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Posts Tagged ‘Liz Smith’

Walter Isaacson, Harvey Weinstein and Johnny Weir I Linda Fairstein Emcees Authors In Kind

LunchAtMichaelsHallelujah! What better way to celebrate the first day when it actually felt like springtime in the city than to dine and dish at two jammed packed Manhattan power lunches. This being Wednesday, we of course made our weekly pilgrimage to Michael’s to observe the famous and fabulous in their natural habitat and then hot-footed it over to The Metropolitan Club for the Annual Authors in Kind Literary Luncheon, benefiting God’s Love We Deliver. At 55th and Fifth, the joint was jumping with plenty of media mavens (David Zaslav, Henry Schleiff), talking heads (Joe Kernen, Jim Murphy and Star Jones), serious scribes (Walter Isaacson) and the random celebrity of the week — none other than Johnny Weir. I wished I’d gotten to talk to Johnny about his oh-so-messy divorce. Heaven knows what he would have said. Oh well, next time.

Johnny Weir, Bonnie FullerUptown at the Metropolitan Club, I joined Michael’s regular Mickey Ateyeh (“Oh my God! I didn’t realize this was on a Wednesday!”) for the Authors In Kind Luncheon, which was emceed by another Michael’s pal Linda Fairstein (we’ll be dishing for this column about her next book, Terminal City, in June). Having never been to this event before, it was truly a memorable afternoon. Before lunch, the authors slated to speak at the luncheon — Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Anthony and Robin Cook — signed books they generously donated to the attendees. Spotted in the crowd:  60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl and Grand Central Publishing’s Deb Futter. Before everyone sat down to eat, I chatted with Assael’s Lawrence Lewis and Mickey. Angela Cummings for Assael, was one of the event’s sponsors along with CH Carolina Herrera, so it was quite the elegant affair. But behind the glitz and glamour that went along with the swanky surroundings, the inspiring and uplifting tone to the event, which was set beautifully by God’s Love We Deliver president & CEO Karen Pearl, carried the day. Karen shared the stories of several clients whose battles with life-altering illnesses were made more bearable to them and their families because of the organization’s nutrious meals and personalized care. She thanked the volunteers who prepare and deliver them (I was seated next to one such “angel,” Douglas Elliman’s Peter J. Forsman, who was delightful company) and introduced a video that highlighted their work. “Food is medicine,” explained Karen. “And love is the special ingredient.”

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Liz Smith Hosts Robert Wagner

Book Review You Must Remember ThisTuesday night at the 92nd Street YMCA, gossip columnist Liz Smith sat down with now 84-year-old actor Robert Wagner for a discussion, reading and signing of his latest book You Must Remember This. Today, she writes briefly about what she took away:

I remarked on R.J.’s way with women (he made love to most of his leading ladies) and married the adorable Natalie Wood — twice! I was careful, however, because in the audience was Wagner’s wife of more than 20 years, Jill St. John. How has Wagner survived, personally and professionally? Well, he is a real gentleman that’s how – intelligent, wise, charming, open and with open arms.

The Y event took place a few hours after Wagner’s appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael. That earlier conversation started off with some mutual gushing between Wagner and his former Hope & Faith co-star Ripa.

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Eliot Spitzer, a Party for Angela Cummings and the Story Behind the New Bernie Madoff Documentary

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In keeping with the usual head-spinning weekly scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, the joint was jumping today. It was SRO in the front dining room and at the bar where producer Beverly Camhe was holding court with fellow producer Marc Altshuler and writer/directors Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek in celebration of their upcoming documentary In God We Trust Who Pays for His Crime on the Bernie Madoff scandal. The film will debut in the highly coveted Friday night slot at the Tribeca Film Festival next week.

