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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Rattner’

Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

1003_mockup.gifMaybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try. There was, however, an interesting mix of bold faced names including police commissioner Ray Kelly and the newly crowed Miss USA Nana Meriwether who, despite leaving her sash and crown at home, looked every inch the pageant winner. Being almost six feet tall certainly helps stand out in a crowd.

I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China; Mimi has a little girl and is about to give birth to her first son any minute (we had our fingers crossed she’d make it through lunch!). We all agreed parenthood is an unending source of material.

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Since joining the magazine in February of last year from Time Inc.’s All You, Susan has made some interesting changes to the magazine. “I’ve fallen in love with the reader,” she says. This is not your mother’s Woman’s Day, although Susan is mindful of the generational connection between readers of the 75-year-old Hearst title. “Some readers have been reading the magazine for 60 years, and now their daughters and their daughters’ daughters are reading it,” she explained. When asked just who is the Woman’s Day reader, Susan told me: “She’s the ‘Average Josephine’ — the receptionist, the administrative assistant, the teacher, the nurse. These are the women who I consider to be the backbone of America.” That doesn’t mean, however, these women (more than half work outside the home) are not interested in fashion and the good things in life. Just the opposite. “These women have a lot of joy in their life. They embrace positivity,” says Susan. “That’s why the title of the magazine is so perfect for them. It’s about her day and the joy she gets out of it.” To tap into that, Susan retooled the fashion pages focusing more on value in all its iterations. “Our reader doesn’t want to see a great shoe and then find out it’s $300 or even $150. It has to make sense for her life.” In fact, “Value Tags” appear throughout the magazine to highlight steals, deals and all-around great ideas.

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Mediabistro Course

Food Blogging

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Power Lunching with Eliot Spitzer, Star Jones and Joanna Coles

1003_mockup.gifIt’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steven Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch.

I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” he told me. “I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.” Pausing for a moment he added, “Somebody needs to buy the network.” And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system.  Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. “I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Best-selling author Linda Fairstein, hosting her annual holiday lunch for her former colleagues from her days as head of the city’s sex crimes unit. “I love doing this for these women who are all tops in their field. We’ve been having this lunch every year for over a decade, and for one afternoon they are treated like queens of the world,” Linda told me as she placed artfully decorated gift bags at each place setting embellished with the words ‘Boss Lady.’ The incredible women who were taking a break from their usual daily grind of solving and prosecuting the city’s most heinous crimes: New York Supreme Court Judge Ann Donnelly, Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, trial division chief; Audrey Moore, chief the Special Victims’ Unit; cold case division head Melissa Mourges, who just this week got a conviction on the ‘Dating Game’ murder; Kerry O’Connell, chief of the trial bureau; and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit. Ladies, I salute you.

2.  Peter Brown

3. ’Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko (Happy Belated Birthday!)

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

The holiday scene at Michael's

The holiday scene at Michael’s

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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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Ringing in the Holidays With Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones & Donny Deutsch

1003_mockup.gifThe holiday revelry was in high gear today at Michael’s. Those miracle workers at reception — the amazing Loreal Sherman and Joana Andrade were working overtime to keep the high maintenance crowd happy. (Trust me, doing the seating chart here is an art form!) A little lunch for 13 hosted by Michael McCarty’s wife Kim McCarty was keeping things hopping at table one while a heaping helping of talking heads (Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones, Donny Deutsch), socialites (Becca Thrash, Muffy Potter Aston) and media mavens (Cindi Leive) were toasting the season with plenty of wine and good cheer. Don’t you just love those one percenters?

