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Posts Tagged ‘Julia Reed’

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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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Garden & Gun *But Were Afraid to Ask

If you live on the Northeast, you may not know much about Garden & Gun, which won a National Magazine Award this year, after host Katie Couric declared it a favorite of hers at the ceremony. But according to a WWD profile, the bimonthly magazine  attracts a readership “so avid that many of them pay an extra $500 a year just to be a part of its ‘secret society.’” And this is what those members receive:

A weekend tote bag, a decal and, like an invitation to the lavish wedding of a distant but admired relative, the opportunity to spend another $5,000 to attend an annual weekend retreat with the magazine’s writers, editors and contributors at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

So, where do we sign up? And some other details: the magazine’s name comes from the old Garden & Gun nightclub in Charleston, SC, apparently the “Southern-style Studio 54.” “You knew it was the place to be without being able to pinpoint why,” said contributing editor Julia Reed. “The magazine captures that.”

So what exactly does the magazine cover? It attracts the sort of readers “who appreciate the perfect mint julep, a new pecan pie recipe, deer and duck hunting in Mississippi and reading lots and lots of dog stories.” Which, apparently, is a growing number of people, even well outside the South. “I can’t remember whether it was my wife or Karl Rove who told me about it first. Now there’s a sentence,” said ex-Newsweek editor and current Random House executive editor Jon Meacham.

Richard Belzer, Deborah Norville & the Real Ari Gold!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dog days have arrived. Just ask Richard Belzer, who showed up in the Michael’s dining room today with his pooch tucked under his arm. (No word on what Fido ordered.) The rest of the crowd barely noticed as the usual media mavens, publicists and Hollywood types table hopped and air kissed like crazy. Who has time for a summer vacation when there’s business to be done?

I was lunching today with Dr. Brent Ridge, one of the stars of Planet Green’s new reality show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys. The show chronicles the lives of Brent and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, as the fish-out-of-water couple turn their Sharon Springs, New York farm into the epicenter of their new organic lifestyle brand. It’s the perfect antidote, says Brent, to the tawdry and toxic tone of other reality shows (Jersey Shore, anyone?). “It’s inspirational and educational,” says the TV star and cookbook author.

However, it’s not without the requisite drama as the boys attempt to juggle their big city careers with life down on the farm with their goats, pigs and llamas. Brent says the biggest adjustment living life in front of the camera has been dealing with how much time it takes to shoot a single episode. Since producers wanted to show just what happens season-to-season on a working farm, the shooting has stretched over several months versus the usual few weeks. “I had no concept what it took,” says Brent, who found himself scrambling after wrapping one episode when he had mere hours to get 14,000 bars of his organic soap hand wrapped and shipped.

Brent, who once toiled under Martha Stewart as vice president of Healthy Living, is also the creative force behind an upcoming auction of heirloom vegetables at Sotheby’s benefiting The New Farmer Development Project NYC and The Sylvia Center. It’s the kick off event of “Eat Drink Local” week and, says Brent, will bring out the who’s who of the city’s culinary community, many of whom will be cooking a course at the launch dinner. If you’ve got a craving to get an up close and personal look at life with Brent and Josh, you can bid on a weekend at the farm on Ebay next month or just tune in. The Fabulous Beekman Boys airs tonight at 9 on Planet Green.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Half of ‘The Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer

2. Public relations maestro Paul Wilmot

3. William Morris’ Sam Haskell and a bespectacled gal we didn’t recognize.

4. Producers John Hart and Fred Zollo with a young mystery gal.

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Julia Reed: Was Sarah Palin the ‘Right’ Target?

RNC DAY FOUR.JPGJulia Reed, Vogue political go-to scribe is currently over at wowOwow weighing-in on, you guessed it, the media’s coverage of Sarah Palin and she comes firmly down on the side of “it was sexist!”

Where was the feminist outcry? Plenty of Republican women were sickened over the treatment of Hillary Clinton (hell, even I cried at the video that introduced her convention speech), but there has been no reaching across party lines to defend Palin. Not even when Martin Peretz dismissed and demeaned her by saying, “I give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s.” If he had said that about someone who agrees with them on the issues, Steinem et al would have gone crazy. And therein lies the real truth. All the opiners who called the choice “insulting” (including my friend Sally Quinn before her about-face) really meant that it was not a choice that they would have made; she is not a woman who thinks or votes like them, she is pro-life, not pro-choice. (I too am pro-choice, but I respect the choices of other people — especially one, like Palin, who walks her talk.) Apparently only those women are worthy of defending. When so many of the most vocal critics weighed in by calling Palin a “cynical” choice, I had to ask myself, “Who is really being cynical here?