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Posts Tagged ‘Michael McGraw’

Back to Business With Walter Isaacson, Joe Kernen and Time Inc.’s CEO

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re back! The power lunch crowd eased back into the swing of things with a fairly low key, celeb-free scene at Michael’s today. While there were plenty of head honchos filling out the dining room (Time Inc’s CEO Joe Ripp, NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick and Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff), there was a  touch of post-Labor Day letdown in the air (Where did the summer go?), but no matter — it’s time to get back to business.

I was joined today by Newell Turner, editorial director of Hearst Design Group and EIC of House Beautiful, Shax Riegler (don’t you just love that name?) House Beautiful’s executive editor and Hearst Magazines’ PR guru Michael McGraw. I don’t mind telling you that our table was one of the more lively spots in the dining room as we dished about our favorite show (Is Paul Giamatti really going to play the love interest of Lady Mary on Downton Abbey? Did Dan Stevens commit career suicide? ), pondered how people could possibly enjoy their vacations when they spend all their time posting photos from their holidays on Instagram and agreed Bravo needs to devote less PR oxygen to Housewives and give more attention to Property Envy which features one of my favorite designers, Mary McDonald. It’s like Fashion Police for the real estate-obsessed. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Shax Riegler, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner

Having decided those important issues, we settled in for an interesting chat about the exciting things House Beautiful has in store this fall. Between bites of salad nicoise, Newell (who looked dashing in his Ralph Lauren linen suit), told me all about his plans for a new series of “pop up” editors who collaborated with him on a series of issues beginning in October. He told me the idea came about when he and the magazine’s Editor-at-Large, Chesie Breen “were stuck in the airport in Barbados” and were “killing time over a glass of rose.” Nice work if you can get it.

Right there on the spot, Newell decided on bringing in a series of guest editors christened “pop up editors” who could create issues that had a “curated, one-of-kind feeling” bringing their particular interest and expertise into the mix. His first order of business once he was back in New York was to “sell it to my bosses (at Hearst) and tell them that everything we did would communicate House Beautiful.” To do so, “We eased into it with Chesie as our first pop up editor,” explained Newell. “Which was great because she was already part of our world.” Still, he was interested in bringing a fresh perspective (“We get so insulated”) and started off by asking each pop up editor to “bring everything to the table.”

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Eliot Spitzer, a Party for Angela Cummings and the Story Behind the New Bernie Madoff Documentary

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In keeping with the usual head-spinning weekly scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, the joint was jumping today. It was SRO in the front dining room and at the bar where producer Beverly Camhe was holding court with fellow producer Marc Altshuler and writer/directors Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek in celebration of their upcoming documentary In God We Trust Who Pays for His Crime on the Bernie Madoff scandal. The film will debut in the highly coveted Friday night slot at the Tribeca Film Festival next week.

Bev tells me the tickets for the highly anticipated film sold out in ten minutes when they went on sale at with American Express last night, and they are currently looking for a theater to handle the overflow. For those of you who missed the boat entirely, there’s always pay per view. Bev says anyone who sees the film should prepare to be shocked. “Don’t believe what you’ve heard. You’ll be surprised to know who knew what and when they knew it.” For the record, Bev believes that both Madoff sons, the late Mark Madoff and Andrew Madoff, didn’t know anything. I would have loved to have explored that very topic myself when I spotted Mark at Michael’s last spring, but he bolted before I could ask him anything about their father’s massive Ponzi scheme. “Bernie was a bi-polar sociopath, so it’s entirely possible he was able to keep it from them,” says Bev.  I asked Marc if they’d heard from any of the Madoffs or insiders since they began production, and he told me, “They’ve been oddly quiet. I’m surprised they even stayed in New York.” Some people have no shame.

Mickey Ateyeh and Angela Cummings

Not all the action was in the main dining room. I was invited to the swanky lunch held in the Garden Room for Angela Cummings today celebrating the launch of her new collection with Assael. Mickey Ateyeh, Angela’s long time BFF and business partner gathered 24 New York power gals – the ladies who never eat lunch who actually lunched today – for an intimate gathering.  The first to arrive was Liz Smith followed by a veritable who’s who in New York social and business circles, including Paula Zahn, Linda Fairstein, Jackie Leo,  Barbara Taylor Bradford, Christy Ferer, who is in hot pursuit for her company’s next CEO (Anyone?), Fern Mallis, DuJour‘s Cindy Lewis and Judy Licht

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Moguls on the Menu: Brian Grazer, Tom Freston and Isaac Mizrahi

1003_mockup.gifWe missed LL Cool J by a day. Oh, well. That’s the great thing about Michael’s: If it’s Wednesday, you can pretty much count on an interesting scene.

Today, there was plenty of tasty people watching. On the menu: Brian Grazer and Tom Preston (together!), one of our favorite designers (Isaac Mizrahi, who, we’re happy to report, wasn’t wearing those unfortunate sandals he chose for a recent appearance on QVC) and, just for good measure, a random reality star (Ramona Singer who, was no doubt dishing the dirt on the newest Housewives to join the New York City catfight. This season’s previews look downright scary!)

I was joined today by EIC Dara Caponigro and publisher Jennifer Levene Bruno, the dynamic duo at the helm of  Veranda, a magazine devoted to showcasing the homes, gardens and passions (by which we mean plenty of jewelry) of the moneyed but genteel set. The typical reader’s median household income is $149,000. Veranda isn’t a magazine to flip through while you’re in the elevator on the way to your apartment, but is best enjoyed sitting in your living room sipping a glass of wine. Get the picture?

