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Posts Tagged ‘Judy Twersky’

Fern Mallis and One Criminally Dressed Designer | Dishing With a Global Ambassador

LunchAtMichaelsIt’s been somewhat of a mixed bag at Michael’s this month with plenty of the famous faces usually spotted on Wednesdays having already hightailed it outta here for the Hamptons, Nantucket and other chichi vacation spots. Between TCA, Allen & Co.’s recent summit for movers and shakers and the seemingly daily announcements touting seismic changes in publishing, we’ve also noticed it’s been a bit quieter (in terms of bold face names, not decibel level) at 55th and Fifth in recent weeks. Still, in service to our faithful readers, we kept our weekly date to check in on those intrepid power lunchers who are still dishing despite summer’s siren call.

Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane, Bisila Bokoko and Judy Agisim.

Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane, Bisila Bokoko and Judy Agisim.

Today I was joined by fashion industry insider Mickey Ateyeh, fresh off her vacation in Italy, who, it must be said, knows everyone who is anyone. Mickey put together today’s lunch to introduce me to her longtime pal, PR maven Judith Agisim, who, in turn, brought along her client Bisila Bokoko. I’d seen Judith in this very room many times but never had the occasion to meet her. And, as you already know, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

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The Media Mob Featuring Bob Barnett and Jack Kliger | Disney’s Fabulous New Foodie

Lunch At MichaelsIf you were to find the appropriate food metaphor for a Wednesdays at Michael’s I’d say it’s a tasty stew served hot with a number of surprise ingredients that can spice things up at a moment’s notice. That’s precisely what happened today when I was joined by passionate foodie and patron saint of farmers everywhere Tessa Edick, founder of FarmOn!, a 501 (c)3 organization, which she launched in 2011 and which was recently featured on Forbes.com. She describes FarmOn! as ”a social responsibility that supports the local food system and funds educational opportunities in agricultural for students pursuing farm-related careers.” In short, Tessa’s mission through FarmOn! is to get the world — or at least all of New York — starting with the Hudson Valley — to recognize the important role farmers (who she calls “starmers” — get it?). My pal, the tireless and terrific Judy Twersky brought us together along with Beyond PR Group’s partner Beth Feldman today and believe me, I learned more about where the food we eat comes from than I could ever hope to tell you in the time allotted to write this column. My head was spinning like never before by the time we said our goodbyes. Trust me, I’ll never buy a container of hard-boiled eggs while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike again.

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane

Dynamic Tessa is a one-woman empire who has an exciting new deal with Disney (more on that later), has a new book out in September (ditto) and is sure to be a name you’ll know, if you don’t already, very soon. Born and raised in upstate New York, Tessa told me she was born with a passion for food that was nurtured by her Italian-born mother (her great grandparents owned a dairy farm). Despite growing up in an economically depressed area, she and her siblings were “happy and healthy” due in large part, she says, to the way they ate food purchased from local farmers. But, she explained, as she grew older she wanted a life away from the country and went off in search of ”glamour and success” in the big city. At 27, she returned to her roots and started her own food company, Sauces n’ Love with her ex-husband (she sold the company to him in 2010). Just as Tessa was extolling the many virtues of buying from your local farmer (or, at the very least, knowing where the food you are eating comes from), proprietor Michael McCarty sauntered over to our table. When I introduced him to Tessa and told him about her mission on behalf of the farmers, he told us he was once a duck farmer way back when in 1976 when he had the first foie gras farm in the United States. Small world, no?

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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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Vanessa Williams, Senator Chris Dodd and Carlos Falchi on His Encounter With Jackie O

LunchAtMichaelsThey don’t call this “Upfront Week” for nothing. It was clear from the SRO dining room at Michael’s today everyone who’s anyone (at least among certain circles) wanted to be up front at 55th and Fifth. Of course, this delicate dance was pulled off with aplomb by the clever and infinitely gracious Loreal Sherman. We don’t know how she does it. After all, at Michael’s you are where you seat. TV titans (Matt Blank, Steve Mosko, Henry Schlieff), actress Vanessa Williams (rocking a hippie look and some cool shades) and even a U.S. senator (Chris Dodd) were all high up in the pecking order as the usual suspects filled in the blanks. We were thrilled to score our favorite table (7) for a fun-filled and fascinating confab with iconic designer Carlos Falchi, his incredible daughter Kate Falchi and trusted friend and adviser Mickey Ateyeh — who, incidentally, happens to know every single person in the city and did her best to introduce us to anyone who walked by our table today.

