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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Verbitsky’

Bette Midler, Al Roker & Bravo’s Bickering Brokers From Million Dollar Listing New York

LunchAtMichaelsWhen it comes to Bravo’s ever-expanding slate of reality stars, it’s hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard. Between the Housewives, hipsters and wannabe singers, few have retained more than a few seasons of fame (or infamy) outside the realm of their melodramatic universe give or take a few Life & Style covers. I can count the number of Bravolebrities on one hand that have left an impression on me beyond registering their sheer delight at their own insta-fame. That’s why my lunch with Luis D. Ortiz and Fredrik Eklund, stars of the network’s Million Dollar Listing New York, was such a pleasant surprise.

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Besides being charismatic, funny and extremely well dressed (more on that later), these guys are driven beyond belief and smart as hell. Over the course of our lunch to dish about the new season, (premiering next Wednesday, April 2 at 9 p.m) I learned quite a bit about Fredrik and Luis (unfortunately their castmate Ryan Serhant was tied up at a pitch meeting and never made it to Michael’s.) Fredrik heads up the country’s top selling real estate team (which he founded) at Douglas Elliman. Between bites of his Cobb salad, he told me he sold 36 apartments last year, raking in 2.2 million in commissions during season two. So far this year, he’s sold $400 million (yes, you read that right) worth of real estate. Luis, who now works with Fredrik at Elliman, where he heads up his own real estate group, has sold over $300 million in residential real estate in the past three and a half years.

Almost thirty minutes before the appointed hour, Luis arrived at Michael’s and we sat at the bar chatting about the fickle finger of reality television fate waiting for the rest of our party. Besides being struck by Luis’ impeccable made for GQ style (a perfectly cut, made-to-measure suit “from a tailor in Mexico,” Patek Philippe watch and a Zara coat I’d kill for), I couldn’t help but notice his laser-like focus on my questions. The guy knows how to listen (a very underrated character trait, if you ask me). When I inquired if he thought the show had created a ‘character’ for him he said, “Television can’t edit you differently if you are yourself. I respect myself and I’m myself at all times. I understand the need for drama, but the business is inherently dramatic enough that we don’t have to make things up. I feel like the camera is telling the truth.”

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Lauren Berger Writes New Book for Young People Entering "Real World"

Lauren Berger Welcome to the Real WorldCareer Expert, Lauren Berger, releases her second book, Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job Into Your Dream Career (Harper Business), on April 22nd. In this book, Berger shares everything she wishes someone told her after graduation. Her book is the essential guide to anyone starting their first, second, or third job. She encourages readers to be fearless, step outside of their comfort zones, and go after what they want.

Laurie Dhue, Harold Ford and the Man Who Once Ruled Primetime

LunchAtMichaelsWe’re serving up a low-cal version of “Lunch” today because the catastrophic events in Harlem kept us from doing our scheduled interview at the appointed hour. Despite the transportation disruptions in and around the city, it was business as usual for the mavens, moguls and strivers who turned up at Michael’s for their weekly Wednesday confab. Keep calm and carry on indeed.

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Matt Lauer and Joan Rivers Do Christmas in January | Catching Up With Anne Fulenwider

Lunch At MichaelsIt must have been the summer-like temperatures (well, it was above freezing) that brought out plenty of media mavens (Frank Bennack, David Carey, Jack Kliger, Nancy Berger Cardone) and a heaping helping of  talking heads (Matt Lauer, Joan Rivers, Star Jones, Dan Abrams, Bill McCuddy) at Michael’s today. January is always an interesting month at 55th and Fifth. It’s the roller-coaster ride that starts off slow with the deadly quiet of the post-holiday doldrums and peaks during the pre-award show maelstrom (Yes, the Golden Globes were last weekend, but that’s just an excuse for celebrities to get together and drink champagne, resulting in the inevitable ’What the hell were they thinking moment?’” This year, that came courtesy of the clearly astonished winner Jacqueline Bisset). Everyone, it seemed, has hit their stride and with Fashion Week and the Olympics just weeks away, the cognoscenti are getting in their power lunches before departing for the gigs that keep the lights on around town.

