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Posts Tagged ‘Rob Weisbach’

Charlie Rose, Star Jones, Joe Kernan and Jack Welch Hold Court

1003_mockup.gifI could just tell the power lunch crowd was (mostly) all business today. The noise level was considerably lower than in past weeks — who needs your neighbor to learn about your next big move before it hits “Page Six”? — and the table hopping was kept to a minimum. It was a tasty mix of moguls (Tom Freston), talking heads (Joe Kernan, Star Jones) and EICs (Amy Astley, Jay Fielden) who kept things interesting.

Speaking of magazines on the move (onward and upward in this case), I was joined today by formidable foodies at the helm of Food Network Magazine, a joint venture of Hearst Magazines and Food Network. Editor Maile Carpenter and publisher/chief revenue officer Vicki Wellington have happened on a recipe for success: Give Food Network fans what they love in print form and — viola! — you’ve got a hit on your hands. Both women were part of the magazine’s launch in 2009 and have seen it rack up a string of accolades, including being named to Adweek’s ‘Hot List’  and Advertising Age’s ‘A List’ last year. “A lot of people told us we were crazy to launch a magazine when we did,” Vicki says of the 2008 prototype, but the numbers silenced the naysayers. The rate base rose from 400,000, to 600,00, to 900,000 in no time and hit 1 million in just four months. The magazine’s ad pages are up 14 percent year to date, and the July-August issue is their biggest ever, with 129 ad pages.

Vicki Wellington, Diane Clehane and Maile Carpenter
Vicki Wellington, Diane Clehane and Maile Carpenter

What’s the secret ingredient? “People watch Food Network 24/7,” Maile told me. “We found that we didn’t have to choose between being accessible and aspirational. The people who love the television shows told us, ‘Be everything!’ and we have. Every month, we have an incredible pool of talent to pull from, and we try to mix it up and give readers a lot of variety.”

Here’s an interesting tidbit lest you think all the pub has to do is call the network’s powers that be to access its squadron of stars: The talent “is not contractually obligated” to appear in the magazine, says Maile. But since its heavy hitters like Guy Fieri (the first Food Network A-lister to see the prototype), Sandra Lee and Alton Brown all love the book, there’s never any shortage of stars to grace its pages. It’s no surprise that recipes (all concocted in the network’s Manhattan kitchens) are a reader favorite. Because there’s such a hunger for them (sorry, that’s my last food pun!), the pub has a new book out, 1000 Easy Recipes: Super Fun Food for Every Day that’s sure to satisfy the busy cook. (There’s 44 different pancake recipes and 100 salads!)

The magazine also gives fans another way to connect with their favorite TV destination with its popular Food Network Lounges where readers meet on-air personalities and sample their cool concoctions in a chic setting. The line was out the door at the last event in Chicago where Anne Burrell met the masses at Jose Garces‘ restaurant. Another Lounge is planned for October in New York to kick off the Food & Wine Festival. And, since food is such a family affair these days, Maile and Vicki have cooked up (okay, last one) a special insert for the September issue, Food Network Kids, as a third cover to be filled with family-friendly recipes and activities for budding foodies to try with mom and dad. Get those cupcake pans ready now!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Spike Lee, Jon Meacham and a Real Housewife of New York City

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It’s been a big week for movie moguls at Michael’s. Harvey Weinstein was here on Monday, and Spike Lee showed up for the second time in a six days. Who needs Hollywood?

Besides the slew of  ‘producers’ cooking up their next big deal over their Cobb salads (now available with turkey bacon!), there was the usual mix of media mavens (EW’s Jess Cagle, Investigation Discovery’s Henry Schleiff) and plenty of stylish spinmeisters for fashionable firms like Chanel, Louis Vuitton  and Estee Lauder.

Speaking of fashion, I was joined today by Steven Stolman who knows a thing or two about catering to stylistas, particularly those with a predilection for all things preppy. The Parson’s School of Design grad apprenticed at Albert Nipon and was then tapped to return 12 years later as the house’s design director. “It was a magical time,” Steven said, until the bubble burst when parent company Leslie Fay, in the midst of its own financial meltdown, shuttered the Seventh Avenue design house. Steven moved on to Lilly Pulitzer (he was curator of  their 50th anniversary retrospective) where he presided over the modernization of the iconic Palm Beach label.

