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Posts Tagged ‘Somers Farkas’

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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Lunch: Harold Ford, Jr., Ken Starr, and a Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There was definitely something in the air (besides all that pesky pollen) at Michael’s today. The dining room was so jam packed with every conceivable type of boldfaced name I could barely keep track of all the wheeling and dealing that was going on around me. While the fashionistas and socialites traded air kisses and picked at the salads, the media mavens were spinning like there was no tomorrow. The power lunch is back, folks, so break away from your desk and go make something happen.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers, presiding over a table of movers and shakers: Huffington Post’s Greg Coleman, Eric Hippeau and Phil Cara; Colgate’s Jack Haber, Pattie Glod of Limited Brands; and E*Trade’s Nick Utton.

2. Peter Brown and Dan Scheffey, who joins Fairchild Fashion Group on May 10 as the new director of communications for the trade and business sector of Conde Nast. Dan tells me he’ll be working on all the titles including WWD and WWD.com. He reports to president Gina Sanders. Congrats!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Vanity Fair’s Wayne Lawson and Punch Hutton and a chic blonde gal we didn’t get to me. Joe, fresh off another trip to his home state of Texas was all jazzed up to tell the group about the The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas. (He’s on the board.) Joe reports that the center has acquired an impressive array of archives of literary legends including Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, and even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Joe also reports that none other than Robert De Niro has given the center his script archive and actually footed the bill for two 18-wheelers to deliver the costumes he’s worn in his films. So, the next time you’re in Austin, you might want to check it out.

4. Sean Cassidy — no, not the eighties pop icon — this fellow works for Dan Klores.

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Lunch: Power Blondes Rule! Katie Couric, Tina Brown and Barbara Walters Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Today at Michael’s, they were dishing like it was 2007. As if the head-spinning assortment of media alpha gals (Katie! Tina! Barbara!) wasn’t enough to keep us busy, the dining room, bar and lounge was jam-packed with mavens and moguls of all stripes who barely made time to peck at their Cobb salads between all the table-hopping. It was hard to keep up! I made my rounds in the dining room to check in with the regulars, and all anyone wanted to know was ‘Who else is here today?’ (I’ve always thought this place was just like a high school cafeteria, but with better clothes.) Plenty of heads turned when Katie Couric breezed in sporting a chic, shorter ‘do and a pretty polka dot summer dress. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “She looks 35!” We have to agree. I caught Katie on her way to her table just long enough to ask what she has planned for her summer vacation next month. No trips to Wasilla for the CBS News’ anchor: “I’m going to the beach with my daughters to enjoy my time with them before Ellie goes off to college!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Katie Couric, Lifetime’s CEO Andrea Wong, Deborah Roberts, Sherrie Westin and Cynthia McFadden

2. Jeanine Pirro with publicist Adam Schiff and an unidentified bespectacled gal. I hadn’t talked to Jeanine since I profiled her for Westchester magazine last fall on the eve of the premiere of her show, Judge Jeanine. With one season under her robe, Jeanine is thrilled — “We’re in syndication now!” Life must be pretty good for the former Westchester DA — she was tan and dressed to the nines, toting a gorgeous alligator bag.

3. The ladies who lunch: Somers Farkas (in Pucci) with three other social swans

4. Barbara Walters and Diana Taylor

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Lunch: Hoda Kotb & Bravo’s Housewives Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today, and although the place was filled to the brim with movers and shakers of every stripe, all eyes were on table one: Today‘s Hoda Kotb presided over a raucous lunch with a trio of Real Housewives from Bravo’s compulsively watchable franchise. Tongues wagged aplenty as the crowd watched the reality TV stars saunter in. First to arrive was Tamra Barney (Orange County) with her husband Simon, followed by NeNe Leakes (Atlanta). Danielle Straub (New Jersey) was, of course, the last to arrive — all the better to make a grand entrance. The gals have been guest-hosting Today‘s fourth hour this week, filling in for the vacationing Kathie Lee Gifford.

I just had to make my way over to their table to chat with the headline-making Danielle, who just last night precipitated a catfight for the ages on the season finale of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. As faithful fans of the series know, Danielle’s former life as a stripper who ran with a bad crowd was chronicled in Cop Without A Badge, written, she says, by an ex-husband more than two decades ago. Since then, Danielle reinvented herself and settled in suburbia hoping to keep the past buried. Lucky for Bravo, her frenemies on the show discovered her story, and the fur started flying. Last night, things came to a head when Danielle confronted the other Housewives about their role in bringing the long-forgotten tome to town.

