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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Millington’

Cynthia McFadden, Gayle King and Blythe Danner at the Bar

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School is back in session! The faithful have returned to Michael’s and the place was buzzing with activity as the media mavens, talking heads and social swells sailed into the dining room. Table One (Cynthia McFadden, Lesley Stahl and a host of other power gals) was the center of gravity, while the rest of the dining room was a tasty mix of spinmeisters (Gil Schwartz),  fashionistas (Julie Macklowe) and literary types (Long time no see, David Hirshey).

I was joined today by two of the stars of Bravo’s Gallery Girls, the freshman reality series chronicling the professional lives of seven ambitious New York gals toiling in the “cutthroat environment” (according to the show’s press release) of the New York City art world.  Oh, the pressure! Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez are not your average Bravo-lebrities. The two gorgeous — and tall! — young women were downright earnest in describing their experience as twentysomethings in the city and their commitment to their careers. ” I don’t like drama. I’m pretty even keeled,” Kerri told me. “I think I have an inspiring story. I’ve built this little life for myself that shows if you work hard and are passionate about it, you can do it.” As for Claudia, she wants to concentrate more on “philanthropic” works in the coming years. Not exactly a page out of Nene Leaks’ handbook.

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Having filmed the series over the course of four months last year, both Kerri and Claudia agree it’s a bit difficult watching themselves now on the show. “I can’t even listen to myself on my answering machine,” Kerri told me. “It’s interesting, because you rarely get the chance to see yourself the way other people might see you,” said Claudia. Even if the producers went for the most Bravo-esque snippets of otherwise everyday scenarios, she continued, “I said everything and did everything they showed and I’m comfortable with that.”

Kerri, who grew up on Long Island and graduated from Syracuse University in 2009, says the series showed just “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to how hard the cast works in real life. Unlike some of the other women on the show, Kerri didn’t know anyone from the cast and was pretty much on her own when it came to dealing with the rest of the women. “I didn’t trust anyone in the beginning and still don’t,” she told me. Having gone to college fully expecting to follow in the footsteps of her family members that work in investment banking, Kerri told me her eyes were opened to other possibilities during college internships in public relations and at a luxury concierge service.  She changed her major to entrepreneurship and landed in the art world. “I want to work for myself s0meday.” Doesn’t everybody?

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Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington and a Socialite Celebration

1003_mockup.gifWe were so disappointed to hear we missed Alec Baldwin by a day. A little birdie told me Manhattan’s most famous newlywed was in an extremely good mood yesterday as he dined with a mystery gal with a British accent (Attention Andrea Peyser!). Here’s another tasty tidbit about the 30 Rock star: He is apparently not done with Twitter as he tweeted about the dessert sent to him by Michael’s GM Steve Millington congratulating him on his headline-making nuputials. I just thought you’d like to know.

Now, on to today’s crowd. This being the last few weeks before everyone takes off for their cottages in the Hamptons and family compounds in Maine, Michael’s was chock full of A-listers, including Barbara WaltersArianna Huffington and a squadron of social types. I was joined today by Marianne Howatson and Kendell Cronstrom and we had plenty to talk about. I’ve known Mariane since her days at Conde Nast where she was publisher of Travel & Leisure and Self. She then went on to be group publisher of Gruner+Jahr. These days, she is CEO and publication director of three gorgeous shelter books: Connecticut Cottages & GardensHamptons Cottages & Gardens and the company’s newest edition, New York Cottages & Gardens which launched in March.

Marianne bought the books in 2009 because she says, “I was in love with the magazines.” And, it seems, she’s not alone. “Every house I go into in the Hamptons, the magazine is right there on the table. It’s wonderful to see.” The appeal of the books lies in their “sense of place” and the feeling of “intimacy” that connects the reader to its design-focused content, explained Marianne. The books’ affluent, passionate readers with a median household income of $880,000 and the company’s event-driven marketing efforts have made it the advertising vehicle for luxe lifestyle brands, like Hermes, Scalamandre, ligne roset and roche bobois.  NYC &G, with  Kendell at the helm, has been so well received that Marianne decided to up the print run by 25 percent, increase the frequency from five to six times a year, and sell the book on the newsstand for $5.95. In the era of the $12 print subscription, Marianne’s asking price of $99.95 for all three titles is truly a vote of confidence for the future.

