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Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Dallos’

David Zaslav, David Zinczenko and the Next Big Name in Fashion

1003_mockup.gifOn any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.

Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.

Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Lisa Sun and Diane Clehane

The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”

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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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Harvey Weinstein, Ali MacGraw and the Brains Behind Coffee With Tim Cook

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Where to begin? This week at 55th and Fifth, the scene in the dining room provided whiplash-inducing people watching with a tasty mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Finkelstein) with a side of social swans (Sharon Bush, Patricia Kluge, Terry Allen Kramer).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wednesday at Michael’s without the random celebrity sighting. I was thrilled to hear that I would be sitting next to none other than Ali MacGraw today. The ageless actress, who catapulted into the pop culture hall of fame with her iconic performance (and preppy wardrobe) in the 1970 tearjerker Love Story, turned every head in the place when she arrived — which is quite a feat among this crowd. She was beyond gracious as diners (including yours truly) lined up for pictures. Several years ago, I worked with her on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where she was honored with FGI’s entertainment award for her contributions to film and fashion. When I re-introduced myself, she immediately said, “Oh, I remember that night. It was so much fun!” and then proceeded to tell me this delicious bit of gossip from the evening: “I was standing next to Bill Blass when he saw Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones come in. And Bill turned to the person next to him and said, “Finally, some real movie stars!” She giggled, clearly delighted by the memory of the snarky diss from the designer.

Diane Clehane and Coppy Holzman

Speaking of the power of celebrity, I was joined today by Charitybuzz CEO and founder Coppy Holzman who dazzled me with tales of his work with the famous and philanthropic. His company, which he founded in 2005, is currently the world’s largest online charity auction site and is the go-to partner for every famous person with a charity looking to raise serious money for their pet causes.

It all started at a backyard fundraising party for The Clinton Library in Westport, Connecticut that Coppy attended where he met President Bill Clinton and Chevy Chase. “Isn’t there a way  for you to use your experience on the Internet to raise for the library?” the host of the party asked Coppy. On the spot, he came up with the idea of auctioning off a lunch with the former president. One year later, The Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction brought in $250,000 for the library, including $80,000 paid by one bidder to lunch with Clinton and Chase. Since then, Coppy has worked with Clinton on many different initiatives. “There is no bigger celebrity in the world,” he says. The top dollar paid to spend the day with Hillary’s husband: $255,000 in an auction last year.

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John Sykes, Jared Kushner & Moguls on the Make

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting like recent visitors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close that gives Michael’s that jolt of adrenaline during our weekly Wednesday visits. And sometimes it’s the sheer power quotient of the dining room that gets our attention. As one regular told me: “I can always tell who is looking for money and who is writing the checks when I come here. It’s the best business scorecard around.”

Today I was joined by power publicist Catherine Saxton, who knows just about everybody but never spins and tells, and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of Beezag and AdGenesis. We had a fascinating chat about the ‘wild west’ of Internet advertising and how absolutely maddening those unwanted pop-up ads are. When Richard launched Beezag last November with Laurent Alhadeff, they created a different kind of online advertising environment which they’ve cleverly coined as ‘Me-commerce.’ Richard explains beezag’s consumer-centric marketing concept this way: “It’s about relevancy and reward. Consumers watch entertaining branded content and video ads they love and get discounts they deserve because they’re thanked with special offers and incentives from advertisers.”

By matching brands to the consumers who want to hear about them, Richard reports that beezag delivers clients an average of 25 percent click-through rates. The members-only, opt-in multi-platform community has some pretty serious brainpower behind it. Richard tells me his ‘executive council’ of advisors includes Gerry Byrne, Wenda Millard, Michael Kassan and Bob Friedman. For someone who just landed in New York from South Africa in January of last year, Richard seems to have figured out pretty quickly how to make things happen in Manhattan. We’re impressed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Boy wonder Jared Kushner with his dad Charles, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers. The New York Observer owner must have had some big deal brewing, because he stepped outside several times to take a very important call. Or perhaps it was just the missus, Ivanka Trump, asking what to make for dinner.

2. My friend and PR maven extraordinaire Lisa Linden and former Bush administration advisor Charles Millard, celebrating the launch of Charles’ new venture specializing in pension funds and financial services, Cardinal Advisors.

3. Catherine Saxton, Richard Smullen and yours truly

4. LVMH’s David Anton

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger

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Lunch: Musical Chairs With Sir Paul McCartney

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— DIANE CLEHANE

So you think you’ve got problems? Paul McCartney (that’s Sir Paul to you) arrived at Michael’s today shortly before noon to scope out a table for a quiet lunch with Barbara Walters. When he was ushered to Table One, situated in the bay window, he passed on perching at the power spot and asked to check out the room before settling on a primo corner table. Babs arrived shortly thereafter, as did a dark-haired beauty that some thought might be Paul’s gal pal Nancy Shevell (but we think not) and a distinguished mystery gent. But alas, the happy foursome couldn’t enjoy their lunch because the eagle-eyed former Beatle spied a pesky video cameraman taking it all in from the sidewalk, shooting through the window. We’re guessing it was those intrepid folks from TMZ who regularly stake out the joint. Well, Paul wasn’t about to give up on his quest for some privacy, so the gang moved once again to the back of the dining room and finally settled in for some good dish. Whew!

