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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Armstrong’

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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Bette Midler, Al Roker & Bravo’s Bickering Brokers From Million Dollar Listing New York

LunchAtMichaelsWhen it comes to Bravo’s ever-expanding slate of reality stars, it’s hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard. Between the Housewives, hipsters and wannabe singers, few have retained more than a few seasons of fame (or infamy) outside the realm of their melodramatic universe give or take a few Life & Style covers. I can count the number of Bravolebrities on one hand that have left an impression on me beyond registering their sheer delight at their own insta-fame. That’s why my lunch with Luis D. Ortiz and Fredrik Eklund, stars of the network’s Million Dollar Listing New York, was such a pleasant surprise.

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Besides being charismatic, funny and extremely well dressed (more on that later), these guys are driven beyond belief and smart as hell. Over the course of our lunch to dish about the new season, (premiering next Wednesday, April 2 at 9 p.m) I learned quite a bit about Fredrik and Luis (unfortunately their castmate Ryan Serhant was tied up at a pitch meeting and never made it to Michael’s.) Fredrik heads up the country’s top selling real estate team (which he founded) at Douglas Elliman. Between bites of his Cobb salad, he told me he sold 36 apartments last year, raking in 2.2 million in commissions during season two. So far this year, he’s sold $400 million (yes, you read that right) worth of real estate. Luis, who now works with Fredrik at Elliman, where he heads up his own real estate group, has sold over $300 million in residential real estate in the past three and a half years.

Almost thirty minutes before the appointed hour, Luis arrived at Michael’s and we sat at the bar chatting about the fickle finger of reality television fate waiting for the rest of our party. Besides being struck by Luis’ impeccable made for GQ style (a perfectly cut, made-to-measure suit “from a tailor in Mexico,” Patek Philippe watch and a Zara coat I’d kill for), I couldn’t help but notice his laser-like focus on my questions. The guy knows how to listen (a very underrated character trait, if you ask me). When I inquired if he thought the show had created a ‘character’ for him he said, “Television can’t edit you differently if you are yourself. I respect myself and I’m myself at all times. I understand the need for drama, but the business is inherently dramatic enough that we don’t have to make things up. I feel like the camera is telling the truth.”

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Elizabeth Vargas, Harold Ford and the Latest on The Matrix Awards

Lunch At MichaelsI was joined today by Liz Kaplow, president and CEO of the eponymous marketing communications firm she started in 1991. Kaplow’s client list is full of industry leaders, including Target, Unilever, Timex, CVS and Laura Mercier. I’ve known Liz forever and seen her in this very dining room presiding over many a power lunch — the last time with Microsoft executives who were meeting with her to talk about the latest technological innovations from Skype, another client. We chatted briefly that day and realizing we’d never had a proper sit down, decided then and there to make a date. So here we are. In preparing for our lunch, I did a quick read through of Kaplow’s website and was blown away by the awards and accolades that Liz and her team have collected recently. The New York Observer ranked Kaplow No. 13 on their inaugural PR Power List last year. Kaplow’s “Branded Journalism” program with Skype was named one of the top global PR campaigns of 2013 by The Holmes Report (which also named Kaplow Consumer Agency of the Year in 2011). And to think all this started because, Liz told me, “I wanted to have more flexibility to be with my kids” when her two daughters were growing up.

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz Kaplow and Diane Clehane

Liz opened her own agency in 1991 with the costume jewelry company Monet as her first client and quickly added to that list with forward-thinking strategic planning. By the mid-90s, Kaplow ventured into the technology sector with iVillage as a client. “We didn’t have the technical background, but we understood women and how to reach that consumer — we won the business while we were in the room doing the pitch.” Over the past two decades, Liz has become one of the most respected women in PR and is known for her approach in developing and executing marketing and public relations campaigns across all platforms that connect her clients’ brands with consumers through, as she likes to say, “the art of storytelling.” As she explained it: “Every brand has a different story to tell and today they want to tell it through all different platforms.” With that as a guiding principal, Kaplow has focused on integrating social media and emerging technologies with well-established media platforms to ensure clients’ get the maximum impact from their PR campaigns. “PR has to be much more holistic today,” she told me. “Traditional print media is still very, very important as a third party and ‘earned’ versus ‘paid’ media. Clients say the power of influence comes in very different ways. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Every client needs a customized approach.”