Bev tells me the tickets for the highly anticipated film sold out in ten minutes when they went on sale at with American Express last night, and they are currently looking for a theater to handle the overflow. For those of you who missed the boat entirely, there’s always pay per view. Bev says anyone who sees the film should prepare to be shocked. “Don’t believe what you’ve heard. You’ll be surprised to know who knew what and when they knew it.” For the record, Bev believes that both Madoff sons, the late Mark Madoff and Andrew Madoff, didn’t know anything. I would have loved to have explored that very topic myself when I spotted Mark at Michael’s last spring, but he bolted before I could ask him anything about their father’s massive Ponzi scheme. “Bernie was a bi-polar sociopath, so it’s entirely possible he was able to keep it from them,” says Bev.  I asked Marc if they’d heard from any of the Madoffs or insiders since they began production, and he told me, “They’ve been oddly quiet. I’m surprised they even stayed in New York.” Some people have no shame.

Mickey Ateyeh and Angela Cummings

Not all the action was in the main dining room. I was invited to the swanky lunch held in the Garden Room for Angela Cummings today celebrating the launch of her new collection with Assael. Mickey Ateyeh, Angela’s long time BFF and business partner gathered 24 New York power gals – the ladies who never eat lunch who actually lunched today – for an intimate gathering.  The first to arrive was Liz Smith followed by a veritable who’s who in New York social and business circles, including Paula Zahn, Linda Fairstein, Jackie Leo,  Barbara Taylor Bradford, Christy Ferer, who is in hot pursuit for her company’s next CEO (Anyone?), Fern Mallis, DuJour‘s Cindy Lewis and Judy Licht

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Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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Taking a Lunch Break

1003_mockup.gifSorry, folks. Our fair Diane Clehane is off for the day, but Lunch will be back next week. (Hmm, wonder who got her usual perch at Michael’s?) In the meantime, check out some of her recent celebrity spottings and interviews:

Naomi Campbell and Her Supermodel Castmates Dish About Their New ‘Face’

Shirley MacLaine Stops by a Birthday Party for Liz Smith

Lisa Vanderpump Dishes on Beverly Hills Housewives, Wendy Williams Holds Court

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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Donald Trump, Star Jones, Wendy Williams, Plus Dish on the New Dark Shadows Movie

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Who knew there was a pre-Easter rush? Michael’s dining room was jam packed today with moguls (Donald Trump!), fashion mavens (Rachel Roy, Fern Mallis) and talking heads (Star Jones, Wendy Williams and Joe Kernen) before the town car set jets off to Florida and other more exotic ports of call for the holiday. We arrived early so as not to miss a minute of the mixing and mingling of the power lunch scene and were glad we did. Trump made quite an entrance with his bodyguard in tow. The last time we spotted anyone with protection stationed inside the restaurant was when Elton John met with some bigwigs at Table One several years back. Life can be so complicated when you have money.

I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott, who starred in one of my favorite television shows of all time, Dark Shadows. If you grew up in the 60′s, then you — or someone you knew – probably ran home after school in time to catch the iconic gothic soap opera which aired on WABC at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Kathryn played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres who was the ill-fated lady love of Barnabas Collins, one of television’s most famous vampires memorably depicted by Jonathan Frid. She also starred opposite Jonathan in the hit MGM film House of Dark Shadows (soon to be re-released on DVD and BlueRay).

Well, everything old is new again and next month Tim Burton‘s big screen homage to the show, Dark Shadows, starring super fan Johnny Depp hits theaters May 11. Kathryn, Jonathan as well as her former castmates Lara Parker (the original Angelique) and David Selby (Quentin Collins) have cameos in the film. “Lara and I plan to walk the red carpet together at the Los Angeles premiere wearing age-appropriate gowns and have a glass of champagne. This is really something to celebrate,” said Kathryn who has high hopes for the film. “It has all the elements the show had (fantasy, horror, romance and comedy), but it’s their playground with their own spin on things.”

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane
Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane

The timing of the film couldn’t be better for Kathryn’s new book, Dark Shadows Return to Collinwood which has just come out to rave reviews. Designed by Cheryl Carrington, the book contains hundreds of rare photos from the show, as well as stunning images from the new film.

Kathryn told me she is “so grateful to Warner Brothers and to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp” for their “huge trust in me.”  The movie studio released the images from the film to her before they’d finished their own trailer or movie poster and did not ask for approval over their usage. The photos of Depp in full Barnabas regalia standing alongside the original cast members is really something to see, and Kathryn’s behind the scenes account of the experience of being in Burton’s film make the book a must-have for fans both old and new.