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Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

I was joined today by Marie Claire‘s editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, fresh off a trip to Beverly Hills. There, she traded compliments with Golden Globe winner Robin Wright (“She was so unguarded and looked so happy with her award and new fiance Ben Foster“) and chatted with her December cover gal Julia Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, at the magazine’s post-awards-show bash. The party was cohosted by The Weinstein Company and Netflix and attended by tons of A-listers, including Taylor Swift, Bono and Diddy (or is it Sean Combs? — we’ve given up trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to call him). “It was a amazing,” she tells me. “You had to be inside the Beverly Hilton by 4 o’clock because at 5 o’clock it goes into lockdown. I watched the awards at a viewing party at the old Trader Vic’s.” On Friday, she’s jetting off to Washington, D.C., to attend the swearing in of Cathy Russell, President Barack Obama‘s pick for the new global ambassador of women’s issues at the State Department. Lest you think Anne’s life is one glam sojourn after the next, today she tells me her commute felt like a hellish version of “trains, planes and automobiles” as she slogged her way in from Brooklyn, thanks to a gushing water-main break.

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Walter Isaacson, Barry Diller and Dylan Lauren Go Hollywood

LunchAtMichaelsIt was the usual head-spinning scene at Michael’s today as the decibel level rose to epic levels in every corner of the dining room throughout lunch. But all was tranquil (at least for the moment) when I arrived shortly before noon. There, I was greeted with the sight of two minions from Bonnie Fuller‘s office at Hollywoodlife.com who were arranging seating cards and ordering Pellegrino for Bonnie’s monthly schmoozefest. The power gals-in-training stayed just long enough to change into their high heels and shepherd the overflowing group of media mavens and social swans (and Dylan Lauren!) into the lounge for a round of air kissing before they finally settled into their perch in the bay window at Table One. Oh, to be young and ambitious.

I was joined today by two of my favorite Michael’s regulars who I met, of course, in the dining room many moons ago: producer and Democratic booster Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson Long Island’s leading public relations and marketing firm, who somehow also finds time to appear on CNN, Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. On-air (and in conversation, of course) Robert offers well reasoned arguments against the extremists on both sides. “Too much attention focuses on being quotable, not credible. Too many commentators operate in a fact-free environment. Ann Coulter has become the Larry Flynt of political literature. Both live in a world of exploitation and filth,” said the Democratic National Committeeman (now in his 13th year in the position). Come on Robert, tell us how you really feel.

Robert Zimmerman Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

I always look forward to our bi-annual Michael’s lunches because besides being two of the nicest – and funniest people in the room — Joan and Robert can always be counted on for some tasty dish on what’s really going on in any number of social, business and political circles in New York.

While some of the juiciest dish is off the record, we did cover a lot of ground on the current political scene. I had to ask Robert what he thought of the two biggest headaches plaguing the Obama administration that are getting plenty of media coverage. On the Obamacare website woes, Robert offered this: “If it were up to my Republican friends, we would have given up on NASA, Social Security and Medicare because each of them had difficult launches. Medicare took six years to establish after President Roosevelt it signed into law. The website will be fixed. The bigger issue will be if people are getting a better deal in terms of cost and coverage. That will determine the future of Obamacare and, to a large extent, Obama’s legacy.” Read more

Barry Diller, David Zaslav and the Exclusive on Star Jones’ TV Plans

LunchAtMichaelsIt was business as usual at Michael’s today, which means it was wall-to-wall moguls (Barry Diller, David Zaslav), EICs (Liz Vaccariello, Alison Brower) and TV newsers (Ron Insana, Felicia Taylor and Lynn Sherr) – and plenty of other famous faces. I was joined by Star Jones, one of my favorite regulars at 55th and Fifth, who I met when I was one of the first reporters to cover the freshman season of The View. Suffice to say there’s been plenty that’s happened in Star’s professional and personal life since then, and she’s come through it all wiser, funnier and more determined than ever to forge her own path. Sitting at Table 1 today, nibbling on her kale salad with a side of salmon, she practically glowed with happiness.