Front: Diane Clehane and Carlos Falchi; Back: Kate Falchi and Mickey Ateyeh

Front: Diane Clehane and Carlos Falchi; Back: Kate Falchi and Mickey Ateyeh

I first met the Brazilian-born designer in this very room (where else?) when Mickey introduced us. But I’d certainly known of his work for many years. While the word “legend” is as commonplace as tech startups these days, Carlos is one of the few designers today who is actually more than worthy of the moniker. His signature handbags and accessories in exotic skins have always been manufactured in New York City and have earned him legions of fans that range from the ladies who lunch of the Upper East Side and in those cities in Texas where big spenders rule (“Those ladies love their handbags!”) to their fashion-savvy granddaughters. But lest you think that Carlos is the dowagers’ designer of choice, think again. His roots go back to his days of making hand-stitched leather clothing for Miles Davis, Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. And his rock-and-roll sensibility is very much a part of his individualistic ethos today. Before our lunch he’d just come from a meeting with HSN executives, during which he was formulating plans to be part of the shopping network’s designer collective of limited-edition pieces being produced as an homage to the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary.

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Dick Button Talks Sochi Security, Today’s ‘Pip Squeak’ Jumps and Nonsensical Scoring

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Diane Clehane and Dick Button

With all of the Northeast in the deep freeze and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics just hours away, it seemed more than fitting that this week’s “Lunch” date was with Dick Button. (Since the umpteenth snowstorm of the season kept us away from Michael’s yesterday, we decided to meet today for a special Thursday edition of this column.) The two-time Olympic gold medalist and legendary broadcaster has written a new book, Push Dick’s Button, which he adamantly says, “is not a biography or a memoir or about the history of skating” but rather “a conversation” because, he explained, “I’ve got plenty to say about a lot of things.” I’ll say. Dick told me the self-published tome’s title comes from the name of the popular segments he did on various networks while covering skating competitions in 2006 and 2007, inviting viewers to send in questions that he answered on air. “NBC once told me that all that material used on-air was their property. I was told you can’t copyright a title so if they sue me, it’s more publicity for the book!”

We were joined by public relations maven extraordinaire Judy Twersky and Pat Eisemann, director of publicity at Henry Holt and Company, who are both good pals of Dick’s. It was Pat who signed Dick to write what was supposed to be a memoir back in the late nineties when she acquired the manuscript while at Scribner. Since then, she told me, she’s helped him shape his story and advise him on self publication. Why the long delay? Dick told me a serious brain injury (from which he’s fully recovered) which resulted from a bad fall while skating (just for fun) made him shelve the project because, as he said with characteristic candor, “I just couldn’t hack it at the time. Writing a book is hard work.”

Not that Dick has ever rested on his laurels. After an extraordinary and much lauded tenure as one of America’s best figure skaters, Dick began his decades-long career in broadcasting in 1960 as a commentator for CBS covering the Winter Olympics. He moved to ABC in 1962 and in short order became figure skating’s most colorful analyst best known for his sometimes-irascible and often-irrepressible appraisal of skaters’ performances. His last Olympics as an on-air commentator was in 2010 at the Winter Games in Vancouver. “I’ve said I’m glad I’m not going to Russia, but I lied,” Dick told me between bites of roast chicken. “I’d love to be there.”

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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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Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington and a Socialite Celebration

1003_mockup.gifWe were so disappointed to hear we missed Alec Baldwin by a day. A little birdie told me Manhattan’s most famous newlywed was in an extremely good mood yesterday as he dined with a mystery gal with a British accent (Attention Andrea Peyser!). Here’s another tasty tidbit about the 30 Rock star: He is apparently not done with Twitter as he tweeted about the dessert sent to him by Michael’s GM Steve Millington congratulating him on his headline-making nuputials. I just thought you’d like to know.

