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Posts Tagged ‘Holly Peterson’

Michael Strahan, Maria Shriver and Dishing With LuAnn de Lesseps

LunchAtMichaelsAnother Wednesday, another “Bravolebrity.” For the final leg of this month’s reality-show trifecta, I was joined today by LuAnn de Lesseps (the “Countess” to you), fresh off her trip to Chicago for an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show where she made over a few fashion-impaired civilians with oh-so-stylish looks from her new clothing line, the Countess Collection. (It will debut on Shop HQ, formerly known as Shop NBC, in May.) LuAnn is a regular contributor to Steve’s show, weighing in on all kinds of haute topics, from text etiquette while dating to how to dress like a million bucks without breaking the bank. When I lunched with her last summer, the conversation focused mainly on her role on Real Housewives of New York City and her fledgling music career. But these days the clever and stunning LuAnn, who clearly knows when to say when, has scaled back her presence on the Bravo screechfest (she’s now being billed as a “special guest star”) and is focusing primarily on “brand-building” her eponymous lifestyle brand, which, she says, is founded on the principle of “chic made easy.” After six seasons on Housewives and one of only two of the original New York City cast members left standing (tabloid favorite Ramona Singer is the other), LuAnn says, “I’m grateful for the platform the show has given me. I came into it with no preconceived notions. I didn’t watch reality television and I didn’t know what I was getting into. I signed on to do “Manhattan Moms” and thought it was going to be this nice little family-oriented show, but it turned into something else. I’m fearless and  have always had a real sense of adventure.” I’ll say.

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

LuAnn’s pre-Bravo life already read like something out of a Danielle Steel novel. The Connecticut native and nursing student who dabbled in the pageant circuit went to Europe to try her hand at modeling, but when that didn’t work out, a series of whirlwind events landed her a gig on Italian television even though she didn’t speak a word of the language. ”I was a big star — the Vanna White of Italy — paired with a man that was like their Bob Hope. Twelve million people a week were tuning in!” By the time she left three years later, she was fluent. Between bites of her crab cakes, she told me when she met her now ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, it was “magic.” As for her much-discussed title as a result of her marriage, LuAnn thinks it’s ridiculous that people assume it’s some trumped up affectation. “The de Lesseps have played a very important part in French history,” she explained, citing her husband’s descendant Ferdinand de Lesseps as the architect of the Suez Canal and the man who played a huge role in gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

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Exclusive! The First Interview with Dr. Oz on His New Hearst Title

LunchAtMichaelsWe understand that the deadline for Oscar voters to send in their ballots is today, but we’re still more than a little miffed that we missed seeing Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Dern and Richard Gere by a day. A little birdie told us Paramount threw a schmoozefest in the middle of Michael’s dining room yesterday to drum up some Academy love for its pictures — the overly long and ridiculously profane The Wolf of Wall Street and the absolutely brilliant Nebraska. Having a slew of Tinseltown A-listers in their midst gave the regular folks (it’s a relative term, I know) a chance to do some serious stargazing. “It was a bit surreal,” one diner told me. It seems only fitting to us that Hollywood took over the dining room on a day when the rest of Manhattan was in a deep freeze straight out of a disaster movie. The Day After Tomorrow, anyone?

Well, it is Wednesday, after all, and we wanted to start our new year of celebrity confabs off on the right foot so who better to whip us into shape than none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Emmy-Award winning daytime television host, author of seven New York Times Bestsellers and dispenser of daily doses of helpful medical tips on 1010WINS.

Diane Clehane and Dr. Mehmet Oz

Diane Clehane and Dr. Mehmet Oz

And oh, yes, he’s also a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who somehow manages to find the time to perform about 100 heart surgeries a year (he has office hours on Thursdays if you’re wondering) and a part-time superhero who goes around rescuing New Yorkers in peril all in the course of an average day. At lunch he told me of another tale of  being at the right place at the right time which occurred the same month he came to the aid of the woman who was seriously injured when she was hit by a cab on Sixth Avenue. During a trip to Salt Lake City, a fellow marathoner literally fell in Dr. Oz’s path when the man went into distress due to a heart problem. Of course, Dr. Oz was able to put him in an ambulance, visit him the next day and has stayed in touch to stay apprised of his defacto patient’s recovery.

