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Posts Tagged ‘Larry Bernstein’

Dishing With Countess LuAnn de Lesseps; Willie Geist and Lawrence O’Donnell Hold Court

lunch logoThe oppressive heat couldn’t keep the faithful away  from Michael’s today. I haven’t seen the place this crowded in ages as most tables were set for four (or more). In fact, the place was so jam packed that TV Guide magazine acting CEO and Wednesday regular Jack Kliger was seated in the Garden Room. Unlike a few people I could mention, Jack is far too cool to care  about something as petty as seating arrangements. Just like the rest of the crowd — not.

Carole Radziwill, one of the more recent additions to the cast of  The Real Housewives of New York City was first to arrive in the dining room today. The alarmingly thin socialite was sporting a curious furry accessory that was neither pet nor purse, sky-high platforms and a sweet flowered dress. Carole passed the time waiting for the rest of her party to arrive by taking pictures of the life-size sculptures of sheep that stand in the restaurant’s lounge. Alrighty then.

Speaking of Housewives, I was joined today by one of my favorite members of the franchise, LuAnn de Lesseps, who drove in from the Hamptons for our tete a tete. The statuesque former model (she’s 5’10″!) has always seemed like one of the more down to earth — and dare we say normal — Bravolebrities. She was all that and more. PR princess extraordinaire Catherine Saxton, who knows everyone who is anyone and is off to the south of France in a few days for the first of the big St. Tropez parties aboard Denise Rich‘s yacht, then go off to join Ivana Trump for her party in St. Tropez  before finally landing in Monte Carlo for a whirlwind of swanky dinners (Can we carry your luggage?), arranged for today’s ladies’ lunch. Between bites of crab cakes and salmon tartare, we chatted about LuAnn’s sixth season on RHNYC, her various projects and, of course, her love life. It’s no secret that LuAnn was one of the last ladies to sign on to the new season of the show. “I waited until I was happy with their offer,” she told me, dismissing rumors that the cast was banding together for salary increases. “Things were handled individually.” While she’s too polite to talk about such gauche topics as money — she did write the manners manual Class with the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair, after all!  But she is upfront about her reasons for sticking with the show. “It’s a great platform.” All the better to ride the wave as long as you can, no? Mais oui! ”We didn’t expect it to last this long,” said LuAnn.

Catherine Saxton, Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Like most of the industrious Housewives set, LuAnn has managed to turn in her 15 minutes into a fledgling empire that includes her book, the record “Money Can’t Buy You Class” and several product lines like tabletop that includes melamine dinnerware and elegant bone china which is currently being sold on QVC and Amazon.com (“Inspired by my love of entertaining and my travels”). Next up is a collection of turquoise jewelry with Gem Stone King. “I love costume jewelry!” she said as she flashed a Wilma Flinstone-inspired pearl bracelet by Twisted. Clearly, the serious bling encased in gold on her finger today was the real thing. “Yes, it’s a star sapphire. This ring was designed by the same man who has done jewelry for Queen Elizabeth.” And not, I’m guessing, available on QVC.

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Star Jones, Henry Schleiff & A Squadron of Spinmeisters

1003_mockup.gifAfter several back-to-back weeks of a somewhat boisterous SRO crowd at Michael’s, it was a bit of a relief to find a more subdued dining room today. The dreary rain (will it ever end?!) seems to have kept some of the town car set at their desks. But, this being Wednesday, the usual suspects (Star Jones, Henry Schleiff) made their way to their perches to scope out the scene and be seen. Lunch is never just lunch, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

I was joined today by Town & Country‘s editor-in-chief Jay Fielden and Holly Whidden, Hearst’s executive director of public relations. After chatting about our mutual bewilderment about the sometimes ‘insular’ life in suburban Connecticut and the Mad Men season finale — it was agreed we could have lived without seeing Roger Sterling nude in all his LSD-fueled glory — we had a fascinating chat about the reinvigorated and decidedly more engaging Town & Country.

Since joining T&C from Men’s Vogue last March, Jay has endeavored to infuse the book with more wit and insight into the rarefied world of the one percenters while respecting the mag’s storied history (something it had somehow forgotten to do over time). “So many magazines are good at going back and reminding people about what they’re really good at. Town & Country didn’t do as good a job at that as it could have. I admire the modesty, but I also think we have to own what we have,” said Jay. ”The magazine been around since 1846, so there’s a reason to be respectful, but I wanted to interpret and channel that richness differently.” And he has. Eschewing the usual route of “a glorified catalog” of conspicuous consumption that defines so many in the luxury category, Jay has chosen to examine the life of America’s rich from the inside, profiling people ”who have ascended to prominence based on their achievements and earned their position.” What a concept.

Since his first issue last September, Jay has carefully chosen cover subjects that readers wouldn’t find on any other magazine. Among his most noteworthy choices: Ali McGraw during her Love Story days (with a profile and stunning recent photos of the actress today) as a valentine for February, The Richard girls (as in Keith‘s daughters) and The Hemingways. “There’s a real freedom with not having to pick the same old people that other magazines do,” Jay told me. “We want to take some risks, sharpen our point of view. It might not be for everyone, but we’re not doing a warmed over version of something else. We want to be original.”

Holly Whidden, Jay Fielden and Diane Clehane
Holly Whidden, Jay Fielden and Diane Clehane

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Tina Brown, Al Roker and Facebook’s Flummoxed Friends

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The holidays are over (finally!), so it was back to business for the moguls and mavens that trickled into Michael’s today. The telltale sign was last month’s run on red wine has been replaced by orders of Diet Coke (No more ducking out early ‘to go Christmas shopping’ for you!), and there was plenty of talk about New Year’s resolutions and diets of every description. “I hate January,” said one fashionista who hardly looked like she had anything to worry about. “Nothing fits! And going back to the gym is such an effort.” We feel your pain.

The other hot topic everyone was talking about was Facebook — but not in the way you might expect. While the news is full of reports about the cash infusion from Goldman Sachs and the $1.5 billion fund from private investors (helped, no doubt, by all our witty posts), the movers and shakers in the dining room were debating the finer points of what to post and who to  friend on the site.

“I’m using it to build my personal brand,” one diner told me. “And I’ll do it as soon as I figure out what I want that brand to be.”  Author Pamela Keogh told me she maintains two friends lists: one for her nearest and dearest and one for fans of her books. Her lunch date, James Curtis, who is new to the whole thing, is trying to build a friends list without committing any social faux pas. “It’s funny,” he noted. “You’re friends with people on Facebook that you don’t know that well, and then there are people you do know well that you don’t want to ‘friend.’ It’s like high school all over again.”

We understand completely. That mean girl who kept us out of the popular sorority keeps sending a friend request which we just keep ignoring. Sweet revenge!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang” all present and accounted for: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman

2. New York Observer publisher (and Ivanka Trump‘s adoring hubby) Jared Kushner with a well-heeled fellow we didn’t recognize.

3. The Early Show: Public relations maven Lisa Linden with New York lobbyist Kevin Fullington.  (He’s a Republican, in case you were wondering) Take two: Today show weatherman Al Roker enjoying a romantic lunch with wife Deborah Roberts.  See, sometimes lunch is just lunch.

4. Leonard Lauder with two pals. The cosmetics industry legend recently received WWD‘s first-ever Visionary Award. Congrats!

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