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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Burnham’

Summer’s Social Swans, Kim Kardashian’s BFF and the Woman Behind Mad Men

1003_mockup.gifWhere else could you possibly find friends of reality stars (Come on, you can’t expect an A-lister sighting every week) and the last vestiges of Cafe Society all in one room? If it’s Wednesday, at Michael’s, of course. I couldn’t even begin to do justice to the head-spinning scene there today, so I’ll just let the roster of what passes for celebrity sightings these days speak for itself.

I was so excited about today’s lunch, because I was meeting the woman responsible for greenlighting one of my favorite shows, Mad MenChristina Wayne has had an amazing career  – she also is responsible for getting Breaking Bad on air — and I found her story fascinating. Had it not been for Christina’s spot-on instincts, Matt Weiner‘s script, which had been floating around for eights years at that point, might not ever have seen the light of day.  The former AMC senior vice-president of scripted series and mini-series is now president of Cineflix Studios and executive producer of the new BBC America series, Copper — but I’m getting ahead of myself.

A born and bred New Yorker who grew up on the Upper East Side, Christina decided to move back after 12 years in Los Angeles for personal reasons in 2005 (“There was no one left to date!”) and after receiving a call from a friend asking if she’d be interested in working with AMC. Up until that point, the network was pretty much airing nothing but old movies. “I had no idea what AMC was. I thought he was talking about the movie theater chain,” said Christina. Back then, the basic cabler was looking to develop scripted content; Christina signed on as a consultant as the net’s “creative voice,”  but didn’t want to tell her screenwriter friends since, at the time, working in television seemed like a step down and “an embarrassment.”

Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne
Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne

She started by calling everyone she knew in L.A. and wound up with the script for Broken Trail, a huge hit starring Robert Duvall that got the greenlight in eight days. When she read the script for Mad Men on a flight back from Los Angeles, she knew she had something special. AMC wasn’t able to get a studio to pick it up, so the pilot was self-financed for $3.3 million and the rest, as they say, is television history. Without a huge marketing budget, Christina attributes a lot of Mad Men‘s buzz to the nonstop coverage it received in The New York Times who covered the show from every angle possible. “The show was their lovechild,” she said. And still is, I’d say.

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Caroline Manzo, Morgan Fairchild, Plus HarperCollins Fetes William Boyd

1003_mockup.gifOne of the things I love most about chronicling the Wednesday scene at Michael’s is the random celeb sightings that seem to come out of left field. On offer today: television stars of the past and present that represent the changing (and fickle?) tastes of the viewing public. When none other than Morgan Fairchild walked in (she’s even tinier in person), I had an eighties flashback to those great trashy nighttime soaps and damsel in distress Lifetime movies that were all the rage back then. A few minutes later, The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Caroline Manzo, today’s definition of a soap star, walked in. Funny enough, they were seated right next to each other but neither noticed the other. What can I say? This stuff fascinates me.

I was joined today by two PR mavens, Melanie Brandman, founder of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. After chewing over the week’s hottest gossip (Did Kim Kardashian do it for money? Has Kris Jenner no shame?), we had a good chat about Melanie’s latest luxury innovation, Travel Curator, which she describes as a hybrid online monthly magazine, diary and blog that shares the very best insider information on cities around the world.  Besides having exquisite taste, Melanie’s unrivaled experience in the hospitality industry and two decades of worldwide travel have given her quite an address book.

Table Seven: Diane Clehane, Diana Biederman and Melanie Brandman

“I’m constantly asked where to go to find the very best around the world and, since I love to share information, I thought this would be a fabulous way to do that.” The “content driven” site is absolutely gorgeous, including ‘The Spot” of the month. The native Aussie’s Sydney is the launch pick, followed by New York, London and Tel Aviv — all cities Melanie has called home. It also includes a fabulously fun section entitled “Tastemakers” where Melanie culls names from her Rolodex to offer their picks on shopping and travel in various locales. (Full disclosure: In an upcoming edition, I sing the praises of American Girl Place as the best place in NYC to spend a day with the special little girl in your life.) The site is getting great buzz; it was recently featured in Travel & Leisure and was the subject of two segments on Fox News. Right now, everything is being handled in-house at The Brandman Agency, and  it’s being circulated via subscription and by the agency’s extensive contact lists. So, before you pack for that next vacation, check out the site.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Deborah Norville, Cindi Leive & A Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Michael’s, and today was no exception. Everyone in the place seemed connected by less than six degrees of separation, as we observed plenty of old friends and former colleagues exchanging air kisses before dining and dishing. Then there was the completely random fashion moment that caught our eye. Did you know it was ‘Seersucker Day’ here in New York City? Now you do. So it was only fitting that Michael’s GM Steve Millington was sporting his summer seersucker suit in honor of the sweltering heat. Earlier today, a little birdie told me that the outdoor set of The Early Show was filled with men (including the show’s weatherman Dave Price) in Haspel seersucker suits in honor of the company’s 100 anniversary. Who made Steve’s suit? Why Haspel, of course. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with Susan Silver, who I met in this very dining room a while back when I was lunching with our mutual pal Brian Balthazar at the next table. When I found out Susan was one of the brilliant writers behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show (the first and best one), I just had to get to know her better. Today we talked TV — of course — and Susan weighed in on her favorite sitcoms of the season. She gives high marks to ABC’s Modern Family (“Genius!”) and The Middle (“It is laugh out loud funny!”). It turns out we share a mutual obsession with reality television; specifically Bravo’s wild and wacky Housewives. I can’t get enough of the New York City divas — except for Jill Zarin. Susan loves ‘em all.

