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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Wald’

Judy Collins, Woody Allen’s Singing Writer and the Dish on the Definitive Bob Hope Biography

Lunch At MichaelsThe usual head-spinning Wednesday scene at Michael’s got an added boost of adrenaline today as Michael McCarty and his indefatigable staff presided over the jam-packed dining room while preparing for this evening’s main event. The famed eatery is celebrating 25 years in New York and to commemorate the impressive milestone, McCarty is throwing himself a party tonight. The guest list boasts 550 of his nearest and dearest A-list pals dropping by for air kisses and cocktails. We’ll be covering the festivities. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.) Look for a special “evening edition” of this column tomorrow.

Richard Zoglin and Diane Clehane

Richard Zoglin and Diane Clehane

I was joined today by Time magazine’s longtime theater critic and author Richard Zoglin, whose just-released book, Hope: Entertainer of the Century (Simon & Schuster), chronicling Bob Hope‘s 70-year career and extraordinary life, has garnered rave reviews. Kirkus Reviews heralds it as “the definitive biography” of the legendary comedian, People magazine recommended the 565-page tome as a must-read, and both Tom Brokaw and Dick Cavett have praised Richard’s exhaustive reporting. Our mutual friend, the tireless and terrific Cindy Lewis, introduced us and was the perfect hostess for today’s lunch. Fresh off his first author event last night, where he took questions from a “packed house” at his neighborhood Barnes & Noble on the West Side followed by a reception for friends and family at Martha Nelson‘s apartment, Richard told me he’s been heartened by the response the book has received from industry insiders and “civilians” alike. “I believe that Bob Hope was the most important entertainer of the 20th century,” he told me. “And I’m thrilled to see that there’s so much interest in his career now.” When I asked him why he decided to do a book on Hope, who, until now, had not been the subject of a major book, he explained: “When I did my last book [Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America], I asked every comic from George Carlin to Jerry Seinfeld who influenced them and everyone mentioned lots of people like Lenny Bruce, but no one mentioned Bob Hope. He’d fallen off the radar. The generation who remembers Vietnam didn’t take him seriously as a comedian.” So why go against the grain? “My contention is Bob Hope invented modern stand-up comedy.”

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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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Special Fashion Week Edition! Dishing With the Designer Who Makes Taylor Swift Shine

LunchAtMichaelsWith Fashion Week in full swing, the crowd at Michael’s today was full of stylistas (Glamour‘s Connie Anne Phillips, Tom Ford‘s CEO Tom Mendenhall) and media moguls (David Zinczenko and Jim Smith) refueling for the home stretch of shows. (Big guns Ralph, Donna and Calvin still have their runway shows to do) After all, surviving the crowds at Lincoln Center requires nothing short of herculean strength. We prefer to watch the shows the most clever designers livestream (thank you, Oscar de la Renta!) or post to their sites afterwards because we can only pretend to be fabulous one day a week — on Wednesdays, of course.

Diane Clehane, Paige Novick and Mickey Ateyeh

Diane Clehane, Paige Novick and Mickey Ateyeh

Speaking of fabulous, I was joined today by jewelry designer Paige Novick and our mutual friend, accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh and had a terrific time dishing about the fashion biz. (Sorry, but some of the best stuff is off the record.) Paige launched her signature costume jewelry collection at Bergdorf Goodman in 2008 and then added Phyne by Paige Novick, her fine jewelry collection, with Saks Fifth Avenue in 2013. She recently celebrated an important milestone, having been admitted into the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) last month. “It was surreal,” Paige told me of being surrounded by the top guns in the industry at the welcoming reception and being congratulated by CFDA president Steven Kolb and designer Stan Herman. “I was so happy to be part of ‘the club’ in the best sense of the word.”

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Exclusive: The Dish on That Book About Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour

LunchAtMichaelsSchool is back in session for the cool kids and they showed up in droves at their favorite cafeteria at 55th and Fifth. Come on, it’s just like high school — but with better clothes. In attendance: NBCUniversal’s Ron Meyer and Steve Burke, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Tom Brokaw, Donny Deutsch and Showtime’s Matt Blank among the media mob scene. It seemed more than a bit ironic that Michael’s looked like an old boys club since I was joined today by Sheila Weller for an exclusive first interview about her new book, The News Sorority (Penguin Press), which chronicles the rise of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour in television news. While the book’s press release paints the book as a thoughtful, “astute” guide to the behind-the-scenes goings on in television broadcast news and a paean to the accomplishments of these three incredibly ambitious women amid the “impenetrable newsroom boys club,” early reports have instead latched on to the more juicy tales of rivalry and the occasional missteps among the women. Shocking, I know. “It pains me that the news aggregators focused on the catfights,” Sheila told me. “It showed me the knives are out for women who succeed.”

