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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Versace’

Laurie Dhue, Harold Ford and the Man Who Once Ruled Primetime

LunchAtMichaelsWe’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.

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Power Lunching with Eliot Spitzer, Star Jones and Joanna Coles

1003_mockup.gifIt’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steven Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch.

I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” he told me. “I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.” Pausing for a moment he added, “Somebody needs to buy the network.” And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system.  Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. “I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Best-selling author Linda Fairstein, hosting her annual holiday lunch for her former colleagues from her days as head of the city’s sex crimes unit. “I love doing this for these women who are all tops in their field. We’ve been having this lunch every year for over a decade, and for one afternoon they are treated like queens of the world,” Linda told me as she placed artfully decorated gift bags at each place setting embellished with the words ‘Boss Lady.’ The incredible women who were taking a break from their usual daily grind of solving and prosecuting the city’s most heinous crimes: New York Supreme Court Judge Ann Donnelly, Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, trial division chief; Audrey Moore, chief the Special Victims’ Unit; cold case division head Melissa Mourges, who just this week got a conviction on the ‘Dating Game’ murder; Kerry O’Connell, chief of the trial bureau; and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit. Ladies, I salute you.

2.  Peter Brown

3. ’Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko (Happy Belated Birthday!)

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

The holiday scene at Michael's

The holiday scene at Michael’s

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Peggy Siegal, Pamela Fiori & the Winner of Lunch with Laurel

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— DIANE CLEHANE

While the regulars in the dining room at Michael’s chatted about their plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, it seemed only fitting that my lunch today was with Laurie Haspel Aronson, president of Haspel, the quintessential American company responsible for the creation of the classic seersucker suit. Laurie tells me it was the brainchild of her great grandfather, Joseph Haspel, who wanted to turn the fabric once favored by laborers for its cool comfort into a natty summertime staple of bankers and businessman everywhere.

Haspel, which was founded back in 1909, has dressed some pretty iconic fellows including Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Jimmy Smits, who wore Haspel during his stint on The West Wing, will be sporting seersucker this weekend when he hosts PBS’ July 4th special and on his upcoming series Outlaw that premieres this fall.

Laurie explains how the venerable label remains a current fashion favorite (Russell Brand is a fan) but hasn’t alienated its old school clientele this way: “The great thing about it is it can be worn by everyone and looks good on everybody. It takes on the personality of the wearer.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Former Chanel president Arie Kopelman and his wife Coco with Pamela Fiori (in Chanel) and a distinguished looking gent we didn’t recognize.

2. A very blonde Peggy Siegal and a handsome young fellow.

3. Scribe Phoebe Eaton, looking very glam

4. Abernathy & MacGregor’s Jim Abernathy

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John Sykes, Jared Kushner & Moguls on the Make

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting like recent visitors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close that gives Michael’s that jolt of adrenaline during our weekly Wednesday visits. And sometimes it’s the sheer power quotient of the dining room that gets our attention. As one regular told me: “I can always tell who is looking for money and who is writing the checks when I come here. It’s the best business scorecard around.”

Today I was joined by power publicist Catherine Saxton, who knows just about everybody but never spins and tells, and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of Beezag and AdGenesis. We had a fascinating chat about the ‘wild west’ of Internet advertising and how absolutely maddening those unwanted pop-up ads are. When Richard launched Beezag last November with Laurent Alhadeff, they created a different kind of online advertising environment which they’ve cleverly coined as ‘Me-commerce.’ Richard explains beezag’s consumer-centric marketing concept this way: “It’s about relevancy and reward. Consumers watch entertaining branded content and video ads they love and get discounts they deserve because they’re thanked with special offers and incentives from advertisers.”

By matching brands to the consumers who want to hear about them, Richard reports that beezag delivers clients an average of 25 percent click-through rates. The members-only, opt-in multi-platform community has some pretty serious brainpower behind it. Richard tells me his ‘executive council’ of advisors includes Gerry Byrne, Wenda Millard, Michael Kassan and Bob Friedman. For someone who just landed in New York from South Africa in January of last year, Richard seems to have figured out pretty quickly how to make things happen in Manhattan. We’re impressed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Boy wonder Jared Kushner with his dad Charles, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers. The New York Observer owner must have had some big deal brewing, because he stepped outside several times to take a very important call. Or perhaps it was just the missus, Ivanka Trump, asking what to make for dinner.

2. My friend and PR maven extraordinaire Lisa Linden and former Bush administration advisor Charles Millard, celebrating the launch of Charles’ new venture specializing in pension funds and financial services, Cardinal Advisors.

