It was a bustling scene at Michael’s today as the power lunch crowd crammed in some last minute networking before their late summer vacations. In the mix: talking heads (Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin), hot shot editors (David Zinczenko, Joanna Coles), and beauty gurus (Estee Lauder’s John Demsey and Thia Breen at separate tables).
I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott who I met years ago while working on a piece for TV Guide about the ongoing appeal of the ’60s Gothic soap, Dark Shadows. Long before Twilight, Kathryn starred as the doomed lady love of vampire Barnabas Collins. Like its eternal leading man, Dark Shadows just won’t die. Tim Burton, one of the show’s most fervent fans, is currently shooting a big screen version starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas and scheduled for a May 2012 release. Kathryn just returned from London where she shot a cameo role for the film. I was dying to get her take on how Johnny is sinking his fangs into the role, but Kathryn demurred, “I’ve been sworn to secrecy!”
We had plenty to talk about anyway. Kathryn’s latest novel, Dark Passages (Pomegranate Press) is a love letter to Dark Shadows and is already getting rave reviews. Set in the swinging ’60s, it tells the tale of an actress moonlighting as a Playboy bunny who just happens to be vampire and is determined to make it in New York City without her supernatural powers. While working on the cult hit Dark Passages, she meets her nemesis, a 300-year-old witch. ”Anyone who, as a kid, ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows will love it,” Kathryn told me. (We’re starting it tonight.) On the 17th of this month, she’ll be at Barnes & Noble at 86th and Lexington signing copies. Then, on August 19 through the 21, she’ll join several of the original cast members at the annual Dark Shadows festival at the Brooklyn Marriott.
Kathryn is one author who has always taken that old chestnut ‘write what you know’ to heart. Having worked as a Playboy bunny herself in the ’60s, she interviewed over 250 former bunnies, including Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry, for her 1999 release The Bunny Years. The book was recently acquired by Imagine Television for potential use in upcoming episodes of The Playboy Club premiering this fall on NBC. With renewed interest in the subject, Simon & Schuster is releasing an updated edition next month with a new forward written by none other than Hugh Hefner.
While Kathryn is over the moon about The Bunny Years getting a new lease on life, she is livid with one former bunny who worked with her back in the day. None other than Gloria Steinem was part of a class of seven women who trained at The Playboy Club at the same time — but Gloria’s stint was a ruse so she could write a scathing expose on the women and the club. While she didn’t identify any of the women by name, she used stories they’d shared thinking they were talking to a friend. “What kind of feminism is it when you put down the women you work with?” asked Kathryn. “All of us were just as ambitious. She knew I was a scholarship student trying to build a career in acting.” What burns Kathryn the most is that Gloria is still bad mouthing the bunnies. “I’m in warrior mode,” she told me, “because this 46 year-old rant is tiresome.” Ms. Steinem, I think you’ve met your match.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne, a Penske board member, presiding over their monthly lunch. On the guest list: Activate’s co-founder and managing director, Michael J. Wolf; Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment; Ritu Trivedi of Mindshare Interactive; Tribeca Enterprise”s Jon Patricof; Estee Lauder group president John Demsey; WWD‘s AmyWicks; J. Walter Thompson CEO Bob Jeffrey; and Penske Media president Aly Racer; and the company’s head of strategy and operations, Will Lee.
3. Discovery ID’s head honcho Henry Schleiff. Henry tells me last night’s premiere of Big Law starring former boxer Eric Esch who returns to his hometown of Jasper, Alabama as ‘Deputy Butterbean’ to exact some big justice was “a knockout.”
4. CNBC’s Squawk Box host Joe Kernen with his lovely wife and adorable daughter, Blake (co-author of Your Teacher Said What? with her dad). The family stopped in for a quick bite before catching today’s matinee performance of Wicked.