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Posts Tagged ‘Jordan Ringel’

Shirley MacLaine Stops by a Birthday Party for Liz Smith

1003_mockup.gifI knew it was going to be quite the scene at Michael’s today when a little birdie told me that there was going to be a lunch for Liz Smith celebrating the grand dame of gossip’s upcoming birthday at Table One. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed. None other than Shirley MacLaine stopped by to say hello to Liz (more on why later), and I got to chat with the legendary actress about her guest-starring stint on Downton Abbey. While the entire restaurant swiveled in our general direction, I jumped up from my seat to ask about her experience on PBS’ smash hit and she couldn’t have been more gracious.

“I loved doing the show,” she told me. “Everyone was so welcoming and great about everything. I was amazed that no matter what the weather — because it rained a lot when we were shooting — they all went on as if the sun was shining. They were wonderfully professional.” Her character, Martha Levinson, appeared in only two episodes but left quite an impact on viewers — particularly when Martha sparred with Violet, the Dowager Countess played by the legendary Maggie Smith. “That was one of my favorite days on the set,” Ms. MacLaine told me of the scene where she and Ms. Smith sat for hours in a church pew waiting for the ill-fated wedding of Lady Edith to begin. “We spent eight hours talking about life, and we never ran out of things to say.” I bet. Before she dashed out the door — she only stayed long enough to say her hellos — I asked whether she’d be returning to the series and she said, “Yes. We start shooting soon. I’m looking forward to it.” So are we.

Liz Smith with her party pals and her armadillo cake

Now, back to Liz’s lunch (described as a “southern confab”), which Hearst’s Deb Shriver put together with scribe Julia Reed and ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong. Deb was putting the finishing touches on the table, which included a bouquet of yellow roses arranged in Joe’s Texas bronzed boot and a specially designed menu (fried chicken, collard greens and corn bread) featuring a photo of Liz at a year old. Liz and Joe have a long friendship that dates back to 1968 when Joe first arrived in New York and met the fellow Texan. They forged an unbreakable bond. “I didn’t know one person when I came here and found out she was raised a block from where my mama grew up in Fort Worth. She was the only person I met who I thought didn’t talk with an accent.” The two have been great pals ever since.

Shirley MacLaine stops by Michael’s

Southern belle Deb, who has written two fabulous books on New Orleans including the gorgeous Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, surprised Liz with one of the most unusual birthday cakes ever served at Michael’s or anywhere else for that matter, and had a Brooklyn baker recreate the Steel Magnolias armadillo red velvet cake. Ms. MacLaine, as you might recall, was one of the stars of the 1989 film, and she arrived with the film’s screenwriter Robert Harling to jazz up the festivities. They departed before Michael’s staff paraded through the dining room with the life-size armadillo on a platter, raising  more than a few eyebrows. Clearly thrilled by the gesture, Liz was served the head of the baked beast while the rest of the guests dug into the ‘carcass.’ Mmm… yummy.

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A Party for Emily Blunt & Ewan McGregor; Katie Couric Holds Court

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It’s been a pretty wild winter at Michael’s. Far from suffering from the seasonal doldrums, the place has been operating on full tilt every Wednesday with a fresh array of A-listers that always make for some pretty good people watching. Today was no exception.

Besides the jam packed dining room filled with boldface names, Peggy Siegal was hosting a party for Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt to celebrate the release of their latest picture, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I caught up with Emily (I loved her scene-stealing turn with Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada) when we both stopped by Katie Couric‘s table to say hello. “It is a bit unusual,” Emily said when I asked her about the movie’s quirky title. “I’m hoping that it will make people want to check it out and see what it’s really all about. It’s really a lovely love story.” I saw the trailer, I told her, and it does look pretty romantic. “It is! I hope people will like it.” Emily has been making the rounds to promote the film and has a funny Q&A in this week’s New York magazine where she talks about she and her husband, John Krasinski (the cute guy on The Office) being neighbors with Jimmy Kimmel. Everyone, it seems, loves her hubby including Katie. “He’s just so adorable,” Katie told Emily, who could hardly disagree.

