We’re serving up a low-cal version of “Lunch” today because the catastrophic events in Harlem kept us from doing our scheduled interview at the appointed hour. Despite the transportation disruptions in and around the city, it was business as usual for the mavens, moguls and strivers who turned up at Michael’s for their weekly Wednesday confab. Keep calm and carry on indeed.
Posts Tagged ‘Robert Zimmerman’
It turns out the third time was the charm for my long-delayed lunch with Woman’s Day EIC Susan Spencer. Having been kept away from Michael’s first by the onset of the polar vortex and then, a few weeks later, by the snowstorm of the week, we finally managed to meet at 55th and Fifth today. Perfect timing, after all, because Susan was still buzzing about The 11th Annual Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards held last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The sold-out event, benefiting the American Heart Association, boasted a glittering gallery of A-list stars, including actress and singer Rita Wilson who acted as host; her Oscar-winning husband Tom Hanks (who, we’re told, was happy to relinquish the spotlight to his wife); actress Jennie Garth, who received the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Heart Award; and the Today show’s Hoda Kotb, who introduced singer Sara Bareilles and The Voice winner Judith Hill. None other than President Bill Clinton was on hand to accept an award on behalf of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for its work towards improving heart health by fighting childhood obesity. “I guess people hadn’t read their programs,” Susan told me, “But when I was introducing him and said, ‘Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States,’ there was an audible gasp in the room. Something happened when he appeared on stage. He really drew people in and set the tone for a truly memorable evening.”
Susan told me that Clinton made some ”very personal” and “humble” remarks about his own experience as an overweight youngster. “Don’t clap!” he told the crowd, who was clearly charmed by his story. “This is a serious issue.” So serious, in fact, that virtually every star who attended the awards has a personal connection to the disease. Rita Wilson’s father suffered from heart disease and Jennie Garth discovered she had a leaky heart value when she was just 30 years old. The disease, which is the number one killer of women, also hits very close to home for many Woman’s Day readers. So much so, that last June Susan and her team launched the magazine’s Live Longer & Stronger Challenge, for which they selected six women from around the country who had or were at risk of heart disease and designed a nutritional and lifestyle program for them with nutrition columnist Joy Bauer. The group stayed connected to the magazine and Bauer through a private Facebook page, texts and emails. “We want to raise awareness that this doesn’t just happen to women in their 50s; it can happen in your 20s and 30s,” she said.
You’d never know hell had officially frozen over if you’d been at Michael’s today. The forsythias were in bloom, a few intrepid media mavens were barelegged (I kid you not) and the power-lunch scene was firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, my date was detained in the studio shooting a popular television show, but I soldiered on into Manhattan, bundled up in my long-forgotten fur coat (No judgment, thank you) that makes me look like Yogi Bear’s wife to make my appointed Wednesday rounds. And it’s a good thing I did. At Table One, Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller had assembled a particularly interesting roster of media types (including CNN’s Christine Romans, AOL’s Brian Balthazar , ”Mayor” Joe Armstrong and our own Chris Ariens among them) as well as the requisite reality-show refugee who, in this case, was Jill Zarin. A little birdie told me the former Real Housewives of New York City cast member is getting the Where Are They Now? treatment from none other than Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming episode. The fickle finger of fate has quite the sense of humor.
Before the overflow crowd sat down to discuss Justin Bieber‘s latest contretemps and why Madonna looked like the love child of the Quaker Oats man and Mae West at the Grammys, I spent some time mingling with the crowd. Bonnie introduced me to her 23-year-old daughter Sofia Fuller who was “helping out” at today’s luncheon since Bonnie is currently without a publicist (but not for long, I suspect). Clever Sofia told me that she is “definitely” interested in a career in media and has her heart set on landing something in e-commerce.
We’re going to file this week’s lunch in under ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ Aside from a dining room full of the usual Wednesdays at Michael’s suspects, comprised of moguls (Barry Diller), media mavens (Bonnie Fuller, Connie Anne Phillips) and money men who keep the lights on all over town (Alan Patricof), I had an illuminating chat with Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York and the editor/contributor of the new book, Gilded New York Design, Fashion and Society (The Monacelli Press). We were introduced by Dan Scheffey, who, in his past life, has handled public relations for Disney, Miramax and most recently toiled at Conde Nast. Dan is currently working on Monacelli’s fall book list and is gearing up to launch the Spring 2014 list with Ellen Rubin. When he mentioned Gilded New York to me some months ago, I immediately wanted to know more. Donald, an independent curator specializing in the decorative arts and architecture, joined us to talk about his work on both the exhibition and the book on New York’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century.