Sheila Weller and Diane Clehane

Sheila Weller and Diane Clehane

What Sheila is referring to is the headline-grabbing items in the New York Daily News and The Daily Beast. The Daily News ran an item on the book for Father’s Day with the headline “Hate-y Katie” and an unflattering picture of her, which, said Sheila, didn’t exactly thrill her rep, Matthew Hiltzik. “I told him I didn’t plant any of it,” she told me. Lloyd Grove PM’d Sheila on Facebook asking: “What’s this book being passed around the networks like a crack pipe?” and then wrote a lengthy piece about the book for The Daily Beast, which recounted some of the more gossipy exchanges involving the women. “Once a book is sent to a media organization, you can’t control what happens with it,” said Sheila. “I was stunned by the Father’s Day item.”

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Art Garfunkel and Good Housekeeping‘s Campaign to End Childhood Hunger

LunchAtMichaelsThere wasn’t much that could top last week’s head-spinning celebrity scene at Michael’s, so today was pretty quiet by comparison except for the random appearance of Art Garfunkel. I guess I could have asked him about Paul Simon‘s recent trip to a Connecticut courtroom and perhaps gotten him to weigh in on his erstwhile partner’s domestic woes, but I only noticed him on the way out the door. It’s hard to fathom, I know, but in the era that spawned Kimye there are some celebrities who prefer to go unnoticed. However, the same cannot be said the mavens and machers who are Wednesday regulars at 55th and Fifth. After all, if your power lunch isn’t documented for posterity, what good is it? Present and accounted for: Star Jones, Jonathan Wald (most recently of the now-defunct Piers Morgan Tonight), ex-CNBC talker Larry Kudlow, Ed Klein and Andrew Stein (together at Table 3) among the crowd of familiar faces.

Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco

Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco

I was joined today by Good Housekeeping‘s smart, vivacious new-ish EIC Jane Francisco, and we had plenty to talk about. We shared horror stories over malfunctioning tape recorders during celebrity interviews (more on that later) and traded favorites among our mutual passions, which included books (she’s a big Jane Austen fan) and scripted TV drama (she’s a “binge watcher” of The Good Wife, Scandal and past seasons Mad Men – no spoiler talk, please). But I was also interested in finding out what the transplanted Canadian (who was born in Michigan, but headed for The Great White North with her family when she was 4) had to say about her experience taking the reigns at GH, a quintessential American brand. Having come from Chatelaine, Canada’s leading women’s lifestyle brand and the country’s largest paid circulation magazine, Jane was no stranger to helming a major media franchise with a broad audience when she was tapped for the top job in November of last year. “When I first met with Ellen Levine (Hearst’s editorial director and former GH EIC), we had lunch and she told me Good Housekeeping was ‘uniquely American,’ but I grew up with it and both my mother and grandmother read it in Canada.”

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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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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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Walter Isaacson, Barry Diller and Dylan Lauren Go Hollywood

LunchAtMichaelsIt was the usual head-spinning scene at Michael’s today as the decibel level rose to epic levels in every corner of the dining room throughout lunch. But all was tranquil (at least for the moment) when I arrived shortly before noon. There, I was greeted with the sight of two minions from Bonnie Fuller‘s office at Hollywoodlife.com who were arranging seating cards and ordering Pellegrino for Bonnie’s monthly schmoozefest. The power gals-in-training stayed just long enough to change into their high heels and shepherd the overflowing group of media mavens and social swans (and Dylan Lauren!) into the lounge for a round of air kissing before they finally settled into their perch in the bay window at Table One. Oh, to be young and ambitious.

I was joined today by two of my favorite Michael’s regulars who I met, of course, in the dining room many moons ago: producer and Democratic booster Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson Long Island’s leading public relations and marketing firm, who somehow also finds time to appear on CNN, Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. On-air (and in conversation, of course) Robert offers well reasoned arguments against the extremists on both sides. “Too much attention focuses on being quotable, not credible. Too many commentators operate in a fact-free environment. Ann Coulter has become the Larry Flynt of political literature. Both live in a world of exploitation and filth,” said the Democratic National Committeeman (now in his 13th year in the position). Come on Robert, tell us how you really feel.

Robert Zimmerman Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

I always look forward to our bi-annual Michael’s lunches because besides being two of the nicest – and funniest people in the room — Joan and Robert can always be counted on for some tasty dish on what’s really going on in any number of social, business and political circles in New York.