Katie Couric with Ewan McGregor and a host of well-wishers.

I was joined today by Bravo’s newest reality star, matchmaker Lori Zaslow, whose show Love Broker premiered this week, Bravo’s SVP of Communications Jennifer Geisser, and communications manager Ryan McCormick. I caught Lori’s first show and her Monday night appearance on Watch What Happens Live! A new Bravolebrity is born!

The White Plains native and former executive recruiter started her matchmaking business, Project Soulmate, in 2009 with childhood friend Jennifer Zucher and wasn’t looking for TV fame when Bravo came calling. Andy Cohen loved her “big personality” and was determined to get her on-air. ”Bravo loves the love space,” Lori told me. After an eight-month courtship, she finally relented and agreed to do the show. The series was shot in eight weeks last summer. Lori admitted being a little nervous about seeing the finished product. Based on  the first episode, it seems she had nothing to worry about. In the days since the premiere, she’s been deluged with calls from folks looking to make a love connection, including plenty of mothers looking to find mates for their sons. Says Lori, “I realize just how good this could be for our business.” Yup.

The married Manhattan mother of two told me that she’s always been a “natural connector” matching friends, family and strangers with potential mates, ‘Mommy’ friends, nannies and even housekeepers. But she’s clearly most passionate about helping people find love. “No one can’t live without love. It’s scientifically proven that married men live 10 years longer than single men,” she says. “Why isn’t love put first in people’s lives? Today people are working so hard on their lives and careers, but they don’t make time for love. It’s all about striking the right balance.” Lori works exclusively with New York clients, so I asked her why it’s so hard to find the right person in Manhattan. “It’s so easy to meet people here, but it’s really hard to connect,” she explained. “There are too many distractions.” That’s where she comes in. Most of her clients (“98 percent”) are men, and she needs “20 times the amount of women” in order to find the right mate for those looking for love. How does she do it? ”I’m fearless when it comes to love,” she says.  ”I will always go up to anyone who looks interesting and ask, ‘Are you single?’ Most people are flattered. Who wouldn’t want to meet someone great if they’re looking?”

Lori says that there is no bad place to meet “your soul mate” —  it’s just a matter of being open to the experience. The gym, Whole Foods on Sunday nights when most men do their shopping, and even jury duty are fertile ground. Just don’t go looking in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily go. ”Don’t join a runners’ club if you hate running,” she advises. “Like goes to like. Be who you are. Enjoy yourself and enjoy your life.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. HollywoodLife.com editor in chief Bonnie Fuller and PMC vice chairman Gerry Byrne. In attendance: BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, Ann Lawlor, The Weinstein Company’s Meryl Poster, fashionista Fern Mallis, Mesa Global’s Mark Patricof, style expert Jill Martin, AdWeek‘s Lisa Granatstein and HollywoodLife.com publisher Carlos Lamadrid.

2. Terry McDonnell and CBS News This Morning‘s Gayle King

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who was brandishing a cane. A little birdie told me the mayor was hobbled by too much bronco busting. Be careful out there!

4. Wowowow.com’s Joni Evans and Liz Smith. Great to see you!

Katie Couric and Cindi Berger
Katie Couric and Cindi Berger

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Kathie Lee Gifford, Marlo Thomas And The Best Seller Brigade

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The joint was jumping when I arrived for my weekly lunch at Michael’s today. Between the bestselling authors, media mavens, and the social swans of the Upper East Side, there was a real buzz in the room — or was it just all that pesky pollen from the azaleas on every table?

I was joined today by jewelry designer and all around renaissance woman Carol Brodie. I’ve known Carol since her days at Harry Winston when she managed to get every A-lister you could possibly name to show up at the Academy Awards dripping in the iconic house’s diamonds. In 2009, Carol launched her own fine jewelry collection, Rarities, on HSN and has become the shopping network’s number one resource for fine gems. With prices ranging from $59.90 up to $10,000 for one of a kind pieces, that’s a lot of bling! It’s amazing to learn just how much people pony up sitting at home watching in their pajamas. She’s also launching a collection of watches next month.

