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Posts Tagged ‘Melanie Brandman’

Caroline Manzo, Morgan Fairchild, Plus HarperCollins Fetes William Boyd

1003_mockup.gifOne of the things I love most about chronicling the Wednesday scene at Michael’s is the random celeb sightings that seem to come out of left field. On offer today: television stars of the past and present that represent the changing (and fickle?) tastes of the viewing public. When none other than Morgan Fairchild walked in (she’s even tinier in person), I had an eighties flashback to those great trashy nighttime soaps and damsel in distress Lifetime movies that were all the rage back then. A few minutes later, The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Caroline Manzo, today’s definition of a soap star, walked in. Funny enough, they were seated right next to each other but neither noticed the other. What can I say? This stuff fascinates me.

I was joined today by two PR mavens, Melanie Brandman, founder of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. After chewing over the week’s hottest gossip (Did Kim Kardashian do it for money? Has Kris Jenner no shame?), we had a good chat about Melanie’s latest luxury innovation, Travel Curator, which she describes as a hybrid online monthly magazine, diary and blog that shares the very best insider information on cities around the world.  Besides having exquisite taste, Melanie’s unrivaled experience in the hospitality industry and two decades of worldwide travel have given her quite an address book.

Table Seven: Diane Clehane, Diana Biederman and Melanie Brandman

“I’m constantly asked where to go to find the very best around the world and, since I love to share information, I thought this would be a fabulous way to do that.” The “content driven” site is absolutely gorgeous, including ‘The Spot” of the month. The native Aussie’s Sydney is the launch pick, followed by New York, London and Tel Aviv — all cities Melanie has called home. It also includes a fabulously fun section entitled “Tastemakers” where Melanie culls names from her Rolodex to offer their picks on shopping and travel in various locales. (Full disclosure: In an upcoming edition, I sing the praises of American Girl Place as the best place in NYC to spend a day with the special little girl in your life.) The site is getting great buzz; it was recently featured in Travel & Leisure and was the subject of two segments on Fox News. Right now, everything is being handled in-house at The Brandman Agency, and  it’s being circulated via subscription and by the agency’s extensive contact lists. So, before you pack for that next vacation, check out the site.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Cosmo‘s Kate White Celebrates The Sixes

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You’d never know we’re on the brink of the dog days of August from the jam packed scene at Michael’s today. While I did notice there was a bit more wine than usual being poured, it was clear from all the glad handing and table hopping that there was plenty of business getting done between bites.

I was thrilled when Kate White invited me to join her for a celebratory lunch to mark the publication of her latest book, The Sixes (HarperCollins) that hit bookstores yesterday. Besides holding down her day job as Cosmo‘s editrix, Kate has managed to crank out five mysteries featuring heroine Bailey Weggins (a sixth is due next March), a handful of self-help tomes (including 9 Secrets of Women Who Get Everything They Want) and now, the second of two thrillers. Her latest novel chronicles what happens when celebrity biographer Phoebe Hall uncovers a secret society while tracking down a killer in a small college town and is already garnering rave reviews. Kate, who writes mostly on weekends, says she’s wanted to write page-turners ever since spotting a Nancy Drew mystery in her grandmother’s library at age 10. “I loved her,” she says of the iconic young detective. “I knew that whatever that was, I wanted to do that.”

Kate rounded up a pretty impressive group of gals to join in on the celebration. First to arrive was chick lit queen Jane Green who has written a dozen books (Babyville is my personal favorite) at the head spinning rate of one per year. I nearly fainted when Jane mentioned what a busy summer she’s having ferrying around her six children to their various activities. The former journalist for The Daily Express in Britain says it’s her training as a newspaper reporter facing deadlines that’s enabled her to find the discipline to write books. “Anybody can start a book; it’s another thing entirely to finish one.” Indeed.

Rounding out the group were best selling author Shelia Weller whose latest, Girls Like Us, is in development at Sony Pictures, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm, actress Donna Hanover who most recently appeared as a real estate agent  in FX’s Louie, and Barbara Butcher, chief of staff and director of Forensic Science Training Program at the Office of The Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan. While there was plenty of talk about books and writing, the group was completely transfixed by Barbara’s fascinating career as an investigator examining the dead at over 5,000 crime scenes . “I got a dissecting kit when I was 10 and my last name is ‘Butcher’ so this was kind of preordained,” Barbara quipped. Besides tackling the important tasks of identifying victims of 9/11 and the 2004 tsunami, Barbara has put her expertise to work consulting on shows like Law & Order and helping authors like Kate and Patricia Cornwall accurately depict their fictional crimes.  Spending a few hours with this crew has made me swear off procrastinating on that next book waiting to be written — or at least try to give up sleeping.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kate White, Jane Green, Shelia Weller, Hannah Storm, Donna Hanover, Barbara Butcher and yours truly.

