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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Verbitsky’

Cathie Black Resurfaces, Jann Wenner at Table One, and Dish from The Millionaire Matchmaker

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Despite the worst case of Gotham gridlock in months (Thanks, Mr. President), there were plenty of media heavy hitters (Jann Wenner, John Huey),  high-profile editors (Martha Nelson, Kate White) and a spin sister (Peggy Siegal) at Michael’s today. While the power lunch set was chewing over their next big deal between bites, I had a dishy lunch with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger and my good friend, the network’s SVP of communications, Jennifer Geisser. If you’ve seen any part of Matchmaker, you know that Patti tells it like she sees it no matter what. “I’m a truth-teller; that’s it,” she told me after sharing some particularly searing commentary on some boldface names we all know. Sorry, but it’s off the record.

Fortunately, Patti did let loose over lunch and share her thoughts on her ‘overnight success’ — “Total bullshit. I worked my ass off for years,” she said. It certainly sounds that way. Before starting Millionaire’s Club International in 2000, she toiled in a number of positions ranging from garment center executive to astrologer before finally landing at Great Expectations, the country’s largest matchmaking service, running their Florida division and then as their director of marketing. Quickly realizing she had a knack for finding dates for just about everyone she met, she started her own firm and, she tells me, grossed $1 million the first year.

In 2001, she had a fateful meeting with Telepictures and pitched an idea for a reality show where one man would find love by ‘dating’ a group of women. Sounds familiar? Thanks to an inept agent at ICM (“He was terrible,” says Patti),  The Bachelor premiered without Patti’s involvement and went on to become TV ratings gold. Undeterred, Patti “cried for a night,” got a new agent and moved on. After a few other stops and starts involving, among others, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, Patti found a television home with Bravo in 2008 with The Millionaire Matchmaker and is currently in her fifth season of the show. Her dating pet peeves? Rude guys:  ”I want to teach young men some manners. They’ve got to learn to be gentlemen.” Scantily clad girls: “I always tell them ‘leave the Fredrick’s at home.’” And mothers who think their sons walk on water: “Jewish and Italian mothers are the worst. They think their sons are messiahs and expect everyone to treat them like one. It makes dating them impossible.”

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All in the Family with Joe Kernen & A Dark Shadows Star is Reborn

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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. WolfKatherine 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.

2. Marie Claire’s publisher Nancy Cardone and editor Joanna Coles (Loved that Alexander McQueen dress!) with Estee Lauder’s Thia Breen.

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.

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Melania Trump, Charles Grodin and Princess Di’s Wedding Designer

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The oppressive heat didn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. The joint was jumping with media mavens of every stripe, including one editor who is clearly having a moment (David Zinczenko), high-profile publishers (Connie Ann Phillips, Donna Lagani) and, of course, a boldfaced name (Melania Trump) thrown in the mix.

It seemed as if all anyone wanted to talk about on (and off) the record was the imploding scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch. Said one source close to the action, “This could be bigger than anyone yet knows. Just wait if this thing hits New York. That would be major.” Uber agent and Londoner Ed Victor weighed in with this: “I made a $100 bet with Alfred Taubman that by this time next year [Murdoch] won’t be CEO.” And why? The corporation has no choice but to “throw him under the bus,” he said, adding that the televised hearings that have everyone riveted are “a complete wash.” Stay tuned.

I was joined today by Morgan Stanley’s Patrick Murphy and his sister, author and documentarian Mary Murphy. While I’ve had my share of Michael’s chats with Patrick, who spent four years with the Bloomberg administration and was one of the folks responsible for bringing Fashion Week to Lincoln Center, we’d never had our own lunch. These days, he’s hard at work at Morgan Stanley’s Reiser Group where he manages the finances of families, foundations and pension funds. “It’s so rewarding,” he tells me. “So many people are in need of good financial advice.” Indeed.

