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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Rich’

Sigourney Weaver, Howell Raines and Barbara Walters Enjoying Semi-Retirement

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Wednesdays at Michael’s and then there are Wednesday’s at Michael’s. Today was one of those days. I could hardly keep up with the steady stream of famous faces that sailed past my table and made for some of the best people watching at 55th and Fifth in a long time. First came early arrival Montel Williamswho kept himself busy with ear buds and his phone. Next came Joy Behar (who I didn’t notice until she took off her sunglasses) and two pals who were waiting for another person to join them. A little birdie told me the mystery guest was going to be none other than Barbara Walters, so I kept an eye on the door for what seemed like forever in hopes of grabbing a quick chat with her before she made it to her table. Minutes before Barbara arrived Sigourney Weaver showed up looking absolutely ageless in Prada (and from what I could tell, next to no makeup). The Oscar nominated actress (we loved her best as Ripley!) and The New York Botanical Garden’s biggest cheerleader was clearly concerned she’d kept her guest waiting because she’d gotten stuck in traffic so she dashed by before I could utter a word to her. Drats. When Barbara, who was impeccably dressed in black and white, finally arrived, Michael’s chivalrous GM Steve Millington was waiting by the door to take her by the arm and personally escort her to her table. Let me tell you, a real hush fell over the room when the world’s most famous semi-retiree made her way into the dining room. Throughout lunch, plenty of well-wishers, both famous and “civilians,” stopped by her table to pay their respects.

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

Dr. Phillip Romero and Diane Clehane

After making my rounds in the dining room and having made sure Barbara, Joy and their friend had finished their lunch, I made my way over to their table. When I told Barbara that her final appearance on The View, where she was joined by what seemed like every female broadcaster who has followed in her trail-blazing footsteps, including all her View cohosts as well as Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung, Joan Lunden and Oprah Winfrey (who managed to score the center square in the iconic photo of the seismic sorority) was one of daytime television’s most memorable moments, she took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m so glad,” she said. “It was really something.” Even more moving, I told her, was her two-hour special that aired last Friday night, where her long-time producing partner Bill Geddie interviewed her about her amazing life and ground-breaking career. What was it like to be the subject rather than the interviewer? “Bill was terrific,” she told me. “We didn’t want to have it be ‘then she did this and then she did that’ so we did it that way. I’m glad everyone seemed to like it.” I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t want to overstay my tenuous welcome (it’s a bit of a delicate dance sometimes) so I left the trio to order dessert. No word on what Barbara has planned for the summer but in her column in The New York Post this week, Cindy Adams wrote that she and Barbara planned to travel abroad together this summer. I’d say Ms. Walters has more than earned some time off after her long good-bye.

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Deborah Norville, Miss USA and the Man Behind Those Spitzer Ads

1003_mockup.gifAlthough the ghastly heat of last week that made Manhattan feel more like Calcutta is finally just a memory, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the wall-to-wall coverage on ‘Baby Cambridge’ (who finally has a name — Welcome George Alexander Louis!) to come to lunch at Michael’s today. But once we made our way to 55th and Fifth, it was back to business as usual. The Wednesday lunch crowd has been firing on all cylinders all summer long, and today was no exception.

Aside from the usual suspects (Matt Blank, David Zinczenko) there was, of course, plenty of good people watching to keep us occupied, including the random celebrity sighting  (a very tall Miss USA) and an A-list couple who practically glowed with happiness (Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner). Perhaps that’s because their impeccably well-mannered teenage son, Kyle Wellner, who was dining with them, rose and extended his hand with a “nice to meet you” every time a well-wisher came by. Impressive.

I was joined today by Lisa Linden, longtime public relations adviser to Eliot Spitzer, and Jimmy Siegel of Siegel Strategies. Jimmy is the creative force behind Spitzer’s campaign ads that begun popping up last week online and are now airing on cable and broadcast television in New York City. Jimmy spoke with me exclusively to give me the story behind the new campaign ads that have generated plenty of commentary by politicos everywhere. The self-described “political junkie” first met Spitzer, then running for governor, at a fundraising dinner in late 2005. “I wanted to get into politics, and I was a long time admirer of Eliot when he was the state’s attorney general. I thought he did an amazing job,” Jimmy told me. “At the end of the night, I hung around and, fortified by my third glass of Cabernet, I approached him and said, ‘I want to help get you elected.’” Spitzer gave him then-deputy campaign manager’s Miriam Hess‘ card (who, incidentally, now works with Jimmy) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Diane Clehane and Jimmy Siegel

Jimmy spent over 20 years at BBDO, rising from junior copywriter to vice chairman where he was responsible for some of the most memorable ads ever for Visa, Pepsi and Charles Schwab, and had just formed his own company when he met Spitzer. The campaigns he later created for Spitzer’s gubernatorial run were characterized by The New York Times as “emotionally stirring” and “fresh and effective” by The New York Daily News. This time around, while the objective — getting Spitzer elected — may be the same, the game and the stakes have changed considerably. Read more

Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

1003_mockup.gifMaybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try. There was, however, an interesting mix of bold faced names including police commissioner Ray Kelly and the newly crowed Miss USA Nana Meriwether who, despite leaving her sash and crown at home, looked every inch the pageant winner. Being almost six feet tall certainly helps stand out in a crowd.

