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Posts Tagged ‘Pattie Sellers’

Exclusive: David Zinczenko on AMI’s New Deal | Ousted Obama Insider Turns Heads

Lunch At MichaelsThings were pretty quiet at Michael’s today as many of the media mavens, social swans and talking heads were still away in the Hamptons this week. We, not of the summer cottage set, ventured to 55th and Fifth for our lunch with David Zinczenko, who doesn’t have time for a vacation because building a media empire is a 24/7 endeavor. It turned out to be a very fortuitously timed meeting. Between running his own burgeoning media company, Galvanized, helming his own imprint with Random House, Zinc Ink (there’s also Galvanized Books, which publishes branded books from media partners like AMI) and logging plenty of air-time on Good Morning America and other ABC News programs, David is a one-man conglomerate. Oh, in Septemeber he’s also opening another restaurant in Tribeca with his BFF Dan Abrams and Christine Cole.

David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner

David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner

He brought along Sean Bumgarner, who first worked with David back during his tenure at Rodale and is now Galvanized chief digital officer. The guys arrived at the appointed hour and kept one eye peeled to their iPhones (David also kept his Blackberry close at hand) because, as I soon learned, there were big doings afoot. I knew something was up when David was called away several times duiring lunch for calls that just couldn’t wait. It turned out news of AMI’s $515 million buyout offer from investors that keep David Pecker at the helm broke on the New York Post‘s website that very hour. AMI was among Galvanized’s first clients when David launched in March of last year and since then, much of his time has been devoted to acting as consulting editorial director for the company, which included overseeing the extraordinary successful redesign of Men’s Fitness and expansion of the brand across all platforms. When I asked him for his reaction to the news he told he: ”I’m not surprised. David Pecker remains one of the sharpest minds in the media landscape and among the most savvy CEOs I’ve had the good fortune of meeting. A deal of this nature underscores how under-appreciated his legacy has been. And from first glance, this deal underscores that.”

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Michael Strahan, Maria Shriver and Dishing With LuAnn de Lesseps

LunchAtMichaelsAnother Wednesday, another “Bravolebrity.” For the final leg of this month’s reality-show trifecta, I was joined today by LuAnn de Lesseps (the “Countess” to you), fresh off her trip to Chicago for an appearance on The Steve Harvey Show where she made over a few fashion-impaired civilians with oh-so-stylish looks from her new clothing line, the Countess Collection. (It will debut on Shop HQ, formerly known as Shop NBC, in May.) LuAnn is a regular contributor to Steve’s show, weighing in on all kinds of haute topics, from text etiquette while dating to how to dress like a million bucks without breaking the bank. When I lunched with her last summer, the conversation focused mainly on her role on Real Housewives of New York City and her fledgling music career. But these days the clever and stunning LuAnn, who clearly knows when to say when, has scaled back her presence on the Bravo screechfest (she’s now being billed as a “special guest star”) and is focusing primarily on “brand-building” her eponymous lifestyle brand, which, she says, is founded on the principle of “chic made easy.” After six seasons on Housewives and one of only two of the original New York City cast members left standing (tabloid favorite Ramona Singer is the other), LuAnn says, “I’m grateful for the platform the show has given me. I came into it with no preconceived notions. I didn’t watch reality television and I didn’t know what I was getting into. I signed on to do “Manhattan Moms” and thought it was going to be this nice little family-oriented show, but it turned into something else. I’m fearless and  have always had a real sense of adventure.” I’ll say.

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

LuAnn’s pre-Bravo life already read like something out of a Danielle Steel novel. The Connecticut native and nursing student who dabbled in the pageant circuit went to Europe to try her hand at modeling, but when that didn’t work out, a series of whirlwind events landed her a gig on Italian television even though she didn’t speak a word of the language. ”I was a big star — the Vanna White of Italy — paired with a man that was like their Bob Hope. Twelve million people a week were tuning in!” By the time she left three years later, she was fluent. Between bites of her crab cakes, she told me when she met her now ex-husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, it was “magic.” As for her much-discussed title as a result of her marriage, LuAnn thinks it’s ridiculous that people assume it’s some trumped up affectation. “The de Lesseps have played a very important part in French history,” she explained, citing her husband’s descendant Ferdinand de Lesseps as the architect of the Suez Canal and the man who played a huge role in gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States.

