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Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Stevens’

George Lucas and Joan Hamburg’s Next Act I David Zaslav at The Mirror Awards

LunchAtMichaelsOur weekly lunches at Michael’s always deliver plenty of star power and today was no exception. When I arrived a little before noon, I was followed in the door by none other than George Lucas, who, I’m told, happened to be walking by the restaurant yesterday with his new baby daughter and her nanny in tow when he inquired if there might be a way to “squeeze him in” today. I kid you not. He’s always seemed incredibly low key on his many visits to 55th and Fifth any time I’ve seen him here. Today, the multiple Academy Award winner showed up casually clad in his signature look: a sport short, jeans and sneakers and headed right for his table, forsaking the glad handing that is favored by his fellow West Coast brethren. Despite being the first one there, he was one of the last to leave, spending the entire time deep in conversation with an elegant white-haired lady we didn’t recognize. Talking about the joys of fatherhood, perhaps?

George Lucas with a friend at Michael's

George Lucas with a friend at Michael’s

The room filled up quickly with plenty of familiar faces, including social types and publishing big wigs (Kerry Kennedy, Jay FieldenJay McInerney, Jack Kliger) as well as a fair number of fashionable folks (Joe Zee, Tomas Maier, Fern Mallis). Unfortunately my date was under the weather, so after I made my rounds I hightailed it over to Cipriani 42nd Street, where there were plenty of Michael’s regulars on hand to salute Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, who was honored with the Fred Dressler Leadership Award at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University’s Mirror Awards. In attendance: Gayle King (mistress of ceremonies), Discovery ID’s Henry Scleiff and Tom Freston, who came back from a trip to Afghanistan so he could present the award to his longtime pal “The Zas.” Tom affectionately called David “a colorful cowboy” and reminisced of David’s earliest days in cable when he “kicked some ass!”

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Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and the Skinny on Wacoal’s Sexy New Ad Campaign

LunchAtMichaelsAs Wednesdays at Michael’s go, it was a relatively quiet scene at 55th and Fifth today, but the joint was still jam packed with the usual suspects doing their power lunch thing. You know who they are by now, but your intrepid Lunch columnist is here to serve: Star Jones and Donny Deutsch represented the talking head contingent, while Jeff Greenfield and Jerry Della Femina held court at their usual table (6) with pals Dr. Gerald Imber and Michael Kramer (the boys have been meeting for their weekly lunches for decades!) There was also the requisite representation of PR mavens, including Hearst’s Deb Shriver, Susan Blond and Lisa Linden in attendance. Perhaps all the celebs were saving their strength for tonight’s offerings at The Tribeca Film Festival.

Susan Malinowski, Diane Clehane and Leslie Stevens

Susan Malinowski, Diane Clehane and Leslie Stevens

If you ask me, our table was having the most fun because I was joined by two of my favorite Gotham power gals Leslie Stevens and Susan Malinowski. We’ve known each other since preschool (not really, but you get the picture) and our paths have crossed in interesting ways throughout the years through various jobs and clients. Back in the day, Susan, now vice president of marketing at Wacoal America, was my boss at Danskin-Pennaco Hosiery. Leslie, who helms her own PR firm, LaForce + Stevens, with partner James LaForce, worked with us as a consultant. Today, Susan is shaking things up at Wacoal America and Leslie’s agency is handling spreading all the big news about what’s happening with the brand. Read more

