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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Zimmerman’

Bette Midler, Blythe Danner and Chris Noth’s Advice for President Obama

1003_mockup.gifIf you felt the tremors in midtown around noon, it’s because 55th and Fifth nearly buckled under the weight of all the star power at Michael’s today. Between the Hollywood A-listers (Bette Midler, Blythe Danner, Kate Capshaw),  Democratic dynamos (Kerry Kennedy, Betsy Gotbaum) and talking heads (Star Jones), I was getting a serious case of whiplash trying to keep track of it all.

Just when I thought the crowd had settled in, I spied Chris Noth sitting alone at the bar, and I just couldn’t resist going over for a quick chat. While Julianna Marguilies‘ errant TV husband on The Good Wife waited for his pal, producer Fred Zollo, to arrive, I got him to weigh in on the show’s headline-making sex scenes. “Network television can’t go where cable does, but I did do a scene where we showed just enough oral sex in a bathroom while cable news played in the background,” Chris told me. How could we forget? “That stuff gets people talking, I guess.” Yup.

This season, while his co-star Archie Panjabi steams up the screen, his character is trying for a shot at redemption and is running for governor. “I have no idea whether or not he wins,” says Chris. The ardent Democrat tells me he has no interest in running for office himself. “I’m not one of those actors. All my skeletons are out of the closet!” He does, however, have a keen interest in who wins this year’s presidential election. “A lady on the subway asked me to take a picture with me, and I told her I would as long she voted Democrat!” When I told Chris I was lunching with Robert Zimmerman,  a Democratic National Committee member from New York and one of the party’s top fundraisers, he perked up. “I have a line I want to give him for President Obama! Can you introduce me?” I was only too happy to oblige.

When I brought Chris over to my table to meet Robert and another smart, savvy Democratic booster, producer Joan Gelman, he told Robert, “I’ve got something for Obama: A half truth is the same as a complete lie, and we’re not even hearing half truths from Romney. You ought to pass this along for the Obama circle for  the debate.” Robert assured Chris he would get his comment to the president’s handlers.  When Chris went off to his own table, Robert said, “They ought to take his advice; he’s got a higher approval rating than both parties.”

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

Chris Noth and Diane Clehane

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Calvin Klein, Piers Morgan and The Newsroom‘s Emily Mortimer

1003_mockup.gifIt was a dizzying scene at Michael’s today.  Fashion A-listers (Calvin Klein, Grace Coddington), talking heads (Piers Morgan) and the random television star (The Newsroom‘s Emily Mortimer) provided some serious people watching for the mere mortals in the dining room.

Before the crowd rushed in, I caught up with Bravolebrity Lori Zaslow in the ladies room (What can I say? I go where the news takes me ) who just wrapped her first season of Love Broker. Lori, who was with her business partner Jenn Zucher, tells me the show brought plenty of new clients looking for their soul mates and some great new business opportunities, including her new ‘love oil’ called Gravitate which is sold at Exhale Spa and a few select boutiques around town. “The show was a great experience and some great new things came our way as a result of the exposure,” Lori told me. She’ll be Katie Couric‘s guest on her new talk show on October 5. Will there be a season two of Love Broker? As they
say, stay tuned.

Diane Clehane and Andy Amill

I was joined today by publishing powerhouse Andrew Amill, vice president of Weight Watchers Media Group. As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I’ve always found the plan works when you work it, and I love the weekly meetings which always have such an empowering, fun vibe. While their campaign with Jennifer Hudson (one of the greatest transformations ever!) has been a resounding success, Andy tells me that despite all the snipping in the tabloids about the company’s newest spokeswoman Jessica Simpson (who was Katie Couric‘s guest on her show’s premiere) is also doing great on the plan. Her first commercial touting her shedding her post-baby weight just hit the airwaves and her big ‘reveal’ will come in December. She’ll also be the cover girl for WeightWatchers Magazine‘s January/February issue. ”Both Jennifer and Jessica resonate with our members,” says Andy. Charles Barkley, who is the face and (newly slimmed down) body for the men’s program has given the company’s a “100 percent bump” on the men’s site.