Now, on to today’s crowd. This being the last few weeks before everyone takes off for their cottages in the Hamptons and family compounds in Maine, Michael’s was chock full of A-listers, including Barbara WaltersArianna Huffington and a squadron of social types. I was joined today by Marianne Howatson and Kendell Cronstrom and we had plenty to talk about. I’ve known Mariane since her days at Conde Nast where she was publisher of Travel & Leisure and Self. She then went on to be group publisher of Gruner+Jahr. These days, she is CEO and publication director of three gorgeous shelter books: Connecticut Cottages & GardensHamptons Cottages & Gardens and the company’s newest edition, New York Cottages & Gardens which launched in March.

Marianne bought the books in 2009 because she says, “I was in love with the magazines.” And, it seems, she’s not alone. “Every house I go into in the Hamptons, the magazine is right there on the table. It’s wonderful to see.” The appeal of the books lies in their “sense of place” and the feeling of “intimacy” that connects the reader to its design-focused content, explained Marianne. The books’ affluent, passionate readers with a median household income of $880,000 and the company’s event-driven marketing efforts have made it the advertising vehicle for luxe lifestyle brands, like Hermes, Scalamandre, ligne roset and roche bobois.  NYC &G, with  Kendell at the helm, has been so well received that Marianne decided to up the print run by 25 percent, increase the frequency from five to six times a year, and sell the book on the newsstand for $5.95. In the era of the $12 print subscription, Marianne’s asking price of $99.95 for all three titles is truly a vote of confidence for the future.

Marianne Howatson, Kendell Cronstrom and Diane Clehane

It’s clear that Marianne has set the bar high on all fronts. This year, the stellar roster of events the company has sponsored is truly impressive. In Connecticut, its Innovation in Design Awards have been recognizing the area’s leading architects and designers for six years. The magazine also sponsored the Red Cross Ball and created Pink Aid, a brilliant initiative to raise money for breast cancer awareness in partnership with Mitchell’s of Westport. The luncheon features a collection of pink chairs artfully adorned by a host of designers which line the front row at a fashion show of a top designer. Guests pay $1,000 to sit in the chairs and afterwards they are available for sale. Last year’s event raised $330,000 for area hospitals. This year’s event is scheduled for October 4 and will feature a Ralph Lauren fashion show. CTC&G Editor D.J. Carey has also redesigned the book’s logo for September which, explains Marianne, will “open up” the cover, giving it an airy, more modern feel.

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Back to Business With Norma Kamali, Jeanine Pirro and William Lauder

1003_mockup.gifSpring break is over, so it’s back to business for the movers and shakers at Michael’s. Today’s crowd was the usual mix of media mavens (Keith Kelly, Jonathan Wald), stylistas (Norma Kamali, John Galantic) and money men (William Lauder), with plenty of strivers and a slew of pretty young things thrown in for good measure.

I was joined today by Kelly Langberg, who I met at Michael’s last month when she was celebrating her birthday at Table One with her nearest and dearest. When I got a gander of the fabulous jewelry she was wearing, I just had to go over to get a closer look. It turned out that Kelly had designed the pieces herself and had a thriving  business selling the beautiful bling to her well-heeled clients. At today’s lunch, Kelly explained how her jewelry inadvertently served as a launch pad for her now four-year-old business as the makeover maven to Manhattan’s chic set.

Having had a successful career pre-motherhood in investment banking and commercial real estate, Kelly was looking for something new that would allow her to have more time to spend with her children when they were little. Some years ago while on vacation at a swanky resort,  not one, but two different women who she’d run into over the course of her stay and admired her personal style asked her if she’d accompany them (separately) to the hotel’s pricey jewelry boutique to pick out something fabulous. “It was so random,” Kelly recalled, “but I did it for fun and wound up having things made for them at a fraction of the price. I thought to myself, ‘I think I found a business.’”

Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg
Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg

In no time at all, Kelly found herself advising her jewelry clients on everything from their hairstyles and makeup to plastic surgery options. “I’d show up at apartments to talk about jewelry and a client would say, ‘What do you think about my neck? What should I do with my hair?” said Kelly.  ”In 20 years in business, people have shown me just about everything you could imagine. I’ve seen it all.”

