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Posts Tagged ‘Roger Friedman’

Melania Trump, Star Jones and the Man Behind Katie Couric’s Cushy Set

1003_mockup.gifCompared to the past few Fellini-esque Wednesday’s at Michael’s, today’s crowd was pretty low key. That said, the usual suspects were at their regular perches and the people watching quotient was satisfied by regular Star Jones (dressed to kill) and Melania Trump who, I must say, looks as if she doesn’t have a care in the world. Perhaps that’s because she doesn’t… unless, of course, she’s worries about hubby Donald Trump‘s war against President Barack Obama. Something tells me she’s able to look beyond that and focus on the positive. But you knew that, didn’t you?

I was joined today by Scalamandre’s smart, savvy and sartorially splendid president Steven Stolman, fresh off the plane from London but looking none the worse for wear. I first met Steven back in the nineties when he was designing power suits (remember them?) for Albert Nipon. Since then, Steven has sold his own eponymous collection out of his charming store in Southampton, consulted for preppy icons Lilly Pulitzer and Jack Rogers, and even dabbled in the not-for-profit world. Today, says Steven, he is happily ensconced in the “job of a lifetime.” It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

In just over a year and half at the helm of the legendary fabric house, Steven has forged exciting new partnerships that, he says, have broadened Scalamandre’s horizons while remaining true to its core customers of designers. A new line of decorative accessories developed exclusively for Barney’s is now available in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, in Barney’s oh so cool Chelsea Passage outpost and online. Next month, Christmas stockings fashioned from Scalamandre’s most iconic prints will be available at the store with coordinating pillows. Just the thing for your country estate, no?

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

Diane Clehane and Steven Stolman

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Penske Deal May Put Gerry Byrne Back in Driver’s Seat

Media reactions to this morning’s Variety-PMC deal confirmation are coming in faster and more furiously than a Vin Diesel-Paul Walker car chase.

But forget for a moment about Jay Penske, Nikki Finke and Bonnie Fuller. As NYC-based columnist Roger Friedman astutely points out, one of the central figures in this new Hollywood trade horizon could be an individual most media watchers are unfamiliar with:

Sitting pretty on the Penske board is my old friend, Gerry Byrne (pictured), who commands a daily table at Michael’s. Years ago, it was Gerry who engineered Variety’s stunning comeback from the dead with Peter Bart as editor-in-chief. In the early 90s they revamped the Variety design and made the paper matter again. Eventually Gerry left Variety and sometime later became publisher of The Hollywood Reporter when it was owned by Nielsen. When the Guggenheim people came in, Byrne was sidelined. He left when his contract was up, and joined up with Penske.

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Latest Church of Scientology PR Crisis Heats Up

As we reported earlier this week, Paul Haggis’ comments about the shocking Vanity Fair October cover story involving Tom Cruise, the Church of Scientology and an alleged 2004 audition process was met with an almost equally disturbing response from the church. The CoS pointed to Googled proof of a prior Haggis “relationship” with the woman at the center of Maureen Orth’s article, Nazanin Boniadi (pictured).

Today, there is more of what will be much more as the Vanity Fair October issue begins to circulate. Over at Tony Ortega’s Village Voice CoS blog, Haggis has chimed in with a few more thoughts. He clarifies that although his emails to Showbiz 411 columnist Roger Friedman were taken as confirmation of the VF report, “Like everyone else, I have not even read their story.”

But Haggis stands firm on the central point of his reaching out. Vouching for Boniadi’s character:

“I am simply coming to the defense of a woman who has been publicly called a liar… Perhaps it’s just me, but I have never found Scientology’s blanket denials equally credible… It is my understanding that Naz is the subject of this article, not the source of it. Scientology has a long and well-documented history of attempting to bully its critics into silence. Here they are bullying a woman who has yet to even speak. I guess I just don’t like bullies.”

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Paul Haggis Corroborates Vanity Fair Scientology Cover Story*

Labor Day weekend is turning into another massive PR nightmare for Hollywood’s top-earning actor. One that not even his once formidable protector Pat Kingsley could have likely circumvented.