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A Conversation with Robert De Niro’s Film Archivist | New Dish on Gone With The Wind

LunchAtMichaelsI was joined today by my good friend ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong who I first met (where else?) in this very dining room seven years ago. Joe has introduced me to countless interesting folks over the years including Carl Bernstein, Elton John and the late Elizabeth Edwards. He’s had a long and storied career in journalism having been at the top of the masthead of Rolling Stone and New York Magazine as publisher and has served as a trusted advisor to ABC News. These days when he’s not holding court here at Michael’s or dispensing invaluable advice to his faithful friends in the media biz, he’s a tireless champion of many worthwhile causes and institutions including the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin where he sits of the board of directors. Back in the day, Joe was editor in chief of the Texas Law Forum at the University of Texas School of Law. (Harry Ransom was his beloved mother’s English teacher — “Everything comes full circle!”) Today, he invited me to join the Center’s film curator Steve Wilson,  Alicia Dietrich, public affairs representative and  Jennifer Tisdale director of public affairs who dazzled me with fascinating stories about the Center’s extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia among many other types of cultural and literary artifacts — just in time for the upcoming Oscars.

At Table One: Front (from left) Steve Wilson, Diane Clehane, Jennifer Tisdale; Back: Alicia Dietrich and Joe Armstrong

At Table 1: Front (from left) Steve Wilson, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Tisdale; Back: Alicia Dietrich and Joe Armstrong

The gang was in town to meet with various news outlets to discuss the Center’s upcoming ’The Making of Gone With the Wind” exhibition, timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of one of the most iconic movies of all time. The exhibition will run from Sept. 9 through Jan. 4, 2015 and is a must-see for film buffs. Gone With the Wind was the most nominated film of 1939, scoring 13 Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to be nominated and win for Best Supporting Actress. No small feat since that year was truly one of Hollywood’s best with Wuthering Heights and The Wizard of Oz also competing for little gold men that year. Among the 300 items drawn from the Center’s collection from David O. Selznick‘s archives that will be on view: rare audition footage, storyboards from the film and three original gowns worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, including the famous “green curtain” dress, marking the first time these costumes were on view together in 25 years. A gloriously illustrated exhibition catalog of the same title was published by the Center and University of Texas Press last fall with a foreword written by Turner Classic Movie host and film historian Robert Osborne.

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David Zaslav, John Sykes, Susan Spencer and the Dish on What Bill Clinton Did Last Night

LunchAtMichaelsIt turns out the third time was the charm for my long-delayed lunch with Woman’s Day EIC Susan Spencer. Having been kept away from Michael’s first by the onset of the polar vortex and then, a few weeks later, by the snowstorm of the week, we finally managed to meet at 55th and Fifth today. Perfect timing, after all, because Susan was still buzzing about The 11th Annual Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards held last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The sold-out event, benefiting the American Heart Association, boasted a glittering gallery of A-list stars, including actress and singer Rita Wilson who acted as host; her Oscar-winning husband Tom Hanks (who, we’re told, was happy to relinquish the spotlight to his wife); actress Jennie Garth, who received the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Heart Award; and the Today show’s Hoda Kotbwho introduced singer Sara Bareilles and The Voice winner Judith Hill. None other than President Bill Clinton was on hand to accept an award on behalf of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for its work towards improving heart health by fighting childhood obesity. “I guess people hadn’t read their programs,” Susan told me, “But when I was introducing him and said, ‘Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States,’ there was an audible gasp in the room. Something happened when he appeared on stage. He really drew people in and set the tone for a truly memorable evening.”

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Susan told me that Clinton made some ”very personal” and “humble” remarks about his own experience as an overweight youngster. “Don’t clap!” he told the crowd, who was clearly charmed by his story. “This is a serious issue.” So serious, in fact, that virtually every star who attended the awards has a personal connection to the disease. Rita Wilson’s father suffered from heart disease and Jennie Garth discovered she had a leaky heart value when she was just 30 years old. The disease, which is the number one killer of women, also hits very close to home for many Woman’s Day readers. So much so, that last June Susan and her team launched the magazine’s Live Longer & Stronger Challenge, for which they selected six women from around the country who had or were at risk of heart disease and designed a nutritional and lifestyle program for them with nutrition columnist Joy Bauer. The group stayed connected to the magazine and Bauer through a private Facebook page, texts and emails. “We want to raise awareness that this doesn’t just happen to women in their 50s; it can happen in your 20s and 30s,” she said.

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Bonnie Fuller, Jill Zarin and Why Jeff Greenfield Skipped This Year’s State of the Union Address

LunchAtMichaelsYou’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.

Lunch at Michaels

Meta moment: Does a power lunch at 55th and Fifth count if no one’s there to see it? I think we know the answer to that one.

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.

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Matt Lauer and Joan Rivers Do Christmas in January | Catching Up With Anne Fulenwider

Lunch At MichaelsIt 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.

anne-fulenwider

Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

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.

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‘The Cosmo 100′ With Joanna Coles and the Wednesday Celebrity Scene

LunchAtMichaelsAs 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.”