By way of introduction to the period he explained, “The city’s old and new money used architecture, interior design, fashion and events — even lunch and dinners — as markers of status.” See where I’m going with this? I thought you might.
Donald, who traded his career as an architect to focus on curating exhibitions and writing (“I found working solely in architecture really boring”), explained his love of curating exhibitions as a way of producing “visual culture.” His current exhibition (which shares the same name of the companion book) “Gilded New York” runs through the end of next year and features a stunning collection of objects that lend a window into the fascinating lives of the early swells of New York City whose great fortunes built the vast Fifth Avenue mansions during what was arguably city’s most glamorous era. Among the relics of this bygone age visitors to the museum can see: an ”Electric Light” dress by couturier Charles Frederick Worth dress once worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt. The gown (which didn’t really light up) earned its name from the glittering crystals that illuminated the bodice (a newspaper at the time breathlessly reported it had been trimmed in diamonds), Tiffany & Co.’s Bon Bonniere, a miniature purse designed to hold bon bons or small pieces of candy to be discreetly carried so it could be enjoyed while dancing, and a swan-billed flask crafted from engraved glass and silver. The funny thing is I have no doubt any one of the artifacts would be right at home worn by Sarah Jessica Parker or carried by — dare we say it – Kanye West — at the Met Ball, no?
After being felled by a brutal bug (which I picked up in my doctor’s office while waiting for my flu shot) last week, I was glad to be back at 55th and Fifth today where I embarked on the second leg of my own personal trifecta of reporting on every aspect of my television obsession, Downton Abbey. I interviewed cast member Lesley Nichol two weeks ago and am planning a very special Downton lunch for December (No spoilers here! It’s top secret for now). Today I was thrilled to dine and dish with Harry Herbert, the second son of the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, who was in town on a whirlwind three-day visit to New York to meet a few Upper East Side swells and talk to them about his glamorous and highly successful racehorse syndication business, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. As the company’s founder, Henry puts together racing syndicates — small groups of people with deep pockets — to share in owning a racehorse. So what’s Harry’s Downton Abbey connection, you ask? Harry’s ancestral home is none other than Highclere Castle, the stunning setting — and very much its own character — on Downton Abbey. I kid you not.
If you’re like me and have watched the specials that have aired on Highclere on PBS and HG-TV, you’ve seen Harry’s sister-in-law Fiona, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, who is married to his brother George, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, giving behind-the-scenes tours of the great house and talking about what it’s like to have your home taken over by the cast of one of Britain’s most popular television programs. (They actually live in another home on the sprawling estate) Harry painted a fascinating picture for me of the real life cast of characters who have populated Highclere, worthy of their own PBS series. It turns out his parents’ love story mirror the one which plays out on Downton between the elder Grantham’s British-American union. Harry’s mother, Jeannie, was 19 years old when he journeyed from her home in Wyoming to England to visit friends and met his father, Henry. When she went back to the states, says Harry, ”He chased her to Wyoming and wound up marrying her.” Read more
It was the usual head-spinning scene at Michael’s today as the decibel level rose to epic levels in every corner of the dining room throughout lunch. But all was tranquil (at least for the moment) when I arrived shortly before noon. There, I was greeted with the sight of two minions from Bonnie Fuller‘s office at Hollywoodlife.com who were arranging seating cards and ordering Pellegrino for Bonnie’s monthly schmoozefest. The power gals-in-training stayed just long enough to change into their high heels and shepherd the overflowing group of media mavens and social swans (and Dylan Lauren!) into the lounge for a round of air kissing before they finally settled into their perch in the bay window at Table One. Oh, to be young and ambitious.
I was joined today by two of my favorite Michael’s regulars who I met, of course, in the dining room many moons ago: producer and Democratic booster Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson Long Island’s leading public relations and marketing firm, who somehow also finds time to appear on CNN, Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. On-air (and in conversation, of course) Robert offers well reasoned arguments against the extremists on both sides. “Too much attention focuses on being quotable, not credible. Too many commentators operate in a fact-free environment. Ann Coulter has become the Larry Flynt of political literature. Both live in a world of exploitation and filth,” said the Democratic National Committeeman (now in his 13th year in the position). Come on Robert, tell us how you really feel.