This year marks the magazine’s 25th anniversary, and Dara just celebrated her second year at the helm, having assumed the title from founding editor Lisa Newsom, whose new book The Houses of Veranda is a stunning coffee table tome. Dara, formerly a founding editor of Domino (another one of our favorites!) told me she had long been an  admirer of Veranda‘s “gracious tone” and wanted to continue with the magazine’s mission to “make Veranda about living well through the lens of home.” Since taking the top spot on the masthead, she’s expanded the book’s jewelry coverage (“Our readers are collectors”) and “beefed up the front of the book.” I told her I loved the “Personal Luxuries” column where style makers from around the country share their lists of must-haves from perfume to pillows. “That’s one of our most popular features,” said Dara whose love of gracious living was something she inherited from her mother who was a decorator.

Jennifer, who is only the magazine’s second publisher, is equally enthusiastic about the book. “Everything in the magazine is carefully curated,” she told me. Advertisers obviously like what they see. In Jennifer’s first full year with Veranda, ad pages were up 17% with over 95 new brands.

Michael McGraw, Dara Caponigro, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Levene Bruno
L to R: Michael McGraw, Dara Caponigro, Diane Clehane and Jennifer Levene Bruno

Dara and Jennifer have been working as a team for about 18 months. “[Hearst president of marketing & publishing director] Michael Clinton knew what he was doing,” said Dara. The duo spends a lot of time traveling around the country hosting panels with industry leaders and talking to readers.

Some of their stops this year have included Atlanta (“The women in the south love dishes!” said Dara) and Los Angeles, where they hosted a ‘Bucket List’ panel on decorating with celebrated designers, including Mary McDonald of Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators. Their winning formula is obviously working. Published six times a year,  newsstand sales are up 7 percent and, says Jennifer, 35 percent of the ad pages year-to-date through July-August are ”new business.” See, gracious living does pay.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Star Jones, Kerry Kennedy & Publicists APlenty

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We’re still recovering from last week’s A-list on steroids pep rally for the Giants (it was like shooting fish in a barrel — thanks, Harvey Weinstein!), but today it’s back to Michael’s for another heaping helping of the power lunch crowd. The scene was dominated by spin meisters of every stripe, social swans and money men. (Is the expense account for middle management making a comeback? Discuss.) Representing the celebrity squad was Star Jones who is always fun for a quick, dishy chat.

I was joined today by House Beautiful editor-in-chief Newell Turner, the magazine’s new food contributor Gabrielle Hamilton, who is the owner/chef of Prune, and publicist Michael McGraw. Newell, who usually eats at his desk, decided he may have to rethink his lunch plans when he spied so many Hearst colleagues sprinkled around the room. Indeed.

As a longtime reader of the magazine, I told Newell that its monthly features on the best paint colors for different types of spaces were indispensable to me when I took on the daunting task of painting the interior of our new home last year. Color, or more precisely, how to choose the best ones to enhance your living space, is one of the guiding principles of the magazine. The March ‘Green’ issue will offer a myriad of takes on how to live with the soothing shade. “Our deep-dive color issues always result in a lot of reader response,” Newell told me. He didn’t know what to expect when he devoted an entire issue to pink but was pleasantly surprised. “We had less complaints about it than when we did our ’Blue’ issue.”  In the April issue, readers will have the chance to pick “America’s Favorite Paint Color” from 10 options in a contest on HouseBeautiful.com. The results will be published in September.

Gabrielle Hamilton, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner
Gabrielle Hamilton, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner

Newell, who became top editor in 2010, decided to focus more on American designers, because “American decorating has come into its own despite the economy.” Readers seem to agree. Last year’s June and July-August issues had the highest newsstand sales since November 2002.

Newell recently brought Gabrielle on board as House Beautiful’s food contributor because, he says, “I liked her sensibility and her appreciation for good, simple food.” For her part, Gabrielle, a self-taught cook, has never fallen victim to precious, of-the-moment trends in foods. The voted Best Chef  in New York City in 2010 by the James Beard foundation, Gabrielle attributes her successful run at Prune, which she opened in 1999, to “luck” but then said, “I work very, very hard.” Somehow, she’s found time to write pieces for The New Yorker and The New York Times among many other outlets and had her book,  Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef  (Great title!) land on the Times bestseller list. “People have become obsessed with food — how it looks, how it’s prepared. Look at all the shows there are now on food preparation. I wanted to include it in the magazine in a fresh, new way,” says Newell. “Gabrielle is the perfect person to do that.”

These days, Newell is also working to develop more digital content for the mag’s website and enhanced digital edition available on iTunes. He added videos featuring the magazine’s staff in October. When developing content for that platform, he told me he guards against anything looking “too polished” because “looking a bit rougher” online lends an air of authenticity. Interestingly enough, he also revealed there is only a 7 percent crossover between House Beautiful’s print reader (the target demo is women in their 40s and 50s) and the digital reader who is younger and hipper. (Don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger). “It’s the same content but a different voice. The digital tone is younger and a bit more irreverent.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ladies who lunched: Debbie Bancroft, Anne Hearst, Patty Smythe and Laurie Waters

2. Investigation Discovery’s president and GM, Henry Schleiff, and Kerry Kennedy

3.  ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who stopped by our table to say hello to his old pal Newell Turner and deliver an unexpected little treat to me. This ‘little birdie’ says thanks!

4. Jacqui Safra (Jean Doumanian‘s husband, in case you didn’t know)

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