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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Kassan’

An Incognito Laurie Dhue & The Summer Swells

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Even presidential gridlock couldn’t keep the diehards away from Michael’s today. While President Obama dished with the gals on The View across town, the usual mix of media mavens, moguls and socialites pecked at their lunches and traded war stories about their oh so busy summers. Overheard in the ladies’ room: “The traffic in the Hamptons is worse than ever!” and “There’s just too many parties to get to this year!” What a pity.

I was lunching today with Amy Matthews, licensed contractor and host of This New House, premiering Thursday night on DIY. In it, she and co-host Kevin O’Connor travel the country in search of the latest and greatest innovations in home building and construction. The mission of the show, explains Amy, is to teach do-it-yourselfers how to spruce up their homes using their own muscle.

Fresh off an appearance on The Early Show this morning, Amy looks more like a movie star (think a younger Virgina Madsen) than a hardhat, but she says she came to love all things construction from her dad while growing up in Minneapolis. She recommends home improvement novices start by consulting the experts and trying “cosmetic” projects like painting or switching kitchen and bathroom faucets first. But if you think you’re ready and want to have some real fun, pick up a pickaxe and go for it. “A lot of people find doing their own demolition very therapeutic,” she says. “Plus, you can save yourself a lot of money.”

In the series this season, Amy and Kevin meet up with all kinds of inventors, builders and scientists that are sure to get you off the couch and into your local hardware store. One of her favorite inventions, she says, is an at-home system that allows doors in private homes to operate like those handy automatic ones at your favorite big box store. Just the thing you’ll need when you come home ladened with packages from the new Target uptown. We’ll be tuning in.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong (Long time no see!) and pals David Patrick Columbia who celebrated a birthday earlier this week, Joan Jacobsen, Patrick Murphy and Mary McDonagh Murphy. I stopped to say my hello’s and found out the gang was celebrating the release of Mary’s new book Scout, Atticus & Boo which celebrates the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird. Congrats!

2. An almost unrecognizable Laurie Dhue, who exchanged her usual anchorwoman ‘do for a slicked back look today, and some equally attractive gal pals.

3. Dynastic dynamos: Margo McNabe Nederlander and Haley Steinbrenner Swindal

4. Jerry Inzerillo

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Ralph Lauren, Jenna Bush, and the Media Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was good to be back at my regular perch at Michael’s today after a nasty bug kept me home last week. I returned to a scene buzzing with a head-spinning mix of fashion designers, famous faces, and the requisite media moguls. Don’t these people ever take a day off? I’m guessing not.

Today I was joined by W. Randall Jones (‘Randy’ to his friends), who I got to know right here in the dining room. Randy is, without fail, always the best dressed man in the room. (He credits Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn-based tailor to Bill Clinton and Colin Powell, for his sartorial success.) When Randy arrived looking as dashing as ever in his three-piece navy pinstriped suit, we got right down to dishing.

This is a man who knows just about everyone, which is no surprise considering he’s had a stellar 30-year career in media. He launched Worth magazine in 1992 and was the youngest publisher in magazine history when he nabbed the top spot at Esquire at the ripe old age of 29. The self-described “serial entrepreneur” also launched The American Benefactor, the first magazine about philanthropy from the donor’s perspective and released his first book, The Greatest Stock Picks of All Time, to plenty of attention in 2004.

The tastiest dish is off the record, but I can tell you his latest tome, The Richest Man in Town, has been a big success. It vaulted to the number one spot on Amazon right after Randy appeared on Wall Street Week with Maria Bartiromo. These days, he’s working on a top secret television project. We can’t wait to hear more.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman, and Michael Kramer. A photographer from The New York Times was on hand to capture everything for an upcoming piece on the good doctor for the Style section. We’ll be looking for it.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and The Daily Beast’s Bryan Curtis who, when I asked what he did for the website replied, “Whatever Tina tells me to do.” Nice to meet you!

4. Ralph Lauren (who kept his sunglasses on throughout lunch) and Buffy Birrittella, the designer’s longtime executive vice president of women’s design and advertising. We spotted them celebrating Buffy’s birthday with champagne and nibbling on some chocolate confection while chatting with the steady stream of well wishers, like Harper’s Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey.

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John Sykes, Jared Kushner & Moguls on the Make

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting like recent visitors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close that gives Michael’s that jolt of adrenaline during our weekly Wednesday visits. And sometimes it’s the sheer power quotient of the dining room that gets our attention. As one regular told me: “I can always tell who is looking for money and who is writing the checks when I come here. It’s the best business scorecard around.”

Today I was joined by power publicist Catherine Saxton, who knows just about everybody but never spins and tells, and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of Beezag and AdGenesis. We had a fascinating chat about the ‘wild west’ of Internet advertising and how absolutely maddening those unwanted pop-up ads are. When Richard launched Beezag last November with Laurent Alhadeff, they created a different kind of online advertising environment which they’ve cleverly coined as ‘Me-commerce.’ Richard explains beezag’s consumer-centric marketing concept this way: “It’s about relevancy and reward. Consumers watch entertaining branded content and video ads they love and get discounts they deserve because they’re thanked with special offers and incentives from advertisers.”

