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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Bressler’

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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Joe Kernen Settles a Bet, Plus the Return of Michael Wolff

1003_mockup.gifThreats of yet another winter storm (We’re begging for mercy!) didn’t keep the faithful from Michael’s today. In fact, the dining room was even more crowded than usual as some of the city’s biggest hot shots cooled their heels at the bar and in the lounge as they waited to be seated among the power brokers and media mavens. There was plenty of air kisses and glad handing among the talking heads (Joe Kernen, Rosanna Scotto), television titans (Matt Blank, Henry Schleiff) and fashionable folk (Julie Macklowe). After all, what’s the point of having a power lunch in this town if the right people aren’t there to see it — or write about it? Happy to oblige.

PR maven extraordinaire Catherine Saxton, who has represented some of Manhattan’s most well known swells (and how do you think they got that way?) invited me to join an eclectic and energetic group for lunch today. I was seated between Khashy Eyn and Daniel Hedaya of Platinum Properties and nearly got whiplash as I listened to these real estate wunderkinds regale me with tales of their incredible success since launching their firm in 2005. (Khashy, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, is 31 and Daniel, the president, is all of 26.)  Khashy, who has been in real estate since he was a teenager, came to the United States from Iran when his family fled during the revolution. Daniel, who grew up in Great Neck, dropped out of culinary school before landing a job at a boutique brokerage firm.  Khashy and his sister, co-founder and COO Dezireh Eyn (“The brains of the operation,” says Khashy), launched the company and later tapped Daniel to join them.

(Left to Right) Daniel Hedaya, Diane Clehane, Khashy Eyn, Christian Giovanni Curato, Catherine Saxton and Vicki Downey

Daniel, who will appear in episode seven of  the new season of HG-TV’s Selling New York, told me high rollers and regular folk get the same stellar treatment from the firm.  ”Whether our company is working with a client looking for a $2,500 rental or someone selling a $50 million property, we provide the same level of service. It is very important to us that everyone of our clients receive the same high level of concierge service from us. Manhattan real estate is unlike other markets in the country where the agents handle so many parts of a transaction. Here, we sell or rent the property, negotiate the deal and turn it over to an attorney. But many of our clients want us to handle everything and we do.”

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Tory Burch’s Ex Dines With Ron Perelman; Kelly Bensimon Goes Back to School

1003_mockup.gifAs much as we’d like to, we can’t deliver dish from Oscar winners (Shirley MacLaine) and supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova) every week. After a head-spinning cycle of chats with A-listers, the celebrity quotient at Michael’s was of the low-wattage variety today with reality television refugee Kelly Killoren Bensimon and comedian Robert Wuhl representing the famous (infamous?) contingent. We suspect after the Academy Awards and most schools’ winter breaks are over next week, things will be back to the usual Fellini-esque circus at 55th and Fifth.

I was joined today by SELF vice president and publisher Laura McEwen and the magazine’s director of public relations, Lauren Theodore. It was a fortuitously timed lunch (isn’t it always?), because the newly reinvigorated title is on a roll. Even before our lunch, the colorful cover of the March issue featuring starlet of the moment Julianne Hough caught my eye. It turns out, the issue debuted a new, more “extroverted” all-black logo which seems to capture the forward motion of the Conde Nast title perfectly. Since its launch in 1979, the magazine has been the bible for young fitness-focused women. Now, says Laura, the title has stepped up its mission and embraced a more encompassing philosophy of “Body/Looks/Life.”  ”They are all inseparable today,” explains Laura. “When it first launched, SELF started a movement but now it’s a way of life that has gone mainstream.”

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Shirley MacLaine Stops by a Birthday Party for Liz Smith

1003_mockup.gifI knew it was going to be quite the scene at Michael’s today when a little birdie told me that there was going to be a lunch for Liz Smith celebrating the grand dame of gossip’s upcoming birthday at Table One. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed. None other than Shirley MacLaine stopped by to say hello to Liz (more on why later), and I got to chat with the legendary actress about her guest-starring stint on Downton Abbey. While the entire restaurant swiveled in our general direction, I jumped up from my seat to ask about her experience on PBS’ smash hit and she couldn’t have been more gracious.

“I loved doing the show,” she told me. “Everyone was so welcoming and great about everything. I was amazed that no matter what the weather — because it rained a lot when we were shooting — they all went on as if the sun was shining. They were wonderfully professional.” Her character, Martha Levinson, appeared in only two episodes but left quite an impact on viewers — particularly when Martha sparred with Violet, the Dowager Countess played by the legendary Maggie Smith. “That was one of my favorite days on the set,” Ms. MacLaine told me of the scene where she and Ms. Smith sat for hours in a church pew waiting for the ill-fated wedding of Lady Edith to begin. “We spent eight hours talking about life, and we never ran out of things to say.” I bet. Before she dashed out the door — she only stayed long enough to say her hellos — I asked whether she’d be returning to the series and she said, “Yes. We start shooting soon. I’m looking forward to it.” So are we.