Over 200 fans turned out last night at Barnes & Noble on 86th Street to meet Kathryn, get their books signed, and talk about the show and the upcoming film.  They also got a surprise gift of posters from the new movie provided by Warner Brothers. “It was wonderful because it was a real mix of people,” she told me. “There were young fans who were excited to learn more about the show, and there were some of the longtime fans who were children when they stood outside the stage door of the show here in New York in the 60s. The legacy of Dark Shadows lives on!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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A Strange Hollywood Blog Story Grows Stranger

Over the weekend, New York Post reporter Maureen Callahan shared a fairly sizable Hollywood scoop: an interview with “Enty,” the pseudonymous operator of showbiz gossip blog Crazy Days and Nights (CDaN). In recent weeks, the site has received a lot of coverage because of the Robert Downey Jr. identity-claims made by commenter “Himmmm.”

Callahan’s article was published April 1, leading a number of observers to speculate that the piece is a joke. More precisely, that the interview did properly occur but was a vehicle for misinformation. Sure enough, after vetting the details given to her by this alleged 43-year-old wills and probate attorney, Callahan came to the following conclusion:

Nearly everything Enty says doesn’t check out… It all indicates that Hollywood and the media have been punked – duped by a soft-spoken probate lawyer with delusions of grandeur. And he’s only getting bolder, accusing aging and dead stars of a rape, murder, pedophilia.

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Ed Rollins Talks Presidential Politics; The 1 Percent Toasts the Good Life

1003_mockup.gifWe’ve gotten so used to the celebrity circus that has dominated Michael’s lately that we did a double take when we found the dining room populated mostly by suits, well-heeled ladies and dandies who prefer to let their bank accounts (not publicists) do the talking. Aside from the usual boldface names (Star Jones) and fashionistas (Fern Mallis) in attendance, there were a lot of folks at lunch today who I’d never seen in the dining room before.

I just had to go over to Table One and introduce myself to the couple who was working furiously to glam up the table with flowers and pretty trinkets before their guests arrived. It turns out Kelly Langberg was celebrating her birthday with her husband Jeff Langberg and a few of her nearest and dearest BFFs. Jeff told me all these ladies are the better halves of some of Manhattan’s most powerful couples.  The impeccably dressed gals all toasted Kelly, who calls herself  ”The Makeover Queen,” with a lovely rose  in the lounge before moving to their table to celebrate. When I was chatting with Kelly about her makeover business (she refers clients to cosmetic dentists, plastic surgeons,  hair colorists and other professionals essential to living the good life in Gotham),  I couldn’t help but notice the dazzling bling that adorned her ears and wrists. When I complimented her on it, she told me the pieces were from her own line of fine jewelry. Where does she find the time?

I also got  to chat with politico Ed Rollins who specializes in a different kind of makeover. He was assistant to President Ronald Reagan and managed his reelection campaign. Earlier this year, Ed stepped down from his post as Michele Bachmann‘s campaign manager. I just had to ask what he thought of  the results of yesterday’s primary. “Santorum is for real,” he told me. “I expect Romney will get the nomination, but it’s going to be a slugfest right up until the end.” Having seen him on PBS’ recent documentary on President Bill Clinton (“I’d take either Clinton right now!”), we also chatted about the HBO political drama Game Change, based on the book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. “I liked the book better. The movie had a deliberate purpose. That’s not the John McCain I know,” he told me. ” (Ed Harris) was too soft and fuzzy.” He did characterize Julianne Moore‘s depiction of Sarah Palin as “very accurate,” though. Ed gave the film high marks in one respect: “It caught a lot of the pace and excitement of a political campaign.” Speaking of campaigns, what does he think of President Obama‘s chances come November? “Presidents often get too much credit and too much blame for what’s happening. Right now, he’s paying the price for promising a lot of things he couldn’t deliver.”

Michael's restaurant in New York City
The scene in the Michael’s dining room

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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A Party for Emily Blunt & Ewan McGregor; Katie Couric Holds Court

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It’s been a pretty wild winter at Michael’s. Far from suffering from the seasonal doldrums, the place has been operating on full tilt every Wednesday with a fresh array of A-listers that always make for some pretty good people watching. Today was no exception.

