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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Hartley’

Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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Sandra Lee Serves Up a New Magazine and Novel; Hoda Kotb Celebrates Book Number Two with Today Show Gang

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Every time I think it can’t get anyone more Fellini-esque at 55th and Fifth, another Wednesday at Michael’s proves me wrong. All that was missing today was a lion tamer and clown shot out of a cannon. There were so many ‘acts’ going on simultaneously I hardly knew where to look.

While I dined with Food Network star Sandra Lee (and tried my best to hear her over the roar of the crowd even though we were sitting next to each other), there was an intimate party of 20 for Hoda Kotb being thrown by her Today show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford.  The gals were celebrating the release of Hoda’s new book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives (Simon & Schuster).  Hoda and Kathie Lee, who spend more time together than most married couples, looked fresher than springtime in Crayola colored (sleeveless!) dresses and were the first to arrive for the noontime fete. Minutes later, the back corner of the front room was jammed with members of the Today show, as well as plenty of well-dressed gals who were there to toast Hoda. The gang was really whooping it up and, of course, a camera man was there to capture it all for posterity or, more likely, for tomorrow’s fourth hour of Today.

I arrived a few minutes before noon to meet Sandra Lee and she came right in the door behind me. After spending just a few minutes with her, it’s easy to see why the creator of the phenomenally successful Semi-Homemade brand is one of the Food Network’s biggest stars. She’s the in-the-know girlfriend who everyone wishes they had.  Within minutes, we were trading tips on our favorite places to shop for bargains. For cake decorating, hers is New York Cake & Baking  on 22nd and Sixth for the most divine sugar roses — “You can get a whole batch for under $10!”

Diane Clehane and Sandra Lee

She arrived laden with proofs for the next issue of her new magazine with TV Guide Magazine named — what else? – Sandra Lee. They’ve already published a Christmas issue, and the January/February “Love” issue is out now. EIC Sandra is in the midst of editing the Easter issue and told me she was trying to explain to a male staffer earlier today why birds’ nests made from shredded coconut should be dyed green instead of brown. It’s all in the details. As the faithful viewers of Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee (now in its 15th season!) know, no one does holidays like her. (“I am working on my latest Cher incarnation. Every Halloween I have to do Cher!”) The Emmy winner covers it all  from the recipes to the cocktails to her trademark ‘tablescapes’ (my personal favorite) to help viewers enjoy entertaining at home without the heavy-handed pretense, over the top expense or work intensive preparation that no one has time for anyway. When I asked her where he love of holidays came from she told me, “When I was a child we didn’t celebrate holidays so when I was 18, that was it. It was Halloween, Christmas and Easter every day.”

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Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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Joan Collins, Dennis Basso And The Media Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The biblical rain didn’t keep the crowds away from Michael’s today. The media mavens were networking at warp speed (Bonnie Fuller, we mean you) while the social swans and style set enjoyed their usual air-kissed filled leisurely lunches.

Oh, to have a rich husband (or good divorce attorney) and deep-pocketed clients. We can dream, can’t we?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com‘s Bonnie Fuller jointly hosting what Gerry tells me is the first of a series’ of  lunches with “influencers.” The tastemakers at the table today were HL’s CRO Alyson Racer, Showtime’s main man Matt BlankCosmopolitan’s Donna Lagani, Caroline Hirsch, MediaLink’s Wenda Millard and Marie Claire’s fashion director, Nina Garcia.

2. Alexis Carrington lives! Joan Collins, sporting an ensemble that would have passed muster at the royal wedding, with husband Percy Gibson, producer Terry Allen Kramer and Joyce Rubin.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Men’s Health head honcho David Zinczenko. This was Joe’s second lunch at Michael’s this week. On Monday, he came by with his sister Marilyn Spence and her husband Don who were  in visiting from Plano, Texas. The trio, I’m told, had a grand old time.

4.  Peter Brown and Liz Smith, looking none the worse for wear from a recent hip injury. The indomitable Liz, who got plenty of hugs from her pals in the dining room,  dished with fellow Texan Joe Armstrong until Peter arrived.

