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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Benson’

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: Where the Magic Happens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I thought I’d seen just about everything from my regular perch at Michael’s during my weekly visits, but today topped all. They were serving up sides of card tricks with the Cobb salads today and the gang was just eating it up. When I arrived, illusionist JB Benn was standing at the bar shuffling a deck of playing cards for Frank Gifford as his pals Hunter Millington — yes, Steve‘s brother — and Chris Graham looked on. He asked the gridiron great to sign a card and place it back in the deck. After a great deal of slow-mo shuffling, he finally pulled out the very same card from a sealed envelope in his jacket pocket.”I better make sure I’ve still got my watch,” quipped Frank. JB then drafted me into service asking me how many dollar bills he was holding in his hands. Frank and I both agreed he had four single dollars. Literally, right before our eyes the bills turned into hundreds. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered and there were gasps all around. I wouldn’t be surprised if JB is now booked between now and 2010 as the entertainment at parties from the Upper East Side to Easthampton as result of his impromptu performance this afternoon.

The utterly charming and adorable Mr. Benn (“He looks like a better-looking Tom Cruise,” said one smitten diner) made the rounds in the dining room eliciting applause all around. When I saw how wowed Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were after the illusionist worked his magic on them, I suggested they might want to have him on the show to make ‘Sam the Cooking Guy’ disappear. In case you haven’t heard, Sam caused quite a stir on Today last Wednesday’s show in a segment during the fourth hour when he basically told the co-hosts to shut up and let him talk about his salad when he thought they had gotten too chatty. Sam clearly didn’t know what to do when he realized he had actually verbalized what he was thinking. He then sputtered out the ingredients of his salad while Kathie Lee and Hoda just watched him squirm — a classic TV moment. But, says Kathie Lee, Sam isn’t banished from the set. “I’m big on second chances,” she says. But be warned, Sam. “I forgive — but I don’t forget.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Woody Johnson (sporting a discreet ‘McCain‘ button) and a squadron of suits. Just asking: Is the Jets’ owner advising Michael’s on personal seat licensing?

2. Three members of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry Della Femina. I had a great chat with Jerry about AMC’s runaway hit “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t tuned in, check it out on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. It’s the best dramatic series on television right now — seriously) Turns out the legendary ad man was one of a select few that got an early look at the script for the series’ pilot because creator Matthew Weiner wanted to make sure he got every detail right, from the Brooks Brothers suits worn by the execs to the nonstop smoking that helped fuel the creative fire on Madison Avenue in the early sixties. Jerry, who had a “four pack a day” habit back then, says the show has been a boon for business. “For the longest time nobody wanted to be in advertising. Everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Now, because of the show, people are talking about advertising again. It’s revitalized the industry. I’m back in fashion again!” Indeed.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Joan Gelman and marketing strategist and frequent CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman (glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ fan!). Before my good pal Joe — who is jetting off to Europe this week for a much-deserved vacation — and his fellow Democratic boosters settled down for lunch they, too, were dazzled by Mr. Benn’s sleight of hand. Before they could dash off to their table I asked Robert, who is privy to the inner workings of the Democratic party, for his thoughts on who will be Barack Obama’s running mate. The suddenly taciturn strategist demurred, but offered his thoughts on who it should be — “Joe Armstrong, of course.” Remember, you heard it here first.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld and Carnegie Hall head Clive Gillinson

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Lunch at Michael’s: Tina Brown’s Bathroom Promise

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We were expecting a celeb sighting or two since it’s Upfront time — the week the networks trot out their overpaid and underfed stars to shill for their supper — but alas, there were no signs of McDreamy or Matthew Fox anywhere. (Thankfully, we didn’t see any cavemen either.) Disappointed, we settled in at our regular perch at the bar to survey the suits and check out the regulars when our pal publicity maven Leslie Stevens appeared on the scene. A scheduling snafu left Leslie solo, so she gamely pulled up a stool and chatted up lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane. The tireless pitchwoman told us she only had time for a quick bite because she was en route to D.C. to attend the launch party of the Onion Express, a joint venture between “America’s Finest News Source” — The Onion — and The Washington Post. Tonight’s soiree is expected to draw the likes of Christopher Hitchens (just don’t get him started talking about religion) and Christopher Buckley as well as “a bunch of politicos.” See, there really is life outside of New York.

Here’s a rundown on the rest:

Table 1. Glamour‘s Cindi Leive, Allure‘s Linda Wells, Playboy‘s Chris Napolitano and a few folks we didn’t recognize having their monthly “editor’s lunch.”

2. Ben Silverman and guests. The ubiquitous Ms. Stevens is throwing a party for the reality show guru (The Biggest Loser, The Restaurant) at the new karaoke joint Spotlight Live (we hear J.Lo has been by) on Thursday night for the crowd in town for the Upfronts. Sorry, by invite only …

3. Terry Allen Kramer and a table full of guests. (We’re told Mayor Joe Armstrong is not MIA, but simply enjoying a trip across the pond to London. Hurry back!)

4. Norman Pearlstine, sporting a military-looking buzz cut, with two equally close-cropped young gents.

5. Arnold Scassi and Parker Ladd. After witnessing Mr. Ladd take a call at the bar we’re amused to report he might be the only adult male in New York City that doesn’t own a cell phone.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Gay Talese, John Huey and The Guys

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgThe scene at 55th and Fifth resembled something of a men’s club today where the power suits — and ties — ruled. Media machers including Time Inc.’s editor-in-chief John Huey, ad man Jerry Della Femina and the sartorially splendid Gay Talese (who got our attention when he removed his coat and fedora to reveal an eye-catching rust velvet blazer, coordinating vest and yellow tie) broke bread with their equally powerful pals in a dining room. It should be noted, though, that Mr. Huey evened things out a bit by lunching with power gals Martha Nelson of The People Group and “People’s” style director Susan Kaufman. Hope to see more of our favorite gals (Barbara and Diane, where are you?) next week.

We’re were thrilled by how chatty the crowd was today. We made the acquaintance of tech scribe Tucker Hall, who was seated a few stools down from us at the bar, when we overheard him telling a pal that “There’s some blog on mediabistro that writes about the lunch crowd.” His lunch date, Harper Collins editor Peter Hubbard, made our day when he told us that “Lunch” is a must-read around the office. Thanks guys!!

Here’s who we spotted today:

1. Super spin meister Stu Zakim and a host of media movers and shakers who must have had a lot to talk about between bites of their burgers and fries including Business Week‘s Jon Fine (who happens to be the husband of our founder and CEO Laurel Touby), Radarmagazine.com’s Jeff Bercovici, ABC’s Jeffrey Schneider and Patrick Reilly of SIRIUS.

2. Mr. Huey with Ms. Nelson and Ms. Kaufman, who said she was dazzled by divorcee’s Reese Witherspoon‘s (she’s recently spilt from hubby Ryan Phillippe) startlingly young, hip appearance on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. We agree!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong — fresh off jury duty — with publishing legend Gay Talese and Newsweek‘s new number two man, Dan Klaidman. The newly minted managing editor comes from the magazine’s Washington, D.C. bureau.

4. Peter Brown & guest.

5. Designer Arnold Scassi, Parker Ladd and an unidentified friend.

6. Debbie Fine and Estee Lauder’s vice president of global communications, Sally Susman.

7. Ed Adler.

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Alice Mason.

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