I was also glad I got the chance to finally sit down with Mary, having been so impressed by the success of her multimedia project, Hey, Boo: Harper  Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird. The paperback version of the book is out this week, and the DVD, which features interviews with a host of A-listers including Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey reading their favorite passages and reflecting on the novel’s legendary influence, is out and available on Netflix and iTunes today. Mary also just learned that PBS’ American Masters just bought the television rights. “That’s pretty much the biggest thing that can happen to you as a documentarian. I’m thrilled.”

She and I learned we were both inspired to become writers because of our love of the children’s classic, Harriet the Spy written in 1964 by Louise Fitzhugh. “When I think about it, there were definitely some similarities between Harriet and [Mockingbird heroine] Scout,” says Mary. The moral of the story: Parents, turn off the television and read to your children.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Freddie Gershorn

2. Ed Victor and author Will Schwalbe, former Hyperion VP turned author whose new book, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better, has people talking – and texting.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, O Magazine’s Sara Nelson and two other gals we didn’t get to meet.

4. Stephen Swid

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Mary Higgins Clark, The Hiltons And The Media Mob

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– DIANE CLEHANE

The sweltering heat (wasn’t it just snowing last week?) didn’t keep the regulars away from Michael’s today. The dining room was jam packed with authors, agents and media mavens all deep in conversation about who knows what. From the looks of things, the power lunch crowd here is gearing up for a busy season of neworking that has to be crammed into a four-day work week now that those summer cottages are open.  Oh, the pressure!

I was thrilled to join Vi Huse and Kira Semler for lunch today. I met them almost five years ago when I first started covering the scene at Michael’s and was fascinated by these two attractive, fun loving gals who always seemed to have a grand old time at their monthly champagne lunch (and always ate dessert!). Turns out these two good friends have been keeping their Michael’s lunch date with each other for over ten years! “This is only the second time we’ve sat in the dining room,” Vi told me.  “We always sit at the bar and it’s just become our spot.”

Today, the three of us sat with the big kids in the dining room to celebrate Vi’s 23 years as owner of Kerygma, a gallery in Ridgewood, New Jersey specializing in contemporary American art. Vi just retired yesterday but tells me she will continue to work with artists like Peter Fiore, Gerald Doudera, David Lee and Jane Owen online. Kira, a jewelry aficionado and freelance bookeeper, was one of Vi’s first clients and the gals have been fast friends ever since. Cheers!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mary Higgins Clark, Carolyn Reidy and a table full of pals. The indefatigable 83-year-old author was the subject of a glowing profile in The Wall Street Journal last month which chronicled her success: she’s sold 100 million books in the U.S. alone, and all 42 of her novels have been best-sellers. With I’ll Walk Alone, released in April, she’s keeping her winning streak going. We’re in awe.

2. Michael Holtzman (Peter Brown’s VP and right hand man, so we’re told.)

3. Joan TischCandace Leeds and Marcia Stein

4. The always distinguished Stan Shuman

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Barbara Walters and Vernon Jordan Make Appearances; NBC’s David Corvo Serves Up TV Dish

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s been hard enough to keep track of the steady stream of A-listers that pour into Michael’s on any given Wednesday, but this afternoon really kept me hopping. While the usual roster of boldface names traded air kisses and table hopped in the front room, the garden room was filled to the brim for a luncheon hosted by Patricia Duff to celebrate The Gray Zone, the first novel from her longtime pal, producer and screenwriter Daphna Ziman. Perched at the bar with my friend, designer David Biscaye who will soon be off to London and Torino, Italy in search of treasures for his clients, I nabbed Daphna for a quick chat before she could join her guests that included author Naomi Wolf, Debbie Bancroft, Patty Raynes, artist Mark Kostabi and actress Beverly Todd. (You might recall Beverly’s scene stealing performance in Crash as a drug addicted mother devastated by the death of her son.)

Daphna told me she got the idea for the book two years ago in the midst of watching her marriage implode. She found it “empowering” to write about a heroine who flees an abusive household and becomes involved in a personal crusade to stop human trafficking. “I was stuck in the horrific reality of a divorce but I was able to live in another world through my character,” said the author. While the novel is a work of fiction, Daphna knows her subject matter well. She is founder of CUN (Children Uniting Nations) and the chairperson of ABC LOVE (Adoption Brings Children Love). An adoptive mother of two, she is passionate about stopping the trafficking of children and will be speaking out on the subject during her book tour that includes a spot on tonight’s broadcast of NBC’s Nightly News.