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Harvey Weinstein, Evelyn Lauder and A Few Sports Moguls

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Al Gore and a bearded Keith Olbermann by a day. A little birdie told us Current TV’s head and recent new hire were “full of fire” and all smiles as they undoubtedly plotted Keith’s debut. Funny enough, Olbermann’s replacement, Lawrence O’Donnell, was also there and took it all in from the other side of the room. It’s such a small world, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, things today were a bit more low key but pretty crowded in the dining room. The fancy folks and artistes from The Getty Museum were in from the Left Coast to celebrate the kick-off to their sponsorship of 60 exhibits in museums all over Los Angeles. What’s the New York connection, you ask? Well, proprietor Michael McCarty‘s other restaurant is in Santa Monica, and he and his wife Kim McCarty (an artist whose works are on view here) are great patrons of the arts.

I was joined by my good friend Randy Jones, founder of Worth and author of The Greatest Stock Picks of All Time and The Richest Man in Town.  Let’s just say Randy knows a thing or two about money. It makes perfect sense then that he is now working with Lynn Tilton as  managing director of media and entertainment/talent acquisition of her company, Patriarch Partners, LLC. If you haven’t heard of Lynn, trust me, you will. (And honestly, don’t you read The Wall Street Journal?) She runs the largest woman-owned business in the United States as a private equity chief who owns all or some of 74 different businesses with revenues of more than $8 billion. (Take that, Oprah!)

Randy is keeping pretty busy at Patriarch with plenty of projects in the hopper. You heard it here first: Patriarch has a development deal with The Sundance Chanel to bring “The Diva of Distress” (It’s the working title) to the small screen some time soon. Randy describes the series as a “docu-drama” in which Lynn will star and go around the country looking for businesses on the brink to work with endangered entrepreneurs in an attempt to get them back on track. The most deserving business owners could score an equity investment from Patriarch or a much needed loan. “That’s one of the most amazing things about Lynn,” says Randy. “When she buys or invests in a company, she doesn’t sell them — she keeps them. She wants good people to succeed.” Amen. Oh, and by the way, if you’re in the market for a new job, Randy is looking to hire a CEO for Petry Media.  If you’re thinking of applying, just make sure you’ve got a track record in digital platforms and have the goods to build  ”a true 21st century media company.” You can thank me later.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Edelman’s Kathy Lacey and pals

2. First quarter: Bet they had plenty to talk about: Jets’ EVP  Matt Higgins and Mets’ chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. Second act: Harvey Weinstein (If that wasn’t a Members Only jacket, it sure looked like one), his daughter and a pal.

3.  Moneyman Steven Swid

4. Beauty biz icon Evelyn Lauder with a dark-haired power gal we didn’t recognize.

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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 at Michael’s: Al & Meredith Talk Skateboarding

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpg On the menu today: a tasty stew of media moguls and television titans with a dash of talking heads to spice things up. After making the rounds and checking in with some of our favorite regulars, we were thrilled to chat with our good pals Today’s Meredith Vieira and Al Roker. The always affable Ms. Vieira (who we’ve not seen at Michael’s before) and Mr. Roker told lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane that plans are in the works for the show to travel to China this summer to do some segments as a walk up to next year’s blowout Olympic coverage in Beijing. “Meredith is going to be skateboarding on the Great Wall,” joked Al. Somehow, we wouldn’t put it past Today.

Here’s the rundown on the rest of the crowd:

1. The Early shift: Charlie Rose and Neal Shapiro; late shift: Cheri Kaufman of Kaufman Astoria Studios.

2. Nightline‘s Cynthia McFadden (sporting a great tan), Silda Wall Spitzer (wife of Governor Spitzer) and her director of Children for Children Margo Jones.

3. Mayor Joe Armstrong (who was happy to show us that Jimmy Buffett signed his “boot” — which doubles as a vase — on his last visit while Joe was away). Joe was dining with two lovely ladies: Dr. Sarah Simms Rosenthal and Jane Hartley. When we complimented Dr. Simms Rosenthal, an Ali McGraw lookalike, on her stunning summer ensemble, she told us she’s actually turned last year’s dress into a fabulous white embroidered skirt which she was wearing with a classic black T-shirt. Tres chic!

4. Time Inc.’s John Huey.

5. Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Schubert Organization.

6. Fashion central: Cece Cord, Cameron Silver, owner of Decades, the haute Los Angeles boutique, Becca Cason Thrash and IMG’s The Daily Jim Shi. (Thanks for filling us in, Jim!)

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