Andy tells me weightwatchers.com is the fastest growing part of the company (6.2 million monthly uniques and 250 million page views) as the powers that be add more and more interactive features that keep members plugged into the program whereever they go. Later this year, a bar code scanner for smart phones will be introduced that will allow users to scan the UPC code of any supermarket food item and immediately get its point value. The perfect antidote to temptation, no doubt. “The technology the company has created that allows members to stay connected and motivated is outstanding,” says Andy.  Read more

Anderson Cooper, Harold Ford, Jr and Bob Guccione, Jr

1003_mockup.gifAfter a long holiday weekend left the usual Wednesday lunch crowd without their weekly power lunch fix, the town car set who could tear themselves away from their Hampton cottages returned to Michael’s today. I say we outlaw any more midweek July 4th holidays. Too confusing!

I was joined today by Bob Guccione, Jr. who I met last year when we weighed in on the ever expanding culture of celebrity for a journalism panel for Names Not Numbers. After crossing paths in this dining room several times over the past year, we decided it was time for a proper Michael’s lunch once and for all.

I wasn’t disappointed. Bob ventured in for our lunch and some other important business in town from his home in rural Pennsylvania (“I’m one postage stamp away from being the unabomber!’). A few years ago, having grown “sick of New York” he decamped to Mississippi to teach journalism and has decided country life beats living in Manhattan hands down. ”It’s so peaceful,” he says.

Bob tells a terrific tale of his fascinating career in media that started at the age of 18 in the UK when he became Britain’s youngest ever publisher. A year later, he launched Rock Superstars making him the youngest publisher in America. As the son of one of publishing’s most colorful figures, it seems his career path was predetermined but, says Bob, “I knew I loved it. I wanted to be a writer but I had no life experience.”

That changed pretty quickly. In 1985, he launched SPIN, sold it in 1997 t0 Vibe Ventures, and launched Gear in 1998. Then, in 2005 he bought Discover from Disney. He remembers the moment well. “The staff regarded  me with some trepidation. When I told them  ‘We’re in the entertainment business,’ there was an audible gasp in the room.” By the time he stepped down as chairman two years later, the magazine had returned to profitability.

Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione
Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione

Our conversation revolved around passion for the business and the elusive quest for profitability and Bob had plenty to say on both fronts. Besides being incredibly funny (sorry, but his best remarks are off the record), the tireless entrepreneur proved to be a fascinating lunch date as he shared his extremely well-reasoned take on why he believes writers will one day be able to make a living online and why magazines are far from over. ”Everything about digital media happened too fast, and people back the wrong model too quickly,” he told me. Exhibit A: The Huffington Post, which Bob says is “doomed to fail” and called it “a white elephant — it’s the default model.”

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Cristina Cuomo and Fern Mallis Lunch Among The Stylistas Plus Cindy McCain Slips By

1003_mockup.gifSometimes the most interesting lunchtime encounters at Michael’s happen before the crowd rushes in. Today was one of those days. When I arrived before noon, there were a handful of people already sitting in the lounge. One woman stuck out, because she was dressed in an oh-s0-tasteful head to toe Pepto Bismol-colored sweater ensemble (cashmere from St. John, I’m guessing) on such a warm day. She kept her head down when the rest of us got to chatting. I knew I knew her, but I couldn’t catch her eye. Imagine my surprise when she stood up to go to her table, and I realized it was Cindy McCain. In my defense, a tan, well-dressed blonde woman is hardly an oddity at Michael’s, and her black ‘scrunchie’ threw me. The funny thing is  no one seemed to notice when she walked back to her table in the Garden Room, proving that, in New York  when your 15 minutes are up, they’re up.

I was joined today by producer Joan Gelman and public relations and marketing executive Robert Zimmerman, who is also a political analyst for CNN and Fox News. I’ve gotten to know both of them over the years through my Wednesdays at Michael’s, and I can tell you they are really solid citizens. When we meet for lunch every so often, I know the conversation is going to be lively. These two passionate democrats can talk politics like nobody’s business, and there was plenty of dish to go around today.