First came the Saturday online tease for Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth October issue cover story “What Katie Didn’t Know.” The article details how Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi was unwittingly auditioned in late 2004 by the Church of Scientology to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend and slotted into that role for what turned out to be a tumultuous few months. CoS watcher Tony Ortega commented Sunday that Orth deserves extra credit for figuring out a way to expose this latest bit of sordid CoS history (officially denied by the church):

Boniadi has wanted to tell her story for years, we’d heard, but she’s bound by multiple non-disclosure agreements from doing so. We hear that Orth managed to do a classic “write-around,” putting together Boniadi’s story without help from Boniadi herself.

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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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One Month Later, Gavin Smith’s Disappearance Remains a Complete Mystery

It was 31 days ago that Fox executive Gavin Smith drove away in his 2000 Mercedes 420E from the Oak Park neighborhood of Simi Hills, not to be heard from or seen since. While NBC Southern California’s Robert Kovacik reported last week that Smith might have been sighted at a Morro Bay restaurant on May 7, the information has yet to be corroborated by law enforcement authorities.

Excepting a piece on Forbes yesterday by Roger Friedman, one-month anniversary coverage has been scant. Which leaves the 70+ comments posted on findgavinsmith.com by a group of people that generally agrees with the theory that Smith drove off a canyon road. There’s info about grassroots searches that have been conducted, as well as this forceful declaration from search-and-rescue helicopter pilot and licensed P.I. Robert Tur:

The reason I have had such great success in finding missing aircraft and lost hikers missing in ‘somewhere’ in thousands of square miles of difficult terrain, is that I don’t waste time conducting Air Force style grid searches, but instead, spend the necessary time putting myself in the ‘shoes’ of the missing person… Assuming Mr. Smith left the Oak Park location sometime after 10 p.m., the night before his disappearance was noticed, where would he go? Home to pick up more personal belongings or did he take a ride to his Calabasas? If so, what routes would he normally use? Are any of those routes in secluded areas? Poorly lit? Have steep drop offs? These are the areas you should search first.

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A Party for Emily Blunt & Ewan McGregor; Katie Couric Holds Court

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It’s been a pretty wild winter at Michael’s. Far from suffering from the seasonal doldrums, the place has been operating on full tilt every Wednesday with a fresh array of A-listers that always make for some pretty good people watching. Today was no exception.

Besides the jam packed dining room filled with boldface names, Peggy Siegal was hosting a party for Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt to celebrate the release of their latest picture, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I caught up with Emily (I loved her scene-stealing turn with Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada) when we both stopped by Katie Couric‘s table to say hello. “It is a bit unusual,” Emily said when I asked her about the movie’s quirky title. “I’m hoping that it will make people want to check it out and see what it’s really all about. It’s really a lovely love story.” I saw the trailer, I told her, and it does look pretty romantic. “It is! I hope people will like it.” Emily has been making the rounds to promote the film and has a funny Q&A in this week’s New York magazine where she talks about she and her husband, John Krasinski (the cute guy on The Office) being neighbors with Jimmy Kimmel. Everyone, it seems, loves her hubby including Katie. “He’s just so adorable,” Katie told Emily, who could hardly disagree.

Katie Couric with Ewan McGregor and a host of well-wishers.

I was joined today by Bravo’s newest reality star, matchmaker Lori Zaslow, whose show Love Broker premiered this week, Bravo’s SVP of Communications Jennifer Geisser, and communications manager Ryan McCormick. I caught Lori’s first show and her Monday night appearance on Watch What Happens Live! A new Bravolebrity is born!

The White Plains native and former executive recruiter started her matchmaking business, Project Soulmate, in 2009 with childhood friend Jennifer Zucher and wasn’t looking for TV fame when Bravo came calling. Andy Cohen loved her “big personality” and was determined to get her on-air. ”Bravo loves the love space,” Lori told me. After an eight-month courtship, she finally relented and agreed to do the show. The series was shot in eight weeks last summer. Lori admitted being a little nervous about seeing the finished product. Based on  the first episode, it seems she had nothing to worry about. In the days since the premiere, she’s been deluged with calls from folks looking to make a love connection, including plenty of mothers looking to find mates for their sons. Says Lori, “I realize just how good this could be for our business.” Yup.

