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Posts Tagged ‘Jon Hart’

Lunch: Bill Bradley, Norman Pearlstine & The Media Mavens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a lo-cal edition of lunch today. We’re chalking it up to near Spring-like weather (I don’t know about you, but I’m burning my winter coat when we finally have two days over 60) and plenty of recent rumblings about companies tightening the reins on expense accounts. What’s a media maven to do? You’ve still gotta eat. And if there’s business to be done — or you’re looking for your next big thing — Michael’s is still the place to be to connect with the power brokers that aren’t chained to their desks. Today, besides the regulars, the crowd was sprinkled with a liberal (no pun intended) dose of media mavens and business types with a former senator (Bill Bradley) thrown in for good measure. The mood in the dining room was a bit low-key, but I’m guessing there was still plenty of deals being struck over those burgers.

I was lunching today with my pal Brian Balthazar, HGTV’s director of programming. Brian and I met at Michael’s when he was working as supervising producer of Today‘s fourth hour with those chatty gals Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Now that Brian is getting up at a far more civilized hour, he’s got time for things besides television, including doing stand-up (His next gig is on April 15 at Comix). His new-ish job at HGTV is keeping him plenty busy, though, overseeing 18 shows with some great new projects in the works, including programming that will offer viewers an up close and personal look at celebrity homes. Brian also tells me he’s retooling the network’s popular House Hunters series to inject a bit “more reality” into the show and reflect more of what buyers are going through during these recessionary times. Still, though, there’s plenty of escapism (Thank God!) on offer. “During tough times, people really like to see beautiful homes and be inspired. There’s a voyeuristic quality to real estate that people love.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Laurie Tisch and a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Kerry Kennedy and James Wolfensohn, former head of The World Bank. Second seating: producers Jon Hart and Fred Zollo

4. Steve Rubenstein and Norman Pearlstine

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Lunch: Dishing on the Oscars & Obama

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As I’ve been reporting for weeks, it was SRO at Michael’s today as the movers and shakers, undeterred by the unsettling economic news, were out in full force plotting their next big move — or looking for a safe place to land. On the menu today: plenty of talk about President Barack Obama‘s speech last night and the Oscars. There was a strong consensus that one was a big winner, while the other got surprisingly mixed reviews. While everyone in the audience on Oscar night thought Hugh Jackman killed, plenty of folks here were less than impressed. “Movie people don’t like Broadway,” sniped one Hollywood insider. “And it was too Broadway.” Okay then…

Everyone I talked to about President Obama’s speech felt his oratory skills are nothing short of amazing and that he struck just the right tone where he basically told us its time to pay the piper and think of our children’s future. Personally, I was impressed at his unflappable ability to mix his formal and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks with ease — and he didn’t even blink when he forgot to follow protocol and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduce him. She had to stop him mid-sentence, but he never faltered. Talk about cool under pressure. But here’s what wowed the women in the dining room — his affectionate introduction of the First Lady Michelle Obama and her mouthing, ‘I love you’ back to her smitten husband. “They’re marriage is obviously hot,” one divorcee told me. I’m telling you, no one wants to admit it, but that’s what people are really talking about.

As for the president’s remarks, “Inspirational but realistic,” is how one media summed things up. Others were scratching their heads asking why Wall Street wasn’t feeling the same way. More than one person said, “With everyone feeling a little bit hopeful, I don’t get why the market is down.” (It had dropped by more than 100 points by lunch). A question for the ages, no doubt.

On a much lighter note, I asked the always dapper Dr. Gerald Imber what he thought of the Botox-ed beauties on Oscar’s red carpet. But this plastic surgeon to the stars never cuts and tells — “I didn’t watch,” he confessed. He laughed when I asked him why he’d pass up the chance to admire his handiwork and did offer his assessment on why movie stars make better plastic surgery patients than mere mortals: “They come in with headshots saying, ‘I’ve changed a little here, I want to fix this here.’ They know what they want. There’s no whining.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Here’s a fun fact: A little birdie told me that Andy wrote the screenplay for Blazing Saddles. Now you know…