The good doctor is launching his own lifestyle magazine in partnership with Hearst titled Dr. Oz The Good Life, and this afternoon he brought along a retinue of bigwigs and handlers from his various projects and his charming wife Lisa Oz, whose CV includes a career in television and her own slew of bestsellers (the couple co-authored their You series together; Lisa wrote Us solo and as a result, says Dr. Oz, his wife has “one more bestseller than I do!”).

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Harvey Weinstein, Ali MacGraw and the Brains Behind Coffee With Tim Cook

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Where to begin? This week at 55th and Fifth, the scene in the dining room provided whiplash-inducing people watching with a tasty mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Finkelstein) with a side of social swans (Sharon Bush, Patricia Kluge, Terry Allen Kramer).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wednesday at Michael’s without the random celebrity sighting. I was thrilled to hear that I would be sitting next to none other than Ali MacGraw today. The ageless actress, who catapulted into the pop culture hall of fame with her iconic performance (and preppy wardrobe) in the 1970 tearjerker Love Story, turned every head in the place when she arrived — which is quite a feat among this crowd. She was beyond gracious as diners (including yours truly) lined up for pictures. Several years ago, I worked with her on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where she was honored with FGI’s entertainment award for her contributions to film and fashion. When I re-introduced myself, she immediately said, “Oh, I remember that night. It was so much fun!” and then proceeded to tell me this delicious bit of gossip from the evening: “I was standing next to Bill Blass when he saw Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones come in. And Bill turned to the person next to him and said, “Finally, some real movie stars!” She giggled, clearly delighted by the memory of the snarky diss from the designer.

Diane Clehane and Coppy Holzman

Speaking of the power of celebrity, I was joined today by Charitybuzz CEO and founder Coppy Holzman who dazzled me with tales of his work with the famous and philanthropic. His company, which he founded in 2005, is currently the world’s largest online charity auction site and is the go-to partner for every famous person with a charity looking to raise serious money for their pet causes.

It all started at a backyard fundraising party for The Clinton Library in Westport, Connecticut that Coppy attended where he met President Bill Clinton and Chevy Chase. “Isn’t there a way  for you to use your experience on the Internet to raise for the library?” the host of the party asked Coppy. On the spot, he came up with the idea of auctioning off a lunch with the former president. One year later, The Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction brought in $250,000 for the library, including $80,000 paid by one bidder to lunch with Clinton and Chase. Since then, Coppy has worked with Clinton on many different initiatives. “There is no bigger celebrity in the world,” he says. The top dollar paid to spend the day with Hillary’s husband: $255,000 in an auction last year.

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Willie Geist’s Parenting Advice to Kanye West; Star Jones Celebrates a Birthday

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After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”

“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ’President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”

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Cynthia McFadden, Gayle King and Blythe Danner at the Bar

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School is back in session! The faithful have returned to Michael’s and the place was buzzing with activity as the media mavens, talking heads and social swells sailed into the dining room. Table One (Cynthia McFadden, Lesley Stahl and a host of other power gals) was the center of gravity, while the rest of the dining room was a tasty mix of spinmeisters (Gil Schwartz),  fashionistas (Julie Macklowe) and literary types (Long time no see, David Hirshey).

I was joined today by two of the stars of Bravo’s Gallery Girls, the freshman reality series chronicling the professional lives of seven ambitious New York gals toiling in the “cutthroat environment” (according to the show’s press release) of the New York City art world.  Oh, the pressure! Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez are not your average Bravo-lebrities. The two gorgeous — and tall! — young women were downright earnest in describing their experience as twentysomethings in the city and their commitment to their careers. ” I don’t like drama. I’m pretty even keeled,” Kerri told me. “I think I have an inspiring story. I’ve built this little life for myself that shows if you work hard and are passionate about it, you can do it.” As for Claudia, she wants to concentrate more on “philanthropic” works in the coming years. Not exactly a page out of Nene Leaks’ handbook.