“Lilly inspired me to go out on my own,” Steven told me. And he did, opening stores under his own label in bastions of preppydom Palm Beach, Nantucket and Southampton, as well as Beverly Hills and New York. Some of Steven’s best memories of that time are of personally assisting some famous faces, which led to some wonderful encounters with folks like Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Walters. One day in Palm Beach, Steven spied Dominick Dunne walking down the avenue and stopped him to chat, bemoaning the fact that he’d been reading one of Dunne’s books and would have loved to get it autographed. Dunne affably replied that he’d watch the store while Steven ran home to get the book. When he returned with the tome, Dunne dutifully reported to Steven that he’d sold a skirt and that Steven had missed his mother’s call. Hilarious.

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman
Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

After a brief sabbatical from fashion to serve as development director for a Florida non-profit raising funds for a community health center for the uninsured, Steven then served as design director for Jack Rogers (love those sandals!) before landing his current gig.

Steven is coming up on his first anniversary as president of Scalamandre, the legendary fabric house favored by tastemakers who cater to those who live the luxe life. The house’s iconic signature red zebra print has popped up in a whole host of hip spots from the film The Royal Tannenbaums to the dressing rooms at Barneys. “It just makes people happy,” said Steven. Chances are if you’ve seen some swanky swag on a window uptown, it’s from Scalamandre. The fabrics are in all the best places, from the tastefully traditional upholstery seen in The White House, to the grandeur found at the Metropolitan Opera, to two hipster chic rooms being unveiled next week at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse.

So, how did a fashion designer wind up as its president? Read more

Real Housewife Melissa Gorga Dishes on Her Sister-in-Law From Hell

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Slow moving holiday tourists and presidential motorcades be damned. Nothing could keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. With the place decked out in its holiday finery, the mood was like a swanky office party on steroids.  While the usual suspects and a cool visitor from California (producer/composer David Foster) huddled over their tables deep in conversation, there was a little lunch for 14 in the middle of the dining room. I snagged one of the guests, Melissa Gorga, my favorite ‘housewife’ on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, for a chat about the knock-down, drag-out cat fights on last month’s reunion show and to get the real story about her on- and off-camera relationship with her fellow cast mate and sister-in-law, the charming Teresa Guidice.

Melissa, who is an absolute knockout in person, told me that the RHONJ cast (minus Jacqueline Laurita) shot the reunion special the day after wrapping the yet-to-be-aired Season 4, and the women were all seething about battles and betrayals the viewers haven’t even seen. “We had just had a huge blow up the night before, and that was what was on everyone’s mind. It was so hard not to say anything. That’s why Jacqueline wasn’t there,” Melissa tells me. “It was very confusing for us, and we were constantly trying not to say things about things that hadn’t aired yet. Bravo is so sorry they shot them back to back. I don’t think they are ever going to do that again.” Teresa “tried to set me up” and is back to her old tricks, Melissa told me, without giving anything away. After all the kissing and making up seen at the end of last season, Melissa’s husband Joe Gorga is “disgusted” with his table tipping sibling once again. Big surprise.

Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid
Diane Clehane, Bonnie Fuller, Melissa Gorga and Carlos Lamadrid

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Roger Ailes, Barry Diller & The Squawk Box Super Heroes

1003_mockup.gifHail! Hail! The Wednesday gang is all here. The lunch scene at Michael’s was firing on all cylinders today as moguls (Barry Diller! Roger Ailes!), high-profile editors (David Zinczenko, Cindi Leive) and a heaping helping of talking heads (Kathie Lee Gifford, Ashleigh Banfield, Joe Kernen, Larry Kudlow and Andrew Ross Sorkin) made for a tasty media stew. There was actually gridlock in the dining room as the famous and fabulous stood in the aisles to intercept friends (and possible future employers?) on their way to their tables.

The biggest crowd was circling around Table One where Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Gerry Byrne (who is on parent company Penske Media Corp’s board) were hosting their monthly lunch where they bring together an interesting mix of folk to “cross-pollinate” says Bonnie, who leads the group as they chew over the latest trends in media (particularly in the digital space) and weigh in on how it affects their respective businesses. Gerry was the lone man among a table full of opinionated, highly successful women who weighed in on everything from reality stars — we learned Ashleigh Banfield is more than a little obsessed with the Kardashian sisters — to intellectual property. Designer Heather Thomson told the group that she spent $2.5 million in a lawsuit against lingerie giant Maidenform when she charged them with copying her patented three-panel tank top. She was awarded $6.57 million as settlement. Her takeaway: “Innovation needs to be protected.”