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  David Poltrack of CBS presiding over a table full of business types

2. Peter Brown

3. Producer Jean Doumanian, Barbara Lieberman and Vidicom’s Christy Ferer

4. Mike Ovitz with a well-heeled gent we didn’t get to meet

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Harvey Weinstein, Evelyn Lauder and A Few Sports Moguls

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Al Gore and a bearded Keith Olbermann by a day. A little birdie told us Current TV’s head and recent new hire were “full of fire” and all smiles as they undoubtedly plotted Keith’s debut. Funny enough, Olbermann’s replacement, Lawrence O’Donnell, was also there and took it all in from the other side of the room. It’s such a small world, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, things today were a bit more low key but pretty crowded in the dining room. The fancy folks and artistes from The Getty Museum were in from the Left Coast to celebrate the kick-off to their sponsorship of 60 exhibits in museums all over Los Angeles. What’s the New York connection, you ask? Well, proprietor Michael McCarty‘s other restaurant is in Santa Monica, and he and his wife Kim McCarty (an artist whose works are on view here) are great patrons of the arts.

I was joined by my good friend Randy Jones, founder of Worth and author of The Greatest Stock Picks of All Time and The Richest Man in Town.  Let’s just say Randy knows a thing or two about money. It makes perfect sense then that he is now working with Lynn Tilton as  managing director of media and entertainment/talent acquisition of her company, Patriarch Partners, LLC. If you haven’t heard of Lynn, trust me, you will. (And honestly, don’t you read The Wall Street Journal?) She runs the largest woman-owned business in the United States as a private equity chief who owns all or some of 74 different businesses with revenues of more than $8 billion. (Take that, Oprah!)

Randy is keeping pretty busy at Patriarch with plenty of projects in the hopper. You heard it here first: Patriarch has a development deal with The Sundance Chanel to bring “The Diva of Distress” (It’s the working title) to the small screen some time soon. Randy describes the series as a “docu-drama” in which Lynn will star and go around the country looking for businesses on the brink to work with endangered entrepreneurs in an attempt to get them back on track. The most deserving business owners could score an equity investment from Patriarch or a much needed loan. “That’s one of the most amazing things about Lynn,” says Randy. “When she buys or invests in a company, she doesn’t sell them — she keeps them. She wants good people to succeed.” Amen. Oh, and by the way, if you’re in the market for a new job, Randy is looking to hire a CEO for Petry Media.  If you’re thinking of applying, just make sure you’ve got a track record in digital platforms and have the goods to build  ”a true 21st century media company.” You can thank me later.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Edelman’s Kathy Lacey and pals

2. First quarter: Bet they had plenty to talk about: Jets’ EVP  Matt Higgins and Mets’ chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. Second act: Harvey Weinstein (If that wasn’t a Members Only jacket, it sure looked like one), his daughter and a pal.

3.  Moneyman Steven Swid

4. Beauty biz icon Evelyn Lauder with a dark-haired power gal we didn’t recognize.

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David Carey, Linda Wells & The Power Lunch Diehards

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— DIANE CLEHANE

A little birdie told us we missed Wyclef Jean by a day. Then, on Monday night, we hear the joint was jumping at Miramax’s party for The Tillman Story with Josh Brolin making the scene. We didn’t spot any celebrities in the dining room at Michael’s today (it is August, after all), but we did chat up plenty of the usual suspects who were getting in one of the last power lunches of the summer season before decamping to their cottages on the beach. (We’ll be sequestered in our air conditioned living room watching Mad Men on demand if this awful heat drags on.)