2.  My good pal, investigative journo Diane Dimond who tirelessly chronicled Casey Anthony’s trial for The Daily Beast with Judy Twersky (Nice to finally meet you!) and another gal pal I didn’t get to meet.

3. Terry Allen Kramer

4.  Christine Taylor with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

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It’s An A-Lister Buffet! Cate Blanchett, Debra Messing, Star Jones and The Morning Joe Team

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a sure sign that spring is actually on its way when the A-list comes out of hibernation and flocks to Michael’s once again. The appearance of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing holding court at their respective tables had the whole place buzzing. Wendy Williams, seated in the middle of the action, could barely focus on her own table because she was so excited. We also have to imagine that the grub at the NBC cafeteria must be wanting these days, because there were so many of the network’s bold face names (Joe! Mika! David!) all around the room.

I was joined today by my good friend, Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR and Kristen Vigrass, president of The Brandman Agency. We were celebrating Kristen’s promotion to to president of the firm which was announced earlier this year. A public relations vet with a long history in the luxury market for companies including Calvin Klein, Kristen started at The Brandman Agency as a supervisor and worked her way up during her decade with the company. Bravo!

Kristen tells me she and founder Melanie Brandman are planning to celebrate a decade of working together with a possible  sojourn to Borneo. The exotic port of call will be on the intinerary later this year when the agency’s client Orion Expedition Cruises sets sail to the destination with a new ship. Kristen’s suitcase is always packed and ready to go somewhere. The Brandman Agency also represents Intercontinental Hotels Group and Orient-Express Hotels. When do we leave?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Debra Messing, looking every inch the star in a luxe white fur vest with her manager Molly Madden (the gals co-produced Messing’s now cancelled series The Starter Wife for USA Networks) and producer Desiree Gruber.

2. A Fox5 reunion: Rosanna Scotto, Penny Crone and Lynne White.

3. Sony Pictures Television head Steve Mosko with Tom Bernard and Michael Barker

4. Here’s an interesting trio: Uber celeb handler Cindi Berger, Hearst honcho Ellen Levine and Conde Nast front woman Maurie Perl

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Cindi Leive, Larry Hackett & David Zinczenko: Editors Unleashed!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It must be all that good news about ad pages for the September issues being way up from last year that brought out the media mavens today at Michael’s. The place was packed with editors and journos all doing their best to boost Gotham’s perilous economy. The expense account returns!

I was lunching today with my good friend Miriam Driot, who recently opened her own marketing consultancy, and fashionista extraordinaire Susan Tabak, who I met in this very dining room a few years ago. Susan spent over a decade providing well-heeled international clients with customized shopping excursions in Paris and later had a big hit with her self-published tome Chic in Paris: Style Secrets & Best Addresses and its accompanying blog, chicinparis.com.

“I’m not Vogue, but I have my own perspective and people have responded to my authenticity.” I’ll say. The Times of London rated her the top fashion commentator on Twitter for her insights from the front row of the haute couture shows. Last November, Susan reinvented her site as susantabak.com and has added plenty of eye-catching features like her behind-the-scenes look at the New York and Paris runway shows and video interviews with fashion gods like Karl Lagerfeld (“a fascinating character”) and John Galliano (“just extraordinary”).

Susan has parlayed her online success into a full-fledged media company and has plans for more books and some online and television projects. She’s also tapped Mark Grischke, formerly of Vogueand ForbesLife, to be her editorial director. “I’ve got so many plans to extend my brand beyond the website, and I’m taking my time so I can hire the best team possible. Fashion is international, and to succeed, you need a global presence.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Christopher Simon of CBS with a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Law & Order SVU‘s Richard Belzer (with his beloved pooch who seemed a bit skittish while dodging the wait staff) and a fellow we didn’t recognize

4. Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (in jeans!) and Eric Sacks

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Lunch: Tina Brown, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Media Mavens Galore!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

They were dining and dishing like it was 2006 today at Michael’s. When I mentioned to one of the regulars that I hadn’t seen the dining room jam packed with so many power lunchers in a long time, he summed up the scene this way: “People are tired of waiting for the official word that we’re out of the woods so they’re trying to act as if we are. In some ways, it’s working.” In other words, denial is the new black.