Liz Smith with her party pals and her armadillo cake

Now, back to Liz’s lunch (described as a “southern confab”), which Hearst’s Deb Shriver put together with scribe Julia Reed and ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong. Deb was putting the finishing touches on the table, which included a bouquet of yellow roses arranged in Joe’s Texas bronzed boot and a specially designed menu (fried chicken, collard greens and corn bread) featuring a photo of Liz at a year old. Liz and Joe have a long friendship that dates back to 1968 when Joe first arrived in New York and met the fellow Texan. They forged an unbreakable bond. “I didn’t know one person when I came here and found out she was raised a block from where my mama grew up in Fort Worth. She was the only person I met who I thought didn’t talk with an accent.” The two have been great pals ever since.

Shirley MacLaine stops by Michael’s

Southern belle Deb, who has written two fabulous books on New Orleans including the gorgeous Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, surprised Liz with one of the most unusual birthday cakes ever served at Michael’s or anywhere else for that matter, and had a Brooklyn baker recreate the Steel Magnolias armadillo red velvet cake. Ms. MacLaine, as you might recall, was one of the stars of the 1989 film, and she arrived with the film’s screenwriter Robert Harling to jazz up the festivities. They departed before Michael’s staff paraded through the dining room with the life-size armadillo on a platter, raising  more than a few eyebrows. Clearly thrilled by the gesture, Liz was served the head of the baked beast while the rest of the guests dug into the ‘carcass.’ Mmm… yummy.

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The ‘Cosmo 100′ Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Seinfeld; The Wednesday Crowd with Star Jones and Doris Kearns Goodwin

1003_mockup.gifAs you probably know by now, only the most extreme circumstances could keep the faithful from their usual lunch at Michael’s. Since Mother Nature proved to be too formidable a force for us on not one, but two back-to-back Wednesdays, we were only too happy to pull double duty this week.

On Monday, I attended the estrogen-fueled lunch for “The Cosmo 100,” a gals-only power lunch hosted by Joanna Coles who, having been named EIC of Cosmopolitan mere weeks ago, put together a guest list to end all guest lists for her first event. When I arrived  a few minutes before noon, the paparazzi was lined up to capture the arrival of Sarah Jessica ParkerDiane von Furstenberg, Ali Wentworth, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jessica Seinfeld, who seemed to be channeling MC Hammer in some curious gold lame harem pants. Also in attendance: ABC News’ Deborah Roberts, model Carol Alt, bestselling author Jane Green and more A-list Gotham gals than I’ve seen in one place in ages. Hearst’s amazing PR team headed by Deb Shriver, Alexandra Carlin and Holly Whidden deserve some major kudos. I was seated at a fabulous table with Cathie Black, modeling icon Pat Cleveland and Barbara Taylor Bradford, who told me her 29th book will be published early next year. The mind reels.

When the A-list crowd made their way to the Garden Room, Joanna (who was rocking some gorgeous leather pants) greeted everyone with her trademark cheeky humor, telling us she’d prepared ‘binders of men’ as research for her new gig and then quoting Margaret Thatcher with the wise words, ‘Cocks crow but it’s hens that lay the eggs.’ She also advised us “never to underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes.” So true. But Joanna wanted to do more than celebrate fun, fearless females at her kick-off lunch; she surprised everyone by introducing some truly formidable women who’d broken through the glass ceiling during this election cycle. New Hampshire’s first female governor Maggie Hassan talked of having her daughter run her winning campaign, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to congress explained how she won her race in Hawaii by proving wrong the naysayers who told her “it wasn’t her time,” and Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to congress from New York, spoke of the need for women to be mentors to other women. It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Today, I was joined by another trailblazer Marcy Syms, who you must know from those commercials for the legendary off-price retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer”).  It was Marcy’s father, the late Sy Syms who founded the business in 1958 as the first national retailer to sell off-price men’s clothing. At first, it was Sy who gave voice to the slogan in 1974, but he wisely asked Marcy to take his place in 1978 thus tapping into an emerging public consciousness about working women. The rest, as they say, is history.  ”I still remember wearing those bow blouses and those short haircuts!” said Marcy.

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Eliot Spitzer on CNN’s Identity Crisis: ‘There’s No Objectivity in Network News’

1003_mockup.gifIt was the usual Wednesday mix of moguls (Jon Tisch), media men (Richard Beckman, Mike Perlis) and television honchos (Henry Schleiff) today at Michael’s. With this Type A crowd, summer vacations are for slackers — at least until August. From the looks of things, there were plenty of deals being done (or at least pitched) between bites.

I was joined today by Eliot Spitzer and Lisa Linden. The last time the three of us had lunch, New York’s former governor was headlining his own show on CNN, In The Arena, which replaced the short-lived Parker Spitzer which he launched with co-host Kathleen Parker in 2010. About a year ago, CNN boss Ken Jautz cancelled In The Arena in a shakeup of the network’s primetime lineup. “I’m very happy with the show we did and the ratings we got, which were good to compared to what they’re getting now,” Eliot told me.  Not surprisingly, he says he prefers and is better suited for Current TV’s politically charged environment. “Current has an ideology. There’s no pretense; we’re open about it. CNN tries very hard to position itself as an non-ideological news network, but there’s no objectivity in network news. It would be better for all of us if we just accepted that.” Therein lies the major issue with his former employer’s rating woes, says Eliot: ”CNN has a serious question of what it is and they’ve got to answer that.”