The enterprising Kelly decided to turn her exhaustive knowledge of the beauty business (“The best doctors, stylists, makeup artists — I know them all”) into a bonafide business. Today, she works individually with every client, listening carefully to their desires and needs (“A lot of this is therapy”) and even accompanies them to doctor’s offices and salons to ask the tough questions or just give her honest opinion on what works and what doesn’t.

While Kelly advises the creme de la creme of Manhattan on the very best places to go for those big ticket items like plastic surgery (she’d just come from a surgeon’s office with a client) and cosmetic dentistry, she is completely obsessed with helping clients find the perfect hairstyle. ”It all starts with the hair,” Kelly says. “You could have a great smile, terrific posture and a great wardrobe. If your hair is wrong, it’s all wrong.” As if on cue, proprietor Michael McCarty came by (he and Kelly go way back) to say hello, and we complimented him on his new, shorter locks which we decided made him look downright boyish. He told us his wife Kim McCarty had suggested he try her stylist who recently relocated from London to Malibu, where the couple lives. “I have a great person for you here in town, because you need one when you’re here,” Kelly told him. “I’m taking you over there. Let me know when you want to go.” And that was that.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Dan Rather, Steve Kroft and An Encore Appearance by John Legend

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I got several emails last week when I was on vacation alerting me to John Legend‘s presence in the dining room. “You’re missing him!” texted one faithful “Lunch” reader. “Oh well,” I thought, “next time.” Imagine my surprise when the singer magically appeared in the dining room today and even shot me a big smile on the way to his corner table. How thoughtful of him to schedule a return engagement on a Wednesday!

I was joined today by uber publicist Judy Twersky and her agency’s account supervisor, Jennifer Bristol, who I met in this very dining room through our mutual friend, Diane Dimond. A little birdie told me that Judy knows just about everybody and has represented a very interesting mix of famous folks so I knew lunch would be fun. I wasn’t disappointed.

Judy, who once toiled as media director for Ogilvy & Mather, started her own firm in 1992 and has had an impressive roster of clients, including Maury Povich, Dr. Andrew Weil and none other than actor James Earl Jones. (No word on how he felt being banished to the bleachers at the Oscars while Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy took to the stage). Judy, who tells me she gets most of her clients through word of mouth, specializes in authors but also handles her fair share of celebrities. Her current client list includes former CIA agent-turned-photographer Hank O’Neal, who has traveled the world chronicling street art. His new book, aptly titled XCIA’s Street Art Project (Siman Media Works), will debut in March along with a mobile app. None other than Tony Bennett praises Hank’s work as “one of the greatest contemporary works of art I have ever experienced.”

Jennifer Bristol, Diane Clehane, Judy Twersky
Jennifer Bristol, Diane Clehane and Judy Twersky

Judy also reps pianist Richard Glazier, whose PBS special, “From Ragtime to Reel Time: Richard Glazier in Concert” premieres on stations around the country next week. Judy first met Richard on a TCM cruise and was enthralled by his skills as a raconteur as he regaled the audience (who stayed up way past their bedtimes) with the stories behind the “Great American Songbook” and tales of his childhood friendship with Ira Gershwin. Richard is coming to New York next month to be feted by violinist Joshua Bell.

Speaking of great parties, Judy’s 60th birthday bash made “Page Six” recently with the news that Paul Shaffer wrote a song especially for her to mark the occasion. (Paul’s wife Cathy is Judy’s best friend, and Judy is now managing the couple’s 19-year-old daughter Victoria Shaffer who has aspirations to host her own talk show). Her good pals also arranged for The Naked Cowboy to come in and sweep her off her feet (literally). “You can book him for 15-minute sessions,” Judy told me with a laugh. “I couldn’t believe it.” Who needs birthday cake when you can be serenaded by a man in his underwear?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Dan Rather and another important looking gent we didn’t recognize

2. Peter Brown

3. 60 MinutesSteve Kroft and  journo Jackie Leo, engrossed in some important looking papers

4. John Legend (in jeans) and Warner Music Group CEO  Lyor Cohen

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