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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Holtzman’

Eliot Spitzer on CNN’s Identity Crisis: ‘There’s No Objectivity in Network News’

1003_mockup.gifIt was the usual Wednesday mix of moguls (Jon Tisch), media men (Richard Beckman, Mike Perlis) and television honchos (Henry Schleiff) today at Michael’s. With this Type A crowd, summer vacations are for slackers — at least until August. From the looks of things, there were plenty of deals being done (or at least pitched) between bites.

I was joined today by Eliot Spitzer and Lisa Linden. The last time the three of us had lunch, New York’s former governor was headlining his own show on CNN, In The Arena, which replaced the short-lived Parker Spitzer which he launched with co-host Kathleen Parker in 2010. About a year ago, CNN boss Ken Jautz cancelled In The Arena in a shakeup of the network’s primetime lineup. “I’m very happy with the show we did and the ratings we got, which were good to compared to what they’re getting now,” Eliot told me.  Not surprisingly, he says he prefers and is better suited for Current TV’s politically charged environment. “Current has an ideology. There’s no pretense; we’re open about it. CNN tries very hard to position itself as an non-ideological news network, but there’s no objectivity in network news. It would be better for all of us if we just accepted that.” Therein lies the major issue with his former employer’s rating woes, says Eliot: ”CNN has a serious question of what it is and they’ve got to answer that.”

Having stepped in seemingly hours after Keith Olbermann was booted from Current TV, Eliot took to the airwaves with the aptly titled Viewpoint in Olbermann’s old time slot with no promotional campaign or PR machine to attract viewers (although Olbermann’s own campaign to get his side of the story out gave the fledgling network plenty of attention). But the show does have co-founder Al Gore‘s support (he’s been a guest on Viewpoint) and Eliot says Joel Hyatt is very involved in the “day-to-day” running of the network. “They have been great. I’ve known Al since 1999 and I like him very much. He’s a great guy.” (BTW you can see what Joel had to say about all those supposed dust-ups with Olbermann in this Mediabistro interview.)

Eliot Spitzer and Diane Clehane
Eliot Spitzer and Diane Clehane

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Rick Fox, Arianna Huffington and a Real Housewife of New York City

1003_mockup.gif— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today with movers and shakers jammed into every corner. I was so glad I got there early and was able to chat with Rick Fox and his girlfriend Eliza Dushku (who we loved on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when they arrived at the stroke of noon. Having watched the former LA Laker morph into a serious ballroom dancer during his stint on Dancing With the Stars, I just had to ask him if he’d kept up with his smooth moves. “No I haven’t,” he told me with a laugh. “I guess I need to call [professional partner Cheryl Burke] if I ever need to do that again.”

Rick said he was in town for Internet Week to promote Off Season, a podcast production he is working on with Michael Eisner as producer. “It’s great and that’s where the future seems to be. I’m having a lot of fun with it.” As for Eliza, who is truly stunning in person, she’s in town to film an episode of  White Collar. When asked if she is playing a good girl or femme fatale on the USA Network series, she demurred. “A little of both, I think.” With that, the dazzling couple sailed off to take their place at their table in the center of the room.

I was lunching today with Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of thirdage.com, the longest-running site devoted to female baby boomers. Ever since Web entrepreneur Josh Speyer bought the site in 2010 and brought Myrna, who was once the guiding force of Ladies Home Journal and More, on board, over two million visitors have been flocking to the site for everything from boomer celebrity news to the latest health breakthroughs. While magazines seem to shun the 50-plus crowd, which Myrna thinks is a “big mistake,” thirdage is welcoming ‘women of a certain age’ who have have real buying power and who want talk  — and talk — about what matters to them online. “I think it’s wonderful to give such a powerful group the voice they deserve,” says Myrna. “Thirdage is for the woman who wasn’t born yesterday and wants to make the most of today.”

Here’s the rundown on todays’ crowd:

1.  Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com‘s Bonnie Fuller, presiding over their second monthly “Influencers” lunch. The table was so jam packed that we could barely make out all the attendees, but we were able to spot Cosmo editrix Kate White; Neil Vogel, co-founder of the Webby Awards; Cablevision’s Tad Smith; Real Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps (that’s Countess de Lesseps to you!); Veronika Ward of MediaCom Interaction; Estee Lauder’s Marisa Thalberg; MMC’s chief revenue officer Aly Racer; and WNBC-TV’s Jane Hanson.

2. Michael Holtzman

3. Alan Grubman and NBC’s Richard Engel

4. Michael Fuchs and producer Jean Doumanian

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Mary Higgins Clark, The Hiltons And The Media Mob

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– DIANE CLEHANE

The sweltering heat (wasn’t it just snowing last week?) didn’t keep the regulars away from Michael’s today. The dining room was jam packed with authors, agents and media mavens all deep in conversation about who knows what. From the looks of things, the power lunch crowd here is gearing up for a busy season of neworking that has to be crammed into a four-day work week now that those summer cottages are open.  Oh, the pressure!

I was thrilled to join Vi Huse and Kira Semler for lunch today. I met them almost five years ago when I first started covering the scene at Michael’s and was fascinated by these two attractive, fun loving gals who always seemed to have a grand old time at their monthly champagne lunch (and always ate dessert!). Turns out these two good friends have been keeping their Michael’s lunch date with each other for over ten years! “This is only the second time we’ve sat in the dining room,” Vi told me.  “We always sit at the bar and it’s just become our spot.”