I asked Danielle if the Sopranos-style last supper where everyone gathered for a ‘friendly’ dinner had been staged. “Of course,” she said. “Why else would I have been invited?” Things got really ugly when Teresa Giudice started letting the profanities fly in front of Danielle’s two young daughters and the group ganged up on her. Despite putting up a strong front, Danielle told me the episode “ripped her apart” and afterward, she and her girls retreated to her home where they stayed curled up in her bed for a few days. “We were sick from it, and it was the one place we felt safe.” But, like the tough survivor she is, the breakout star of the series is back with a vengeance with plans to write a book (“It will be something empowering to help women”) and is being repped by Maura Teitelbaum at Abrams Artists Agency. According to Danielle, her daughters have adjusted to the limelight nicely. Her eldest, Christine, is fielding offers from modeling agencies, including Elite. And get this — she says if Bravo wants a second season, she’s there. “Oh my God, of course I’d do it!”

I was glad I was lunching today with my new friend Dr. Phillip Romero, who specializes in family and couple’s therapy. Phil is currently hard at work on two books, Phantom Stress and The Art of Impermanence. I asked him why we like to watch these reality shows that are such spectacles of dysfunction. “It’s voyeurism that makes us feel better about ourselves,” says Phil. These days when “our collective anxiety is higher than at any other time in human history” because of the “sweeping changes occurring at all levels of society” Phil says these shows offer a diversion, “a media quick fix” that takes our mind off the serious issues at hand. Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today‘s Hoda Kotb, producer Tammy Filler, Bravo’s Real Housewives NeNe Leakes, Tamra Barney (with husband Simon), and Danielle Straub.

2. Andrew Stein with a distinguished dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive rocking a LBD and pearls. Joe tells me he’s off to Cuba on a ‘humanitarian mission’ for a few weeks. Safe travels, and we’ll see you when you return!

4. Esther Newberg and Jeffrey Toobin. We caught Jeff on CNN the other day deconstructing the effect of David Letterman‘s joke about Sarah Palin‘s daughter. While the other pundits debated whether the former vice presidential nominee’s daughters were fair game, Jeff weighed in by saying he thought Letterman crossed the line by calling Governor Palin’s look ‘slutty.’ Chivalry is not dead after all…

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Lunch: Dishing With The Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The regulars were out in force today at Michael’s as media mavens, moguls and social types were deep in conversation around the jam-packed dining room. Everyone, it seems, had plenty to talk about, including the terrible news of Natasha Richardson‘s skiing accident. “I can’t believe it,” one diner told me. “It was sickening to see the coverage last night — especially the premature reports of her death.” The consensus at Michael’s was that there was a lot of irresponsible reporting that seemed more interested in being first than being right. Today, thank goodness, the reports seem more measured and everyone is awaiting an official word from the family. I had the opportunity to meet the talented Ms. Richardson at Michael’s on several occasions last year and she was always utterly gracious and lovely. My thoughts go out to her and her family.

Today I was lunching with Lisa Linden of Linden, Alschuler & Kaplan, Inc. public relations. A tireless gal who is as nice as she is busy. Lisa — who started the firm with Steve Alschuler 16 years ago (Lloyd Kaplan joined three years later)– reports that despite the gloomy economic climate, business is on solid ground. It’s no wonder. The principals bring a wealth of experience to their clients, having toiled in a host of positions including stints in city and state government (Lisa and Steve both served at various times as press secretary to Senator Roy Goodman and later worked together at Rubenstein; Lloyd was chief of staff at City Hall during the financial crisis in the early 70s). Lisa was also a consultant to the Clinton/Gore ’96 campaign. These days, the firm counts top tier real estate companies like Brookfield and The Plaza as clients, as well as an impressive list of “major” law firms, fashion brands (Sigrid Olsen) and nonprofits including City Meals on Wheels and The Broadway League.

During these perilous economic times, one of the things that keeps Lisa and her staff so busy is crisis management: “We’re living in unprecedented times,” Lisa told me. “There is no industry that has not been hit with a crisis.” And, counsels this public relations powerhouse, even those companies that are not dealing with disaster per se should think twice about scaling back their public relations efforts. “This is not the time to pull back,” she says. “While it is a time of crisis, it is also a time of tremendous opportunity to move messages. The media is happy to report positive stories and people are happy to read them. There is so much negativity. Companies should look for what is good and get the word out because that resonates now more than ever.” Amen to that!

And, one more thing, Lisa was thrilled to break the news to me exclusively that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former governor George Pataki and New York State’s new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will be the speakers at this year’s fundraising gala for The New York League of Conservation Voters (she’s co-chair of the board) scheduled for May 28 at Chelsea Piers.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Somers Farkas, Francine LeFrak and two other well-heeled gals

2. Mike Medavoy and a dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Jon Burnham. Joe told me he’s off to Texas to visit mom. Thanks, Joe, for telling me about the terrific mention in Liz Smith‘s column last week on wowOwow.com about our weekly ‘Lunch’ assignations. Have a safe trip to Texas and see you in two weeks.

4. Martin Dunn and Steven Rubenstein.

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