While some of the juiciest dish is off the record, we did cover a lot of ground on the current political scene. I had to ask Robert what he thought of the two biggest headaches plaguing the Obama administration that are getting plenty of media coverage. On the Obamacare website woes, Robert offered this: “If it were up to my Republican friends, we would have given up on NASA, Social Security and Medicare because each of them had difficult launches. Medicare took six years to establish after President Roosevelt it signed into law. The website will be fixed. The bigger issue will be if people are getting a better deal in terms of cost and coverage. That will determine the future of Obamacare and, to a large extent, Obama’s legacy.” Read more

John Sykes, Tommy Hilfiger and a Real-Life Warrior Princess

1003_mockup.gifAs the faithful readers of this column already know, lunch at Michael’s is never really just about lunch, but it is (usually) a lot of fun. And today was no exception. I was invited to join a ‘girl’s lunch’ for author Mindy Budgor hosted by Jolie Hunt, AOL’s former chief marketing officer. Jolie, who knows practically everyone in New York, told me she decided to get a group of women together for Mindy, who recently moved here from Chicago, and “pop her Michael’s cherry.” Alrighty then. When Mindy asked if she knew “any interesting women in New York,” Jolie sprung into action and gathered The Wall Street Journal‘s media editor Keach HageyKyle Gibson, executive producer of Newsweek The Daily Beast‘s Women in the World; Deborah Needleman, editor of The New Yorks Times T magazine; recently departed Lucky EIC Brandon HolleySara Nelson, Amazon editorial director of books and Kindle, Wenda Harris Millard and yours truly to dine and dish at Table One. Mindy brought along former Today show senior producer-turned-media trainer Amy Rosenblum and Andrea Lustig, author and contributing editor for Glamour.

I chatted (OTR, sorry) with newlywed Sara Nelson (Congrats!) and Brandon Holley before we sat down for lunch. Uber chic Brandon, who I first met during her days at Yahoo! Shine, told me she’s planning to spend the summer with her family in Montauk. I can’t say I blame her. When the rest of the gang arrived we sat in rapt attention as guest of honor Mindy told the story behind her new book, Warrior Princess, My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior (Allen & Unwin). I hadn’t known what to expect when Jolie told me she was hosting this gathering for her friend who was — really — the first ever female Maasai warrior. I certainly didn’t expect her to be the sweet 30-year-old woman sporting a Bulgari pendant I mistook for some tribal gem who regaled the group of tales of slaughtering goats and cows and drinking their blood (so much for my appetite.)

Jolie Hunt, Mindy Budgor and Diane Clehane

It turns out a woman’s magazine has an exclusive on Mindy’s story — the details are very hush-hush — so I’m not allowed to share the jaw-dropping tale she told us over lunch. Before I was advised of the embargo, I asked why this self-described “nice, Jewish girl” decided to quit her job in Chicago and go off to Kenya, and she told me, “I felt my values were out of whack.”

I’m sworn to secrecy on the rest of her story (a first at Michael’s, I know), but I can share what’s on Mindy’s own website. The Santa Barbara native bought a ticket to Kenya and set off to volunteer building schools and hospitals in the Maasai Mara. While she was there, she asked the chief why there were no female warriors. After being told that women “are not strong enough or brave enough,” Mindy and her fellow volunteer, Becca, knew what they had to do. Her journey from bored MBA student to fearless female warrior is definitely inspiring. No doubt there’s plenty of lessons in the book (and some interesting photos from her time in Kenya) for those of us trying to survive in the concrete jungle. I’m starting Warrior Princess tonight.  Read more

Melania Trump, Star Jones and the Man Behind Katie Couric’s Cushy Set

1003_mockup.gifCompared to the past few Fellini-esque Wednesday’s at Michael’s, today’s crowd was pretty low key. That said, the usual suspects were at their regular perches and the people watching quotient was satisfied by regular Star Jones (dressed to kill) and Melania Trump who, I must say, looks as if she doesn’t have a care in the world. Perhaps that’s because she doesn’t… unless, of course, she’s worries about hubby Donald Trump‘s war against President Barack Obama. Something tells me she’s able to look beyond that and focus on the positive. But you knew that, didn’t you?

I was joined today by Scalamandre’s smart, savvy and sartorially splendid president Steven Stolman, fresh off the plane from London but looking none the worse for wear. I first met Steven back in the nineties when he was designing power suits (remember them?) for Albert Nipon. Since then, Steven has sold his own eponymous collection out of his charming store in Southampton, consulted for preppy icons Lilly Pulitzer and Jack Rogers, and even dabbled in the not-for-profit world. Today, says Steven, he is happily ensconced in the “job of a lifetime.” It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

In just over a year and half at the helm of the legendary fabric house, Steven has forged exciting new partnerships that, he says, have broadened Scalamandre’s horizons while remaining true to its core customers of designers. A new line of decorative accessories developed exclusively for Barney’s is now available in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, in Barney’s oh so cool Chelsea Passage outpost and online. Next month, Christmas stockings fashioned from Scalamandre’s most iconic prints will be available at the store with coordinating pillows. Just the thing for your country estate, no?

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

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