Marianne Howatson, Kendell Cronstrom and Diane Clehane

It’s clear that Marianne has set the bar high on all fronts. This year, the stellar roster of events the company has sponsored is truly impressive. In Connecticut, its Innovation in Design Awards have been recognizing the area’s leading architects and designers for six years. The magazine also sponsored the Red Cross Ball and created Pink Aid, a brilliant initiative to raise money for breast cancer awareness in partnership with Mitchell’s of Westport. The luncheon features a collection of pink chairs artfully adorned by a host of designers which line the front row at a fashion show of a top designer. Guests pay $1,000 to sit in the chairs and afterwards they are available for sale. Last year’s event raised $330,000 for area hospitals. This year’s event is scheduled for October 4 and will feature a Ralph Lauren fashion show. CTC&G Editor D.J. Carey has also redesigned the book’s logo for September which, explains Marianne, will “open up” the cover, giving it an airy, more modern feel.

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Ann Curry, Calvin Klein and a Real-Life Seinfeld Character

1003_mockup.gifForget about the dog days of summer. The stifling heat couldn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. In fact, many of the power lunchers showed up early to escape the oppressive temps which made for a jam packed dining room. The always unflappable Loreal Sherman kept everything running smoothly as usual, finding just the right table for everyone despite the SRO crowd. At Michael’s, you are where you sit after all.

I was joined today by Scott Singer, managing director of Discover Digital Group where he helps media companies identify and build e-commerce businesses, as well as assisting them in growing their existing digital assets. When he’s not navigating his clients through the changing world of social media and mobile advertising, Scott is also a passionate author. In his first book, How to Hit a Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business (Portfolio, 2010), Scott took on the question on everyone’s mind at the time: how to survive and thrive after the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. “I’ve spent my career advising companies (including CBS/Viacom and Disney) on how to overcome and confront change,” Scott told me. After enduring his own series of personal and professional ‘curveballs’ —  his job as head of digital media and internet infrastructure at Bear Sterns was a fatality of the tech bubble, his brother was in one of the towers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 but thankfully survived and he got divorced (“My marriage ended in a death spiral,” he writes in the book), Scott told me he learned that “None of us know what the future holds but, once you’ve learned how to confront and overcome the unexpected, it will stop making you anxious. Tomorrow will no longer be something to fear and that’s a great feeling.”

Diane Clehane and Scott Singer
Diane Clehane and Scott Singer

Cleverly outlining his insights using baseball terminology, Scott leads the reader from ‘spring training’ all the way through ‘an extra inning’ and includes the wisdom of those who have always aimed for the fences, like CBS honcho Les Moonves, former Time Warner CEO Jerry Levin and Michael J. Fox.

Scott’s best advice: Step up to the plate and accept what is, be the batter and keep your eye on the ball. A self-proclaimed enthusiast for the latest and best gadgets on the market, Scott says these rules are easily applicable in business, especially when it comes to new technology. Change is happening every minute and the only way to win is to embrace it and be an early adapter. Just look at our kids.

“Every child today is born digital. It’s in their DNA, while those people that are passing away are analog. We’re digital immigrants,” he says. “My 14 year-old son is my IT support. It’s amazing to think of all the innovations the digital generation is going to create.”

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The A-List Returns! Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, Barry Diller Hold Court at Michael’s

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As Januarys go, this one has been a bit of a snoozer, but things are finally picking up now that the boldface names have returned to their regular perches at Michael’s. The joint was jumping today as morning talkers (Charlie Rose, Barbara Walters), media moguls (Barry Diller) and fashionistas (Marie Claire‘s Joanna Coles) were all in full power lunch mode. It’s about time!