3. Catherine Saxton, Richard Smullen and yours truly

4. LVMH’s David Anton

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Lunch: Tim Gunn Talks ‘Age Appropriate Fashion’ with Grace Mirabella

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If we’d come by on Monday, we would have run into Tyra Banks at breakfast and Harold Ford, Jr. at lunch. Oh, well. Michael’s was still brimming with plenty of the usual suspects today, and more than a few did a double take when Tim Gunn arrived with legendary editor Grace Mirabella on his arm.

When Project Runway‘s unflappable designer mentor sat down with the former Vogue editor, I wasn’t surprised to overhear their conversation turn immediately to fashion. Tim was all ears when asking Ms. Mirabella (whose namesake magazine remains one of my all-time favorites) about her thoughts on age-appropriate looks for everything from jeans to evening wear. Gathering intelligence for all those fledgling fashionistas, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Advisory Group, presiding over a table of social media gurus: Huffington Post’s CEO Eric Hippeau, president Greg Coleman and senior vice president Phil Cara with Stephen Cannon of Mercedes Benz, Virgin Mobile’s Stacy Schwartz and Tom Cuniff of Combe Inc.

2. Peter Brown and John Reid

3. Producer John Hart (long time, no see!) with another distinguished looking white-haired gent

4. My good friend and publicist extraordinaire Catherine Saxton and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of AdGenesis, beezag, and koppr. Catherine tells me she’s jetting off in a few days to Marabella to visit with “some Khashoggis.” Send us a postcard!

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Lunch: Michael Douglas Turns Heads; Rudy & Judy Giuliani Go Low Profile

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I got an early Christmas present at Michael’s today when I got the chance to chat with one of my favorite actors, Michael Douglas, who has been something of a regular in the dining room this fall since coming back to town to film Wall Street 2. When the Oscar winner arrived and strode purposefully to his table, every head in the place turned. Unlike plenty of A-listers who can barely conceal their impatience for having to deal with mere mortals, he couldn’t have been more gracious when I went over to say hello.

A few years ago, we worked together on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where he presented an award to designer Nino Cerruti His then-fiancee, now his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, was also there to present to glamour guys Mark Badgley and James Mischka. When I told him the paps are still raking it in from the images taken then of the glam couple on the red carpet, he just laughed. “How is Nino?” he asked before I could ask him about his work on Wall Street 2. When the conversation finally turned to the highly anticipated sequel, I got the scoop on what we can expect from the story and his character, the Machiavellian money man Gordon Gekko. “It was very exciting and a lot of fun to be back. He’s been in prison so he’s a lot darker now, and he’s written a book about the financial world,” said Michael. “It’s set in 2007, so it’s about his predictions on what’s going to happen. It’s very interesting.” Is greed still good? We’re guessing not.

I’ve gotten to meet lots of interesting folks since I first began reporting on the scene at Michael’s three years ago and there’s none nicer than Ira Yoffe, who joined me for lunch today to talk about his exciting new venture. After spending 29 years with Parade — the last nine as vice president, creative director, and head of its in-house advertising agency — Ira is striking out on his own. He’s launching Yoffe Media Group in January because, he says, the time has never been better for entrepreneurial creative businesses. “Last fall, when budgets were being cut, money on creative was one of the first things to go. This is the time to re-invest in promoting your product.” Ira plans to run his “virtual agency” without costly overhead by putting together creative teams comprised of talented freelancers wherever they may be. On Friday, he’ll be inking a partnership deal with Rosica Strategic Public Relations. “There is no need for talent and creativity to be limited by location or the limits of outdated technology,” he told me. “Now, more than ever before, it’s possible for clients to benefit from work that is being produced by the best and the brightest in the world.” He expects that his agency-without-walls philosophy will result in “a better quality of work” and the ability to “pass the savings on to the client.” Sounds like a winning strategy to us.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Late arriving producer Joel Silver and a table full of holiday revelers including, we hear, his wife and son.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Don Welsh (Long time no see!)

4. The New York Observer’s resident newlywed Jared Kushner (Mazel tov!) and Steve Rubenstein

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Lunch: What Recession? Michael’s Keeps Buzzing with Walter Isaacson, John Sykes & The Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The power lunch lives! While budgets are being slashed all over town, if the media mavens at the top are feeling the pinch, they’re determined not to show it. For the past several weeks, I’ve noticed that Michael’s is back to its pre-Great Recession level of buzz with a packed dining room. The regulars were out in force today along with an impressive array of captains of industry who were no doubt doing a lot more than catching up with old pals.

I was lunching today with Andrew Heyward, who I got to know during his tenure as president of CBS News. Andrew is busier than ever these days consulting for a full slate of companies including Monitor Group and NBC News. I asked him how he felt when the New York Supreme Court’s appellate division threw out Dan Rather‘s $70 million lawsuit against CBS last month. “I’m gratified by the appellate court’s unanimous decision to dismiss the case,” he told me. “I hope this is an opportunity for everyone involved to move on once and for all.” Not everyone seems to share that sentiment. Dan’s lawyer, Martin Gold, told TVNewser he plans to appeal.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Nick Simunek with, we’re told, a table full of showbiz types including the fellow who wrote Love At First Bite.