Having stepped in seemingly hours after Keith Olbermann was booted from Current TV, Eliot took to the airwaves with the aptly titled Viewpoint in Olbermann’s old time slot with no promotional campaign or PR machine to attract viewers (although Olbermann’s own campaign to get his side of the story out gave the fledgling network plenty of attention). But the show does have co-founder Al Gore‘s support (he’s been a guest on Viewpoint) and Eliot says Joel Hyatt is very involved in the “day-to-day” running of the network. “They have been great. I’ve known Al since 1999 and I like him very much. He’s a great guy.” (BTW you can see what Joel had to say about all those supposed dust-ups with Olbermann in this Mediabistro interview.)

Eliot Spitzer and Diane Clehane
Eliot Spitzer and Diane Clehane

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The A-List Returns! Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, Barry Diller Hold Court at Michael’s

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As Januarys go, this one has been a bit of a snoozer, but things are finally picking up now that the boldface names have returned to their regular perches at Michael’s. The joint was jumping today as morning talkers (Charlie Rose, Barbara Walters), media moguls (Barry Diller) and fashionistas (Marie Claire‘s Joanna Coles) were all in full power lunch mode. It’s about time!

I was joined today by Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket and Hearst executive director of public relations Alexandra Carlin. It’s been a while since Seventeen was required reading in my house (I still remember begging my father to drive me to the stationary store,  so I could be the first to get the magazine’s coveted September back to school issue). Back then, I’d devour every oversize page, finding tons of inspiration and validation about surviving the treacherous teenage years in one piece — and in style.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ann, who celebrated her fifth anniversary with the magazine last week, says she feels a “huge responsibility” to readers, which means addressing the issues they care most about (a tall order to say the least). Between dealing with ‘sextortion’ (boyfriends threatening to dump girls if they don’t submit sexually) and the barrage of unrealistic images of physical perfection all around them, today’s teenage girls, says Ann, are under “huge pressure” all while dealing with the requisite drama that comes with being a high school girl.  Seventeen‘s mission is to empower teenage girls (the average reader is 16), often by reporting on celebrities who can be a source of inspiration.  For next month’s cover, the magazine scored the first interview with a post-rehab Demi Lovato who opens up about how she battled back from anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder and cutting. “Demi was amazing. It’s so refreshing to have a celebrity be honest about their struggles. It’s great for girls to read about someone like that.”

Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin
Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin

Seventeen, says Ann, is also a resource for girls about subjects they might want to talk about with their parents, but can’t. Topic A: ‘Digital Drama’ – the magazine’s clever moniker for ‘cyber bullying’ which “sounds so nineties.” Seventeen is so committed to wiping out the epidemic that Ann created the ‘Delete Digital Drama’ campaign for the magazine. “We only had to deal with the mean girl phone calls, but today social media has created so many more outlets for bullying to happen. It’s a serious problem.”

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Caroline Manzo, Morgan Fairchild, Plus HarperCollins Fetes William Boyd

1003_mockup.gifOne of the things I love most about chronicling the Wednesday scene at Michael’s is the random celeb sightings that seem to come out of left field. On offer today: television stars of the past and present that represent the changing (and fickle?) tastes of the viewing public. When none other than Morgan Fairchild walked in (she’s even tinier in person), I had an eighties flashback to those great trashy nighttime soaps and damsel in distress Lifetime movies that were all the rage back then. A few minutes later, The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Caroline Manzo, today’s definition of a soap star, walked in. Funny enough, they were seated right next to each other but neither noticed the other. What can I say? This stuff fascinates me.

I was joined today by two PR mavens, Melanie Brandman, founder of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. After chewing over the week’s hottest gossip (Did Kim Kardashian do it for money? Has Kris Jenner no shame?), we had a good chat about Melanie’s latest luxury innovation, Travel Curator, which she describes as a hybrid online monthly magazine, diary and blog that shares the very best insider information on cities around the world.  Besides having exquisite taste, Melanie’s unrivaled experience in the hospitality industry and two decades of worldwide travel have given her quite an address book.

Table Seven: Diane Clehane, Diana Biederman and Melanie Brandman

“I’m constantly asked where to go to find the very best around the world and, since I love to share information, I thought this would be a fabulous way to do that.” The “content driven” site is absolutely gorgeous, including ‘The Spot” of the month. The native Aussie’s Sydney is the launch pick, followed by New York, London and Tel Aviv — all cities Melanie has called home. It also includes a fabulously fun section entitled “Tastemakers” where Melanie culls names from her Rolodex to offer their picks on shopping and travel in various locales. (Full disclosure: In an upcoming edition, I sing the praises of American Girl Place as the best place in NYC to spend a day with the special little girl in your life.) The site is getting great buzz; it was recently featured in Travel & Leisure and was the subject of two segments on Fox News. Right now, everything is being handled in-house at The Brandman Agency, and  it’s being circulated via subscription and by the agency’s extensive contact lists. So, before you pack for that next vacation, check out the site.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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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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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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