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Posts Tagged ‘Michael J. Wolf’

Lunch: Kathie Lee Gifford and Friends Grab a Bite Before Broadway

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s nice to see there are still plenty of writers who can afford to eat at swanky restaurants these days. Today, the dining room at Michael’s was brimming with scribes of every stripe and their fabulous friends. I was heartened to hear from a handful of fellow scribes that they’ve got lots of new projects in the works. Good news indeed!

As usual, there were also plenty of famous faces to liven things up. Kathie Lee Gifford was first to arrive with her pal Sunny Lucani. Despite the frigid temps outside, the Today show host was rocking open-toed Gucci heels (without hosiery, of course) and a jade sleeveless sheath. “I’m always hot!” she joked. I just had to compliment the seemingly ageless morning show vet on her longer, blonder locks. “The same woman (Jacquie Poldoro) has been coming to my house for years to do my nails and hair,” she told me. That’s quite a house call. As she does every Wednesday, Kathie Lee was having an early lunch before heading off to see a Broadway show with friends. (Her co-host and fellow Michael’s regular, Hoda Kotb, dished about their girls’ nights and meeting Kathie Lee’s mom in an interview with us last year.) This week, the gals were going to check out David Mamet ‘s Race. Kathie Lee tells me the hands down favorite of the season so far has been A Little Night Music with Angela Lansbury (“She’s incandescent!”) and Catherine Zeta Jones. “It was just fabulous!” We’re getting our tickets this week.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, enjoying a friendly lunch with pals, including author Chris Buckley, Jean Halberstam, Michael Clurman, and Sharon Hoge.

2. Patrick Murphy, Joan Jakobson, and Betsy Gottbaum

3. Kathie Lee Gifford with Today show co-host Hoda Kotb and pal Sunny Lucani

4. Barry Diller and a bespectacled gent we didn’t recognize

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Lunch: TV Titans, Ivana Trump, & Devo!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You never know who you’re going to meet on any given Wednesday at Michael’s. I’ve chatted with former presidents, Oscar winners, and tabloid targets who have made the usually unflappable crowd turn and stare, but it’s those unexpected, below the radar moments that are often the most fun. When GM Steve Millington introduced me to Jerry Casale of Devo, one of my favorite ’80s bands, I was delighted. Just last week, I’d just seen Pearl Jam’s cover of the group’s famous anthem, “Whip It,” on YouTube where they wore copies of those infamous yellow jumpsuits and red flowerpot hats. I asked Jerry if he’d known about the act in advance. “No, and I wished they’d told me,” he joked. “I would have been able to tell them about the hard hat holders we wore to keep our hats in place. They had to settle for those silly elastic straps under their chins.” Still, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, says Jerry. “I’ve gotten so many calls since it wound up in Rolling Stone and gone viral. It’s a lot of fun.”

Larry Kramer joined me for lunch today and was excited to tell me all about his upcoming book, Talespin, which was bought by HarperCollins earlier this fall (Freddie Friedman agented the deal). In it, Larry tackles the idea of how all businesses are grappling with “the recreation of storytelling” from publishing to retailing. The game has changed, says Larry, especially in media. He takes “the media guys” to task for “protecting the business model instead of the business.” Besides getting top executives from here and abroad to weigh in (in his reporting Larry discovered Europe was way ahead of the curve in adapting to a changing multi-platform world) — the book is a sum total of Larry’s experience in “the old and new worlds of media.” In addition to his two decades as a reporter and editor for top papers including The Washington Postand the San Francisco Examiner, Larry founded MarketWatch in 1997 and has helmed CBS Digital Media. These days, he’s consulting for a cross section of media ventures including Discovery Networks and The Weather Channel. In January, Larry will begin teaching a graduate level course at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School where some of the lectures will be Skyped in and students will be “embedded” into companies to study their strategies first hand.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cosmo editrix Kate White with a table full of gals we didn’t get to meet.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, uber agent Ed Victor and Don Epstein of Greater Talent Network.