She was excited to tell me about her role as chief development officer and national spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Women, where she is serving as a passionate advocate for members on healthcare and equal pay, which, she said, has become a tent pole issue. With most of NAPW’s members in middle management and plenty of entrepreneurs in the ranks, Star is all about “stiletto networking,” as she told me, which involves developing programming for the membership that will help empower them to reach their goals. “This is an opportunity for me to use all my experience and not just be in one box as an attorney, talk show host or author. Women’s lives are comprised of so many difference facets; it’s exciting to act as a advocate for NAPW, as I’ve done with my work for the American Heart Association, for causes that I’m passionate about.” She has also created the NAPW Foundation which, in addition to AHA, supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Dress for Success and Girls Inc. Star also brings another valuable skill to NAPW:  finding the right benefits and services to offer to its members. “You know I’m good at getting perks for the sisters!”

Michael Cominotto, Diane Clehane, Star Jones and Katherine Butkevich

From left: Michael Cominotto, Diane Clehane, Star Jones and Katherine Butkevich

Ever since she forged her age on her driver’s license (upping it from 15 to 16) so she could get a job at McDonald’s (“The statute has run out on that crime!”), Star has been creating unforeseen opportunities for herself that have defied expectations. In the early 90s, she went from the Brooklyn DA’s office to the small screen when she was tapped as a commentator for Court TV and Inside Edition, covering high profile cases like William Kennedy Smith’s rape trial and The OJ Simpson case. By the time she left her seat at the table with Barbara Walters on her ABC chatfest, she was one of daytime television’s most famous faces. Of her run on The View: “They were the best eight years of my life,” she said before adding with some laughter, “But I was on for nine years and that last year was a little rough.” But, like they say, time heals all wounds, and Star reports her relationship with Walters is better than ever. Read more

Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin and the Skinny on Jessica Simpson’s New Role at Weight Watchers

LunchAtMichaelsNeither rain nor snow (not yet anyway) or a meltdown on Metro North’s Connecticut line (don’t ask!) can keep us from our appointed rounds on Wednesdays at Michael’s. Who else would tell you which talking heads (Star Jones, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin) were holding court in the dining room while pointing out the random sighting of a former beauty queen and even some titled ladies and lords? (Read on and you’ll find out.) We, not of the town car set, braved a very crowded train from Westchester (Note to fellow passengers: garlic on your breakfast isn’t a good thing!) to bring you all the earth-shattering goings on at 55th and Fifth today so you can eat at your desk while searching for Internet spoilers on Sunday’s series finale of Breaking Bad.

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Andy Amill and Diane Clehane

I was joined today by my intrepid Greenwich neighbor Andy Amill, VP of Media Sales at Weight Watchers. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since my days heading up Danskin’s PR department (just try having to wear spandex to work) and wanted to get the skinny on all the incredible innovations the company has implemented over the past year. Have you seen Jennifer Hudson lately? Exactly. Andy tells me that Jennifer has been “an inspiration” to Weight Watcher members. The dynamic multi-media campaign featuring the brand ambassador which launched in 2010 has helped attract plenty of new members. I am also fascinated by the technology behind the company’s barcode scanner app, which members can download to their smart phones. It lets the user zap the UPC of thousands of products in the supermarket and instantaneously get the Weight Watchers PointsPlus value. What will they think of next?

When I mentioned that the Weight Watchers center where I attend meetings had undergone a pretty dramatic makeover a few months back, Andy explained that many stores have been redesigned in the past few years with a contemporary look and feel. “They’re all uniform so members can find a center anywhere and they all look the same,” he tells me. “It really helps them stay connected.” Read more

Joanna Coles, Wendy Williams and the Inside Story on the New JFK Book

LunchAtMichaelsForget about having to dig out a coat for the first time this season to ward off this morning’s chilly temps, the real sign of fall here is that the power lunch scene is back in full swing at Michael’s. Today the dining room was full of famous faces (Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts at separate tables, Wendy Williams, Star Jones); entertainment bigwigs (Tad Smith, Nick Verbitsky); social swans (Margo Nederlander and pals); and more spinmeisters than there are Kardashian tabloid covers on any given week. You get the picture.