The married Manhattan mother of two told me that she’s always been a “natural connector” matching friends, family and strangers with potential mates, ‘Mommy’ friends, nannies and even housekeepers. But she’s clearly most passionate about helping people find love. “No one can’t live without love. It’s scientifically proven that married men live 10 years longer than single men,” she says. “Why isn’t love put first in people’s lives? Today people are working so hard on their lives and careers, but they don’t make time for love. It’s all about striking the right balance.” Lori works exclusively with New York clients, so I asked her why it’s so hard to find the right person in Manhattan. “It’s so easy to meet people here, but it’s really hard to connect,” she explained. “There are too many distractions.” That’s where she comes in. Most of her clients (“98 percent”) are men, and she needs “20 times the amount of women” in order to find the right mate for those looking for love. How does she do it? ”I’m fearless when it comes to love,” she says.  ”I will always go up to anyone who looks interesting and ask, ‘Are you single?’ Most people are flattered. Who wouldn’t want to meet someone great if they’re looking?”

Lori says that there is no bad place to meet “your soul mate” —  it’s just a matter of being open to the experience. The gym, Whole Foods on Sunday nights when most men do their shopping, and even jury duty are fertile ground. Just don’t go looking in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily go. ”Don’t join a runners’ club if you hate running,” she advises. “Like goes to like. Be who you are. Enjoy yourself and enjoy your life.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. HollywoodLife.com editor in chief Bonnie Fuller and PMC vice chairman Gerry Byrne. In attendance: BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, Ann Lawlor, The Weinstein Company’s Meryl Poster, fashionista Fern Mallis, Mesa Global’s Mark Patricof, style expert Jill Martin, AdWeek‘s Lisa Granatstein and HollywoodLife.com publisher Carlos Lamadrid.

2. Terry McDonnell and CBS News This Morning‘s Gayle King

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who was brandishing a cane. A little birdie told me the mayor was hobbled by too much bronco busting. Be careful out there!

4. Wowowow.com’s Joni Evans and Liz Smith. Great to see you!

Katie Couric and Cindi Berger
Katie Couric and Cindi Berger

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Fifteen Years Later, Columnist Finally Gets to Interview Doris Day

Some celebrity interview requests take longer than others to come to fruition. Rarely though do they span the length of four U.S. presidential terms, as is the case with Roger Friedman and Doris Day.

Friedman spoke to to Day for Parade magazine, but it is on his Showbiz411.com blog that he provides the intriguing journalistic back story. He thought all was lost a few years ago when the actress’ publicist Linda Dozoretz passed away. However, that was before Day decided, at age 87, to release this month a new album. Per Friedman:

A very nice man, Bob Bashara, who works with Doris’s animal rights foundation contacted me and said at last, an interview would be possible. I think I was more shocked than Doris when a great publicist in LA, Charley Walters, put together our phone call. The interview happened to follow by two hours the announcement that Doris’s famous recording of “Que Sera Sera” had been put into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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Columnist Says Sly Stone ‘Homeless’ Story Stinks

Three days after the New York Post caused a sensation with an article portaying Sly Stone as homeless and living in a van in LA’s Crenshaw district, Showbiz 411 columnist Roger Friedman is setting the record straight:

My source says that Sly’s attorney, Robert Alan, rented him a very nice home in Woodland Hills, California with four bedrooms, a pool, etc. (Alan declined to comment.) Sly just refuses to go there. Another friend tells me, “Sly always liked living in Winnebagos. He never liked being in a house.”

There’s an even more egregious aspect to the Post article. Per Friedman, Alan was willing to confirm that article author Willem Alkema (not the paper itself) paid Stone $5,000 for the interview.* According to Friedman, another $2,000 was doled out once the paper ran with the piece, though the columnist notes it’s unclear where the additional money came from.

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Hollywood Reporter Promotes Erik Pedersen to Managing Editor

On the Hollywood Reporter masthead, there is already a person listed as managing editor, daily—Michael Barnes. But since May, a second managing editor slot vacated by Todd Cunningham has been sitting vacant.

That position has now been filled internally with the promotion of Erik Pedersen, formerly copy chief and news editor. Pedersen has been with the trade a long time–15 years–and previously worked at both the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Daily Journal.

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