4. Author Ed Klein and Owen Laster

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Lunch: Special Evening Edition as Michael’s Celebrates 20 Years

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As much as we enjoy observing the social customs of the various media tribes during our Wednesday lunches at Michael’s, we jumped at the chance to mingle with the natives last night as they roamed free from the pecking order in the dining room. Michael McCarty threw himself quite a blowout to celebrate 20 years at 55th & Fifth, and a few hundred of his closest friends came out to mark the occasion.

By the time I arrived a little after six there was a line out the door where I crossed paths with my good pals — and Michael’s stalwarts — Lisa Linden and Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne. “I thought I’d get here early and beat the crowd,” Lisa told me. Nothing doing as we inched our way into the packed dining room. A camera crew from LX New York was there as the man of the hour personally greeted each guest at the door with a slap on the back (for the guys) and air kisses (for the gals). Michael’s wife, the talented artist Kim McCarty, whose artwork adorns the restaurant’s walls, beamed with pride. Just another fabulous night out in New York …

Here’s a rundown of the ‘cool kids’ who finished their homework in time to make it out Wednesday night.

Glamour editrix Cindi Leive (loved the leopard!) was chatting with attorney Lorie Almon (“She knows everybody!”) about next Monday night’s Women of the Year awards. Thanks for the invite; we can’t wait. When I asked Cindi what keeps her coming back to Michael’s she told me, “I like the food; I don’t even have to look at the menu. And I get to see people in my world, so I can check off that box. I’m a creature of habit.” Makes sense to us.

The fabulous fashionista, Fern Mallis sailed by, and I just had to ask her whether she’d heard if there was going to be another season of her reality show, The Fashion Show with Isaac Mizrahi. No word yet from Bravo, says Fern. Stay tuned.

I stopped by the bar to say hello to HarperCollins’ David Hirshey and my old friend Michael Solomon, and we got into a lively discussion about our mutual obsession with Mad Men. The show’s season finale airs Sunday, and we’re all on the edge of our seats wondering if desperate housewife Betty will leave her unraveling husband Don Draper for that irksome Henry Francis. We decided that if it were up to us the couple would stay together unhappily ever after, but chances are series creator Matt Weiner has something else in store. Michael, who I got to know when we were both working for TV Guide, now toils for The Daily Beast as features director. After some catching up, we had a nice OTR chat about the good old days when people could still make a living as print journalists.

When I bumped into Investigation Discovery honcho Henry Schleiff, I offered my congratulations on his network’s new show, On the Case with Paula Zahn, which is garnering some good reviews. Kudos!

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Lunch: What Recession? Michael’s Keeps Buzzing with Walter Isaacson, John Sykes & The Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The power lunch lives! While budgets are being slashed all over town, if the media mavens at the top are feeling the pinch, they’re determined not to show it. For the past several weeks, I’ve noticed that Michael’s is back to its pre-Great Recession level of buzz with a packed dining room. The regulars were out in force today along with an impressive array of captains of industry who were no doubt doing a lot more than catching up with old pals.

I was lunching today with Andrew Heyward, who I got to know during his tenure as president of CBS News. Andrew is busier than ever these days consulting for a full slate of companies including Monitor Group and NBC News. I asked him how he felt when the New York Supreme Court’s appellate division threw out Dan Rather‘s $70 million lawsuit against CBS last month. “I’m gratified by the appellate court’s unanimous decision to dismiss the case,” he told me. “I hope this is an opportunity for everyone involved to move on once and for all.” Not everyone seems to share that sentiment. Dan’s lawyer, Martin Gold, told TVNewser he plans to appeal.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Nick Simunek with, we’re told, a table full of showbiz types including the fellow who wrote Love At First Bite.

2. Peter Brown, Shirley Lord, and two other distinguished gentlemen we didn’t know.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive. Second seating: ICM’s president Chris Silbermann.

4. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank and attorney Alan Grubman. I caught up with Matt on the way out, and we chatted about Toni Collette‘s Emmy win for The United States of Tara. I also asked about one of my favorite shows, The Tudors. Matt tells me they just wrapped production and the show promises to deliver plenty of royal drama in its final season. We’ve been hearing rumors that Showtime’s next dysfunctional dynasty to receive the star treatment will be the Borgias. We can’t wait!