I was joined today by Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket and Hearst executive director of public relations Alexandra Carlin. It’s been a while since Seventeen was required reading in my house (I still remember begging my father to drive me to the stationary store,  so I could be the first to get the magazine’s coveted September back to school issue). Back then, I’d devour every oversize page, finding tons of inspiration and validation about surviving the treacherous teenage years in one piece — and in style.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ann, who celebrated her fifth anniversary with the magazine last week, says she feels a “huge responsibility” to readers, which means addressing the issues they care most about (a tall order to say the least). Between dealing with ‘sextortion’ (boyfriends threatening to dump girls if they don’t submit sexually) and the barrage of unrealistic images of physical perfection all around them, today’s teenage girls, says Ann, are under “huge pressure” all while dealing with the requisite drama that comes with being a high school girl.  Seventeen‘s mission is to empower teenage girls (the average reader is 16), often by reporting on celebrities who can be a source of inspiration.  For next month’s cover, the magazine scored the first interview with a post-rehab Demi Lovato who opens up about how she battled back from anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder and cutting. “Demi was amazing. It’s so refreshing to have a celebrity be honest about their struggles. It’s great for girls to read about someone like that.”

Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin
Diane Clehane, Ann Shoket and Alexandra Carlin

Seventeen, says Ann, is also a resource for girls about subjects they might want to talk about with their parents, but can’t. Topic A: ‘Digital Drama’ – the magazine’s clever moniker for ‘cyber bullying’ which “sounds so nineties.” Seventeen is so committed to wiping out the epidemic that Ann created the ‘Delete Digital Drama’ campaign for the magazine. “We only had to deal with the mean girl phone calls, but today social media has created so many more outlets for bullying to happen. It’s a serious problem.”

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Cathie Black Resurfaces, Jann Wenner at Table One, and Dish from The Millionaire Matchmaker

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Despite the worst case of Gotham gridlock in months (Thanks, Mr. President), there were plenty of media heavy hitters (Jann Wenner, John Huey),  high-profile editors (Martha Nelson, Kate White) and a spin sister (Peggy Siegal) at Michael’s today. While the power lunch set was chewing over their next big deal between bites, I had a dishy lunch with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger and my good friend, the network’s SVP of communications, Jennifer Geisser. If you’ve seen any part of Matchmaker, you know that Patti tells it like she sees it no matter what. “I’m a truth-teller; that’s it,” she told me after sharing some particularly searing commentary on some boldface names we all know. Sorry, but it’s off the record.

Fortunately, Patti did let loose over lunch and share her thoughts on her ‘overnight success’ — “Total bullshit. I worked my ass off for years,” she said. It certainly sounds that way. Before starting Millionaire’s Club International in 2000, she toiled in a number of positions ranging from garment center executive to astrologer before finally landing at Great Expectations, the country’s largest matchmaking service, running their Florida division and then as their director of marketing. Quickly realizing she had a knack for finding dates for just about everyone she met, she started her own firm and, she tells me, grossed $1 million the first year.

In 2001, she had a fateful meeting with Telepictures and pitched an idea for a reality show where one man would find love by ‘dating’ a group of women. Sounds familiar? Thanks to an inept agent at ICM (“He was terrible,” says Patti),  The Bachelor premiered without Patti’s involvement and went on to become TV ratings gold. Undeterred, Patti “cried for a night,” got a new agent and moved on. After a few other stops and starts involving, among others, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, Patti found a television home with Bravo in 2008 with The Millionaire Matchmaker and is currently in her fifth season of the show. Her dating pet peeves? Rude guys:  ”I want to teach young men some manners. They’ve got to learn to be gentlemen.” Scantily clad girls: “I always tell them ‘leave the Fredrick’s at home.’” And mothers who think their sons walk on water: “Jewish and Italian mothers are the worst. They think their sons are messiahs and expect everyone to treat them like one. It makes dating them impossible.”

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Renee Fleming, Harold Ford Jr & The Social Swells

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was jammed packed this afternoon with plenty of suits, swells and the requisite random boldface names (Renee Fleming! Harold Ford Jr!). While the scene was light on expense account-fueled editors (who are, no doubt, still recovering from the fabulosity of Fashion Week), it looked as if there were plenty of deals being struck between bites. Could it be that those ‘experts’ who are trying to convince us that the recession is over are right? We’re taking a wait and see attitude on that one.