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Dishing With Countess LuAnn de Lesseps; Willie Geist and Lawrence O’Donnell Hold Court

lunch logoThe oppressive heat couldn’t keep the faithful away  from Michael’s today. I haven’t seen the place this crowded in ages as most tables were set for four (or more). In fact, the place was so jam packed that TV Guide magazine acting CEO and Wednesday regular Jack Kliger was seated in the Garden Room. Unlike a few people I could mention, Jack is far too cool to care  about something as petty as seating arrangements. Just like the rest of the crowd — not.

Carole Radziwill, one of the more recent additions to the cast of  The Real Housewives of New York City was first to arrive in the dining room today. The alarmingly thin socialite was sporting a curious furry accessory that was neither pet nor purse, sky-high platforms and a sweet flowered dress. Carole passed the time waiting for the rest of her party to arrive by taking pictures of the life-size sculptures of sheep that stand in the restaurant’s lounge. Alrighty then.

Speaking of Housewives, I was joined today by one of my favorite members of the franchise, LuAnn de Lesseps, who drove in from the Hamptons for our tete a tete. The statuesque former model (she’s 5’10″!) has always seemed like one of the more down to earth — and dare we say normal — Bravolebrities. She was all that and more. PR princess extraordinaire Catherine Saxton, who knows everyone who is anyone and is off to the south of France in a few days for the first of the big St. Tropez parties aboard Denise Rich‘s yacht, then go off to join Ivana Trump for her party in St. Tropez  before finally landing in Monte Carlo for a whirlwind of swanky dinners (Can we carry your luggage?), arranged for today’s ladies’ lunch. Between bites of crab cakes and salmon tartare, we chatted about LuAnn’s sixth season on RHNYC, her various projects and, of course, her love life. It’s no secret that LuAnn was one of the last ladies to sign on to the new season of the show. “I waited until I was happy with their offer,” she told me, dismissing rumors that the cast was banding together for salary increases. “Things were handled individually.” While she’s too polite to talk about such gauche topics as money — she did write the manners manual Class with the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair, after all!  But she is upfront about her reasons for sticking with the show. “It’s a great platform.” All the better to ride the wave as long as you can, no? Mais oui! ”We didn’t expect it to last this long,” said LuAnn.

Catherine Saxton, Diane Clehane and LuAnn de Lesseps

Like most of the industrious Housewives set, LuAnn has managed to turn in her 15 minutes into a fledgling empire that includes her book, the record “Money Can’t Buy You Class” and several product lines like tabletop that includes melamine dinnerware and elegant bone china which is currently being sold on QVC and Amazon.com (“Inspired by my love of entertaining and my travels”). Next up is a collection of turquoise jewelry with Gem Stone King. “I love costume jewelry!” she said as she flashed a Wilma Flinstone-inspired pearl bracelet by Twisted. Clearly, the serious bling encased in gold on her finger today was the real thing. “Yes, it’s a star sapphire. This ring was designed by the same man who has done jewelry for Queen Elizabeth.” And not, I’m guessing, available on QVC.

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Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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Summer’s Social Swans, Kim Kardashian’s BFF and the Woman Behind Mad Men

1003_mockup.gifWhere else could you possibly find friends of reality stars (Come on, you can’t expect an A-lister sighting every week) and the last vestiges of Cafe Society all in one room? If it’s Wednesday, at Michael’s, of course. I couldn’t even begin to do justice to the head-spinning scene there today, so I’ll just let the roster of what passes for celebrity sightings these days speak for itself.

I was so excited about today’s lunch, because I was meeting the woman responsible for greenlighting one of my favorite shows, Mad MenChristina Wayne has had an amazing career  – she also is responsible for getting Breaking Bad on air — and I found her story fascinating. Had it not been for Christina’s spot-on instincts, Matt Weiner‘s script, which had been floating around for eights years at that point, might not ever have seen the light of day.  The former AMC senior vice-president of scripted series and mini-series is now president of Cineflix Studios and executive producer of the new BBC America series, Copper — but I’m getting ahead of myself.