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Lunch: The Usual Suspects Today — But Sarah Palin Was Here Last Night!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was packed with plenty of familiar faces this afternoon. Seems the gang was out in force before disappearing for the true dog days of August. The real side show in the dining room took place last night, when none other than Sarah Palin dropped in with Bob Barnett and took the staff completely by surprise. A little birdie told me Bob was dining with a couple of folks, left and came back with Palin and her husband Todd, the ex-’First Dude.’ According to all accounts, the former governor was clearly enjoying her new role as a private citizen last evening: She drank Deutz champagne and ordered lobster ‘off the menu.’ Could she have been celebrating some big soon-to-be announced TV deal? As they say on the small screen, stay tuned!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cablevision’s Barry Frey presiding over a table full of Red Bull marketing execs

2. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden (loved that amazing handbag!) with Silda Spitzer, who was wearing a pretty summer toile dress

3. Jim Wiatt, Tim Armstrong, and another gent we didn’t recognize.

4. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and ex-Portfolio editrix Joanne Lipman

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Lunch: Happy Birthday, Cathie Black!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Evander Holyfield by a day, but there was plenty of action to keep our attention in Michael’s jam-packed dining room today. Between the surprise birthday party for Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black on Table One, a smattering of fashionistas, and the bumper crop of beauty industry bigwigs holding court here and there, I suspect there was a fair share of business being done between bites of Cobb Salad. I noticed another interesting trend from my usual perch at the bar: This crowd really likes their cocktails. “For some reason, we are doing a lot of different drinks today,” said my friend Melinda, the bartender. Besides serving up some Shirley Temples, Melinda poured Pernod, Bellinis and Danish Murrays (That’s Aquavit and Bloody Mary mix). One diner who sat down promptly at noon ordered a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks straight away. It beats iced tea, I guess. Bottoms up!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black celebrating with a table full of media mavens (and plenty of presents!), including Harper’s Bazaar publisher Valerie Salembier and power players Jeannette Chang (long time, no see!), Michael Clinton, Ellen Levine and Donna Lagani.

2. Peter Brown, Paige Peterson and a handsome young gent.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and George Stevens. I was thrilled to see the mayor at his regular perch after his recent trip to Austin, where he’s joined the board of his alma mater, the University of Texas. (He got both his law and journalism degrees there.) Joe was staying with his good pal Lance Armstrong, who, he told me, will be competing in this year’s Tour de France and saddling up for the major ‘Tour’ race in Italy. Lance has completely “bounced back” from his shattered collarbone, reports Joe. Just thought you’d like to know…

4. Leonard Lauder and two well-dressed gals we didn’t recognize …

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Lunch: Bill Bradley, Norman Pearlstine & The Media Mavens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a lo-cal edition of lunch today. We’re chalking it up to near Spring-like weather (I don’t know about you, but I’m burning my winter coat when we finally have two days over 60) and plenty of recent rumblings about companies tightening the reins on expense accounts. What’s a media maven to do? You’ve still gotta eat. And if there’s business to be done — or you’re looking for your next big thing — Michael’s is still the place to be to connect with the power brokers that aren’t chained to their desks. Today, besides the regulars, the crowd was sprinkled with a liberal (no pun intended) dose of media mavens and business types with a former senator (Bill Bradley) thrown in for good measure. The mood in the dining room was a bit low-key, but I’m guessing there was still plenty of deals being struck over those burgers.

I was lunching today with my pal Brian Balthazar, HGTV’s director of programming. Brian and I met at Michael’s when he was working as supervising producer of Today‘s fourth hour with those chatty gals Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Now that Brian is getting up at a far more civilized hour, he’s got time for things besides television, including doing stand-up (His next gig is on April 15 at Comix). His new-ish job at HGTV is keeping him plenty busy, though, overseeing 18 shows with some great new projects in the works, including programming that will offer viewers an up close and personal look at celebrity homes. Brian also tells me he’s retooling the network’s popular House Hunters series to inject a bit “more reality” into the show and reflect more of what buyers are going through during these recessionary times. Still, though, there’s plenty of escapism (Thank God!) on offer. “During tough times, people really like to see beautiful homes and be inspired. There’s a voyeuristic quality to real estate that people love.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Laurie Tisch and a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Kerry Kennedy and James Wolfensohn, former head of The World Bank. Second seating: producers Jon Hart and Fred Zollo