Robert is headed to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in September as the democratic national committee man from New York. “Conventions play a huge role in the campaign. They are defining moments,” he told me. “They make people stop, watch and listen to what they parties are saying.” No matter which devices voters plan to watch on, says Robert, they can’t help but note the obvious difference between the two parties. “At the convention, the republicans stay in their seats and are wearing ties and dresses. Our party is a little more eclectic — there’s yoga mats in the corner. We have Jon Bon Jovi, they have Ted Nugent.”

Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman
Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

On a more serious note, Robert said key differences between the parties for this election couldn’t be more obvious. “This is the first democratic convention where marriage equality will be part of the democratic platform. Our party represents the future and that’s very significant.” But, Robert explained, it’s critical that President Barack Obama communicate the achievements of his administration, because ”the administration fell short in outlining a clear agenda” despite its accomplishments in the past. “2008 was about hope and change; 2012 has to be about progress and results,” he told me. The other important objective: remind voters that many of republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney‘s positions are a “retake of George Bush‘s policies.” In the end, predicts Robert, “The election is going to be about the economy.” Isn’t it always?

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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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Back to Business With Norma Kamali, Jeanine Pirro and William Lauder

1003_mockup.gifSpring break is over, so it’s back to business for the movers and shakers at Michael’s. Today’s crowd was the usual mix of media mavens (Keith Kelly, Jonathan Wald), stylistas (Norma Kamali, John Galantic) and money men (William Lauder), with plenty of strivers and a slew of pretty young things thrown in for good measure.

I was joined today by Kelly Langberg, who I met at Michael’s last month when she was celebrating her birthday at Table One with her nearest and dearest. When I got a gander of the fabulous jewelry she was wearing, I just had to go over to get a closer look. It turned out that Kelly had designed the pieces herself and had a thriving  business selling the beautiful bling to her well-heeled clients. At today’s lunch, Kelly explained how her jewelry inadvertently served as a launch pad for her now four-year-old business as the makeover maven to Manhattan’s chic set.

Having had a successful career pre-motherhood in investment banking and commercial real estate, Kelly was looking for something new that would allow her to have more time to spend with her children when they were little. Some years ago while on vacation at a swanky resort,  not one, but two different women who she’d run into over the course of her stay and admired her personal style asked her if she’d accompany them (separately) to the hotel’s pricey jewelry boutique to pick out something fabulous. “It was so random,” Kelly recalled, “but I did it for fun and wound up having things made for them at a fraction of the price. I thought to myself, ‘I think I found a business.’”

Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg
Diane Clehane, Michael McCarty and Kelly Langberg

In no time at all, Kelly found herself advising her jewelry clients on everything from their hairstyles and makeup to plastic surgery options. “I’d show up at apartments to talk about jewelry and a client would say, ‘What do you think about my neck? What should I do with my hair?” said Kelly.  ”In 20 years in business, people have shown me just about everything you could imagine. I’ve seen it all.”

The enterprising Kelly decided to turn her exhaustive knowledge of the beauty business (“The best doctors, stylists, makeup artists — I know them all”) into a bonafide business. Today, she works individually with every client, listening carefully to their desires and needs (“A lot of this is therapy”) and even accompanies them to doctor’s offices and salons to ask the tough questions or just give her honest opinion on what works and what doesn’t.

While Kelly advises the creme de la creme of Manhattan on the very best places to go for those big ticket items like plastic surgery (she’d just come from a surgeon’s office with a client) and cosmetic dentistry, she is completely obsessed with helping clients find the perfect hairstyle. ”It all starts with the hair,” Kelly says. “You could have a great smile, terrific posture and a great wardrobe. If your hair is wrong, it’s all wrong.” As if on cue, proprietor Michael McCarty came by (he and Kelly go way back) to say hello, and we complimented him on his new, shorter locks which we decided made him look downright boyish. He told us his wife Kim McCarty had suggested he try her stylist who recently relocated from London to Malibu, where the couple lives. “I have a great person for you here in town, because you need one when you’re here,” Kelly told him. “I’m taking you over there. Let me know when you want to go.” And that was that.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Tom Brokaw, Vernon Jordan and the Shy Divorcee

1003_mockup.gifIt was SRO at Michael’s today. The dining room was so jam packed every sqaure inch was occupied by a mogul (Mel Karmazin!), media heavyweight (Tom Brokaw, Jon Meacham, Jeff Zucker), or social swan (divorcee of the moment, Mercedes Bass who moved to the Garden Room with pal Lynn Nesbitt when the decibel level and fabulousness of it all got to be too much).  Just a thought: if you’re looking for a quiet, out of the way lunch spot, you might want to consider going somewhere else on Wednesday.