A born and bred New Yorker who grew up on the Upper East Side, Christina decided to move back after 12 years in Los Angeles for personal reasons in 2005 (“There was no one left to date!”) and after receiving a call from a friend asking if she’d be interested in working with AMC. Up until that point, the network was pretty much airing nothing but old movies. “I had no idea what AMC was. I thought he was talking about the movie theater chain,” said Christina. Back then, the basic cabler was looking to develop scripted content; Christina signed on as a consultant as the net’s “creative voice,”  but didn’t want to tell her screenwriter friends since, at the time, working in television seemed like a step down and “an embarrassment.”

Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne
Diane Clehane and Christina Wayne

She started by calling everyone she knew in L.A. and wound up with the script for Broken Trail, a huge hit starring Robert Duvall that got the greenlight in eight days. When she read the script for Mad Men on a flight back from Los Angeles, she knew she had something special. AMC wasn’t able to get a studio to pick it up, so the pilot was self-financed for $3.3 million and the rest, as they say, is television history. Without a huge marketing budget, Christina attributes a lot of Mad Men‘s buzz to the nonstop coverage it received in The New York Times who covered the show from every angle possible. “The show was their lovechild,” she said. And still is, I’d say.

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Jon Meacham, Desiree Gruber And A Squadron of Spinmeisters

1003_mockup.gif— DIANE CLEHANE

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: On Wednesdays, all roads lead to Michael’s. Exhibit A: This week, one of my best friends from Bay Shore High School, Scot Safon, was featured in a New York Times piece by mediabistro.com alum Brian Stelter. So I was thrilled to catch up with Scott when he walked into the dining room this afternoon on his way to meet Fortune‘s Pattie Sellers (one of his best friends from college).

Scot’s come a long way from his days as one of the editors of our school newspaper, The Maroon Echo. Having risen through the ranks at Turner, he is now helming CNN sister network HLN and shepherding shows headlined by Nancy Grace, Joy Behar, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jane Velez-Mitchell. The Times piece chronicled HLN’s runaway ratings thanks to their coverage of Casey Anthony‘s headline-grabbing murder trial. As Scot sees it, the trial “has so many layers” for his stable of talent to explore as they relate to each host’s area of expertise. As Nancy continues to hold “tot mom” Casey’s feet to the fire seeking  ”justice for [Anthony's late daughter] Caylee,” Dr. Drew explores the myriad psychological issues unearthed during testimony. On their respective shows, Joy and Jane chew over the day’s events and keep viewers up to the minute on all the developments. “It is a fascinating case that has viewers riveted,” says Scot. “It’s a once in a lifetime trial.” (That is, at least until the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray starts in September.)

I was joined today by Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne, and we had a terrific chat about the state of the media business. Gerry, who has run an incredible stable of publications including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, is involved in a head spinning number of projects these days that cross all platforms. He recently added the role of managing partner at Black Ocean, a diversified media holdings company launched by Oliver Ripley, founding partner of the UK-based Ocean Group, and Tremor Media founder Andrew Reis. Gerry also hosts monthly ‘Influencer’ lunches with Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller. (He sits on the board of its parent company, Penske Media.)

Having presided over so many print titles during their heyday, Gerry says he’s invigorated by the “wild west of digital opportunities” he and his partners have discovered, and created, online. His belief that companies that own the next generation’s digital paths will be the big winners going forward is keeping him thinking big and moving forward. “The consumer is king!” says Gerry. “Long live the consumer!”

1.  A trio of ladies who launch: public relations maven Christine Taylor, producer Desiree Gruber and Katherine Oliver, commissioner of The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

2. Socialite Sugar Rautbord just in from Chicago — with two gal pals

3. Thomson Reuters’ global head of PR Jolie Hunt, looking terribly chic in all white

4. Uber agent Esther Newberg, at her usual perch with Random House EVP Jon Meacham

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