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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Armstrong’

Jennifer Aniston Serves ‘Cake’ to Gayle King, Arianna Huffington and Marlo Thomas

LunchAtMichaelsIt was one for the books today at Michael’s. While the SRO crowd of mavens, moguls and machers was celebrating at full tilt, the joint got an extra jolt of adrenaline when word spread that Jennifer Aniston would be hosting an intimate lunch for twenty as she continues her unofficial Oscar campaign for her role in her latest film, Cake. In case you haven’t heard, Jen goes without makeup (gasp!) and does the whole ‘I can look like a real person’ thing as she portrays a widow and chronic pain sufferer in the film. Today, though, she was in full movie-star mode as she arrived with a bodyguard in tow who stood watch over her table in the corner of  The Garden Room to keep away the curious. This intrepid reporter tried to get a few words with the former Friends star, but when I introduced myself to her handler Stephen Huvane and asked him if I could ask her a few questions about the film, I got a big smile and a ”I don’t think so.”

Diane Clehane and Nancy Lee

Diane Clehane and Nancy Lee

Too bad, because I also wanted to tell Jen I think her fiance Justin Theroux was unjustly snubbed by the Globes and SAG Awards for his outstanding work in The Leftovers. Oh well. Among those who were invited to the gathering: Gayle King, who stopped by our table to say hello, Marlo Thomas, Arianna Huffington and one of her daughters. I caught up with Deborah Roberts, who was also on the guest list who told me, “The whole thing was very low key. I kept waiting for someone to make a speech about the film, but there was none of that. Just a nice lunch with some great people.” We’re told Jennifer was gracious to the staff on the way out, but no one dared ask for a selfie or a quick chat. If you want to see some shots of all the big doings,  photographer Kevin Mazur was there to document this momentous occasion, which is sure to show up on the usual sites soon.

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The Designer Who Showed Cory Booker How to Turn Bullets Into Bling

LunchAtMichaelsIts Thanksgiving bounty décor having disappeared like last week’s leftovers, Michael’s was festooned with lush garland and poinsettias today, helping to kick the air-kissing up a notch as the regular round up of mavens, moguls and strivers embarked on the ‘We have to get together for the holidays’ lunch season.

In yet another installment of ‘All Roads Lead to Michael’s,’ I was joined today by designer and activist Jessica Mindich who I was introduced to by fashion maven Mickey Ateyeh. “She’s a terrific designer doing something wonderful and you have to meet her,” Mickey told me a while back. Who am I to argue?

Diane Clehane, Mickey Ateyeh and Jessica Mindich

Diane Clehane, Mickey Ateyeh and Jessica Mindich

Funnily enough, I knew of Jessica’s company, Jewelry for a Cause, which creates jewelry as a fundraising tool for a variety of worthy causes, because I’m pals with her mother-in-law, my former Scarsdale neighbor Karen Mindich. Even though Jessica and I were “friends” on Facebook (thanks to Karen) we’d not met until very recently. Last month, we were seated together at a luncheon for designer Angela Cummings, which was held at Richard’s, a swanky luxury emporium on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, where we both live. Cozy, no?

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Special ‘Evening’ Edition: The Media Mob Turns Out for Michael’s 25th Anniversary

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re serving up an extra helping of Lunch this week to bring you the rundown on Michael’s 25th anniversary party at 55th and Fifth last night. At one point, it felt as though all 600 invited guests were there at one time. A few minutes after six o’clock, the steady stream of A-listers had already bottlenecked at the front door, filled the dining room and had migrated to the Garden Room, causing one regular to quip, “Oh so this is what it looks like back here!” Here’s a collection of news and notes we collected as we ricocheted from one cluster of fabulous folks to the next…

Hilary and Bryant Gumbel

Hilary and Bryant Gumbel

I arrived right behind Jann Wenner and his perpetually scruffy son, Gus Wenner, who dutifully waited on the check in line. “Name please?” requested the clipboard-wielding young gal at the door. “Wenner, the two of us,” said Jann, who put an arm around his son and ushered him inside. Right behind him came Bryant Gumbel and his wife, Hilary Gumbel. I’d last seen Hilary at a Michael’s lunch for Cosmo editor-in-chief Kate White a while back when we feted Kate on the occasion of her latest book. “Hilary’s got a book now,” Bryant told me. The book, Unichef, is a collection of international recipes from chefs around the world with proceeds from book sales benefiting UNICEF. Hilary has been a consultant for the U.S. fund of UNICEF for years.

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Barbara Walters, Willow Bay I Going to Great Lengths for Breast Cancer Awareness

LunchAtMichaelsThe power-lunch season is in full swing as the overflowing Wednesday crowd poured into Michael’s. There were plenty of  hard working PR mavens (Peggy Siegal wielding not one — but two — cell phones at once, while she waited for her date to arrive) and famous faces (Barbara Walters and the ageless Willow Bay) among the sea of usual suspects.