I was joined today by Forbes‘ new editor, Randall Lane. In his new position, Randall is presiding over familiar territory to him: the lives of the ridiculously rich and ambitious. In a previous life, he was the editor of Trader Monthly which chronicled the age of excess of the Wall Streeter of days gone by.  That experience later provided plenty of fodder for his book, The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade When Wall Street Went Insane. In the interim, he’s been an editor at large for Newsweek and written for The Daily Beast. Having worked with him years ago when he was the editor in chief on the startup Justice, which covered the hot trials and legal issues of the day, I was thrilled when I heard he’d gotten the top job at Forbes back in September.

Randall first worked at Forbes fresh out of college in the nineties and spent six years “chasing rich people” and working on the franchise’s venerated power lists which required (and still do) hundreds of hours of research and manpower. “In some ways, it feels like I never left,” he tells me.

Diane Clehane and Randall Lane
Randall Lane and yours truly

Since taking the helm, Randall has been on a mission to make the book more visually exciting with interesting photography (the arresting cover image of Bill Gates in the “World’s 70 Most Powerful People” issue is a winner), fresh design elements courtesy of the Brooklyn-based shop Athletics, a livelier front of book section and more in-depth profiles on people the Forbes reader wants to know about.  Exhibit A: The cover story in the November 7 issue on Dropbox’s Drew Houston, the 28 year-old mogul who turned down Steve Jobs and is now worth $600 million which drew one million hits on Forbes.com.

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Barbara Walters, Harold Ford, Jr. and Bravo’s Chris March

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We could barely keep up with the steady stream of A-listers who poured into Michael’s today. When we arrived a little before noon, there was a handful of power brokers quietly hunkering down to business over their Cobb salads in the back of the room. By the time Bravo’s latest star, designer Chris March arrived with Jennifer Geisser, the network’s senior vice president of communications, and publicist Alana McElroy, there was a palpable party vibe in the dining room.  Late arrival Harold Ford, Jr. worked the room like nobody’s business while social swans Muffie Potter Aston and Suzanne Johnson doled out air kisses like they were candy.

While it was a little hard to hear over the chattering crowd, I thoroughly enjoyed dishing with Chris, whose new show, Mad Fashion, premiered Tuesday night on Bravo. Chris, you might recall was a finalist on Project Runway. (Christian Siriano was the winner that season). His quirky couture and good natured personality ( gotta love that laugh!) made him a fan favorite. Chris tells me when Bravo’s resident boy wonder, Andy Cohen, got wind he was shopping a show around, he got in touch with Chris and insisted Bravo see it first. The deal was done in a matter of days.

Unlike most of those ubiquitous Bravolebrities, Chris isn’t into the fame game. “I didn’t do either show to get famous,” he tells me. “I did it to get to do the type of work I wanted to do.” Things have worked out pretty well on that score. On the Wednesday before the I Heart Radio concert in Las Vegas, Chris got a call from Lady Gaga’s office requesting he make something fabulous for her appearance at the show. In less than a week, he delivered the studded motorcycle cape she wore on stage. “That wouldn’t have happened without being on television.” Maybe, but the guy has definitely got it.  This is the same man who made Meryl Streep‘s last Oscar dress at his kitchen table. His secret weapon: a drama-free attitude when dealing with people who live and die for style.