These days Susan is turning up everywhere on television (most recently with Rosanna Scotto on Fox 5) and radio (chatting with Bill Bennett) to talk about the baby boomer generation, spurred by a column she did a few years back, “The Search for Mr. Adequate,” for New York Social Diary. Now she’s on a mission to become “The Martha Stewart of The Baby Boomers,” offering her take on everything from fashion to travel and, of course, relationships for this “underserved market.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Chris Taylor presiding over a table of fabulous females, including Desiree Gruber and CNN’s Alina Cho

2. Bonnie Timmermann and two pals

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. The Early Show: It was a family affair for sisters Andrea Barzvi (who works at ICM) and Alexandra Barzvi (a clinical psychologist), who were celebrating mom Bianca’s birthday. We simply had say hello to this stylish trio because Bianca’s hat just dazzled us. Second seating: Peggy Siegal.

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Lunch: Charlie Rose, Dan Abrams & The Rain-Soaked Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The biblical rain kept most of the moguls and media mavens away today. So, rather than people watch, I passed the time by flipping through the latest issue of Avenue featuring an ultra-glam Katie Couric on the cover. The glossy devotes eight (!) pages to the CBS Evening News anchor and photographed her dripping in diamonds and sporting gowns by red carpet favorites Alberta Ferretti and Monique Lhuiller. Interviewed by Law & Order SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay, Katie says, “Looking sexy is not my goal when I’m at work.” Obviously, it’s a different story when she’s not sitting behind the anchor desk.

I lunched today with my longtime pal Trica Jean-Baptiste, who is the principal of her own public relations firm specializing in the travel and tourism industries. We met years ago through New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) where she served on the board. Trica brought along another NYWICI member, Ross Ellis, who works on the organization’s tireless Matrix committee. We all agreed that Brian Williams will be a fabulous host for next year’s Matrix Awards. Remember Rosie O’Donnell‘s disastrous expletive-fueled turn at hosting a few years back? We’ll never forget it — and we’ve tried. Besides working on Matrix, Ross helms the not-for-profit group, Love Our Children USA, which works to end abuse and educate families about stopping violence against children. The organization has been going strong for eleven years and Ross, who was an abused child herself, has garnered the support of an impressive roster of celebrities including Bette Midler and Elton John. Both have donated great items for the group’s online auction going on right now at charityfolks.com. (Get your bids in soon, because it ends Friday.) These days, Ross is hard at work on next year’s National Love Our Children Day which is scheduled for April 10. Mark your calendars!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

2. Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne and Fox5′s Greg Kelly

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and HarperCollins’ publisher Jonathan Burnham. I couldn’t wait to get some dish-y morsel about Sarah Palin‘s new book Going Rogue due November 17. “What was the most surprising thing about working with her?” I asked. Jon deferred with a wry smile saying, “My lips are sealed.” I guess we’re going to have to wait for her appearance on Oprah the day before the book is released for the scoop. Here’s hoping the former governor includes a Wednesday lunch at Michael’s on her itinerary for what’s sure to be a whirlwind media tour.