Fall also means the launch of a plethora of “important” titles and made-for-gift-giving books. I was joined today by Steve Koepp, editorial director of Time Home Entertainment, the book publishing division of Time Inc., who gave me the inside story on the company’s impressive and incredibly diverse fall list. He came toting three books to illustrate the point: the just-published Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts, born out of Fortune‘s compulsively readable “40 Under 40″ annual list and featuring original interviews from headline-making top execs, including Marissa Mayer and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank; LIFE‘s bookazine The Wizard of Oz: 75 Years Along the Yellow Brick Road; and JFK: His Enduring Legacy (published by Time as both a book and bookazine).

Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane

Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane

Between bites of Cobb salad, Steve told me the book business is, in fact, thriving over at Time Inc. thanks to the company’s multi-pronged approach to reaching all different readers with books that often connect them back to those people and eras that “resonate” and seem to grow more iconic over time. This is certainly true with The Day Kennedy Died from Life, which Steve described to me as “magisterial.” Certainly sounds like it. Due out Oct. 15, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the book is full of fascinating reporting, artifacts and images from Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, there is so much material that has been thoughtfully assembled that the book comes with a magnetic closure to hold a full-size exact replica of the issue of Life published immediately after Kennedy’s assassination as well as a gatefold with the entire Zapruder film — all 486 frames — published for the first time. Reporting includes the “centerpiece” of the book: a narrative by Dick Stolley, then the magazine’s Los Angeles bureau chief who flew into Dallas after the shooting and recounts his experience covering the event that made the world stand still. Read more

David Pecker Holds Court; David Zaslav Jumps the Shark

1003_mockup.gifIt’s been a head-spinning summer of celebrity sightings and media maven mashups at 55th and Fifth, but today at Michael’s the mogul quotient was completely off the charts. I knew it was going to be one of those days when Discovery Communications honcho David Zaslav sauntered into the dining room sporting shades and carrying a stuffed shark. Oh, hadn’t you heard? The net’s Shark Week kicks off August 4. Funny enough, David was lunching with William Morris Endeavor’s co-CEO Ari Emanuel. I’ll let you insert your own joke here.

I was sitting squarely in the center of gravity with David Pecker and David Zinczenko and the experience was akin to being a fly on the wall to the lunchtime version of ‘This is your life, David Pecker,” as friends (too many to mention), former colleagues (ditto) and well-wishers (everyone else in the room), stopped by to pay their respects and get some face time with AMI’s chairman and CEO. (“I’m definitely going to call you about that, thanks!”) It was something akin to The Godfather without the tuxes, mumbling and cannolis (David opted for the ‘Michael’s burger and ‘Zinc’ had the Korean tacos).

Zinc (in the interest of clarity, I’ll refer to David Zinczenko by the catchy moniker of his book imprint) has garnered plenty of headlines this year with his highly publicized alliance with AMI, his Random House contract and a new deal with ABC (he’s got his first segment on “20/20″ airing this Friday). David has maintained, by comparison, a somewhat low profile — except for the fact that he was a contender for the top spot at Time Inc. this spring. AMI’s affable chairman (I discovered this man knows everyone — and I mean everyone) has opted to mostly let his game-changing decision of hiring Zinc and the success at the newsstand with his myriad of titles do the talking.

David Pecker, Diane Clehane and David Zinczenko

Fresh off the quarterly AMI board meeting in Connecticut this weekend, there was plenty to dish about over lunch. As you undoubtedly know, AMI publishes, National Enquirer, Star, Globe, OK!, the newly revitalized Men’s Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Fit Pregnancy and Shape and several other titles which reach a combined audience of more than 60 million readers every month.  With the birth of the royal baby and the can’t-make-this-stuff-up New York City mayor’s race, I just had to ask David what his tabloid titles have in store. Plenty, as you might expect, but each title addresses a very different constituency. When it comes to news about the royal baby, the ubiquity of the coverage poses a challenges says David.