Carol has become something of an overnight success in the digital world, since her mantra is ”click and order” over “bricks and mortar.” As a completely digital brand, she has garnered plenty of attention for her social media prowess and recently spoke at the Fashion 140 conference at Lincoln Center along with fellow Twitter fanatics Robert Verdi and Elle’s Joe Zee. Besides the “priceless” exposure she gets on HSN (her next appearance is scheduled for May 20, when the network celebrates ‘Brazilian Day’), Carol stays in constant contact with her customers through Facebook and tweets up to the minute on virtually everything she is doing, wearing and selling. (She, of course, tweeted our lunch.)

“Social media is the ‘Main Street’ of my brand,” she told me. “I want to talk directly to my customers, and they want to talk directly to me.” Carol is also planning to do a lot more talking with an upcoming book and television show in development (“a cross between Antique Roadshow and Pawn Brokers“) that she’s working on with a former Oprah producer. She kind of makes you feel guilty about all those hours spent watching Bravo instead of designing your website, doesn’t she?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Sam Haskell, author (Promises I Made My Mother) and former head of William Morris’ worldwide television division, with his wife and daughter — both named Mary. The group was  joined by Kathie Lee Gifford, who I grabbed for a brief chat. When I asked how her Mother’s Day was, she said, “It will be better tonight — Cody is coming home from college!”

2. Former HarperCollins head Jane Friedman, now CEO and co-founder of Open Road with uber ad man Richard Kirshenbaum and Jeffrey Sharp, president and co-founder of Open Road.

3. Diane Sokolov

4. Charlie Schuler

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An Incognito Laurie Dhue & The Summer Swells

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Even presidential gridlock couldn’t keep the diehards away from Michael’s today. While President Obama dished with the gals on The View across town, the usual mix of media mavens, moguls and socialites pecked at their lunches and traded war stories about their oh so busy summers. Overheard in the ladies’ room: “The traffic in the Hamptons is worse than ever!” and “There’s just too many parties to get to this year!” What a pity.

I was lunching today with Amy Matthews, licensed contractor and host of This New House, premiering Thursday night on DIY. In it, she and co-host Kevin O’Connor travel the country in search of the latest and greatest innovations in home building and construction. The mission of the show, explains Amy, is to teach do-it-yourselfers how to spruce up their homes using their own muscle.

Fresh off an appearance on The Early Show this morning, Amy looks more like a movie star (think a younger Virgina Madsen) than a hardhat, but she says she came to love all things construction from her dad while growing up in Minneapolis. She recommends home improvement novices start by consulting the experts and trying “cosmetic” projects like painting or switching kitchen and bathroom faucets first. But if you think you’re ready and want to have some real fun, pick up a pickaxe and go for it. “A lot of people find doing their own demolition very therapeutic,” she says. “Plus, you can save yourself a lot of money.”

In the series this season, Amy and Kevin meet up with all kinds of inventors, builders and scientists that are sure to get you off the couch and into your local hardware store. One of her favorite inventions, she says, is an at-home system that allows doors in private homes to operate like those handy automatic ones at your favorite big box store. Just the thing you’ll need when you come home ladened with packages from the new Target uptown. We’ll be tuning in.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong (Long time no see!) and pals David Patrick Columbia who celebrated a birthday earlier this week, Joan Jacobsen, Patrick Murphy and Mary McDonagh Murphy. I stopped to say my hello’s and found out the gang was celebrating the release of Mary’s new book Scout, Atticus & Boo which celebrates the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird. Congrats!

2. An almost unrecognizable Laurie Dhue, who exchanged her usual anchorwoman ‘do for a slicked back look today, and some equally attractive gal pals.

3. Dynastic dynamos: Margo McNabe Nederlander and Haley Steinbrenner Swindal

4. Jerry Inzerillo

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Lunch: ‘Bag Lady’ & Madoff Victim Alexandra Penney: ‘Writing Well is the Best Revenge!’