I was joined today by Ouidad (Yes, she goes by one name like Madonna and Cher) the renowned hairstylist whose celebrity clients include Minnie Driver, Sean Lennon and Jordin Sparks. The tireless and incredibly exuberant industry icon is considered the “pioneer of the curl” among beauty business insiders since she launched her eponymous business in 1984. Ouidad tells me she’s “all about the curl” — while shaking her own impressive tresses for emphasis – whether she’s cutting and styling clients at her Manhattan or Santa Monica salons, training stylists (600 in all!) across the country on her signature techniques (the “rake and shake”), or formulating her own product line designed to enhance the health and appearance of the manes of her curly-haired customers. ”There is such freedom in letting your hair be!” she told me referring to the fashion set’s obsession with the flat iron (guilty as charged). “This is all about empowerment. I love helping women be free to be who they are. It’s my mission,” she said.

Diane Clehane, Leslie Stevens, Ouidad and Kate Boothby

Diane Clehane, Leslie Stevens, Ouidad, Kate Boothby

Ouidad’s other deeply personal mission is her commitment to raise breast cancer awareness and funds. A breast cancer survivor who lost her own mother to the disease, Ouidad told me the experience was life changing both personally and professionally. After her bi-lateral mastectomy in 2002, she had a newfound respect and understanding for women struggling with the disease and felt deeply connected to her clients who came into the salon facing the difficult diagnosis. “Before I’d try to tell my clients, we can try different wigs, do different things,” she recalled. “Now I’d never say that. Being behind the chair listening to them and having had my own experience, I tell them, ‘Yes, this is awful, but it’s not a death sentence. We’re going to get through this together.’”

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Jon Steinberg on The MailOnline’s Plans for World Domination, New Hire Piers Morgan

LunchAtMichaelsIt was a true media mashup at Michael’s today as the joint was jam-packed with famous faces (Katie Couric and Barbara Walters at separate tables; Natalie Morales) and moguls (David Zinczenko), while the usual suspects upped the volume to near ear-splitting levels. I had to lean in to catch every word uttered by Jon Steinberg, who joined me for lunch to dish about his new-ish gig as CEO of the Daily Mail‘s MailOnline.com, yesterday’s announcement that Piers Morgan was joining the site and his old guard inspirations in this new-media world.

Diane Clehane and Jon Steinberg

Diane Clehane and Jon Steinberg

I suggested Jon and I do “Lunch” after I interviewed him earlier this year for a Gotham cover story I was doing on New York City’s most powerful millennials, for which he talked about his role in creating  BuzzFeed as its president and chief operating officer. During Steinberg’s tenure, BuzzFeed became a global brand and went from a staff of 15 to more than 500. Turns out our chat was fortuitously timed. Days before the story was set to go to press in May, Jon announced that after four years at the helm of the social news and entertainment site, he was stepping down to pursue his next big adventure. “Having built this place with Jonah [Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO] and the rest of the team, I want to go through that rush again, and there is a certain amount of freedom that I want,” he said at the time. Since when we spoke for the Gotham piece, he’d told me he believed “freedom and independence are the new status symbols,” I was eager to see what his next move would be. A short time later, he announced he was joining MailOnline as chief executive officer of North America. Today he arrived fresh off the set of CNBC, where he appears three times a week as a contributor on Squawk on the Street. Said Jon of his television gig: “I love it because they operate it like a startup. They had the idea for it and just weeks later, it was on the air. It’s a great team.” But clearly, he’s even more enthusiastic about his top spot at MailOnline. “I wasn’t the CEO before and that’s something I’ve always wanted. I get to make a lot more decisions now,” he told me today, between bites of chicken paillard. And he’s making plenty.

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The Dish on a Formidable Female CEO From Inc.‘s List of Fastest Growing Companies

LunchAtMichaelsWith much of Manhattan tied up in the nightmare traffic scenario that comes courtesy of the spate of diplomats and politicians in town for the United Nations General Assembly this week, we were happy to make it to Michael’s for our regular Wednesday confab with this week’s movers and shakers and, boy, are we glad we did. While much of the excitement during our weekly trips to 55th and Fifth comes courtesy of the steady stream of famous faces, talking heads and random celebrity sightings, every once in a while, I’m introduced to influencers whose faces might not be familiar but whose accomplishments and goals clearly set them apart. Today’s headliner Monica Smith was no exception. As CEO and founder of Marketsmith, a New-Jersey-based marketing firm that recently scored a spot on Inc.’s annual list of the Fastest Growing Companies in America for the second time, she presides over a company whose mission is to provide direct response omni-channel marketing strategies to companies that focus on fostering strong connections to customers through differentiated product. The company posted $72 million in revenue last year. She is also the founder and CEO of i.Predictus, an on-demand television platform with built-in analytics and customer data warehousing with capabilities used to manage large television campaigns. “I think i.Predictus will be as transformative for omni-channel marketing as Bloomberg was to the financial markets.”

Diane Clehane and Monica Smith

Diane Clehane and Monica Smith

Monica’s success is a true testament to perseverance and believing in your own abilities. The New Jersey native grew up in an Irish Catholic home as the only girl with six brothers and was sent to Catholic school because that’s what her mother wanted for all her children. “I had no say in the matter,” she recalls with a laugh. Self-described as “severely learning disabled,” Monica endured years of an undiagnosed condition of celiac disease, which resulted in getting less than stellar grades. She struggled though school but says, “I understood vocabulary at a very high level and I was one of those kids that could do a Rubik’s Cube. I had a chip on my shoulder about those people who always got A’s.” An accomplished athlete, she went all the way to college (“My parents knew how to work the system”) before a teacher gave her a D on her first paper and asked  ’Do you speak English at home?’

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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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