Michael Strahan, Maria Shriver and Dishing With LuAnn de Lesseps

LunchAtMichaelsAnother Wednesday, another “Bravolebrity.” For the final leg of this month’s reality-show trifecta, I was joined today by LuAnn de Lesseps (the “Countess” to you), fresh off her trip to Chicago for an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show where she made over a few fashion-impaired civilians with oh-so-stylish looks from her new clothing line, the Countess Collection. (It will debut on Shop HQ, formerly known as Shop NBC, in May.) LuAnn is a regular contributor to Steve’s show, weighing in on all kinds of haute topics, from text etiquette while dating to how to dress like a million bucks without breaking the bank. When I lunched with her last summer, the conversation focused mainly on her role on Real Housewives of New York City and her fledgling music career. But these days the clever and stunning LuAnn, who clearly knows when to say when, has scaled back her presence on the Bravo screechfest (she’s now being billed as a “special guest star”) and is focusing primarily on “brand-building” her eponymous lifestyle brand, which, she says, is founded on the principle of “chic made easy.” After six seasons on Housewives and one of only two of the original New York City cast members left standing (tabloid favorite Ramona Singer is the other), LuAnn says, “I’m grateful for the platform the show has given me. I came into it with no preconceived notions. I didn’t watch reality television and I didn’t know what I was getting into. I signed on to do “Manhattan Moms” and thought it was going to be this nice little family-oriented show, but it turned into something else. I’m fearless and  have always had a real sense of adventure.” I’ll say.

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

LuAnn’s pre-Bravo life already read like something out of a Danielle Steel novel. The Connecticut native and nursing student who dabbled in the pageant circuit went to Europe to try her hand at modeling, but when that didn’t work out, a series of whirlwind events landed her a gig on Italian television even though she didn’t speak a word of the language. ”I was a big star — the Vanna White of Italy — paired with a man that was like their Bob Hope. Twelve million people a week were tuning in!” By the time she left three years later, she was fluent. Between bites of her crab cakes, she told me when she met her now ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, it was “magic.” As for her much-discussed title as a result of her marriage, LuAnn thinks it’s ridiculous that people assume it’s some trumped up affectation. “The de Lesseps have played a very important part in French history,” she explained, citing her husband’s descendant Ferdinand de Lesseps as the architect of the Suez Canal and the man who played a huge role in gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

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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

Barbara Walters, Joe Kernen and One Republican’s Response to the Debate

1003_mockup.gifAfter last week’s head-spinning scene where real-life democrats took campaign advice from fictional politicians (Chris Noth, you’ve got my vote), I thought I’d pretty much covered the landscape of presidential politics among the Wednesday Michael’s crowd. Nothing doing. Before I could settle in for my lunch with PR maven Leslie Stevens and cosmetics entrepreneur Patti Pao, CNBC’s Joe Kernen called me over to meet Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin who was on the air with Joe earlier today deconstructing last night’s debates (We suggest a whip and a chair for the moderator of next week’s match-up) and is scheduled to appear on Sean Hannity‘s broadcast on Fox this evening.

The guys told me they were looking for “equal time,” since last week’s column was all about the democratic point of view. I’m always happy to chat with Joe whose fabulously smart 12-year-old daughter, Blake Kernen is one of my favorite young writers.  Not surprisingly, Senator Johnson told me he thought Mitt Romney won the debate hands down. “He shattered the caricature (the Obama campaign) has been pushing. It’s hard to paint that picture when (Romney) came out so strong and showed such a command of the issues. He  offered the specifics that Obama did not. Last night did nothing to stop the momentum (Romney) has been gathering.” He also called out the president for being “purposely misleading” on Libya.  While the senator admitted the president was “a little more energetic” he concluded, “He’s got nothing.”

Senator Johnson, who predicts it’s going to be a ”close election,” says Vice President Joe Biden‘s “rude” performance during his debate with Representative Paul Ryan had a lingering negative effect on the president’s favorable ratings and pointed to CNN’s recent poll which showed most viewers gave last night’s segment on the economy to Romney as an indication that the republican challenger is winning on the issue voters care most about. “In both debates, Romney showed that he can work with the other side. Americans have to ask themselves, ‘Do we want four more years of gridlock and a president who doesn’t know how to lead?”

Leslie Stevens, David Patrick Columbia, Patti Pao and Diane Clehane

Things lightened up considerably when I joined Leslie and Patti at our table to talk about the launch of Patti’s new skincare line Restorsea, which debuted at Bergdorf Goodman on Monday. Smart, savvy and absolutely passionate about skincare, Patti has built an impressive track record in the beauty business with stints at Avon and Elizabeth Arden. The Harvard Business School graduate introduced glycolic acid to the beauty industry and made Avon’s Anew the industry standard that is today.

