We’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.
Posts Tagged ‘Joan Gelman’
You’d never know hell had officially frozen over if you’d been at Michael’s today. The forsythias were in bloom, a few intrepid media mavens were barelegged (I kid you not) and the power-lunch scene was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, my date was detained in the studio shooting a popular television show, but I soldiered on into Manhattan, bundled up in my long-forgotten fur coat (No judgment, thank you) that makes me look like Yogi Bear’s wife to make my appointed Wednesday rounds. And it’s a good thing I did. At Table One, Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller had assembled a particularly interesting roster of media types (including CNN’s Christine Romans, AOL’s Brian Balthazar , ”Mayor” Joe Armstrong and our own Chris Ariens among them) as well as the requisite reality-show refugee who, in this case, was Jill Zarin. A little birdie told me the former Real Housewives of New York City cast member is getting the Where Are They Now? treatment from none other than Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode. The fickle finger of fate has quite the sense of humor.
Before the overflow crowd sat down to discuss Justin Bieber‘s latest contretemps and why Madonna looked like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West at the Grammys, I spent some time mingling with the crowd. Bonnie introduced me to her 23-year-old daughter Sofia Fuller who was “helping out” at today’s luncheon since Bonnie is currently without a publicist (but not for long, I suspect). Clever Sofia told me that she is “definitely” interested in a career in media and has her heart set on landing something in e-commerce.
It must have been the summer-like temperatures (well, it was above freezing) that brought out plenty of media mavens (Frank Bennack, David Carey, Jack Kliger, Nancy Berger Cardone) and a heaping helping of talking heads (Matt Lauer, Joan Rivers, Star Jones, Dan Abrams, Bill McCuddy) at Michael’s today. January is always an interesting month at 55th and Fifth. It’s the roller-coaster ride that starts off slow with the deadly quiet of the post-holiday doldrums and peaks during the pre-award show maelstrom (Yes, the Golden Globes were last weekend, but that’s just an excuse for celebrities to get together and drink champagne, resulting in the inevitable ’What the hell were they thinking moment?’” This year, that came courtesy of the clearly astonished winner Jacqueline Bisset). Everyone, it seemed, has hit their stride and with Fashion Week and the Olympics just weeks away, the cognoscenti are getting in their power lunches before departing for the gigs that keep the lights on around town.
I was joined today by Marie Claire‘s editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, fresh off a trip to Beverly Hills. There, she traded compliments with Golden Globe winner Robin Wright (“She was so unguarded and looked so happy with her award and new fiance Ben Foster“) and chatted with her December cover gal Julia Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, at the magazine’s post-awards-show bash. The party was cohosted by The Weinstein Company and Netflix and attended by tons of A-listers, including Taylor Swift, Bono and Diddy (or is it Sean Combs? — we’ve given up trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to call him). “It was a amazing,” she tells me. “You had to be inside the Beverly Hilton by 4 o’clock because at 5 o’clock it goes into lockdown. I watched the awards at a viewing party at the old Trader Vic’s.” On Friday, she’s jetting off to Washington, D.C., to attend the swearing in of Cathy Russell, President Barack Obama‘s pick for the new global ambassador of women’s issues at the State Department. Lest you think Anne’s life is one glam sojourn after the next, today she tells me her commute felt like a hellish version of “trains, planes and automobiles” as she slogged her way in from Brooklyn, thanks to a gushing water-main break.
As devoted as we are to covering the Fellini-esque scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, we do occasionally break tradition and report the news from 55th and Fifth on other days of the week when we’re invited to especially dishy lunches with A-listers. Monday’s head-spinning gathering of the “Cosmo 100″ hosted by the hotter-than-hot editrix Joanna Coles more than fit the bill. Boasting one of the year’s most impressive guest lists, the estrogen-fueled confab now in its second year, brilliantly showcased Joanna’s savvy for bringing together her vast network of female overachievers from every conceivable sphere of influence for the dual purpose of some high-profile networking and some serious brand building. “Last year when I came up with the idea for this lunch, people came and didn’t really know what to expect,” Joanna told me as she stood in the lounge accepting air kisses and posing for photos with the growing throng of well-wishers. “This year, we had people calling up asking to come.”