The rest of the room was buzzing, with tables shoehorned in all over the place to deal with the overflow of media A-listers. When I made my rounds, I stopped by my good pal Fern Mallis‘ table to say hello. She was nice enough to introduce me to her charming niece, Brooke Lampley, an assistant vice president at Christie’s, and internationally acclaimed museum designer Stuart Silver. The always-optimistic Fern wanted to talk about how well things are going as she prepares for next month’s Fashion Week. (We can’t wait for the Barbie show!) Contrary to published reports, says Fern, there are plenty of exciting designers and companies that are spending money to show at the tents — some for the first time. “I don’t understand why people want to focus on so much negativity,” says Fern. “Why not write about what new things people are doing to help their businesses?” It’s a good question. Many folks that I’ve talked to in the fashion biz say the reporting in this area is far too much gloom and doom, and it’s becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So come on, people! How about some industry cheerleading? It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Imber Gang: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman. We’re guessing Jeff Greenfield is a bit busy for lunch this week…

2. John Sykes (who was overheard telling Paul McCartney that he had dinner with Clint Eastwood last night and was singing the praises of his latest film, Gran Torino. ‘It’s great,’ enthused John!) and Frederic Fekkai

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. Fox 5′s Rosanna Scotto with her former colleague, newly-minted real estate mogul Penny Crone

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Lunch: Barry Diller, Jeff Zucker & The Magazine Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

What recession? The usual power quotient found on any given Wednesday at Michael’s went into overdrive today as the gals at the front desk had so many media moguls, magazine mavens and talking heads lining up to dine and dish today, they had to shoehorn in extra tables all over the dining room. Luckily, I scored some prime real estate for my lunch with my old pal Jeffrey Slonim and new-found friend Bettina Zilkha. Jeffrey and I have stood side by side on many a red carpet over the years and have bonded over the histrionics that goes with covering A-list events. These days Jeffrey is busier than ever as Interview‘s society editor (a prestigious gig once held by Truman Capote!) and Allure‘s special correspondent where he fearlessly asks all those publicity shy celebs questions we all really want to ask (bedtime rituals, what they really eat after parties — that sort of thing). It was nice to see him out in daylight. Bettina was recently named Special Projects Editor for Elle Decor and has a fascinating profile of designer Dennis Basso in this month’s Avenue. We had a lively lunch trading stories about Gotham’s gadflys we all know and love (all off the record, sorry to say). I can’t wait until to our next get together.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Crooner Steve Tyrellwith Frank and Jamie McCord (owners of the LA Dodgers, in case you were wondering), James McBride (the GM of The Carlyle where Steve is performing through New Year’s Eve) and my good pal Amy Rosenblum.

2. Peter Brown

3. Jim Abernathy and Dawn Bridges

4. Barry Diller and the Financial TimesChrystia Freeland who was warding off today’s chill with a killer fur hat. Fab!

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Lunch: Football, Fashionistas & Laila Ali

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was a tasty tossed summer salad of movers, shakers — and football players at Michael’s today. Now that the power set has to cram in five days of plotting into a truncated work week — Why miss out on a Friday afternoon in the Hamptons if you don’t have to? — the dining room was buzzing. We noticed diners were opting for deep conversation over table-hopping today so there must be plenty of big doings afoot.

I was lunching today with my new friend, Denise Cobb, who just arrived from Naples, Florida for a few days of fun. This weekend she celebrated with her good pal Desiree Gruber at her baby shower at the rooftop garden at the Gramercy Park Hotel and is planning to go to Judge Judy‘s housewarming for the mega-mansion she had built — in just four months! — in Greenwich. “She’s really proud that she could get the builder to work so fast,” reports Denise. Fear is a great motivator, I suppose. Who would dare incur the wrath of Judge Judy? I love to watch her cut delinquent dads off at the knees on her television show, don’t you? After our lunch, Denise was off to visit with our mutual pal Carol Brodie, who is newly installed at Faberge and has big things in store for the iconic house. Denise and I are collaborating on a top secret project for Gulf Shore Life with editor-in-chief David Sendler. You’ll be the first to know all the details, I promise.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. New York Jets D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Leon Washington and Nick Mangold with some handlers and managers we didn’t recognize.

2. Peggy Siegal channeling Jackie O in a stunning white sheath, great earrings and her new ‘do with a dark-haired young power gal “in training” so we’re told…

3. Susan Zirinksy, whose show 48 Hours Mystery on Saturday nights on CBS is one of my favorite guilty pleasures with Mattea Gold.

4. John Huey and a bespectacled gent whose face we recognized but whose name escapes us…

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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: Captain Picard, I Presume?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.

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