I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China; Mimi has a little girl and is about to give birth to her first son any minute (we had our fingers crossed she’d make it through lunch!). We all agreed parenthood is an unending source of material.

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Since joining the magazine in February of last year from Time Inc.’s All You, Susan has made some interesting changes to the magazine. “I’ve fallen in love with the reader,” she says. This is not your mother’s Woman’s Day, although Susan is mindful of the generational connection between readers of the 75-year-old Hearst title. “Some readers have been reading the magazine for 60 years, and now their daughters and their daughters’ daughters are reading it,” she explained. When asked just who is the Woman’s Day reader, Susan told me: “She’s the ‘Average Josephine’ — the receptionist, the administrative assistant, the teacher, the nurse. These are the women who I consider to be the backbone of America.” That doesn’t mean, however, these women (more than half work outside the home) are not interested in fashion and the good things in life. Just the opposite. “These women have a lot of joy in their life. They embrace positivity,” says Susan. “That’s why the title of the magazine is so perfect for them. It’s about her day and the joy she gets out of it.” To tap into that, Susan retooled the fashion pages focusing more on value in all its iterations. “Our reader doesn’t want to see a great shoe and then find out it’s $300 or even $150. It has to make sense for her life.” In fact, “Value Tags” appear throughout the magazine to highlight steals, deals and all-around great ideas.

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Anderson Cooper, Andrew Stein and Serenading Socialites

1003_mockup.gifThe scene at Michael’s today was positively Fellini-esque. Just when the joint was firing on all cylinders (even every seat at the bar was spoken for),  the dining room was stunned into silence when the ladies who lunch led by Joan Jakobson at Table One gave an impromptu acapella performance of “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” You get it all here, folks. Cobb salads with a serenade on the side. This being Michael’s, of course, the power lunch crowd gave the gals the floor just long enough to belt out their tune and then, without missing a beat, turned their attention back to hatching their next big deal. Alrighty then.

I was joined today by Janis Provisor and Debi Wisch, the dynamic duo behind Janis Provisor Jewelry whose business cards boast the tagline “wildly eccentric beaded collectibles.” They are also just gorgeous. Janis, an accomplished artist and painter whose work has been shown all over the world, including at the National Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, got into the jewelry business by accident. “It started out as a hobby, turned into a job-y, and now it’s a full-fledged business!” Janis told me.

It all began in 2006 when Debi, a former marketing consultant and publicist, got Janis to do a trunk show in Debi’s Manhattan home.  Janis and Debi had met a decade before when they were both living in Hong Kong and Janis, who was developed a carpet collection, showed up at Debi’s home with a swatch. Years later, over lunch, both women were wanting to do something new and came up with the idea for Janis to make one-of-a-kind necklaces from the stones she’d collected from her worldwide travels. Voila! Janis’ oversize beaded necklaces, luxurious lavalieres and chunky chokers (all boasting unexpected pairings of precious and semi-precious stones) were an immediate sell-out among the stylish set. “Our customers are smart, independent women with their own money,” Debi told me. “Rarely do I hear, ‘I have to ask my husband’ before someone buys something.” And it’s a good thing. Entry points range from $1,400 for earrings to $4,000 to $7,000 for a necklace. Not exactly something you could pass off with the usual, “Oh no, this isn’t new. I’ve had it forever.”

Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch
Janis Provisor, Diane Clehane and Debi Wisch

While most of the collection is sold at invitation-only trunk shows at swanky locales (If you happen to be in Kona in August, you might want to drop in on the next show at Seaside Luxe, but do RSVP first ), the luxe looks are also sold at Julianne in Port Washington and Gail Rothwell in East Hampton. Janis also has an exhibition of the jewels at Winston Wachter Gallery in Chelsea. By foregoing the usual retail route, the partners have been able to build the business (“People just find us”) carefully offering one-of-a-kind pieces and other collectibles to a very discriminating clientele. (CNN’s Alina Cho is a fan) ”The goal is to make only what we’d want to own, and that’s what we continue to do,” said Debi, who was adorned with several of Janis’ dazzling designs today.

Janis told me she often sits with the artisans in China while the pieces are being made to personally describe her vision for the design (“I don’t cast”), and she works with the craftsman in Bali where her 22kt gold work is done. “I am very hands-on,” she said, “with everything.” I’ll say. The company is 100 percent self-supported, and the women wouldn’t have it any other way. It seems to be working. Janis Provisor Jewelry will be moving into a brand new studio salon this summer where Janis and Debi hope to put together small groups of “interesting women” to exchange ideas, network and, of course, buy some serious jewelry.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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