Among those that did make the final cut: actresses Sarah Jessica Parker (“This is my new favorite yearly lunch!” she told me) and The Carrie Diaries star AnnaSophia Robb (The original Carrie and Carrie 2.0 met for the first time in the dining room and posed for their first ever joint photo during cocktails); The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee; Arianna Huffington; Mika Brzezinski (whose late arrival during Joanna’s opening remarks earned the Morning Joe cohost some cheeky chiding about her tardiness); celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson; supermodel Coco Rocha (who sported a chic shorter hairstyle and towered over the crowd); producer Desiree Gruber; designers Georgina Chapman and Stacey Bendet; Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon; A&E Network’s Nancy Dubuc; Politico‘s Kim Kingsley; Atlantic Record’s chairman Julie Greenwald; lobbyist Heather Podesta (whose striking silver locks, sky high Louboutins and flawless makeup earned her my pick as the best-dressed guest); Harvard Business School professor and TED talker Amy Cuddy; Lauren Zalaznick; Leslie Sloane; Liz Kaplow; The Chew‘s Daphne Oz; attorney Robbie Kaplan (who argued Edie Windsor‘s case before the Supreme Court); director and producer Alexandra Kerry (Dad is Secretary of State John Kerry); Laurie Tisch; and aspiring songstress Sky Ferreira, a frequent subject of lensman Terry Richardson. Read more
It was the usual head-spinning scene at Michael’s today as the decibel level rose to epic levels in every corner of the dining room throughout lunch. But all was tranquil (at least for the moment) when I arrived shortly before noon. There, I was greeted with the sight of two minions from Bonnie Fuller‘s office at Hollywoodlife.com who were arranging seating cards and ordering Pellegrino for Bonnie’s monthly schmoozefest. The power gals-in-training stayed just long enough to change into their high heels and shepherd the overflowing group of media mavens and social swans (and Dylan Lauren!) into the lounge for a round of air kissing before they finally settled into their perch in the bay window at Table One. Oh, to be young and ambitious.
I was joined today by two of my favorite Michael’s regulars who I met, of course, in the dining room many moons ago: producer and Democratic booster Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson Long Island’s leading public relations and marketing firm, who somehow also finds time to appear on CNN, Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. On-air (and in conversation, of course) Robert offers well reasoned arguments against the extremists on both sides. “Too much attention focuses on being quotable, not credible. Too many commentators operate in a fact-free environment. Ann Coulter has become the Larry Flynt of political literature. Both live in a world of exploitation and filth,” said the Democratic National Committeeman (now in his 13th year in the position). Come on Robert, tell us how you really feel.
I always look forward to our bi-annual Michael’s lunches because besides being two of the nicest – and funniest people in the room — Joan and Robert can always be counted on for some tasty dish on what’s really going on in any number of social, business and political circles in New York.
While some of the juiciest dish is off the record, we did cover a lot of ground on the current political scene. I had to ask Robert what he thought of the two biggest headaches plaguing the Obama administration that are getting plenty of media coverage. On the Obamacare website woes, Robert offered this: “If it were up to my Republican friends, we would have given up on NASA, Social Security and Medicare because each of them had difficult launches. Medicare took six years to establish after President Roosevelt it signed into law. The website will be fixed. The bigger issue will be if people are getting a better deal in terms of cost and coverage. That will determine the future of Obamacare and, to a large extent, Obama’s legacy.” Read more
We’re back! The power lunch crowd eased back into the swing of things with a fairly low key, celeb-free scene at Michael’s today. While there were plenty of head honchos filling out the dining room (Time Inc’s CEO Joe Ripp, NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick and Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff), there was a touch of post-Labor Day letdown in the air (Where did the summer go?), but no matter — it’s time to get back to business.
I was joined today by Newell Turner, editorial director of Hearst Design Group and EIC of House Beautiful, Shax Riegler (don’t you just love that name?) House Beautiful’s executive editor and Hearst Magazines’ PR guru Michael McGraw. I don’t mind telling you that our table was one of the more lively spots in the dining room as we dished about our favorite show (Is Paul Giamatti really going to play the love interest of Lady Mary on Downton Abbey? Did Dan Stevens commit career suicide? ), pondered how people could possibly enjoy their vacations when they spend all their time posting photos from their holidays on Instagram and agreed Bravo needs to devote less PR oxygen to Housewives and give more attention to Property Envy which features one of my favorite designers, Mary McDonald. It’s like Fashion Police for the real estate-obsessed. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Having decided those important issues, we settled in for an interesting chat about the exciting things House Beautiful has in store this fall. Between bites of salad nicoise, Newell (who looked dashing in his Ralph Lauren linen suit), told me all about his plans for a new series of “pop up” editors who collaborated with him on a series of issues beginning in October. He told me the idea came about when he and the magazine’s Editor-at-Large, Chesie Breen “were stuck in the airport in Barbados” and were “killing time over a glass of rose.” Nice work if you can get it.
Right there on the spot, Newell decided on bringing in a series of guest editors christened “pop up editors” who could create issues that had a “curated, one-of-kind feeling” bringing their particular interest and expertise into the mix. His first order of business once he was back in New York was to “sell it to my bosses (at Hearst) and tell them that everything we did would communicate House Beautiful.” To do so, “We eased into it with Chesie as our first pop up editor,” explained Newell. “Which was great because she was already part of our world.” Still, he was interested in bringing a fresh perspective (“We get so insulated”) and started off by asking each pop up editor to “bring everything to the table.”