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Having filmed the series over the course of four months last year, both Kerri and Claudia agree it’s a bit difficult watching themselves now on the show. “I can’t even listen to myself on my answering machine,” Kerri told me. “It’s interesting, because you rarely get the chance to see yourself the way other people might see you,” said Claudia. Even if the producers went for the most Bravo-esque snippets of otherwise everyday scenarios, she continued, “I said everything and did everything they showed and I’m comfortable with that.”

Kerri, who grew up on Long Island and graduated from Syracuse University in 2009, says the series showed just “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to how hard the cast works in real life. Unlike some of the other women on the show, Kerri didn’t know anyone from the cast and was pretty much on her own when it came to dealing with the rest of the women. “I didn’t trust anyone in the beginning and still don’t,” she told me. Having gone to college fully expecting to follow in the footsteps of her family members that work in investment banking, Kerri told me her eyes were opened to other possibilities during college internships in public relations and at a luxury concierge service.  She changed her major to entrepreneurship and landed in the art world. “I want to work for myself s0meday.” Doesn’t everybody?

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Joel Klein, Diana Taylor and the December Diehards

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was good to be back on the Michael’s beat after a two week absence (Word to the wise: Get that flu shot!). I’m happy to report the monsoon-like rains didn’t keep those dining room diehards away, although the mood was a bit more subdued than usual. The place was festively decked out with holiday finery though, and we particularly liked the Christmas carols being piped in. God knows you don’t hear those enough around town.

I was joined today by my good friend Dr. Robi Ludwig who managed to squeeze in our lunch between her appearance this morning on Today discussing options in caring for one’s aging parents and a spot this evening on Jane Velez Mitchell’s chatfest on HLN. Between weighing in on the issues that keep us all up at night on every show you could possibly name, Robi still manages to see a full slate of patients in her own private practice as a psychologist. Funny coincidence: none other than fame addict Kate Gosselin, who, I’m sure, will be discussed in plenty of therapy sessions for the next several decades, shared Today’s green room with Robi this morning. The deluded mother hen appeared to talk about the reports that her children are having anger issues and defend her decision to keep them in front of the cameras. Nope, no issues there. Robi reports that Kate brought along hunky bodyguard Steve Neild for protection. We all know how dangerous those hallways at 30 Rock can be!

After Robi and I finished dishing about Kate, she told me all about her new line of jewelry set to debut next month on ShopNBC.  She’s calling her collection, Vice Mari (Romanian for ‘big dreams’). The pieces will be sterling silver and gold vermeil with genuine stones, and the designs will all have “symbolic meaning.” Why do a jewelry line? “I wanted to do something to make people feel good without therapy,” says Robi. Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman.

2. PMK/HBH managing director Cindi Berger

3. Producer Terry Allen Kramer, looking chic as ever.

4. Discovery’s main man David Zaslav

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Lunch at Michael’s: Tina Brown, Downright Subdued

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgOn the menu at today’s lunch: a tasty stew of pop culture icons, publishing legends and power brokers — with a side of TV’s young-ish guns. There must have been big things afoot. Instead of the usual glad-handing and table-hopping, most diners were deep in conversation and slipped in and out without much fanfare. We barely recognized Dan Abrams, who had exchanged his clean cut pinstripes for a four o’clock shadow and a tieless khaki suit. We had to look twice when a downright subdued Tina Brown almost slipped past us. Then we settled in and watched the show:

Table 1. The top power spot was occupied by some interesting and intriguing folks today. The early show: Howard Rubenstein and guests. Now that we’ve been doing this for a while, we’ve noticed that the master of spin likes to dine, dish and be on his way before most of the other movers and shakers have had a chance to order their Fiji waters. Second shift: Judge Robert Keating presiding over a table full of jovial guests. Here’s an interesting bit of NYC trivia: the bow-tied jurist set up the first Midtown Community Court in Times Square in 1993 when the tourist trap was attracting a whole different type of thrill seeker. His forward-thinking move helped to all but eliminate the low level crime that was so rampant during the mid eighties and early nineties. Remember those dark days?