Diane Clehane & Joan Gelman

I was lunching today with producer Joan Gelman who I met in this very dining room when I first began doing the column. Joan and I have had plenty of great conversations over the years about television (Joan’s amazing resume includes producing stints at CBS and ABC in news and as David Letterman’s producer who remains “a god” to her — “He’s so talented” ) and politics. These days Joan is busier than ever working on a television show she’s got in development in Canada. (The details are top secret at the moment) Shuttling back and forth between here and there is nothing new for her since she produced the hit Triple Sensation there a while back.  Joan is also a passionate Democrat who cares deeply about the issues consuming the country right now — especially the financial inequities that have ignited protests around the country. “We have to do more to even things out,” she told me. Just this morning Joan attended a gathering where U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren spoke. “She is such an amazing woman,” marvels Joan. “She’s smart, she cares and she wants to restore the spirit of the country.” Joan told me Ms. Warren’s message was a “positive” one and that she believes fervently in healing “the great divide” that has consumed the country and seeped into national politics. We both agreed that she’s facing a tough battle against incumbent Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown because female candidates are held to a different standard than their male counterparts. “She’s a brave woman.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Al Roker, Barbara Bush and Peggy Siegal Fetes Elizabeth Olsen

1003_mockup.gifWe were disappointed to hear that we’d missed seeing Wendy Williams who’d come by on Monday for lunch with her parents. A little birdie told me that the talk show diva issued this rallying cry to mom and dad before departing to face the lone paparazzo waiting outside: “Get ready! Here we go! Here we go!”  Today the few shooters milling around outside had a little more to work with since starlet of the moment, Elizabeth Olsen, was being feted in the Garden Room. Meanwhile, the main event in the dining room featured its usual mix of moguls (Barry Diller, Ron Perelman),  talking heads (Al Roker) and high-profile editors (Jon Meacham). Just business as usual for Wednesday at Michael’s.

I was joined today by Good Housekeeping editor-in-chief Rosemary Ellis, the magazine’s new money columnist Carmen Wong Ulrich and Hearst’s executive director of public relations, Alexandra Carlin. With 24 million (yes, you read that right) readers, this is not your mother’s Good Housekeeping. With Ellis at the helm, GH is a must read for the multi-tasking, multifaceted woman (Is there any other kind?) and filled with smart, savvy content that covers everything from food and fashion to family and finances.  And, while many books have retooled their marketing message for a niche reader, Good Housekeeping is a media behemoth with some really impressive reach. “We’re not age specific. We have kazillions of 28-year-old readers and kazillions of 34-year-old readers,” says Ellis. “More than the magazines that target them.”  Rosemary, whose editor letters are often inspired by her own family life and her adorable daughter, Lucy (“I figure I have a few more years before she says no more”) says Good Housekeeping offers “one stop shopping  — Who has time to read seven different magazines?”

We all agreed that the one topic on every woman’s mind these days is money. It makes sense, says Rosemary, because 80 percent of all  spending decisions are made by the woman of the house. So, Rosemary tapped Carmen to dispense her unique brand of uncommon financial common sense culled from years of experience deciphering today’s often confusing and confounding financial landscape. “I live for this,” says Carmen, who first became interested in money through her father. “I’ve been watching stocks since I was eight.”

Carmen Wong Ulrich, Diane Clehane and Rosemary Ellis
Carmen Wong Ulrich, yours truly and Rosemary Ellis

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Caroline Manzo, Morgan Fairchild, Plus HarperCollins Fetes William Boyd

1003_mockup.gifOne of the things I love most about chronicling the Wednesday scene at Michael’s is the random celeb sightings that seem to come out of left field. On offer today: television stars of the past and present that represent the changing (and fickle?) tastes of the viewing public. When none other than Morgan Fairchild walked in (she’s even tinier in person), I had an eighties flashback to those great trashy nighttime soaps and damsel in distress Lifetime movies that were all the rage back then. A few minutes later, The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Caroline Manzo, today’s definition of a soap star, walked in. Funny enough, they were seated right next to each other but neither noticed the other. What can I say? This stuff fascinates me.

I was joined today by two PR mavens, Melanie Brandman, founder of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. After chewing over the week’s hottest gossip (Did Kim Kardashian do it for money? Has Kris Jenner no shame?), we had a good chat about Melanie’s latest luxury innovation, Travel Curator, which she describes as a hybrid online monthly magazine, diary and blog that shares the very best insider information on cities around the world.  Besides having exquisite taste, Melanie’s unrivaled experience in the hospitality industry and two decades of worldwide travel have given her quite an address book.