Leading the cheer for all that is digital, Bonnie said, “I’m so happy I crossed over from print” and is hooked by the immediacy of it all. “As a magazine editor, I felt like I was having a one-way conversation so much of the time,” she said of her stints as editor- in-chief at Glamour, Us Weekly and Cosmo. “At Hollywoodlife.com, we are intensely focused on our relationships with women with a need to know about the things they are about right now.”  Bonnie says the site is now getting 4.7 million monthly uniques who come to get their fix on everything concerning Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Justin Bieber and the Kardashian sisters.

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The gang at Table One

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Alexis Glick Dishes with Michelle Paterson, NY Republican Chair Talks Turner Victory

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It was SRO at Michael’s today. The dining room was a tasty mix of media mavens with a heaping helping of politicos and a dash of flash with a very tall L.A. Laker. (We don’t follow basketball, but several guys in the room made sure we knew it was Matt Barnes who made heads turn.)

I was joined by Andrew Amill, VP of media sales at Weight Watchers, who, unlike many of his colleagues in publishing is seeing some extraordinary numbers these days. “This is a record year in the history of the brand driven by The Points Plus system and [spokesperson] Jennifer Hudson,” Andy tells me. The numbers speak for themselves: Newsstand sales are up 10 percent;  print ad revenue is up eight percent. Online, the business is exploding with an impressive 25 percent jump in ad revenue.

As a lifetime members of Weight Watchers, I told Andy I’d been a longtime fan of the brand but was really impressed by their canny selection of Hudson as a spokesperson. “She has a lot of credibility with members and readers,” says Andy, and that’s translated into plenty of new members who have joined because of the amazing results the Oscar winner got from the program. In fact, the cover of this month’s issue features an attractive array of men and women, ‘real life success stories’ that attest to the program’s sweeping success. This is definitely not your mother’s Weight Watchers.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  Atttorney Rob Barnett, presiding over a table of business types

2.  Wayne Kabak and Lauren Green

3. Oxygen Media founder Geraldine Laybourne

4. Producer Francine LeFrak and some colorfully dressed social swells

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Cosmo‘s Kate White Celebrates The Sixes

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You’d never know we’re on the brink of the dog days of August from the jam packed scene at Michael’s today. While I did notice there was a bit more wine than usual being poured, it was clear from all the glad handing and table hopping that there was plenty of business getting done between bites.

I was thrilled when Kate White invited me to join her for a celebratory lunch to mark the publication of her latest book, The Sixes (HarperCollins) that hit bookstores yesterday. Besides holding down her day job as Cosmo‘s editrix, Kate has managed to crank out five mysteries featuring heroine Bailey Weggins (a sixth is due next March), a handful of self-help tomes (including 9 Secrets of Women Who Get Everything They Want) and now, the second of two thrillers. Her latest novel chronicles what happens when celebrity biographer Phoebe Hall uncovers a secret society while tracking down a killer in a small college town and is already garnering rave reviews. Kate, who writes mostly on weekends, says she’s wanted to write page-turners ever since spotting a Nancy Drew mystery in her grandmother’s library at age 10. “I loved her,” she says of the iconic young detective. “I knew that whatever that was, I wanted to do that.”

Kate rounded up a pretty impressive group of gals to join in on the celebration. First to arrive was chick lit queen Jane Green who has written a dozen books (Babyville is my personal favorite) at the head spinning rate of one per year. I nearly fainted when Jane mentioned what a busy summer she’s having ferrying around her six children to their various activities. The former journalist for The Daily Express in Britain says it’s her training as a newspaper reporter facing deadlines that’s enabled her to find the discipline to write books. “Anybody can start a book; it’s another thing entirely to finish one.” Indeed.