I was joined today by Dr. Phillip Romero who recently published two books, The Art Imperative: The Secret Power of Art and Phantom Stress: Brain Training to Master Relationship Stress. Talk about timely! Phil, who has been in private practice for over 25 years counseling individuals, families and couples on how to deal with stress, was the perfect person to weigh in on our collective cultural anxiety. “We are in unchartered territory,” he told me. “Never before has there been a bigger demand for human creativity as a means of adapting to change. Not since the Renaissance has there been a stronger need for a major reorganization of the species.”

But all is not lost. “We are living in an age of transformation,” says Phil who believes art will, as it has for centuries, play a pivotal role in the new emerging “global humanism” of the future. No less than Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson applauds Phil’s findings from The Art Imperative. In Phantom Stress, Phil writes about how we can tap into “the miraculous, resilient nature of our bodies” to reconnect to what matters most. His advice to everyone who is feeling unhinged by the uncertainty of ‘the new normal’: “Reflect and connect with your personal truth and adapt in a creative way.” So put down that pint of Haagen Dazs and write your memoirs!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Terry Allen Kramer, Margo McNabb Nederlander and a table full of well-heeled gals.

2. Uber agent Esther Newberg

3. Discovery ID honcho Henry Schleiff

4. Peter Brown, Renee Fleming, sporting some Medusa-like tresses, and two mystery gents.

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Alex McCord & Simon van Kempen Serve Up Some Tasty ‘Real Housewives’ Dish

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There’s never a dull moment on a Wednesday at Michael’s. When I arrived in the dining room today I spotted LX TV‘s senior executive producer Amy Rosenblum shooting a segment for tonight’s show with host Sarah Gore and Michael’s GM Steve Millington about their famous $36 Cobb Salad. Who says lunch here isn’t about the food?

I had a delightfully dishy lunch with Alex McCord, one of my favorite cast members from The Real Housewives of New York City, her husband Simon van Kempen and their literary agent, my pal Jason Allen Ashlock. The couple is surprisingly down to earth given the histrionics filled season. “We’re trying to prove you don’t have to be an idiot to be on reality television,” says Simon.

At the moment, Alex and Simon are in the middle of their book tour for Little Kids Big City, which is now in its second printing. It’s a well-written, ‘mom-oir’ (as Simon likes to call it) that chronicles their transformation from DINKY (dual income no kids yet) couple to hands-on, working parents of two sons, Francois and Johan. Also in the works are a “relationship book” written in the same ‘he said, she said’ style as Little Kids, a possible cookbook, and Alex tells me she’s penning a “roman a clef about the dark underbelly of reality television.” Watch out Jill Zarin!

I just had to ask Alex what she thought of Jill’s tearful performance at the marathon three-part reunion show, which culminated in Jill basically begging former BFF Bethenny Frankel for a hug. (I’m told the women shot for nine hours with very little down time.) “It was a long day,” says Alex. “I don’t know whether it was genuine or not.” But she didn’t hold back in describing Jill’s backstabbing behavior overall: “When you have nothing else in your life, you can sit around and scheme like a character in Dangerous Liaisons.”

The couple was first tapped by Bravo to appear on what was to be called Manhattan Moms in 2007 before it morphed into The Real Housewives of New York City. “We didn’t know we were going to be paired with bitchy, socialite wannabes,” says Simon. With three seasons behind them, Simon feels Alex “hit her stride” this year. For her part, Alex says her friendships with Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, and Bethenny have grown and she’s spoken to all three of them “within the last 48 hours.” No decision has been made about who will be returning next season but Simon says of the couple’s plans, “At this point, it would be silly to not do one more season.”