2. Hallmark honcho Henry Schleiff with two other well-dressed fellows

3. No one puts a lunch together like ‘The Mayor’: Joe Armstrong, Glamour editrix Cindi Leive, George Stevens and Kerry Kennedy. I was thrilled to meet George (who was sporting a very patriotic red, white and blue shirt and tie ensemble). He’s the man behind the television broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors and the amazing broadcast of the concert on the Mall in celebration of President Obama’s inauguration. Kerry and I met once before at a lunch given by Henry Schleiff in this very dining room, where we talked about her then yet-to-published book, Being Catholic Now. I was so fascinated by her interviews with the likes of Bill Maher and Gabriel Byrne (who spoke about being abused by a priest) that I got through the terrific tome twice. Today the conversation was all about how stirring and inspirational the group found the president’s speech last night. “It made me proud to be an American,” Kerry told me. And we both totally melted over the young school girl who was seated next to the First Lady having written to the White House looking for aid for her school, which is in a serious state of disrepair. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Kerry. She wasn’t the only one…

4. An early-arriving Matt Blank who chatted with Joe and I before The New Yorker‘s David Remnick and Lisa Hughes joined Showtime’s head honcho for lunch. I was happy to reconnect with Lisa. Way back when, she was my sales rep at Self when I was the marketing honcho for a fashion company. I knew then that Lisa was destined for big things at Conde Nast, and she’s risen through the ranks like the pro she is. Well done and congrats!

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Lunch: Tina Brown & Barbara Walters Break Bread; Jonathan Wald Works The Room

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a little disconcerting these days when no matter where you go in the city, the streets seem quieter than usual, and there are 10 cabs lined up outside Grand Central any time we need one. But we’ve observed an interesting phenomenon: The worse the economic news, the busier the scene at Michael’s during our weekly Wednesday visits. The dining room was abuzz with plenty of glad handing and table-hopping, and the mood, despite all the gloom and doom out there, was downright jovial. “It’s a bit of escapism,” one regular confided to me. “There’s no doubt things are bad, but people have to be out there now more than ever, so you might as well enjoy yourself for a couple of hours.” I certainly did today as I was joined at the bay by my friend and former boss Susan Malinowski, brand ‘incubator’ and licensing/marketing guru who has some big deals brewing. (I’m sworn to secrecy.) We practically got whiplash keeping track of all the goings-on. So come out from under your desk and get out there and network. You never know who you’re going to meet over a Cobb salad.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Bonnie Timmerman presiding over a full table of guests including Claudia Peltz

2. Peter Brown and Shirley Lord

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Quest‘s Chris Meigher

4. Michael J. Wolfe

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Lunch: Why So Glum, Anna Wintour & Ralph Lauren?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was standing room only at Michael’s today with a head-spinning assortment of movers and mavens doing some serious table-hopping between bites. We were brightened to see there was a dash of celebrating between all the intense conversations that were going on all around. It’s the holidays, remember?

I was lunching today with Gerry Byrne, senior vice president of The Entertainment Group at Nielsen Business Media. One of the truly good guys in the industry, Gerry has had an amazing career in media that started after he served as a United States Marine Corps Officer in Vietnam, when he took a job at The New York Daily News working in business development. You name an important showbiz publication, and chances are Gerry has been at the helm. He was president and CEO of Stagebill, served as group publisher and president of Variety and Daily Variety (and launched the Gotham edition), started Electronic Media (now Television Week) and Crain’s New York Business. He was consulting for Nielsen when they lured him back into corporate life earlier this year with his current gig. “I never expected to be back doing this, but I’m having a great time,” says Gerry. He’s keeping busy overseeing the company’s entertainment properties and exhibitions including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Backstage, Kirkus Reviews, The Bookseller and expos like ShoWest. Whew!

We had a fascinating conversation about the state of the entertainment and media industry, with Gerry offering some valuable insights. “It’s all about brand management and creating new partnerships,” he told me. “More people than ever are willing to listen to new ideas about partnerships.” That, says Gerry, is good news for everyone willing to acknowledge what’s in the past is gone and it’s a brave new world. So buck up, all you naysayers, put your thinking caps on and get out there and reinvent yourself. Speaking of reinvention, I asked him to weigh in on NBC’s decision to offer Jay Leno a nightly show on their prime time schedule. “They’re protecting their franchise. Jeff Zucker made a dramatic statement.” The “game-changing” move is sure to change the face of television, says Gerry, who noted, “It couldn’t have been done 10 years ago.” Timing is everything, isn’t it?