2. Peter Brown, Shirley Lord, and two other distinguished gentlemen we didn’t know.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive. Second seating: ICM’s president Chris Silbermann.

4. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank and attorney Alan Grubman. I caught up with Matt on the way out, and we chatted about Toni Collette‘s Emmy win for The United States of Tara. I also asked about one of my favorite shows, The Tudors. Matt tells me they just wrapped production and the show promises to deliver plenty of royal drama in its final season. We’ve been hearing rumors that Showtime’s next dysfunctional dynasty to receive the star treatment will be the Borgias. We can’t wait!

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley Stops By — and Hugh Jackman is Coming Tonight!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Our invitation to tonight’s party for Joel Grey hosted by Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborah Lee Furness, must have gotten lost in the mail. Oh well. The dining room was jam-packed with the Wednesday regulars in action, so there was plenty to keep us entertained. I was also happy to catch up with some pals I hadn’t seen in a while. When my friend Andre Leon Talley swept through the door resplendent in a rose-hued Prada coat and “raspberry velvet” custom-made Manolo Blahnik sandals, I was thrilled that he had time for a chat before joining George Malkemus for lunch.

I just had to ask him what he thought about Morley Safer‘s segment on Anna Wintour that aired on 60 Minutes a few weeks back. “I was really impressed with their research,” said Andre, who reported that the show spent weeks at Vogue‘s offices and trekked to Europe for the collections to cover Anna in action and get many of fashion’s most famous faces to weigh in on her decades-long reign at the style bible. We both agreed that Morley sounded a wee bit contemptuous of the players and the game. The newsman’s occasional barbs thrown into the piece — including an observation that Karl Lagerfeld dressed like Count Dracula (“He’s had that look for eight years!”) and that all Vogue‘s young staffers have to be skinny — were “a bit dismissive,” said Andre. (I did love when Anna said that on a recent trip to Minnesota she found most of the folks resembled “little houses.”) Andre reports Anna was “thrilled” with the piece. “It’s 60 Minutes — she was on the same show as Secretary Gates. It was fabulous,” proclaimed Andre.

Today, he was taking a break between the resort presentations that designers were hosting around town in their showrooms this week. “The resort shows are fabulous,” he reports. “It’s become a much more interesting season where people are really doing some fabulous things.” Among the highlights so far: Diane von Furstenberg‘s “Going to Rio”-inspired collection with everything a girl needs all packed into one bag (“It’s her best collection in three years”), Zac Posen‘s ruched silk lame jeans and “major” shoes — especially the sexy lace d’Orsay numbers. Andre also gave high marks to Michael Kors‘ batik prints. “There are a lot of great clothes and great items that women will want to buy.” Music to a lot of retailers’ ears, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Conde Nast’s Lou Cona and the dashing Daniel Lalonde, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers.

2. Peter Brown

3. Judith Verno

4. Stephen Swid and a blonde gal we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: Barbara Walters, Frank Langella & Kathie Lee Gifford

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was a tasty mix of media mavens, social types and the random celebrity (Frank Langella was in the house!) on the menu at Michael’s today: The dining room was so packed, they were shoehorning tables in everywhere. I was glad I got there early so I was able to grab some of the regulars on the way to their tables before they got down to some serious dining and dishing. Kathie Lee Gifford was one of the first to arrive, announcing, “Ah, springtime!” as she came through the door. She’s got plenty to smile about these days as her latest book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg (Ballantine), hit the New York Times bestseller list. I just has to ask Kathie Lee what she thought about her pal Joan Rivers winning The Celebrity Apprentice, besting her arch enemy poker player Annie Duke and the nasty showdown the women had on the finale. “I was thrilled for her. Anyone that knows Joan knows she’s a friend to the end — and any time a 75-year-old wins anything, it’s good for all of us!”

I was lunching today with Alexandra Trower, Estee Lauder’s executive vice president of global communications. This consummate public relations pro has been with the company just over a year now, having made the switch from banking (she was SVP of media relations for Bank of America) to the beauty biz. This week, Alex scored a major hit with a front-page story on Estee Lauder’s new CEO Fabrizio Freda in WWD Beauty Biz. We had a terrific chat about the famous faces and captains of industry we’ve both come to know. It’s amazing what a small world Manhattan can be!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today show twosome Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Kathie Lee’s right-hand gal Christine and Hoda’s chic pal Sunny

2. Literary lioness Lynn Nesbitt and Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong dining with Kerry Kennedy and her charming young daughter Michaela

4. Barbara Walters and Frank Langella

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger

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