I was lunching today with public relations maven Catherine Saxton and Benjamin Cohen, president and founder of BobCarMedia. I’ve met plenty of self-made moguls here at Michael’s, but I have to say when it comes to having passion for what he does, Ben puts a lot of those guys to shame. From the moment I sat down, I found myself transfixed by Ben’s story of serial entrepreneurship that started when he was 12 years old at his parents’ retail store in Brooklyn. Enterprising Ben was so good at bringing the customers in that a competitor stole him away at age 15, and by 18, he was running his own electronics store in Westchester. At 25, he expanded his empire to include 50 cellular phone stores nationwide. “I always wanted to take the intimidation factor out of purchasing technology,” Ben told me.

In the late nineties, he opened a ‘technology salon’ on Park Avenue that was designed to keep Manhattan execs up to date with the latest gizmos and gadgets. The concept was so successful that it landed him on Bill Gates’ radar who then tapped Ben’s company for the east coast launch of Windows98. “That changed everything,” says Ben.

Ben launched BobCarMedia in 2002 with a focus on getting companies to embrace the concept of mobile marketing tools that allow consumers to test drive products outside the brick-and-mortar environment. Today, his brand ambassadors had two of his sleek, eco-friendly BobCars parked outside Michael’s so the curious could try out T-Mobile’s webConnect Rocket. “We’ve shown marketers you don’t need to wait for the customer to go into the store,” says Ben who has helped CLEAR, Wendy’s and Snickers rev up their businesses all over the country. “We’re new, different and run lean and mean. We can adapt to changing technologies and news market fast, and that means great things for our clients.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Uber agent Ed Victor and pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Hearst president David Carey, who arrived with a copy of the latest issue of Marie Claire under his arm, and a distinguished looking gent we didn’t get to meet.

4. Steven Rubenstein and an unidentified casually clad gal.

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Cindi Leive, Larry Hackett & David Zinczenko: Editors Unleashed!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It must be all that good news about ad pages for the September issues being way up from last year that brought out the media mavens today at Michael’s. The place was packed with editors and journos all doing their best to boost Gotham’s perilous economy. The expense account returns!

I was lunching today with my good friend Miriam Driot, who recently opened her own marketing consultancy, and fashionista extraordinaire Susan Tabak, who I met in this very dining room a few years ago. Susan spent over a decade providing well-heeled international clients with customized shopping excursions in Paris and later had a big hit with her self-published tome Chic in Paris: Style Secrets & Best Addresses and its accompanying blog, chicinparis.com.

“I’m not Vogue, but I have my own perspective and people have responded to my authenticity.” I’ll say. The Times of London rated her the top fashion commentator on Twitter for her insights from the front row of the haute couture shows. Last November, Susan reinvented her site as susantabak.com and has added plenty of eye-catching features like her behind-the-scenes look at the New York and Paris runway shows and video interviews with fashion gods like Karl Lagerfeld (“a fascinating character”) and John Galliano (“just extraordinary”).

Susan has parlayed her online success into a full-fledged media company and has plans for more books and some online and television projects. She’s also tapped Mark Grischke, formerly of Vogueand ForbesLife, to be her editorial director. “I’ve got so many plans to extend my brand beyond the website, and I’m taking my time so I can hire the best team possible. Fashion is international, and to succeed, you need a global presence.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Christopher Simon of CBS with a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Law & Order SVU‘s Richard Belzer (with his beloved pooch who seemed a bit skittish while dodging the wait staff) and a fellow we didn’t recognize

4. Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (in jeans!) and Eric Sacks

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Does Sopranos Creator David Chase Ever Smile?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Michael Douglas by a day. Oh well, there was enough going on with the usual suspects in the Michael’s dining room that we barely had time to eat. After making the rounds to check in with the regulars, I saw that Sopranos creator David Chase had slipped in practically unnoticed. What really caught my eye was the downright miserable expression on Chase’s face. Does this guy ever smile? Apparently not. One insider told me, “Chase is a guy that has a pretty dark view of life. How else could he have come up with Tony Soprano?” We’ve heard of method acting, but method living? Whatever works, I guess.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Gang’ is all here: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer.

2. Kris Fuchs and Joan Tisch

3. Gerry Byrne (who treated me to the latest pics of his new granddaughter on his iPhone) with The Ito Partnership’s president and CEO David Melancon and partner Joseph Sutherland.

4. Kathy Lacey — making the scene two days in a row!

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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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