On any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.
Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.
Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”
The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”
The oppressive heat couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. I haven’t seen the place this crowded in ages as most tables were set for four (or more). In fact, the place was so jam packed that TV Guide magazine acting CEO and Wednesday regular Jack Kliger was seated in the Garden Room. Unlike a few people I could mention, Jack is far too cool to care about something as petty as seating arrangements. Just like the rest of the crowd — not.
Carole Radziwill, one of the more recent additions to the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City was first to arrive in the dining room today. The alarmingly thin socialite was sporting a curious furry accessory that was neither pet nor purse, sky-high platforms and a sweet flowered dress. Carole passed the time waiting for the rest of her party to arrive by taking pictures of the life-size sculptures of sheep that stand in the restaurant’s lounge. Alrighty then.
Speaking of Housewives, I was joined today by one of my favorite members of the franchise, LuAnn de Lesseps, who drove in from the Hamptons for our tete a tete. The statuesque former model (she’s 5’10″!) has always seemed like one of the more down to earth — and dare we say normal — Bravolebrities. She was all that and more. PR princess extraordinaire Catherine Saxton, who knows everyone who is anyone and is off to the south of France in a few days for the first of the big St. Tropez parties aboard Denise Rich‘s yacht, then go off to join Ivana Trump for her party in St. Tropez before finally landing in Monte Carlo for a whirlwind of swanky dinners (Can we carry your luggage?), arranged for today’s ladies’ lunch. Between bites of crab cakes and salmon tartare, we chatted about LuAnn’s sixth season on RHNYC, her various projects and, of course, her love life. It’s no secret that LuAnn was one of the last ladies to sign on to the new season of the show. “I waited until I was happy with their offer,” she told me, dismissing rumors that the cast was banding together for salary increases. “Things were handled individually.” While she’s too polite to talk about such gauche topics as money — she did write the manners manual Class with the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair, after all! But she is upfront about her reasons for sticking with the show. “It’s a great platform.” All the better to ride the wave as long as you can, no? Mais oui! ”We didn’t expect it to last this long,” said LuAnn.
Like most of the industrious Housewives set, LuAnn has managed to turn in her 15 minutes into a fledgling empire that includes her book, the record “Money Can’t Buy You Class” and several product lines like tabletop that includes melamine dinnerware and elegant bone china which is currently being sold on QVC and Amazon.com (“Inspired by my love of entertaining and my travels”). Next up is a collection of turquoise jewelry with Gem Stone King. “I love costume jewelry!” she said as she flashed a Wilma Flinstone-inspired pearl bracelet by Twisted. Clearly, the serious bling encased in gold on her finger today was the real thing. “Yes, it’s a star sapphire. This ring was designed by the same man who has done jewelry for Queen Elizabeth.” And not, I’m guessing, available on QVC.
After weeks of Wednesdays full of Hollywood heavyweights (culminating in our Table One sit-down with Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch last week) there were more moguls (William Lauder, Jimmy Finkelstein) than celebrities at Michael’s today. However, the talking head contingent was represented by regulars Star Jones and MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart. Today’s most intriguing table was the one where Jann Wenner was sitting with his son, Gus Wenner. Discussing the finer points of the power lunch, perhaps? Or maybe just tossing around some ideas for the website the 22 year-old publishing scion is now running. No matter — when dad’s the boss, I’m sure there’s plenty of room on that learning curve regardless of the subject.
I was joined today by Laurel Kamen and Christine Irvin, co-founders of The Alloro Collection, a new ready to wear and accessories collection designed for women who have had breast cancer. I was surprised to learn that the collection, which does not sacrifice fashion for function, is truly the first of its kind since there was clearly a need for such an innovation for so long. The idea for the collection came to Laurel on the evening before her own breast cancer surgery a year and a half ago. After being diagnosed with cancer in her left breast, she elected to have a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of a recurrence, a decision which ended up saving her life. When Christine got the call from her longtime friend to tell her about the idea, she was all in. “She could have asked me if I wanted to go in on starting a car wash in Pittsburgh that night, and I would have said yes,” quipped Christine, “but, clearly, this idea was one that was about creating something for women with breast cancer where a real need existed and was a chance to help women restart their lives.”
The Alloro Collection, whose name comes from the Italian pronunciation of Laurel’s name, was launched at a trunk show in Washington, DC, in March and immediately garnered extensive coverage in The Washington Post with a full page story by Robin Givhan and in WWD and W with pieces by Susan Watters. The 20-piece signature collection of tops, dresses and accessories which range from $160 to $250 is designed by Laurel’s cousin, New York-based designer Roedean Landeaux, whose own mother died of breast cancer. (There is also a more afford ably priced line of pieces under $50.)
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.”