The scene spilled over into the Garden Room where Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell and David Gregory were seated. The newly-minted host of Meet The Press gave us a big hello and a smile as he made his way to the back, but slipped out early before we could ask him about his new gig. mediabistro.com’s founder Laurel Touby was a few tables away with metacafe’s CEO Erick Hachenburg and SVP Jack Rotherham and Michael A. Vorhaus of Frank N. Magid Associates. So take that, all you strivers — power is where you find it!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. There were plenty of fireworks: Jerry Inzerillo, Paul Grucci and some lively fellows who were celebrating some big news with champagne

2. Judy McGrath and a gent we didn’t recognize…

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with a trio of interesting — and enterprising — women: Democratic booster Maureen White, Sarah Rosenthal and Cynthia Brill, who told me the Clear Card biz we chatted about some months ago for this very column is going great guns. The brainchild of Cynthia and her husband Steve, ‘The Easy Pass of airports’ designed to help users ‘fly through airport security,’ is now in 21 airports and coming soon (in ’09, she says) to LAX. We’re all for anything that will improve the hellish experience of surviving a stay in that confounding maze.

4. Frank Gifford and Ron Kanecke

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Lunch: The Special Post-Election Edition

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The Michael’s crowd was in full party mode today as television titans, media mavens and talking heads mingled gleefully with politicos who were celebrating Barack Obama‘s historic victory. “Finally, some good news!” exclaimed one of the regulars as he made his way into the jam-packed dining room. It seemed more than a bit poetic that on the eve of Camelot 2.0 Caroline Kennedy quietly made her way to table one, avoiding all the table-hopping and glad-handing that was going on around her. If there were any disappointed John McCain supporters in the room, they were keeping a low profile. Okay, Mary Matalin made the scene with hubby James Carville but she didn’t exactly look like she was celebrating. Everyone agreed Obama’s speech last night was stirring, but one observer offered this insight to chew on: “Sure it’s exciting, but it’s going to be pretty much impossible to live up to all this hype. The guy’s gotta be feeling some pressure.” If he is, he sure is wearing it well.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Early Show: Saturday Night Live scribe James Signorelli; Second shift: Caroline Kennedy, Jimmy Buffett and his wife Jamie

2. Producer Jon Hart, Doug Steiner and another gent we didn’t get to meet…

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Susan Stroman (Young Frankenstein), uber-agent Ed Victor and his gorgeous wife Carol. A little birdie told me the ‘Mayor’ will be hosting one of his legendary lunches next week. We can’t wait!

4. Gerald Schoenfeld with an unidentified gent

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Lunch: Where the Magic Happens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I thought I’d seen just about everything from my regular perch at Michael’s during my weekly visits, but today topped all. They were serving up sides of card tricks with the Cobb salads today and the gang was just eating it up. When I arrived, illusionist JB Benn was standing at the bar shuffling a deck of playing cards for Frank Gifford as his pals Hunter Millington — yes, Steve‘s brother — and Chris Graham looked on. He asked the gridiron great to sign a card and place it back in the deck. After a great deal of slow-mo shuffling, he finally pulled out the very same card from a sealed envelope in his jacket pocket.”I better make sure I’ve still got my watch,” quipped Frank. JB then drafted me into service asking me how many dollar bills he was holding in his hands. Frank and I both agreed he had four single dollars. Literally, right before our eyes the bills turned into hundreds. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered and there were gasps all around. I wouldn’t be surprised if JB is now booked between now and 2010 as the entertainment at parties from the Upper East Side to Easthampton as result of his impromptu performance this afternoon.