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb

Sarah Jessica Parker and AnnaSophia Robb; Photo: Greg Pace

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 HuffingtonMika 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 DubucPolitico‘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 CuddyLauren ZalaznickLeslie SloaneLiz KaplowThe 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

Norm Pearlstine Networks With Bonnie Fuller

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re going to file this week’s lunch in under ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Aside from a dining room full of the usual Wednesdays at Michael’s suspects, comprised of moguls (Barry Diller), media mavens (Bonnie Fuller, Connie Anne Phillips) and money men who keep the lights on all over town (Alan Patricof), I had an illuminating chat with Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York and the editor/contributor of the new book, Gilded New York Design, Fashion and Society (The Monacelli Press). We were introduced by Dan Scheffey, who, in his past life, has handled public relations for Disney, Miramax and most recently toiled at Conde Nast. Dan is currently working on Monacelli’s fall book list and is gearing up to launch the Spring 2014 list with Ellen Rubin. When he mentioned Gilded New York to me some months ago, I immediately wanted to know more. Donald, an independent curator specializing in the decorative arts and architecture, joined us to talk about his work on both the exhibition and the book on New York’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

Dan Scheffey, Diane Clehane and Donald Albrecht

From left: Dan Scheffey, Diane Clehane and Donald Albrecht

By way of introduction to the period he explained, “The city’s old and new money used architecture, interior design, fashion and events — even lunch and dinners — as markers of status.” See where I’m going with this?  I thought you might.

Donald, who traded his career as an architect to focus on curating exhibitions and writing (“I found working solely in architecture really boring”), explained his love of curating exhibitions as a way of producing “visual culture.” His current exhibition (which shares the same name of the companion book) “Gilded New York” runs through the end of next year and features a stunning collection of objects that lend a window into the fascinating lives of the early swells of New York City whose great fortunes built the vast Fifth Avenue mansions during what was arguably city’s most glamorous era. Among the relics of this bygone age visitors to the museum can see: an ”Electric Light” dress by couturier Charles Frederick Worth dress once worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. The gown (which didn’t really light up) earned its name from the glittering crystals that illuminated the bodice (a newspaper at the time breathlessly reported it had been trimmed in diamonds), Tiffany & Co.’s Bon Bonniere, a miniature purse designed to hold bon bons or small pieces of candy to be discreetly carried so it could be enjoyed while dancing, and a swan-billed flask crafted from engraved glass and silver. The funny thing is I have no doubt any one of the artifacts would be right at home worn by Sarah Jessica Parker or carried by — dare we say it – Kanye West — at the Met Ball, no?

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Dishing With a Downton Abbey Star

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Michael’s lunches and then there are Michael’s lunches. Over the course of all the years I’ve been chronicling the scene on Wednesdays at 55th and Fifth for this column, I’ve had plenty of occasion to dine and dish with the famous and infamous, strivers and stars and more than my fair share of pop cultural icons. When I think about what I love most about this gig, I have to paraphrase Forrest Gump: Each Wednesday at Michael’s is like a box of (very expensive) chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get. Today, I got the chance to spend a delightful few hours with Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore, the blustery and big-hearted cook on Downton Abbey, my absolute favorite television show. As anyone who follows my posts on Facebook and minute-by-minute recaps for XFinity knows, I am beyond obsessed with the PBS hit, so I was more than a little excited about the chance to have a lengthy sitdown with one of my favorite actors of the series. And Lesley didn’t disappoint.

Diane Clehane and Lesley Nicol

Diane Clehane and Lesley Nicol

She arrived — and looked quite chic in leather pants and high heel boots! — right on the dot of 12:15 for our lunch and promptly charmed everyone in the place, telling GM Steve Millington the dining room was “gorgeous” and graciously chatting with a few fans who stopped by the table to say their hellos. As she looked around the mercifully subdued dining room, I explained that Michael’s was the place to be for all sorts of movers and shakers and, of course, the random celebrity. “Joan Collins was here a few weeks ago,” I told her searching my mental Rolodex for the name of a British star I could mention. “Probably ate a few lettuce leaves,” said Lesley. I knew I’d love her.

We quickly dispensed with ordering (Dover sole for two) and settled in for our chat — and after five minutes I felt as if I’d known her forever. Lesley told me she was in town for a flurry of meetings with her new New York agents at Bauman Redanty & Shaul, who she’d hadn’t yet met, and with casting director Avy Kaufman. Her PR rep, Andrew Freedman, who moved his firm from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago, had managed to arrange our lunch between all these big doings.  She’d also found time to take in a Brooklyn production of Julius Caesar, whose all-female cast included her good friend Susan Brown as Casca. But, she confided, she was really looking forward to tonight’s after-party for Thor on the off chance she’d get to meet her celeb crush, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who appears in the film. “He is just gorgeous,” she said as she speared a Brussels sprout, “If he’s there, I’ll probably be too tongue tied. I’ll just drop down and die.”
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