Rounding out the group were best selling author Shelia Weller whose latest, Girls Like Us, is in development at Sony Pictures, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm, actress Donna Hanover who most recently appeared as a real estate agent  in FX’s Louie, and Barbara Butcher, chief of staff and director of Forensic Science Training Program at the Office of The Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan. While there was plenty of talk about books and writing, the group was completely transfixed by Barbara’s fascinating career as an investigator examining the dead at over 5,000 crime scenes . “I got a dissecting kit when I was 10 and my last name is ‘Butcher’ so this was kind of preordained,” Barbara quipped. Besides tackling the important tasks of identifying victims of 9/11 and the 2004 tsunami, Barbara has put her expertise to work consulting on shows like Law & Order and helping authors like Kate and Patricia Cornwall accurately depict their fictional crimes.  Spending a few hours with this crew has made me swear off procrastinating on that next book waiting to be written — or at least try to give up sleeping.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kate White, Jane Green, Shelia Weller, Hannah Storm, Donna Hanover, Barbara Butcher and yours truly.

2.  My good pal, investigative journo Diane Dimond who tirelessly chronicled Casey Anthony’s trial for The Daily Beast with Judy Twersky (Nice to finally meet you!) and another gal pal I didn’t get to meet.

3. Terry Allen Kramer

4.  Christine Taylor with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

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Glenn Close and Damages Cast Celebrate Season Four

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Before dashing off to their summer cottages in the Hamptons for the long holiday weekend, the media mavens and moguls were at their regular perches at Michael’s today for a bit of last minute networking. It was SRO at the bar and the dining room was jam packed, because the Garden Room was reserved for a party hosted by the cast of Damages, the water cooler legal drama starring Glenn Close as a ruthless Manhattan attorney.

Last year, FX cancelled the show after three seasons, but it got a stay of execution from Direct TV which will air the season four premiere on July 13. I caught up with the series’ co-creator and show runner Daniel Zelman (who happens to be Debra Messing‘s husband, in case you didn’t know) before the party to find out what he thought of the move. “FX was wonderful and terrifically supportive, and Direct TV has been great. We’re thrilled about their commitment to the show,” he told me, adding that Damages will be the first stateside television series to air exclusively on the company’s new Audience Network. (They also aired the beloved but viewer deprived Friday Night Lights, which they shared with NBC.)

I asked Daniel what ripped-from-the-headlines news story would serve as the inspiration for the upcoming season. “The privatization of  war industry,” he told me, saying that the new scripts are “loosely based” on those stories about for-hire firms like Blackwater who are paid to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. “The stories behind the for-profit companies involved in the war effort are very interesting. There is a lot to explore,” he said.  Last season’s scalding Shakespearean version of  the Madoff saga certainly made for very compelling human drama, and Daniel says that while there is no single larger than life figure this season, faithful viewers will be rewarded. “At the end of it, we hope they feel like they’ve been watching a 13-hour movie and feel satisfied with their investment.” With a stellar cast (all in attendance today) headed by Close, Rose Byrne (loved you in Bridesmaids!), John Goodman and Dylan Baker, we’re sure viewers will have plenty to chew on. We’ll be watching.

I had a lively lunch today with Self’s editor-in chief Lucy Danziger who arrived on her scooter with entertainment director Laura Brounstein. Rounding out our foursome was Huffington Post’s new women’s editor Lori Leibovich who is busy these days getting ready to launch a host of new verticals including ones devoted to parenting, baby boomers and pets.

Lucy just celebrated her 10th anniversary at Self , and she’s more energized than ever. She gave Lori and me a quick tour of Self’s July issue with cover girl Zooey Deschanel on the magazine’s iPad App which featured videos of fashion spreads with Cobra Starship set to music and stop action video demonstrating the exercise moves in the fitness features. This being ‘The Music Issue,’ Lucy and her team came up with some clever ways to get readers’ heart rates up, including playlists designed to motivate and slim them down. “Music is scientifically proven to be a powerful fitness tool,” she says. Just ask May’s cover girl Gwyneth Paltrow.