I always look forward to our bi-annual Michael’s lunches because besides being two of the nicest – and funniest people in the room — Joan and Robert can always be counted on for some tasty dish on what’s really going on in any number of social, business and political circles in New York.
While some of the juiciest dish is off the record, we did cover a lot of ground on the current political scene. I had to ask Robert what he thought of the two biggest headaches plaguing the Obama administration that are getting plenty of media coverage. On the Obamacare website woes, Robert offered this: “If it were up to my Republican friends, we would have given up on NASA, Social Security and Medicare because each of them had difficult launches. Medicare took six years to establish after President Roosevelt it signed into law. The website will be fixed. The bigger issue will be if people are getting a better deal in terms of cost and coverage. That will determine the future of Obamacare and, to a large extent, Obama’s legacy.” Read more
It was wall-to-wall mavens and moguls at Michael’s today with EICs of those swanky design books (Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Veranda) holding court in one corner of the dining room (I guess living well really is the best revenge), while the usual bold-faced names and social swans exchanged air kisses in the other. I was joined today by Paul Caine, CEO of audio content syndicator Westwood One, one of the nicest and most successful guys in the media biz (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you just how rare a description that is around here). Paul has had himself one heck of a year having joined Westwood One (back when it was known as Dial Global — more on that later) in March from Time Inc., where he was EVP Chief Revenue Officer and Group President.
Since joining the newly christened Westwood One, Paul has been doing what he does best — positioning his brand in the best possible light for prospective advertisers. It was clear from talking to him he’s found a new calling as an audio content advocate. I had to begin by asking Paul why he left the Time Inc. mothership after 23 years and ahead of Time Inc’s planned spin-off after having had such a successful tenure and largely considered one of its rising stars. He had been responsible for global ad revenue for all of the company’s magazines, including People and Sports Illustrated, while spearheading new initiatives to roll out new ad products across all platforms. His name had been floated in several published reports as a possible successor to Time Inc.’s former CEO Laura Lang (coincidentally the man who got the job, Joseph Ripp, was seated on the other side of the dining room), but Paul told me that when he was first approached in January about his current job, “Initially, I wasn’t interested. I was not looking to leave.”It was only after talking to advertisers when, during conversations, the question ‘What about radio?’ came up time and again that Paul began to seriously consider making a move.” I had a great time at Time Inc.,” he told me. “The brands are fantastic. (Time Inc. editor-in-chief) Martha Nelson is fantastic and I’m optimistic about their future.” As far as the prospects after the spin-off: “What I know from afar is that they are uniquely positioned to succeed. Print is healthy.”
But audio content is what the future is all about, says Paul, and Westwood One has got over 225 million listeners a week to prove it. “We spend one third of our day listening to audio content — music, talk radio, sports, news.” The company is the only broadcast medium with exclusive rights to the NFL, NCAA, the Masters and EPL (English Premier League soccer) as well as serving as home for the radio broadcasts of John Tesh (who just celebrated ten years with the company), Charles Osgood, Dennis Miller and Billy Bush. Read more
We’ve met plenty of driven, multitasking folks in Michael’s dining room over the years — like this week’s man of the hour David Zinczenko, who continues his quest for (media) world domination with his new book (read on). He was front and center at Table One today celebrating the completion of the first of his books to be published as part of his headline-making deal earlier this year with Random House. And, of course, there is no end to the list of type-A power lunchers (fill in the name of your favorite here) whose burning ambition is to see their name in print every time they ink a deal.
Then there’s Ross Ellis, who I met in this very room a while back. Ross started out in public relations and marketing and has toiled for several Fortune 500 firms. For the past eight years, she’s worked as a residential real estate broker for Halstead Property LLC. Since then, she has become a widely recognized expert on the Manhattan marketplace, quoted in the New York Daily News and CBS MarketWatch, among other outlets. While that would be enough for even the most ambitious Gothamite, Ross somehow found the time — and energy — to launch STOMP Out Bullying, an extraordinary non-profit whose mission is to eradicate bullying, the true scourge of the modern age. While Ross has developed many fundraising initiatives to fund the organization’s initiatives, many of them involving celebrities who also believe passionately in the charity’s mission, she also donates a portion of her commissions from her real estate sales to the charity.