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Things must be looking up in the journalism biz, because Michael’s dining room was jam packed with media folks of every stripe. While CEOs and spinmeisters held court from their usual perches, writers and editors were shoehorned in all over the place. I was glad I got there early because I bumped into former Self editor-in-chief Alexandra Penney, who I had not talked to since she authored the much buzzed about book, How to Make Love to a Man. “That was another life ago,” said Alexandra. I’ll say. Last fall, I was riveted by her posts on The Daily Beast where she chronicled the emotional and financial devastation that almost consumed her when she lost everything thanks to Bernie Madoff‘s ponzi scheme.

Alexandra bravely wrote about her experiences for Tina Brown‘s site under posts dubbed ‘The Bag Lady Papers,” because, she says simply, “I needed money.” When agent Ed Victor read her deeply personal revelations he told her, “I think you might have a book here.” And indeed she did. The Bag Lady Papers is due out February 16 from Hyperion’s Voice imprint. “When something like this happens, it either galvanizes you or devastates you. I chose to be galvanized because I had to. It’s amazing what you can do when you really need to.”

I was joined today by another enterprising woman, my good friend Dr. Robi Ludwig. In addition to her thriving private practice as a psychotherapist, Robi is a frequent contributor to the Today show where she weighs in on modern relationships and the celebrity crack-up of the moment. She’s logged plenty of airtime trying to get inside Tiger Woods‘ marital meltdown, and she and Redbook‘s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison dished with Al Roker just yesterday on what couples are fighting about most these days (If you guessed money, you’re right). When Robi is not seeing patients or lending her expert opinion on matters of the heart, she keeps busy with her “inspirational” jewelry line for QVC, Dr. Robi. After her first book, Till Death Do Us Part: Inside the Mind of A Killer Spouse (Atria), kept her busy on the talk show circuit, she is now hard at work on her second which will offer tips on how to have a happier marriage during these stressful times. Earlier this month, she also signed on as a contributor to care.com, an online community and comprehensive source for people searching for caregivers of all kinds from babysitters to eldercare workers. “I’ve always loved the idea of not pigeonholing myself,” says Robi. “There’s no reason to do just one thing if you’re passionate about a lot different things.” Obviously.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer.

2. A casually clad Paul Wilmot (loved the sweater!) and Omnicom’s CEO Tom Harrison

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Norris Mailer

4. Former William Morris chairman Jim Wiatt and Quadrangle Group’s Josh Steiner

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Lunch: Charlie Rose, Joe Scarborough, and the Summer Die-Hards

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— DIANE CLEHANE

With the dog days of summer upon us, the usual suspects at Michael’s are soldiering on over their Cobb salads until it’s time to take off those last few weeks of the month to the Hamptons, Nantucket or some other sun-filled spot far from the madding crowd. In the meantime, the random celebrity sighting is keeping things interesting. Word of illusionist JB Benn‘s sleight of hand tricks that kept the crowd bedazzled last week must have gotten around the magician’s union because my spies told me that David Blaine walked in without a reservation yesterday and was bending quarters for everybody’s amusement. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with publishing powerhouse turned Internet entrepreneur Joni Evans, whose five-month old site Wowowow.com is going great guns. Joni, who is wow’s CEO, launched the site with pals Liz Smith, Peggy Noonan, Mary Wells and Lesley Stahl for “self-assured women who are a bit too old to care what everybody thinks.” This month, Joni kicked off “The Book Party” with Judith Martin (Miss Manners) reading a collection of the classics. “It’s been incredibly well-received,” she says, and plans are in the works to expand the vertical in all sorts of interesting ways. And that’s not all — Joni tells me in the not-so-distant future the site will introduce a new fashion maven into the mix to cover style and a health vertical ‘Medicine Ball.’ The site’s content is popping up on MSN.com, Fox.com and Yahoo’s Shine. For more dish about Joni and her newfound career, check out her interview with me for our “So What Do You Do?” series coming next month …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Charlie Rose and an unidentifed young blonde gal

2. Peter Brown

3. Jonathan Tisch and John Sykes

4. Michael Fuchs and Peggy Siegal

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