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Rachel Uchitel Creates A Stir at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Having covered the scene at Michael’s for some time now, I’ve been witness to plenty of Fellini-esque tableaus where the head-spinning mix of stars and strivers, masters of the universe, and alien-like actors never ceases to amuse and occasionally amaze me, but today was off the charts. What started as an afternoon of ramped up power lunches (Harvey Weinstein and James Dolan! RogerAiles and Jon Meacham!) turned into a game of Spot The Tabloid Temptress. I just happened to be at the front desk when regular Henry Schleiff came in followed by a blonde, pillow-lipped gal hiding behind her huge sunglasses. I immediately recognized her as Rachel Uchitel.  What was Tiger Woods‘ infamous mistress doing with Henry? I couldn’t wait to ask him. Before I could, she darted around us, averting my eyes and making her way into the dining room. Turns out she was on her way to meet Vanity Fair’s Michael Callahan. “Did you see who that was?” I asked Henry. When I told him, he quipped, “I didn’t recognize her with her clothes on!”

Even though the party girl-turned-private eye (according to The New York Post, she’s on her first case here in New York and awaiting her gun license) and Callahan were seated behind a pillar in the back of the room, word of her arrival spread like wildfire.  I wonder what the two of them talked about during their fairly quick lunch. Could it be that Graydon Carter has greenlit yet another piece on Woods? It would be quite cheeky of him to put Uchitel on Tiger’s tail, wouldn’t it? It seems more likely that Callahan is penning a piece on Uchitel’s post-Tiger life as a self-confessed recovering “love addict.” Stay tuned …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. It’s Harvey’s world and we just live in it. Shortly after noon, Harvey Weinstein arrived with two guys — one looked like Robert Pattinson‘s younger brother and the other like Vladmir Putin. Once the trio was seated, Harvey busied himself playing with his phone while his two babysitters? bodyguards? couldn’t sit still. One spent the entire time pacing between the table and the front door, while the other hopped up every other minute to look out the window as he talked on the phone. Could they have been tracking Harvey’s lunch date? All I know is when Cablevision’s James Dolan finally arrived, they took off.  Harvey then took out a pair of earphones to listen to a recording of some importance while Dolan sat by impassively. I don’t know what the hell really went on, but observing the scene felt like watching an episode of Mission Impossible.

2. PMK’s Cindi Berger and a handsome fellow we didn’t get to meet

3. Political commentator and marketing maestro Robert Zimmerman and Tad Smith

4. Random House EVP Jon Meacham and Fox News chief Roger Ailes, chowing down on burgers and fries. Jon arrived early and spent the time waiting for Ailes by chatting with the staff. We couldn’t help but notice that the ex-Newsweek editor looks a lot more relaxed since leaving the struggling magazine. It’s Tina Brown‘s problem now! Their table was clearly the center of gravity today as pretty much anyone who is anybody (read: all the suits in the room) stopped by to pay homage.

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Ina Garten, Joanna Coles And The Fashion Flock

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dreary winter weather (Will it ever end?!) didn’t keep the loyalists away from Michael’s today. There were plenty of fab fashionistas and social swans in the dining room who braved the elements in inappropriate footwear to exchange air kisses and gossip about who knows what.  The usual mix of media moguls and mavens were there, too. Here’s hoping the sun and the celebrity A-List returns next week.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Marie Claire editrix Joanna Coles with actor Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park, Dracula, and the upcoming The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep) and three stylish looking folks. We  were so excited to see Richard up close and personal. (He’s blond now!) We’re dating ourselves a bit here, but he was absolutely the best Bob Cratchit ever a few years back in the TNT version of A Christmas Carol opposite another one of our favorite British actors, Patrick Stewart.

2. Literary agent Esther Newberg, enjoying soup with a handsome fellow whose face we definitely recognized but whose name escapes us.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dorothy Kalins. I stopped by the table to check in with these two longtime friends. Joe couldn’t stop talking about last night’s screening at MoMa of The Restaurateur, the documentary about Danny Meyer by Dorothy’s husband Roger Sherman. The beloved museum, incidentally, is home to one of our favorite Meyer restaurants, The Modern. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Meyer and was a foodie’s delight, we hear. Speaking of food, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys written by David Tanis, chef at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and edited by Dorothy was among the nominees for the 2011 James Beard Awards announced yesterday. Congrats!

4.  Mrs. Army Archerd and pals.

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