She has continued to search out the latest innovations for the luxury market in her own consulting firm Pao Principle which she launched in 2005. Utilizing her deep ties to China, Patti created a survey asking 353 billionaires in the country (yes, you read that right) questions relating to handbags and fine jewelry. Doing so created a much sought after database when the survey findings made The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Forbes and Fortune. That stroke of marketing genius branded her LVMH’s luxury expert, and she picked up three clients in Norway which turned out to be a fateful turn of events.

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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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Roger Ailes, Barry Diller & The Squawk Box Super Heroes

1003_mockup.gifHail! Hail! The Wednesday gang is all here. The lunch scene at Michael’s was firing on all cylinders today as moguls (Barry Diller! Roger Ailes!), high-profile editors (David Zinczenko, Cindi Leive) and a heaping helping of talking heads (Kathie Lee Gifford, Ashleigh Banfield, Joe Kernen, Larry Kudlow and Andrew Ross Sorkin) made for a tasty media stew. There was actually gridlock in the dining room as the famous and fabulous stood in the aisles to intercept friends (and possible future employers?) on their way to their tables.

The biggest crowd was circling around Table One where Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Gerry Byrne (who is on parent company Penske Media Corp’s board) were hosting their monthly lunch where they bring together an interesting mix of folk to “cross-pollinate” says Bonnie, who leads the group as they chew over the latest trends in media (particularly in the digital space) and weigh in on how it affects their respective businesses. Gerry was the lone man among a table full of opinionated, highly successful women who weighed in on everything from reality stars — we learned Ashleigh Banfield is more than a little obsessed with the Kardashian sisters — to intellectual property. Designer Heather Thomson told the group that she spent $2.5 million in a lawsuit against lingerie giant Maidenform when she charged them with copying her patented three-panel tank top. She was awarded $6.57 million as settlement. Her takeaway: “Innovation needs to be protected.”

Leading the cheer for all that is digital, Bonnie said, “I’m so happy I crossed over from print” and is hooked by the immediacy of it all. “As a magazine editor, I felt like I was having a one-way conversation so much of the time,” she said of her stints as editor- in-chief at Glamour, Us Weekly and Cosmo. “At Hollywoodlife.com, we are intensely focused on our relationships with women with a need to know about the things they are about right now.”  Bonnie says the site is now getting 4.7 million monthly uniques who come to get their fix on everything concerning Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Justin Bieber and the Kardashian sisters.

Michael's restaurant NYC
The gang at Table One

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Lunch: Harold Ford, Jr., Ken Starr, and a Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There was definitely something in the air (besides all that pesky pollen) at Michael’s today. The dining room was so jam packed with every conceivable type of boldfaced name I could barely keep track of all the wheeling and dealing that was going on around me. While the fashionistas and socialites traded air kisses and picked at the salads, the media mavens were spinning like there was no tomorrow. The power lunch is back, folks, so break away from your desk and go make something happen.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers, presiding over a table of movers and shakers: Huffington Post’s Greg Coleman, Eric Hippeau and Phil Cara; Colgate’s Jack Haber, Pattie Glod of Limited Brands; and E*Trade’s Nick Utton.

2. Peter Brown and Dan Scheffey, who joins Fairchild Fashion Group on May 10 as the new director of communications for the trade and business sector of Conde Nast. Dan tells me he’ll be working on all the titles including WWD and WWD.com. He reports to president Gina Sanders. Congrats!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Vanity Fair’s Wayne Lawson and Punch Hutton and a chic blonde gal we didn’t get to me. Joe, fresh off another trip to his home state of Texas was all jazzed up to tell the group about the The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas. (He’s on the board.) Joe reports that the center has acquired an impressive array of archives of literary legends including Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, and even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Joe also reports that none other than Robert De Niro has given the center his script archive and actually footed the bill for two 18-wheelers to deliver the costumes he’s worn in his films. So, the next time you’re in Austin, you might want to check it out.