Besides the jam packed dining room filled with boldface names, Peggy Siegal was hosting a party for Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt to celebrate the release of their latest picture, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I caught up with Emily (I loved her scene-stealing turn with Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada) when we both stopped by Katie Couric‘s table to say hello. “It is a bit unusual,” Emily said when I asked her about the movie’s quirky title. “I’m hoping that it will make people want to check it out and see what it’s really all about. It’s really a lovely love story.” I saw the trailer, I told her, and it does look pretty romantic. “It is! I hope people will like it.” Emily has been making the rounds to promote the film and has a funny Q&A in this week’s New York magazine where she talks about she and her husband, John Krasinski (the cute guy on The Office) being neighbors with Jimmy Kimmel. Everyone, it seems, loves her hubby including Katie. “He’s just so adorable,” Katie told Emily, who could hardly disagree.

Katie Couric with Ewan McGregor and a host of well-wishers.

I was joined today by Bravo’s newest reality star, matchmaker Lori Zaslow, whose show Love Broker premiered this week, Bravo’s SVP of Communications Jennifer Geisser, and communications manager Ryan McCormick. I caught Lori’s first show and her Monday night appearance on Watch What Happens Live! A new Bravolebrity is born!

The White Plains native and former executive recruiter started her matchmaking business, Project Soulmate, in 2009 with childhood friend Jennifer Zucher and wasn’t looking for TV fame when Bravo came calling. Andy Cohen loved her “big personality” and was determined to get her on-air. ”Bravo loves the love space,” Lori told me. After an eight-month courtship, she finally relented and agreed to do the show. The series was shot in eight weeks last summer. Lori admitted being a little nervous about seeing the finished product. Based on  the first episode, it seems she had nothing to worry about. In the days since the premiere, she’s been deluged with calls from folks looking to make a love connection, including plenty of mothers looking to find mates for their sons. Says Lori, “I realize just how good this could be for our business.” Yup.

The married Manhattan mother of two told me that she’s always been a “natural connector” matching friends, family and strangers with potential mates, ‘Mommy’ friends, nannies and even housekeepers. But she’s clearly most passionate about helping people find love. “No one can’t live without love. It’s scientifically proven that married men live 10 years longer than single men,” she says. “Why isn’t love put first in people’s lives? Today people are working so hard on their lives and careers, but they don’t make time for love. It’s all about striking the right balance.” Lori works exclusively with New York clients, so I asked her why it’s so hard to find the right person in Manhattan. “It’s so easy to meet people here, but it’s really hard to connect,” she explained. “There are too many distractions.” That’s where she comes in. Most of her clients (“98 percent”) are men, and she needs “20 times the amount of women” in order to find the right mate for those looking for love. How does she do it? ”I’m fearless when it comes to love,” she says.  ”I will always go up to anyone who looks interesting and ask, ‘Are you single?’ Most people are flattered. Who wouldn’t want to meet someone great if they’re looking?”

Lori says that there is no bad place to meet “your soul mate” —  it’s just a matter of being open to the experience. The gym, Whole Foods on Sunday nights when most men do their shopping, and even jury duty are fertile ground. Just don’t go looking in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily go. ”Don’t join a runners’ club if you hate running,” she advises. “Like goes to like. Be who you are. Enjoy yourself and enjoy your life.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. HollywoodLife.com editor in chief Bonnie Fuller and PMC vice chairman Gerry Byrne. In attendance: BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, Ann Lawlor, The Weinstein Company’s Meryl Poster, fashionista Fern Mallis, Mesa Global’s Mark Patricof, style expert Jill Martin, AdWeek‘s Lisa Granatstein and HollywoodLife.com publisher Carlos Lamadrid.

2. Terry McDonnell and CBS News This Morning‘s Gayle King

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who was brandishing a cane. A little birdie told me the mayor was hobbled by too much bronco busting. Be careful out there!

4. Wowowow.com’s Joni Evans and Liz Smith. Great to see you!

Katie Couric and Cindi Berger
Katie Couric and Cindi Berger

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