances on The Tonight Show and SNL. “A classic!” says Jon.

Earlier this year, Jon launched a weekly online broadcast of Media Matters where he talks shop with media bigwigs. Hearst’s Cathie Black is scheduled for the June 21 broadcast. We’re tuning in.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. (Jeff Greenfield was absent.) I stopped by their table to chat with the guys about the fun piece in the Times‘ Style section last week covering their legendary lunches in the dining room. “It was great,” said the good doctor, who emerged as the star of the piece with some nice plugs for his latest book, Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted. Give that publicist a raise!

2. Peter Brown

3. Nick Simuneck (Terry Allen Kramer‘s hubby, in case you didn’t know)

4. The New York Observer‘s Jared Kushner

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Liz Lange & Cindi Leive Take a Bite out of the Home Shopping Market

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Evidently, you’re nobody these days unless you’re hawking something on one of those hypnotic home shopping networks. Come on, confess: Who hasn’t bought something that just happened to catch their eye while flipping through the channels looking for Bravo’s wacky Housewives? I chatted with no less than four folks in Michael’s dining room today who have taken to the airwaves to sell ‘style at a price’ to the fashion obsessed right in their living rooms. First, my good pal Dr. Robi Ludwig arrived with her sister Ramy glittering in head to toe bling. I always love how Robi puts herself together for her many television appearances on LX TV and the Today show. That woman really knows how to accessorize! When I complimented her on the stunning gold bib necklace she was wearing, she told me: “It’s from Stefani Greenfield‘s line on HSN!”

When Stefani showed up a few minutes later ladden down with gold, I asked her about the necklace and she reported that none other than Barbara Walters has worn it too. “But not in surgery,” she quipped.

When I wrapped up my chat with Robi, who is jumping ship from QVC to shopnbc where she’ll be expanding her own jewelry line, I stopped by to say hello to Glamour editrix Cindi Leive and designer Liz Lange, who are also part of HSN growing stable of clotheshorses. Read on for more dish about their respective collections.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd

1. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia (in seersucker!) presiding over a table of elegant gals and a bespectacled gent.

2. Author Michael Gross and Maer Roshan. Michael’s latest, Rogue’s Gallery, about the politics and posturing behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is now out in paperback in case you’re looking for a good (and juicy!) beach read.

3. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive and designer Liz Lange. I congratulated Liz on her new line for HSN, Completely Me by Liz Lange, which sold out during its debut a few weeks back (The next show is scheduled for July so get those credit cards ready!). Seems that Glamour is jumping into the home shopping ring with a line of costume jewelry as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal. The piece also reports that the magazine is partnering with Match.com to help its readers find Mr. Right. Impressive.

4. Esther Newberg with a gentleman who was attacking his fries with great gusto.

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Lunch: Christiane Amanpour Draws an A-List Crowd

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— DIANE CLEHANE

On the menu at Michael’s today: a tasty stew of media mavens and moguls with a heaping helping of famous faces on the side. We could barely keep up with the goings-on in the dining room, since every other minute there was some boldface name heading to the Garden Room for CNN’s lunch to celebrate Christiane Amanpour‘s new show. We spied Gayle King, Cynthia McFadden, Joni Evans, Gloria Steinem, and Harry Evans among the scribes invited to cover the soiree. (Nice to see you, Steve Krakauer!) Our own TVNewser Kevin Allocca editor was there, too.

I was lunching today with Carrie Kania, senior vice president and publisher of It Books and Harper Perennial. It Books, HarperCollins’ hip new imprint, is tapping into the zeitgeist with a fall list brimming with of-the-moment tomes including Twitter Wit (Who knew so many people could write such witty Tweets?) and the just released I Love Your Style by the uber stylish Amanda Brooks. “I love the book because it shows how fashion evolves,” Carrie told me. I Love Your Style is full of fabulous images of timeless style icons like Jackie Kennedy, Ali McGraw and Charlotte Rampling as well as today’s trendsetters like Natalie Portman. It’s also got plenty of great ideas and tips on how to identify and develop a style that’s truly one’s own. Carrie is just as passionate about the classics on Harper Perennial’s backlist. “So many 13 and 14 year-old girls have not read The Bell Jar; I want to help them find it.” Seems like Carrie is on a mission to get everyone she can excited about publishing: she’s also teaching the New York University graduate course ‘Introduction to Publishing.’ Says Carrie of her gig that spends eights weeks focused on books and another eight on magazines: “I take the students through every step from acquisition to marketing. The mentoring I got early on was invaluable to me, and I want to help people like that. There is no better business to be in.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. My good friend, public relations maven Lisa Linden (Happy Belated Birthday!) and her partner, Steven Alschuler — their firm, Linden, Alschuler & Kaplan works with plenty of Gotham’s movers and shakers in real estate, government and philanthropy, in case you didn’t know — with former senator Nick Spano and his colleague from Empire Strategic Planning, Perry Ochacher.

2. Most of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Where were Jeff Greenfield and Michael Kramer?

3. Diane Sokolow and a formidable-looking fellow we didn’t recognize

4. Producer Bill Haber and television legend Norman Lear

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Lunch: The Usual Suspects Today — But Sarah Palin Was Here Last Night!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was packed with plenty of familiar faces this afternoon. Seems the gang was out in force before disappearing for the true dog days of August. The real side show in the dining room took place last night, when none other than Sarah Palin dropped in with Bob Barnett and took the staff completely by surprise. A little birdie told me Bob was dining with a couple of folks, left and came back with Palin and her husband Todd, the ex-’First Dude.’ According to all accounts, the former governor was clearly enjoying her new role as a private citizen last evening: She drank Deutz champagne and ordered lobster ‘off the menu.’ Could she have been celebrating some big soon-to-be announced TV deal? As they say on the small screen, stay tuned!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cablevision’s Barry Frey presiding over a table full of Red Bull marketing execs

2. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden (loved that amazing handbag!) with Silda Spitzer, who was wearing a pretty summer toile dress

3. Jim Wiatt, Tim Armstrong, and another gent we didn’t recognize.

4. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and ex-Portfolio editrix Joanne Lipman

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Lunch: Tina Brown & Barbara Walters Break Bread; Jonathan Wald Works The Room

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a little disconcerting these days when no matter where you go in the city, the streets seem quieter than usual, and there are 10 cabs lined up outside Grand Central any time we need one. But we’ve observed an interesting phenomenon: The worse the economic news, the busier the scene at Michael’s during our weekly Wednesday visits. The dining room was abuzz with plenty of glad handing and table-hopping, and the mood, despite all the gloom and doom out there, was downright jovial. “It’s a bit of escapism,” one regular confided to me. “There’s no doubt things are bad, but people have to be out there now more than ever, so you might as well enjoy yourself for a couple of hours.” I certainly did today as I was joined at the bay by my friend and former boss Susan Malinowski, brand ‘incubator’ and licensing/marketing guru who has some big deals brewing. (I’m sworn to secrecy.) We practically got whiplash keeping track of all the goings-on. So come out from under your desk and get out there and network. You never know who you’re going to meet over a Cobb salad.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Bonnie Timmerman presiding over a full table of guests including Claudia Peltz

2. Peter Brown and Shirley Lord

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Quest‘s Chris Meigher

4. Michael J. Wolfe

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