4. Sean Cassidy — no, not the eighties pop icon — this fellow works for Dan Klores.

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Lunch: Valerie Bertinelli Weighs In

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As much as we love our bird’s eye perch from the bar, it’s always a treat when we’re invited to dine in the grown up section — especially when the scene is as head-spinning as it was today. Hallmark Channel’s senior vice president Jen Geisser and her power publicist Jaime Saberito made room for me at the table at a luncheon hosted by their fearless leader the consummate showman Henry Schleiff and attended by a tasty stew of bold-faced names and top executives from UNICEF that made for one interesting afternoon of Cobb salads and conversation. Henry, newly ensconced on UNICEF’s board, brought the group to together to kick off the TAP project during ‘World Water Week’ (March 16-22). The initiative was created to raise funds and awareness by asking NYC diners at select eateries around town to forego their Fiji water for good old NYC tap water and donate what they would have spent on it to help fund clean water for kids around the world. And, yes, Michael’s is participating.

The reigning queen of the celebrity diet wars Valerie Bertinelli (A 40-pound weight loss thanks to Jenny Craig!) was the guest of honor (arriving with her boyfriend Tom Vitale) having made one movie for the network with another one in the works — Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith (Catchy title!). The still adorable actress and newly minted best-selling author was busy signing books for everyone (Henry thinks of everything!) but still made time to chat with me. Her big news — her book, Losing It — And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at Time will debut at No. 1 on this week’s New York Times‘ list. “I’m so thrilled — it’s on my son’s 17th birthday and I dedicated the book to him,” she says. “I couldn’t be more blessed.” Val (we’re on a first name basis now) also confided that she’s hot on starting another book and already has an idea that’s bound to strike a chord. “I’d like to write something like Divorce & Children: Love Your Child More Than You Hate Your Ex. The list is long when one considers who might benefit from such a tome. For now, at least, it appears Silda Spitzer won’t be needing it but we’re not closing the book on that one just yet.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The white wine was flowing in celebration of Linda Fairstein‘s latest book, Killer Heat with a table full of gals that know a little something about the subject. In attendance: Cosmo editrix Kate White, super agent Esther Newberg, former Law & Order SVU star Stephanie March, Lesley Stahl (I promise to keep my eye out for that 60 Minutes watch!) and Cynthia Lufkin (Congrats on being named The American Cancer Society’s Mother of the Year!)

2. Bobby Zarem and a Jake Gyllenhaal doppelganger.

3. Mayor Joe Armstrong who has been traveling far and wide hard at work on his upcoming book with some lovely looking ladies. Welcome back Joe, we missed you!

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Lunch at Michael’s: Tina Brown’s Bathroom Promise

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We were expecting a celeb sighting or two since it’s Upfront time — the week the networks trot out their overpaid and underfed stars to shill for their supper — but alas, there were no signs of McDreamy or Matthew Fox anywhere. (Thankfully, we didn’t see any cavemen either.) Disappointed, we settled in at our regular perch at the bar to survey the suits and check out the regulars when our pal publicity maven Leslie Stevens appeared on the scene. A scheduling snafu left Leslie solo, so she gamely pulled up a stool and chatted up lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane. The tireless pitchwoman told us she only had time for a quick bite because she was en route to D.C. to attend the launch party of the Onion Express, a joint venture between “America’s Finest News Source” — The Onion — and The Washington Post. Tonight’s soiree is expected to draw the likes of Christopher Hitchens (just don’t get him started talking about religion) and Christopher Buckley as well as “a bunch of politicos.” See, there really is life outside of New York.

Here’s a rundown on the rest:

Table 1. Glamour‘s Cindi Leive, Allure‘s Linda Wells, Playboy‘s Chris Napolitano and a few folks we didn’t recognize having their monthly “editor’s lunch.”

2. Ben Silverman and guests. The ubiquitous Ms. Stevens is throwing a party for the reality show guru (The Biggest Loser, The Restaurant) at the new karaoke joint Spotlight Live (we hear J.Lo has been by) on Thursday night for the crowd in town for the Upfronts. Sorry, by invite only …

3. Terry Allen Kramer and a table full of guests. (We’re told Mayor Joe Armstrong is not MIA, but simply enjoying a trip across the pond to London. Hurry back!)

4. Norman Pearlstine, sporting a military-looking buzz cut, with two equally close-cropped young gents.

5. Arnold Scassi and Parker Ladd. After witnessing Mr. Ladd take a call at the bar we’re amused to report he might be the only adult male in New York City that doesn’t own a cell phone.

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