The utterly charming and adorable Mr. Benn (“He looks like a better-looking Tom Cruise,” said one smitten diner) made the rounds in the dining room eliciting applause all around. When I saw how wowed Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were after the illusionist worked his magic on them, I suggested they might want to have him on the show to make ‘Sam the Cooking Guy’ disappear. In case you haven’t heard, Sam caused quite a stir on Today last Wednesday’s show in a segment during the fourth hour when he basically told the co-hosts to shut up and let him talk about his salad when he thought they had gotten too chatty. Sam clearly didn’t know what to do when he realized he had actually verbalized what he was thinking. He then sputtered out the ingredients of his salad while Kathie Lee and Hoda just watched him squirm — a classic TV moment. But, says Kathie Lee, Sam isn’t banished from the set. “I’m big on second chances,” she says. But be warned, Sam. “I forgive — but I don’t forget.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Woody Johnson (sporting a discreet ‘McCain‘ button) and a squadron of suits. Just asking: Is the Jets’ owner advising Michael’s on personal seat licensing?

2. Three members of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry Della Femina. I had a great chat with Jerry about AMC’s runaway hit “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t tuned in, check it out on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. It’s the best dramatic series on television right now — seriously) Turns out the legendary ad man was one of a select few that got an early look at the script for the series’ pilot because creator Matthew Weiner wanted to make sure he got every detail right, from the Brooks Brothers suits worn by the execs to the nonstop smoking that helped fuel the creative fire on Madison Avenue in the early sixties. Jerry, who had a “four pack a day” habit back then, says the show has been a boon for business. “For the longest time nobody wanted to be in advertising. Everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Now, because of the show, people are talking about advertising again. It’s revitalized the industry. I’m back in fashion again!” Indeed.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Joan Gelman and marketing strategist and frequent CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman (glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ fan!). Before my good pal Joe — who is jetting off to Europe this week for a much-deserved vacation — and his fellow Democratic boosters settled down for lunch they, too, were dazzled by Mr. Benn’s sleight of hand. Before they could dash off to their table I asked Robert, who is privy to the inner workings of the Democratic party, for his thoughts on who will be Barack Obama’s running mate. The suddenly taciturn strategist demurred, but offered his thoughts on who it should be — “Joe Armstrong, of course.” Remember, you heard it here first.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld and Carnegie Hall head Clive Gillinson

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Lunch: Hillary—Obama Smackdown!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Bill Clinton isn’t the only one who is getting a little testy about the endlessly long and increasingly tabloid-y battle for the democratic nomination. At today’s lunch, politics were on the menu as supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took sides over their Cobb Salads. Our unofficial dining room poll finds Obama holding a commanding lead. Producer Joan Gelman — between commuting from Canada where her show Triple Sensation is going great guns — has taken to handing out her very own campaign buttons. “I do one for every election,” she told us. Her latest creation got lots of attention at a party at Tina Brown‘s recently when ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong arrived wearing one. It boasts a picture of President George Bush and John McCain in an embrace and is emblazoned with the words — Four More Years. Here’s the punch line: There’s a question mark at the end of the phrase. Joan was handing them out today (thanks!) and people were gobbling them up like mad. A few tables down, the exchange at David Patrick Columbia ‘s regular perch between David (a Hillary booster — “I just don’t know why she is the subject of so much hate”), Charlie Scheips and Terry Allen Kramer (decidedly not a fan) rivaled the dust ups on Sunday morning on The McLaughlin Group. But it was all in good fun. Isn’t it always?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. One big happy family: Michael’s wife Kim McCarty and kids Clancy and Chas with Martin von Haselberg and daughter Sophie. The families’ friendship goes back 30 years, says Michael. To wit: a painting of Martin (done by Kim) hangs in the reception area of the restaurant. There was plenty to celebrate all around: Clancy just graduated from NYU last week, Chas is starting his first year at Bard and Sophie is at Yale. Impressive! We were hoping that Martin’s wife — none other than Bette Midler — would join the party but, said Michael, she was rehearsing for her eagerly anticipated Las Vegas show (the family leaves for the desert tomorrow). Knock ‘em dead, Bette!

2. Peter Brown.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and yours truly. The Mayor was the subject of a glowing New York Times piece last week which bore more than a passing resemblance to this column. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn’t it?

4. Phil Smith and agent extraordinaire Ron Konecky.

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Lunch: Captain Picard, I Presume?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.

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