By matching brands to the consumers who want to hear about them, Richard reports that beezag delivers clients an average of 25 percent click-through rates. The members-only, opt-in multi-platform community has some pretty serious brainpower behind it. Richard tells me his ‘executive council’ of advisors includes Gerry Byrne, Wenda Millard, Michael Kassan and Bob Friedman. For someone who just landed in New York from South Africa in January of last year, Richard seems to have figured out pretty quickly how to make things happen in Manhattan. We’re impressed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Boy wonder Jared Kushner with his dad Charles, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers. The New York Observer owner must have had some big deal brewing, because he stepped outside several times to take a very important call. Or perhaps it was just the missus, Ivanka Trump, asking what to make for dinner.

2. My friend and PR maven extraordinaire Lisa Linden and former Bush administration advisor Charles Millard, celebrating the launch of Charles’ new venture specializing in pension funds and financial services, Cardinal Advisors.

3. Catherine Saxton, Richard Smullen and yours truly

4. LVMH’s David Anton

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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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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: Michael Douglas Turns Heads; Rudy & Judy Giuliani Go Low Profile

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I got an early Christmas present at Michael’s today when I got the chance to chat with one of my favorite actors, Michael Douglas, who has been something of a regular in the dining room this fall since coming back to town to film Wall Street 2. When the Oscar winner arrived and strode purposefully to his table, every head in the place turned. Unlike plenty of A-listers who can barely conceal their impatience for having to deal with mere mortals, he couldn’t have been more gracious when I went over to say hello.

A few years ago, we worked together on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where he presented an award to designer Nino Cerruti His then-fiancee, now his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, was also there to present to glamour guys Mark Badgley and James Mischka. When I told him the paps are still raking it in from the images taken then of the glam couple on the red carpet, he just laughed. “How is Nino?” he asked before I could ask him about his work on Wall Street 2. When the conversation finally turned to the highly anticipated sequel, I got the scoop on what we can expect from the story and his character, the Machiavellian money man Gordon Gekko. “It was very exciting and a lot of fun to be back. He’s been in prison so he’s a lot darker now, and he’s written a book about the financial world,” said Michael. “It’s set in 2007, so it’s about his predictions on what’s going to happen. It’s very interesting.” Is greed still good? We’re guessing not.

I’ve gotten to meet lots of interesting folks since I first began reporting on the scene at Michael’s three years ago and there’s none nicer than Ira Yoffe, who joined me for lunch today to talk about his exciting new venture. After spending 29 years with Parade — the last nine as vice president, creative director, and head of its in-house advertising agency — Ira is striking out on his own. He’s launching Yoffe Media Group in January because, he says, the time has never been better for entrepreneurial creative businesses. “Last fall, when budgets were being cut, money on creative was one of the first things to go. This is the time to re-invest in promoting your product.” Ira plans to run his “virtual agency” without costly overhead by putting together creative teams comprised of talented freelancers wherever they may be. On Friday, he’ll be inking a partnership deal with Rosica Strategic Public Relations. “There is no need for talent and creativity to be limited by location or the limits of outdated technology,” he told me. “Now, more than ever before, it’s possible for clients to benefit from work that is being produced by the best and the brightest in the world.” He expects that his agency-without-walls philosophy will result in “a better quality of work” and the ability to “pass the savings on to the client.” Sounds like a winning strategy to us.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Late arriving producer Joel Silver and a table full of holiday revelers including, we hear, his wife and son.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Don Welsh (Long time no see!)

4. The New York Observer’s resident newlywed Jared Kushner (Mazel tov!) and Steve Rubenstein

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger

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Lunch: Football, Fashionistas & Laila Ali

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was a tasty tossed summer salad of movers, shakers — and football players at Michael’s today. Now that the power set has to cram in five days of plotting into a truncated work week — Why miss out on a Friday afternoon in the Hamptons if you don’t have to? — the dining room was buzzing. We noticed diners were opting for deep conversation over table-hopping today so there must be plenty of big doings afoot.

I was lunching today with my new friend, Denise Cobb, who just arrived from Naples, Florida for a few days of fun. This weekend she celebrated with her good pal Desiree Gruber at her baby shower at the rooftop garden at the Gramercy Park Hotel and is planning to go to Judge Judy‘s housewarming for the mega-mansion she had built — in just four months! — in Greenwich. “She’s really proud that she could get the builder to work so fast,” reports Denise. Fear is a great motivator, I suppose. Who would dare incur the wrath of Judge Judy? I love to watch her cut delinquent dads off at the knees on her television show, don’t you? After our lunch, Denise was off to visit with our mutual pal Carol Brodie, who is newly installed at Faberge and has big things in store for the iconic house. Denise and I are collaborating on a top secret project for Gulf Shore Life with editor-in-chief David Sendler. You’ll be the first to know all the details, I promise.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. New York Jets D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Leon Washington and Nick Mangold with some handlers and managers we didn’t recognize.

2. Peggy Siegal channeling Jackie O in a stunning white sheath, great earrings and her new ‘do with a dark-haired young power gal “in training” so we’re told…

3. Susan Zirinksy, whose show 48 Hours Mystery on Saturday nights on CBS is one of my favorite guilty pleasures with Mattea Gold.

4. John Huey and a bespectacled gent whose face we recognized but whose name escapes us…

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