A few weeks back, my friend Robert Zimmerman introduced me to Melanie Brandman, founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. I chatted briefly with the two public relations mavens and today we had our own ‘Michael’s lunch.’ Melanie started her all-female agency in 2000 after serving as vice president of corporate affairs for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in London where she headed worldwide PR for over 3,000 properties in 100 countries. Today, at the helm of her own agency, she specializes in luxury hotels and lifestyle brands and represents top-tier clients including Qantas Airways, Orient-Express Hotels & Resorts, as well as her former employer. As you might imagine, she’s logged “millions of air miles” on the job and in just the past six months alone has visited India, Morocco, and Barbados multiple times. She recently hosted a group of lucky travel writers on a six-night sojourn aboard the uber luxurious Maharajas’ Express, which travels from Delhi to Kolkata. “Absolutely the best way to see India,” says Melanie. I’ll bet.

Last year, Melanie launched Blackbird PR, a lifestyle subsidiary of The Brandman Agency, and asked Diana, who had been working as public relations director of ’21′ Club for eight years, to head up the company. Of the spin-off Melanie says: “It was a natural progression, because we do a lot of work within the lifestyle divisions of our travel clients. I wanted to keep Brandman as a separate entity.” Things are off to a good start with clients like VOS Selections, whose handcrafted artisanal wines are the brainchild of Victor O. Schwartz and Ray Griffiths Fine Jewelry.

Melanie also tells me she just opened an office in Los Angeles so she could “get more business out of Asia” and squeeze in a few more trips back home to see the family in Australia. Where does she find the time?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hotshot Hollywood attorney and producer Freddie Gershon with legendary Oscar winning songwriters (“The Way We Were“) Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

2. Peter Brown

3. Howard Rubenstein

4. Allen & Co.’s Stanley Shuman

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Lunch: Glenn Close Talks Fatal Attraction

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I love when the stars align just right on a Wednesday at Michael’s, and I get to chat with a star I’ve always admired. I hit the jackpot today when I spotted Glenn Close in the dining room. Just last week, I’d seen Glenn on Oprah Winfrey‘s Oscar special where she and Michael Douglas did their first joint television interview about Fatal Attraction. “It was great fun,” Glenn, who looked positively radiant, told me. “We’d never done that before and it brought it all back for us.”

I don’t think anyone who saw the iconic thriller (nominated for six Academy Awards, including a best actress nod for Glenn) could ever forget her portrayal of book editor Alex Forrest. While audiences pegged Glenn’s character as a home wrecker and bunny boiler, the actress, after doing tons of research for the part, saw her much differently. “I never thought of her as a villain,” she says. Instead, she viewed the character as an unstable woman driven to madness over an affair gone wrong. Audiences made it the second highest grossing film of 1987, and it became a cautionary tale for men everywhere who thought twice, at least for five minutes, about having that one night stand. “We had no idea we were going to be part of a social phenomenon,” says Glenn, who happened to be lunching with Stanley Jaffe, the film’s producer. “But it was right at the time when there was a lot of feminist anger, and we touched something that was right below the surface.” I’ll say.

I was joined today by Myrna Blyth, who after spending two decades as editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal and later launched MORE, is now at the helm of BettyConfidential.com. (Full disclosure: I write a parenting blog for the site). Since launching two years ago, the site, which was co-founded by Deborah Perry Piscione and Shaun Marsh, now ranks seventh in comScore’s top ten in the Beauty/Fashion/Style category and was recently nominated by MIN for editorial excellence for their Best of the Web Awards — competing with Conde Nast and The Daily Beast. “What’s great about being online is that you can talk to women about what they want to talk about when they want to talk about it,” says Myrna. While so many in print are bemoaning the decline of magazines, Myrna doesn’t have time for all the whining: “The web is great. You can’t go backwards and you can’t fight it, so you’ve got to get with it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today show co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Sunny Luciani. The gals ducked out early for their weekly Broadway outing.

2. Michael Fuchs and a blonde mystery gal

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Paula Zahn

4. Jonathan Wald and The Financial TimesChrystia Freeland. I told Jonathan that his Facebook posts on Sunday had reassured me that Cablevision and WABC-TV would, in fact, come to their senses and restore service so that their 3.1 million viewers could watch the Oscars. “It will be settled in time,” he predicted when things didn’t look good later that afternoon, and lo and behold, the show appeared 13 minutes into the telecast. Whew!

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