Today, the three of us sat with the big kids in the dining room to celebrate Vi’s 23 years as owner of Kerygma, a gallery in Ridgewood, New Jersey specializing in contemporary American art. Vi just retired yesterday but tells me she will continue to work with artists like Peter Fiore, Gerald Doudera, David Lee and Jane Owen online. Kira, a jewelry aficionado and freelance bookeeper, was one of Vi’s first clients and the gals have been fast friends ever since. Cheers!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mary Higgins Clark, Carolyn Reidy and a table full of pals. The indefatigable 83-year-old author was the subject of a glowing profile in The Wall Street Journal last month which chronicled her success: she’s sold 100 million books in the U.S. alone, and all 42 of her novels have been best-sellers. With I’ll Walk Alone, released in April, she’s keeping her winning streak going. We’re in awe.

2. Michael Holtzman (Peter Brown’s VP and right hand man, so we’re told.)

3. Joan TischCandace Leeds and Marcia Stein

4. The always distinguished Stan Shuman

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Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bo Dietl and The Post-Election Posse

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The votes are in and this week’s big winner is Michael McCarty whose dining room has been packed every day with A-list celebs  and politicos of every stripe in town this week to dissect every nuance of election night. The star of Monday’s lunch was none other than Jessica Lange, and on Tuesday James Carville, Cokie Roberts and Tina Brown made the scene. Kirk Douglas was also spotted accepting well wishes for son Michael Douglas, who is keeping a low profile having just finished his treatment for throat cancer.

Today, politics were the topic and I overheard plenty as I made my rounds in the dining room. “Who the hell knows what this all means?” said one shell shocked Obama supporter of the midterm election results. His friend wearily replied, “It’s over. The president is in for it now.” An interested party across the room offered this assessment: “The Republican Party may think this is their time, but they’ll shoot themselves in the foot. You’ll see. ” Another friend told me, “Until we stop thinking of ourselves as a red nation or blue nation and figure out this is a red, white and blue country, we’re screwed.”

At my table, we avoided politics and stuck to dissecting the latest moves in media. My good friend Andy Amill, who this summer got a much deserved promotion and is now Vice President of Weight Watchers Media Group overseeing all print and digital media, is feeling pretty optimistic these days. And he’s got reason to be. It seems celebrity pitch woman Jennifer Hudson, who sensibly shrunk down from a size 16 to a svelte size six on the tried and true program, has been a home run for the brand. “The impact of Jennifer Hudson has been phenomenal,” Andy told me. “We’ve seen an increase in membership at meetings and on-line and an increase in magazine sales.” And, unlike the usual blink-and-you miss-’em celeb endorsement deals, Andy reports that the divine Ms. Hudson will be sticking around to spearhead some top secret programs the company will unveil in 2011.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Early Show: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. Second seating: My pal, attorney Suzanne Bracker, and Dan Wassong.

2. Peter Brown and Michael Holtzman

3. Fortune‘s Patricia Sellers — whose cover story last month on Oprah‘s next act still has people buzzing – and, we’re told, John Needham.

4. Felicia Taylor with another chic blonde gal we didn’t recognize.

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Lunch: James Cameron’s Oscar Campaign Comes to Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was Hollywood on the Hudson at Michael’s today as Peggy Siegal hosted one of her legendary lunches right smack in the middle of the dining room. Today’s guest of honor was James Cameron. Looks like Peggy pulled out all the stops, rounding up quite an eclectic collection of actors, directors, and entertainment A-listers to celebrate the Avatar auteur’s nine Oscar nominations and, no doubt, drum up a few votes. Ballots are due March 2! In case you haven’t heard, Cameron is up against some stiff competition in the best picture and director categories. His ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, has been nabbing plenty of statuettes this award season for helming The Hurt Locker, and everyone in Hollywood is waiting to see who comes out on top on Oscar night.

I was squeezed into the bar with Redbook‘s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison and Hearst’s director of public relations Alexandra Carlin. Stacy is about to publish her first book, Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce (Simon & Schuster) next month and it’s a real page turner. After spending a year “trying not to write the book,” Stacy decided to chronicle her painful but ultimately life-affirming journey from jilted wife of a year-old baby to happy single mother. The memoir, which seems destined for the big screen, took two years of writing and rewriting on weekends to finish. “I wanted to make people think differently about divorce,” Stacy told me. After tiring of deflecting people’s inappropriate questions about the split, Stacy says she ultimately thought: ‘If you want to see the real story, here it is.’ And she doesn’t hold anything back. From the nights spent sobbing on her kitchen floor to the painful conversations with her soon-to-be ex, it’s all there.

I asked Stacy if she had any misgivings about exposing so much about her personal life in the book, given her high-profile position as a relationship ‘expert.’ (She got her boss Cathie Black‘s blessing to write it.) On the contrary, she told me. “The book is a resilience road map,” says Stacy. Miraculously, she and her ex-husband have managed to remain friends (really!) and have a co-parenting strategy that works for the couple and their young son. Stacy even dedicated the book to the man who left her because, she says, “I couldn’t have written it without him in more ways than one.”

The book is getting plenty of good buzz and even earned high praise from none other than Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote of her own reawakening after divorce in Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert “loved the tone” of the book, calling it “real, without the slightest hint of self-pity.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Just an intimate lunch for 38 including James Cameron and pals Bob Balaban, Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (looking absolutely ageless), Avatar villain Stephen Lang, indie It girl Parker Posey, documentarian Ken Burns and director Julie Taymor, Jean Doumanian and Warner Music’s Lyor Cohen. Also in attendance: Les Moonves, John Stossel, Felicia Taylor, and “Mayor” Joe Armstrong. Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar odds-maker Dave Karger was also on hand taking it all in.

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