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Dishing With Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn; Catching Up With Michael Strahan

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It was a regular boys club at Michael’s today with not one, but two football legends (Michael Strahan, Frank Gifford), several captains of industry (William Lauder, Jonathan Tisch), publishing hot shots (Jack Kliger, Jared Kushner) and the hottest actor on broadcast television, Tony Goldwyn, who plays the adulterous, murderous President Fitzgerald Grant III on everyone’s guilty pleasure, Scandal. For the record, the power gal contingent was nicely represented by Norah O’Donnell and media mavens Katherine Oliver and Cindy Lewis.

Everyone (and I do mean everyone) was abuzz with Tony’s arrival in the dining room so, of course, I just had to say hello. He couldn’t have been more pleasant about doing an impromptu interview about the runaway success of Scandal and offered his take on being a red hot leading man at 53. It was a bit trippy, really, comparing the relaxed, friendly actor who was casually clad in a plaid shirt and jeans (he’s from Los Angeles, after all) with the uptight, angst-ridden politico he plays on the small screen. Grandson of legendary studio head Samuel Goldwyn, Tony’s has had a journeyman’s career with stints on film (most memorably as villain Carl Bruner in Ghost), television (recurring roles on Dexter and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and several roles on Broadway, including the musical Promises, Promises. Surprisingly, Goldwyn has never been a staple in the likes of People and the other glossies. When I asked him what it meant to have true stardom come along relatively late in his career he told me, “It’s definitely different than if it had happened earlier; I’m very grateful.”

Tony Goldwyn and Diane Clehane

Speaking of grateful, more than a few of my friends look forward to Tony’s steamy scenes with his co-star Kerry Washington. (His wife, Jane Musky, doesn’t watch those encounters.) “We definitely push the boundaries,” he said. I told him it’s often hard to remember that Scandal is on network television rather than cable. “In a way, it’s because of cable that [series creator Shonda Rhimes] has been able to up the level of things and be more bold.” Read more

Isabella Rossellini’s Animal Instincts

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There are lunches at Michael’s and then there are lunches at Michael’s. Today I joined Isabella Rossellini at Table One and had a fascinating conversation with her about aging, celebrity, fashion and gay geese. Stay with me … these seemingly disparate topics are all connected.  Ostensibly there to talk about Mammas, her new series for Sundance Channel which looks at the ways different creatures use their maternal instincts in nature, Isabella did get around to the topic eventually. Yet, there was no feeling of the usual PR spin to the lunch which was attended by a handful of journalists who sat enthralled by her stories of her days as an actress and model and her charming tales of growing up in Rome as the daughter of iconic actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini.

“The image I have of myself doesn’t correspond to the image people have of me,” she said. “I live on Long Island and I don’t go to fancy parties and premieres. I don’t like that aspect of celebrity. I never said, ‘When I grow up I want to be a celebrity.’” She didn’t have to.  Between her famous parents, ex-husbands (Martin Scorsese and model Jon Wiedemann), her celebrated career as a model and 14-year run as the face of Lancome before the brand dismissed her in 1996 for being ‘too old,’ and her unforgettable turn as tortured nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, she secured a permanent spot in our collective consciousness without employing any of the usual contrivances associated with modern celebrity.

Isabella Rossellini and Diane Clehane

When she showed up to join the small group of journos gathered to meet her (I was lucky enough to score the best seat in the house right next to the guest of honor!) the conversation first turned to fashion as Frazier Moore asked her who designed her understated ensemble of a wool tweed cocoon coat,  navy mandarin collared silk jacket, foulard blouse and simple slacks. She gamely removed her coat to reveal the impeccably tailored pieces designed for her by Christina Bomba in Italy. “It’s less expensive than Donna Karan or Dolce & Gabbana, and I like that I can pick the fabric and have it made just for me,” she said. Isabella told us she can’t relate to the fashion-celebrity complex which has turned the red carpet into big business. “When Mama got dressed for the Oscars, she wasn’t solicited by designers. She didn’t have a committee of business people telling her what to wear. She was loyal to one or two Italian designers, and, when they could no longer make dresses for her, the costume designers from her films created something unique.”

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