Somehow, between finding luxurious lairs for Manhattan’s movers and shakers, Ross, drawing very little attention to herself — instead, insisting the spotlight be focused on her cause — has built STOMP Out Bullying into the nation’s leading national anti-bullying and cyber-bullying organization for kids and teens in the United States. Not too coincidentally, October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, so our talk today was particularly timely. Ross told me STOMP came out of her first not-for-profit, Love Our Children, which she founded in 1999; its mission was to prevent child abuse and all forms of violence and neglect against children. “I knew this was something that deserved a lot more attention than it was getting at that time,” she says. “Bullying was the signature issue at Love Our Children, and I wanted to do more.” Read more
It was business as usual at Michael’s today, which means it was wall-to-wall moguls (Barry Diller, David Zaslav), EICs (Liz Vaccariello, Alison Brower) and TV newsers (Ron Insana, Felicia Taylor and Lynn Sherr) – and plenty of other famous faces. I was joined by Star Jones, one of my favorite regulars at 55th and Fifth, who I met when I was one of the first reporters to cover the freshman season of The View. Suffice to say there’s been plenty that’s happened in Star’s professional and personal life since then, and she’s come through it all wiser, funnier and more determined than ever to forge her own path. Sitting at Table 1 today, nibbling on her kale salad with a side of salmon, she practically glowed with happiness.
She was excited to tell me about her role as chief development officer and national spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Women, where she is serving as a passionate advocate for members on healthcare and equal pay, which, she said, has become a tent pole issue. With most of NAPW’s members in middle management and plenty of entrepreneurs in the ranks, Star is all about “stiletto networking,” as she told me, which involves developing programming for the membership that will help empower them to reach their goals. “This is an opportunity for me to use all my experience and not just be in one box as an attorney, talk show host or author. Women’s lives are comprised of so many difference facets; it’s exciting to act as a advocate for NAPW, as I’ve done with my work for the American Heart Association, for causes that I’m passionate about.” She has also created the NAPW Foundation which, in addition to AHA, supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Dress for Success and Girls Inc. Star also brings another valuable skill to NAPW: finding the right benefits and services to offer to its members. “You know I’m good at getting perks for the sisters!”
Ever since she forged her age on her driver’s license (upping it from 15 to 16) so she could get a job at McDonald’s (“The statute has run out on that crime!”), Star has been creating unforeseen opportunities for herself that have defied expectations. In the early 90s, she went from the Brooklyn DA’s office to the small screen when she was tapped as a commentator for Court TV and Inside Edition, covering high profile cases like William Kennedy Smith’s rape trial and The OJ Simpson case. By the time she left her seat at the table with Barbara Walters on her ABC chatfest, she was one of daytime television’s most famous faces. Of her run on The View: “They were the best eight years of my life,” she said before adding with some laughter, “But I was on for nine years and that last year was a little rough.” But, like they say, time heals all wounds, and Star reports her relationship with Walters is better than ever. Read more
Neither rain nor snow (not yet anyway) or a meltdown on Metro North’s Connecticut line (don’t ask!) can keep us from our appointed rounds on Wednesdays at Michael’s. Who else would tell you which talking heads (Star Jones, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin) were holding court in the dining room while pointing out the random sighting of a former beauty queen and even some titled ladies and lords? (Read on and you’ll find out.) We, not of the town car set, braved a very crowded train from Westchester (Note to fellow passengers: garlic on your breakfast isn’t a good thing!) to bring you all the earth-shattering goings on at 55th and Fifth today so you can eat at your desk while searching for Internet spoilers on Sunday’s series finale of Breaking Bad.
I was joined today by my intrepid Greenwich neighbor Andy Amill, VP of Media Sales at Weight Watchers. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since my days heading up Danskin’s PR department (just try having to wear spandex to work) and wanted to get the skinny on all the incredible innovations the company has implemented over the past year. Have you seen Jennifer Hudson lately? Exactly. Andy tells me that Jennifer has been “an inspiration” to Weight Watcher members. The dynamic multi-media campaign featuring the brand ambassador which launched in 2010 has helped attract plenty of new members. I am also fascinated by the technology behind the company’s barcode scanner app, which members can download to their smart phones. It lets the user zap the UPC of thousands of products in the supermarket and instantaneously get the Weight Watchers PointsPlus value. What will they think of next?
When I mentioned that the Weight Watchers center where I attend meetings had undergone a pretty dramatic makeover a few months back, Andy explained that many stores have been redesigned in the past few years with a contemporary look and feel. “They’re all uniform so members can find a center anywhere and they all look the same,” he tells me. “It really helps them stay connected.” Read more
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