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Posts Tagged ‘Michael J. Wolff’

Bonnie Fuller, Jill Zarin and Why Jeff Greenfield Skipped This Year’s State of the Union Address

LunchAtMichaelsYou’d never know hell had officially frozen over if you’d been at Michael’s today. The forsythias were in bloom, a few intrepid media mavens were barelegged (I kid you not) and the power-lunch scene was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, my date was detained in the studio shooting a popular television show, but I soldiered on into Manhattan, bundled up in my long-forgotten fur coat (No judgment, thank you) that makes me look like Yogi Bear’s wife to make my appointed Wednesday rounds. And it’s a good thing I did. At Table One, Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller had assembled a particularly interesting roster of media types (including CNN’s Christine Romans, AOL’s Brian Balthazar , ”Mayor” Joe Armstrong and our own Chris Ariens among them) as well as the requisite reality-show refugee who, in this case, was Jill Zarin. A little birdie told me the former Real Housewives of New York City cast member is getting the Where Are They Now? treatment from none other than Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode. The fickle finger of fate has quite the sense of humor.

Lunch at Michaels

Meta moment: Does a power lunch at 55th and Fifth count if no one’s there to see it? I think we know the answer to that one.

Before the overflow crowd sat down to discuss Justin Bieber‘s latest contretemps and why Madonna looked like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West at the Grammys, I spent some time mingling with the crowd. Bonnie introduced me to her 23-year-old daughter Sofia Fuller who was “helping out” at today’s luncheon since Bonnie is currently without a publicist (but not for long, I suspect). Clever Sofia told me that she is “definitely” interested in a career in media and has her heart set on landing something in e-commerce.

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David Zaslav, David Zinczenko and the Next Big Name in Fashion

1003_mockup.gifOn any given Wednesday, the Michael’s dining room is chock full of moguls (David Zaslav, David Zinczenko) and mavens largely known to faithful readers of this column, and today was no exception. Yet, every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to meet people who, despite their impressive accomplishments, have managed to keep a relatively low profile.

Today was one of those days thanks to David Thalberg, founder of The Thalberg Group, who introduced me to a fascinating woman. If you’ve never heard of Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Project Gravitas, trust me, you will. The Taiwanese-born, Ivy League-educated entrepreneur learned the ropes working at McKinsey & Co for 11 years, advising clients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America on strategic issues for the firm’s global luxury fashion and beauty practice. And, it’s clear in talking to her, that the inspired ideas behind her new business have been percolating for a long, long time.

Armed with degrees in biology and political science from Yale and a lifelong passion for fashion, Lisa rose through the ranks to become McKinsey’s resident expert on the luxury and fashion markets. As such, Lisa gave plenty of keynote addresses at symposiums, including the American Express Luxury Summit. While living all over the world and developing her business acumen as her career progressed, she learned quickly that dressing the part was also a key strategy in building a successful career. Having been a size 22, size 8 and “now a proud size 12,” Lisa was determined to create a line of dresses that gave style-savvy women the fashion they craved and the self-assurance they needed. And that’s how Project Gravitas was born. “We are that dress,” explained Lisa. “The one you wear on the interview where you get that job, the one that inspires you to go to that party, the one that you slip on for that very important day. It’s the one you wear that makes you feel like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Lisa Sun and Diane Clehane

The collection of 10 ‘niche dresses’, available exclusively on Project Gravitas’ website, retail between $195- $295 with free shipping and returns (“By selling online, we can keep the retail price accessible”) and are manufactured exclusively in New York with fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Here’s the real secret ingredient that is sure to attract the attention of Spanx wearers everywhere: each dress is designed with built-in shapewear from high performance moisture-wicking fabric that is breathable and machine washable. Lisa told me, “I wanted to make the ‘treat me’ dress for the young executive who wants to trade up from Zara, the ‘super mom’ who wants to look good for date night. I think of these dresses as beautifully designed safety blankets.”

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Willie Geist’s Parenting Advice to Kanye West; Star Jones Celebrates a Birthday

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After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.

Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”

“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ’President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”

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Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

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Lunch: Barbara Walters, Frank Langella & Kathie Lee Gifford

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was a tasty mix of media mavens, social types and the random celebrity (Frank Langella was in the house!) on the menu at Michael’s today: The dining room was so packed, they were shoehorning tables in everywhere. I was glad I got there early so I was able to grab some of the regulars on the way to their tables before they got down to some serious dining and dishing. Kathie Lee Gifford was one of the first to arrive, announcing, “Ah, springtime!” as she came through the door. She’s got plenty to smile about these days as her latest book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg (Ballantine), hit the New York Times bestseller list. I just has to ask Kathie Lee what she thought about her pal Joan Rivers winning The Celebrity Apprentice, besting her arch enemy poker player Annie Duke and the nasty showdown the women had on the finale. “I was thrilled for her. Anyone that knows Joan knows she’s a friend to the end — and any time a 75-year-old wins anything, it’s good for all of us!”

I was lunching today with Alexandra Trower, Estee Lauder’s executive vice president of global communications. This consummate public relations pro has been with the company just over a year now, having made the switch from banking (she was SVP of media relations for Bank of America) to the beauty biz. This week, Alex scored a major hit with a front-page story on Estee Lauder’s new CEO Fabrizio Freda in WWD Beauty Biz. We had a terrific chat about the famous faces and captains of industry we’ve both come to know. It’s amazing what a small world Manhattan can be!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today show twosome Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Kathie Lee’s right-hand gal Christine and Hoda’s chic pal Sunny

2. Literary lioness Lynn Nesbitt and Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong dining with Kerry Kennedy and her charming young daughter Michaela

4. Barbara Walters and Frank Langella

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Lunch at Michael’s: Al Roker, Katie Joel and A Special Birthday Celebration

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgNo doubt by attending the Michael’s Media Jamboree on a Thursday — due to flu and flood, a day later than mediabistro.com’s customary weekly report on the media bigwigs who lunch — things were bound to be a little off-kilter. But as the slightly-less-than-packed crowd prepared for their cookie plates and cappuccinos, manager Steve Millington rushed over to Table One and began to … sing?! For the record, your humble correspondent (that would be GalleyCat‘s Sarah Weinman, filling in for the usual suspects) thought his rendition of “Happy Birthday” passed muster, but our bar companions stared agog at the proceedings. “Steve singing? It’s time to go!” But before that happened, Millington got a fierce bear hug from NBC weatherman extraordinaire Al Roker, trailed by a very purple, very pregnant Vanessa Haydon Trump. And if there are more questions marks and misspellings than usual, it reflects your correspondent’s woeful ability to correlate faces and names.

Here’s the rundown:

1. The birthday group, including Brooke Duchin, Tom Fallon, Bill Rondina, Giovanni LoFaro, and Alex H, all there to fete Alex “The Weasel” Hitz (who seemed to like his nickname enough when Millington used it in the birthday song).

2. Patrick Murphy and Joan Jakobson.

3. Pat Altschul, Katie Lee Joel (consistently animated with laughter) and other unidentified guests.

4. Barry Diller in full media mogul mode with an unidentified blond gentleman.

5. “Some actress,” which isn’t terribly helpful, I know.

6. Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television and friends.

7. Manolo Blahnik’s George Malkemus with Instyle.com editor Candy Pratts Price.

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia at his customary table, with PR exec Debra Davis and her new client Vincent Licari who had his first Fashion Week show the day before.

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