4. Dan Abrams (in jeans!) and John Josephson

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Lunch: Barry Diller, Jeff Zucker & The Magazine Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

What recession? The usual power quotient found on any given Wednesday at Michael’s went into overdrive today as the gals at the front desk had so many media moguls, magazine mavens and talking heads lining up to dine and dish today, they had to shoehorn in extra tables all over the dining room. Luckily, I scored some prime real estate for my lunch with my old pal Jeffrey Slonim and new-found friend Bettina Zilkha. Jeffrey and I have stood side by side on many a red carpet over the years and have bonded over the histrionics that goes with covering A-list events. These days Jeffrey is busier than ever as Interview‘s society editor (a prestigious gig once held by Truman Capote!) and Allure‘s special correspondent where he fearlessly asks all those publicity shy celebs questions we all really want to ask (bedtime rituals, what they really eat after parties — that sort of thing). It was nice to see him out in daylight. Bettina was recently named Special Projects Editor for Elle Decor and has a fascinating profile of designer Dennis Basso in this month’s Avenue. We had a lively lunch trading stories about Gotham’s gadflys we all know and love (all off the record, sorry to say). I can’t wait until to our next get together.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Crooner Steve Tyrellwith Frank and Jamie McCord (owners of the LA Dodgers, in case you were wondering), James McBride (the GM of The Carlyle where Steve is performing through New Year’s Eve) and my good pal Amy Rosenblum.

2. Peter Brown

3. Jim Abernathy and Dawn Bridges

4. Barry Diller and the Financial TimesChrystia Freeland who was warding off today’s chill with a killer fur hat. Fab!

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David Carr and Others Attempt to Spell for Charity

clmp-2009-spelling-bee.jpgOn Monday night (known across the land as the night before the election) the CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) hosted its annual spelling bee fundraiser. The line-up of spellers showcased the spelling talents of some well known media types including Harper Collins’ Jonathan Burnham, the NYT‘s David
Carr
, The New Yorker‘s Judith Thurman, Michael Musto from the Village Voice, and PW‘s Sara Nelson among others. The night was moderated by former Times Style Sectioner Bob Morris — sadly Alex Kuczynski was a last-minute no-show The Bee was held at Diane Von Furstenburg’s studio on west W 14th st, and in keeping with the theme all the words were related to fashion. It’s harder than you think!

Most of the pre Bee chatter appeared to revolve either around the next day’s election or everyone’s dependence on spell check, ourselves included. We fully admit to not being the best of spellers, and judging by how quickly the star line-up went down (“eyelet” was the first word to take someone out) we are not alone! Before being given his second word (crewelwork) David Carr took a moment to mention that his copy desk had had a good laugh that morning when they’d seen an invite to the event listing him as a “speller,” then he asked for a definition of crewelwork that didn’t include his job. Watch the video of what happened next after the jump. Oh yes, in the end Jonathan Burnham walked away triumphant after spelling “astigmatism” correctly.

*We stole this photo from Galley Cat‘s Ron Hogan who, we happen to know, is a very good speller!

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Lunch: Joan Rivers & Some Serious Stealth Campaigning

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— DIANE CLEHANE

While Hillary and Obama enter the final stages of battle — at least that was the consensus of today’s crowd — there was some serious political posturing going on today at Michael’s. As anyone with a bestseller, hit show or billion dollar deal knows a well-timed appearance at 55th & Fifth — especially on Wednesday — signals you’re on top and you want everyone to know it. There is also the “return engagement” appearance that telegraphs in no uncertain terms that happy days are here again. Two indefatigable ladies — Joan Rivers and Amy Rosenblum — were sitting together front and center today, both with plenty to say without having to utter a word. Amy, who was let go from Today last year, strutted into lunch with Joan this afternoon wearing a fiery red dress and a Cheshire cat grin that told me she had some big news. “Can we talk about it yet?” she asked. “Not yet,” cautioned Joan. “I’m superstitious.” Seems my tireless pal Joan is cooking up “something big” with Amy. “Really big!” reiterated Amy. Joan, you may recall, gave Amy her start in television and now, it seems the gals have come full circle. All we know is that there was plenty of champagne at that table. We want the scoop first girls — you promised!

“It’s been an amazing year,” says Joan who has more projects in the hopper than Ashley Dupre has dates. She’s starring in Z Rock a new sitcom on IFC come September, is about to take her show A Work in Progress by A Life in Progress to London and Edinborough after sell-out runs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And for all of you out there who spend some of your Saturday mornings watching PBS Kids with your kiddies, you already know Joan voices Shirley the Sheep on Jakers! (Mel Brooks is her cartoon hubby) and is now the “Jewish grandmother” on Arthur. In her spare time she sells a bazillion dollars worth of jewelry and perfume for QVC. And, she’s also got a book on plastic surgery coming out from Penguin. “Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask,” she says. Whew!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Joni Evans and five young pals including a glowing expectant mom to be…

2. Ed Victor — fresh off his trip to Havana — and Peter Brown.

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong, who had “a great time” on his jaunt “across the pond.” Today Joe was joined by his pal Jonathan Burnham who was celebrating a birthday. Cheers!

4. A table full of suits awaiting the arrival of Ron Perelman who was sporting a Yankee’s cap and blue blazer. We find his wardrobe choices fascinating…

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