4. Steve Rubenstein and Norman Pearlstine

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Lunch: Jane Fonda & Jerry Seinfeld — That’s Entertainment!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s always those random celebrity sightings at Michael’s that make my weekly Wednesday visits much more fun. Today certainly didn’t disappoint. When a little birdie told me Jerry Seinfeld would be holding court on table one today, I knew I was in for it. When he strolled in sporting a baseball cap and jeans, it seemed he was trying to keep a low profile, but as soon as he opened his mouth, every head in the vicinity swiveled in his direction. He pretended not to notice and took a quick look around the dining room before settling in at table one with Trident Media’s Dan Strone. I’m thinking Jerry’s got another book in the offing. If not, he might have gotten an idea for one by the time lunch was over — every time I glanced his way, I got the distinct impression he was gathering material. He looked more than a little amused at the scene as the rest of the crowd strained to check him out on the sly. Across the room, Jane Fonda (who made her second appearance of the week) also opted for a low profile, hiding behind her shades for much of her lunch with Pat Mitchell — then the gals ducked out early. But not before my pal Beverly Camhe got a chance to chat with Jane about a possible appearance at the Center for Peace in Berlin. Then, the tireless Bev joined me at the bar and gave me the scoop on the hit of the Hamptons Film Festival (she’s on the advisory board) — the new documentary from two Australian filmmakers on Dominick Dunne. Bev reports that Dominick flew in just for the premiere and was “very moved” by the film. “He was thrilled,” says Bev. “He was nervous beforehand because it was an act of faith since he didn’t know these guys. It turned out great and everyone loved it.” We’re thrilled for Nick. Congrats!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jerry Seinfeld and Trident Media’s Dan Strone

2. Peter Brown, Frank Bowling and pals

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Sotheby’s Jamie Niven

4. Arnold Scaasi (who felt compelled to prune the bountiful fall arrangement behind his table before sitting down), Parker Ladd and a gal named Judy, so we’re told …

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Lunch: Hillary—Obama Smackdown!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Bill Clinton isn’t the only one who is getting a little testy about the endlessly long and increasingly tabloid-y battle for the democratic nomination. At today’s lunch, politics were on the menu as supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took sides over their Cobb Salads. Our unofficial dining room poll finds Obama holding a commanding lead. Producer Joan Gelman — between commuting from Canada where her show Triple Sensation is going great guns — has taken to handing out her very own campaign buttons. “I do one for every election,” she told us. Her latest creation got lots of attention at a party at Tina Brown‘s recently when ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong arrived wearing one. It boasts a picture of President George Bush and John McCain in an embrace and is emblazoned with the words — Four More Years. Here’s the punch line: There’s a question mark at the end of the phrase. Joan was handing them out today (thanks!) and people were gobbling them up like mad. A few tables down, the exchange at David Patrick Columbia ‘s regular perch between David (a Hillary booster — “I just don’t know why she is the subject of so much hate”), Charlie Scheips and Terry Allen Kramer (decidedly not a fan) rivaled the dust ups on Sunday morning on The McLaughlin Group. But it was all in good fun. Isn’t it always?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. One big happy family: Michael’s wife Kim McCarty and kids Clancy and Chas with Martin von Haselberg and daughter Sophie. The families’ friendship goes back 30 years, says Michael. To wit: a painting of Martin (done by Kim) hangs in the reception area of the restaurant. There was plenty to celebrate all around: Clancy just graduated from NYU last week, Chas is starting his first year at Bard and Sophie is at Yale. Impressive! We were hoping that Martin’s wife — none other than Bette Midler — would join the party but, said Michael, she was rehearsing for her eagerly anticipated Las Vegas show (the family leaves for the desert tomorrow). Knock ‘em dead, Bette!

2. Peter Brown.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and yours truly. The Mayor was the subject of a glowing New York Times piece last week which bore more than a passing resemblance to this column. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn’t it?

4. Phil Smith and agent extraordinaire Ron Konecky.

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