2. Peter Brown and Time‘s Michael Elliot. The jet-setting Mr. Elliot tells us he is currently based in New York but is splitting his time between Time‘s London office (where he edits the Europe, Middle East and Africa editions) and Hong Kong (for the Asia edition).

3. 60 MinutesSteve Croft and MTV’s John Sykes.

4. Wayne Tabach.

5. Time Inc.’s John Huey with a cool, Grace Kelly-ish blonde we didn’t recognize.

6. MSNBC’s general manager and legal eagle Dan Abrams with Good Morning America‘s newish news anchor Chris Cuomo. Good to see you Chris, after your close call in Iraq …

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Lunch at Michael’s: All Hail Tina Brown!

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When a little birdie told us to switch our weekly reservation from Wednesday to Thursday so as not to miss the confab of publishing powerhouses that were expected today, we did so in a heartbeat. We’re happy to report today’s crowd didn’t disappoint. Where else could you see Newsweek honcho Jon Meacham bow down to Tina Brown at Mayor Joe Armstrong‘s table, or watch a gaggle of social swans fawn over Project Runway breakout star Tim Gunn while cooling their Jimmy Choos in the lounge? The worlds of substance and style collided today at 55th & Fifth.

The results kept us so busy gawking that we barely finished our salad nicoise:

1. Mayor Joe Armstrong presiding over one of his legendary lunches with a host of truly impressive guests. Tina Brown arrived looking every inch the power blonde in black leather and was greeted with great fanfare by all including an enthusiastic hug from neighboring diner and former Condé Nast colleague Shirley Lord. We can’t wait for Tina’s new book, The Diana Chronicles, due out in June from Doubleday with an excerpt to run in Vanity Fair. Word is she breaks big news about the People’s Princess. We can’t imagine what’s left to reveal, but we’re all ears! Joe kept the conversation flowing among pals Liz Smith, Newsweek‘s Jon Meacham, ABC News producer Kathy O’Hearn, Random House’s Susan Mercandetti (who edited Bob Woodruff‘s new book, In An Instant. The ABC newsman’s tale of recovery following his near-death experience in Iraq as written mainly by his wife will debut at number one on the Times bestseller list Sunday, March 16. Couldn’t happen to nicer guy!).

Always the gentleman, Joe took time out from keeping things lively to introduce lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane to two of his other guests, Vanity Fair correspondent Marie Brenner and Newsweek scribe Holly Peterson. We’ve been fans of Marie’s ever since she took on the tobacco industry in a piece that became the basis for The Insider. Joe teased that her upcoming expose on Guantanamo Bay for Vanity Fair will be even more explosive. We’re really intrigued by Holly’s new book, The Manny, — which earned her $1 million for the book and movie rights. (Not bad for a first timer.) The novel taps into the cultural zeitgeist by chronicling the fictional exploits of a male nanny who does more for Upper East Side yummy mummies than look after their kiddies. The sure-to-be-bestseller is also due out here in June from HarperCollins but is already selling like mad in the U.K.

2. Shirley Lord & Peter Brown.

3. Charlie Rose and Zoe Baird. The talkshow host looking more debonair than usual (the no tie look really works for you, Charlie) held Ms. Baird’s rapt attention throughout lunch — must have been a very intriguing tale …

4. ‘Entourage’ East: EMI president Charlie Walk with four black-suited young gents.

5. Herb Siegal.

6. Freddy Gershorn and Steve Swid.

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