It was clear from seeing Lucy zip her way around her iPad during lunch that she has completely embraced her magazine’s digital doppelganger (which just launched in April with cover girl Kim Kardashian hosting live chats) and sees it as a way to connect with her readers like never before.  ”The print magazine is great. It refreshes a reader’s commitment on a monthly basis,” she explained. “But we can reach the same reader every day with something new with our App. We refresh our content every day and are constantly coming up with new ways to make our readers feel more involved. We had three million uniques last month and, in the digital world, we can reach those readers 24/7.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  Lucy Danziger, Laura Brounstein, Lori Leibovich and yours truly

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Sherrie Westin

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

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Isaac Mizrahi, Twilight‘s Kellan Lutz & A Manhattan Madri Gras

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I attended a fabulous lunch today for Deb Shriver to celebrate the publication of her first book, Stealing Magnolias, due out any minute. It was a festive afternoon befitting the book which is equal parts love letter, scrapbook and chic guide to Deb’s adopted city of New Orleans. “I not only love New Orleans. I love the idea of it. When I’m away, it is a dream I can always return to. I would come just for the gumbo,” says Deb, an Atlanta native and twelfth-generation Southerner.

Our hostess, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, welcomed everyone to “New Orleans North” as we all sipped our Pimm’s Cups (‘I never drink at lunch but I’ll make an exception’ was pretty much the consensus) and dined on Louisiana crawfish salad made especially for the occasion. The guest list was a chatty mix of journos and Deb’s nearest and dearest. In attendance: More‘s editor Lesley Jane Seymour, authors Pamela Keogh and Susan Sully, Deb’s husband Jerry Shriver who toils as music critic for USA Today,  Jesse Kornbluth of headbutler.com,  Amy Wicks of WWD and Melissa Coan and Marcia Sherill of 1stdibs.com It’s worth noting that Deb, whose ‘real job’ as Hearst’s chief officer of communications keeps her more than busy, wrote her book ‘on weekends’ over the course of several months. “Pretty humbling for all of us here at the table who do this for a living,” said one guest. Indeed.

Before lunch, we all got a chance to flip through the pages of the sumptuous tome and I was struck by all the beautiful photography of the people, places and cuisine of New Orleans. It’s the work of 17 different photographers, Deb tells me — and she did all the food styling herself! (Some people just multitask a lot better than others, I suppose). Then, just as the main course was about to be served, everyone in the dining room was treated to a surprise solo performance of jazz man Craig Handy to make the Manhattan Mardi Gras complete. Bravo!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Deb Shriver, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Jerry Shriver, Lesley Jane Seymour, Amy Wicks, Pamela Keogh, Jesse Kornbluth, Susan Sully, Marcia Sherrill, Melissa Coan and yours truly.

2. MSNBC’s Chris Licht, Nancy Jacobson and Kevin Sheekey.

3.  The ‘Imber Gang:” Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

4. Peter Brown

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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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John Sykes, Jared Kushner & Moguls on the Make

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting like recent visitors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close that gives Michael’s that jolt of adrenaline during our weekly Wednesday visits. And sometimes it’s the sheer power quotient of the dining room that gets our attention. As one regular told me: “I can always tell who is looking for money and who is writing the checks when I come here. It’s the best business scorecard around.”

Today I was joined by power publicist Catherine Saxton, who knows just about everybody but never spins and tells, and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of Beezag and AdGenesis. We had a fascinating chat about the ‘wild west’ of Internet advertising and how absolutely maddening those unwanted pop-up ads are. When Richard launched Beezag last November with Laurent Alhadeff, they created a different kind of online advertising environment which they’ve cleverly coined as ‘Me-commerce.’ Richard explains beezag’s consumer-centric marketing concept this way: “It’s about relevancy and reward. Consumers watch entertaining branded content and video ads they love and get discounts they deserve because they’re thanked with special offers and incentives from advertisers.”

By matching brands to the consumers who want to hear about them, Richard reports that beezag delivers clients an average of 25 percent click-through rates. The members-only, opt-in multi-platform community has some pretty serious brainpower behind it. Richard tells me his ‘executive council’ of advisors includes Gerry Byrne, Wenda Millard, Michael Kassan and Bob Friedman. For someone who just landed in New York from South Africa in January of last year, Richard seems to have figured out pretty quickly how to make things happen in Manhattan. We’re impressed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Boy wonder Jared Kushner with his dad Charles, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers. The New York Observer owner must have had some big deal brewing, because he stepped outside several times to take a very important call. Or perhaps it was just the missus, Ivanka Trump, asking what to make for dinner.

2. My friend and PR maven extraordinaire Lisa Linden and former Bush administration advisor Charles Millard, celebrating the launch of Charles’ new venture specializing in pension funds and financial services, Cardinal Advisors.

3. Catherine Saxton, Richard Smullen and yours truly

4. LVMH’s David Anton

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