You can catch Alex at her next New York City book signing on July 6 at Barnes & Noble on Lexington and 86th Street with New Jersey Housewife Caroline Manzo, who be on hand to promote Bravo’s new tell-all on the popular franchise.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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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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Deborah Norville, Cindi Leive & A Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Michael’s, and today was no exception. Everyone in the place seemed connected by less than six degrees of separation, as we observed plenty of old friends and former colleagues exchanging air kisses before dining and dishing. Then there was the completely random fashion moment that caught our eye. Did you know it was ‘Seersucker Day’ here in New York City? Now you do. So it was only fitting that Michael’s GM Steve Millington was sporting his summer seersucker suit in honor of the sweltering heat. Earlier today, a little birdie told me that the outdoor set of The Early Show was filled with men (including the show’s weatherman Dave Price) in Haspel seersucker suits in honor of the company’s 100 anniversary. Who made Steve’s suit? Why Haspel, of course. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with Susan Silver, who I met in this very dining room a while back when I was lunching with our mutual pal Brian Balthazar at the next table. When I found out Susan was one of the brilliant writers behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show (the first and best one), I just had to get to know her better. Today we talked TV — of course — and Susan weighed in on her favorite sitcoms of the season. She gives high marks to ABC’s Modern Family (“Genius!”) and The Middle (“It is laugh out loud funny!”). It turns out we share a mutual obsession with reality television; specifically Bravo’s wild and wacky Housewives. I can’t get enough of the New York City divas — except for Jill Zarin. Susan loves ‘em all.

These days Susan is turning up everywhere on television (most recently with Rosanna Scotto on Fox 5) and radio (chatting with Bill Bennett) to talk about the baby boomer generation, spurred by a column she did a few years back, “The Search for Mr. Adequate,” for New York Social Diary. Now she’s on a mission to become “The Martha Stewart of The Baby Boomers,” offering her take on everything from fashion to travel and, of course, relationships for this “underserved market.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Chris Taylor presiding over a table of fabulous females, including Desiree Gruber and CNN’s Alina Cho

2. Bonnie Timmermann and two pals

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. The Early Show: It was a family affair for sisters Andrea Barzvi (who works at ICM) and Alexandra Barzvi (a clinical psychologist), who were celebrating mom Bianca’s birthday. We simply had say hello to this stylish trio because Bianca’s hat just dazzled us. Second seating: Peggy Siegal.

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Lunch: TV Titans, Ivana Trump, & Devo!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You never know who you’re going to meet on any given Wednesday at Michael’s. I’ve chatted with former presidents, Oscar winners, and tabloid targets who have made the usually unflappable crowd turn and stare, but it’s those unexpected, below the radar moments that are often the most fun. When GM Steve Millington introduced me to Jerry Casale of Devo, one of my favorite ’80s bands, I was delighted. Just last week, I’d just seen Pearl Jam’s cover of the group’s famous anthem, “Whip It,” on YouTube where they wore copies of those infamous yellow jumpsuits and red flowerpot hats. I asked Jerry if he’d known about the act in advance. “No, and I wished they’d told me,” he joked. “I would have been able to tell them about the hard hat holders we wore to keep our hats in place. They had to settle for those silly elastic straps under their chins.” Still, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, says Jerry. “I’ve gotten so many calls since it wound up in Rolling Stone and gone viral. It’s a lot of fun.”

Larry Kramer joined me for lunch today and was excited to tell me all about his upcoming book, Talespin, which was bought by HarperCollins earlier this fall (Freddie Friedman agented the deal). In it, Larry tackles the idea of how all businesses are grappling with “the recreation of storytelling” from publishing to retailing. The game has changed, says Larry, especially in media. He takes “the media guys” to task for “protecting the business model instead of the business.” Besides getting top executives from here and abroad to weigh in (in his reporting Larry discovered Europe was way ahead of the curve in adapting to a changing multi-platform world) — the book is a sum total of Larry’s experience in “the old and new worlds of media.” In addition to his two decades as a reporter and editor for top papers including The Washington Postand the San Francisco Examiner, Larry founded MarketWatch in 1997 and has helmed CBS Digital Media. These days, he’s consulting for a cross section of media ventures including Discovery Networks and The Weather Channel. In January, Larry will begin teaching a graduate level course at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School where some of the lectures will be Skyped in and students will be “embedded” into companies to study their strategies first hand.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cosmo editrix Kate White with a table full of gals we didn’t get to meet.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, uber agent Ed Victor and Don Epstein of Greater Talent Network.

4. Author Ed Klein and Owen Laster

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