Table Seven: Diane Clehane, Diana Biederman and Melanie Brandman

“I’m constantly asked where to go to find the very best around the world and, since I love to share information, I thought this would be a fabulous way to do that.” The “content driven” site is absolutely gorgeous, including ‘The Spot” of the month. The native Aussie’s Sydney is the launch pick, followed by New York, London and Tel Aviv — all cities Melanie has called home. It also includes a fabulously fun section entitled “Tastemakers” where Melanie culls names from her Rolodex to offer their picks on shopping and travel in various locales. (Full disclosure: In an upcoming edition, I sing the praises of American Girl Place as the best place in NYC to spend a day with the special little girl in your life.) The site is getting great buzz; it was recently featured in Travel & Leisure and was the subject of two segments on Fox News. Right now, everything is being handled in-house at The Brandman Agency, and  it’s being circulated via subscription and by the agency’s extensive contact lists. So, before you pack for that next vacation, check out the site.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Mary Higgins Clark, The Hiltons And The Media Mob

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– DIANE CLEHANE

The sweltering heat (wasn’t it just snowing last week?) didn’t keep the regulars away from Michael’s today. The dining room was jam packed with authors, agents and media mavens all deep in conversation about who knows what. From the looks of things, the power lunch crowd here is gearing up for a busy season of neworking that has to be crammed into a four-day work week now that those summer cottages are open.  Oh, the pressure!

I was thrilled to join Vi Huse and Kira Semler for lunch today. I met them almost five years ago when I first started covering the scene at Michael’s and was fascinated by these two attractive, fun loving gals who always seemed to have a grand old time at their monthly champagne lunch (and always ate dessert!). Turns out these two good friends have been keeping their Michael’s lunch date with each other for over ten years! “This is only the second time we’ve sat in the dining room,” Vi told me.  “We always sit at the bar and it’s just become our spot.”

Today, the three of us sat with the big kids in the dining room to celebrate Vi’s 23 years as owner of Kerygma, a gallery in Ridgewood, New Jersey specializing in contemporary American art. Vi just retired yesterday but tells me she will continue to work with artists like Peter Fiore, Gerald Doudera, David Lee and Jane Owen online. Kira, a jewelry aficionado and freelance bookeeper, was one of Vi’s first clients and the gals have been fast friends ever since. Cheers!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mary Higgins Clark, Carolyn Reidy and a table full of pals. The indefatigable 83-year-old author was the subject of a glowing profile in The Wall Street Journal last month which chronicled her success: she’s sold 100 million books in the U.S. alone, and all 42 of her novels have been best-sellers. With I’ll Walk Alone, released in April, she’s keeping her winning streak going. We’re in awe.

2. Michael Holtzman (Peter Brown’s VP and right hand man, so we’re told.)

3. Joan TischCandace Leeds and Marcia Stein

4. The always distinguished Stan Shuman

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Sinbad & Family Dish on Their New Reality Show

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It would have been hard to beat the head-spinning scene that I witnessed at Michael’s last Wednesday, but this week came close. A camera crew from WNBC-TV’s LX-TV was on hand filming a segment on celebrity lunch spots as the masters of the universe (Barry Diller) and socialites (Melania Trump, swathed in mink) strolled in and air-kissed their way to their tables. When Amy Rosenblum, the show’s producer, heard I was having lunch with comedy icon Sinbad and his family to talk about their new reality show for WE tv, her ears perked up. “Perfect!” she said. “We’ll come over and borrow him for our segment. ”

Having never met the comedian, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that 10 minutes after the family arrived (right on time!) fresh off their morning at SiriusXM, it felt as if I’d known them all forever. They’re the anti-Osbournes! Named one of the Top 100 Stand-up Comedians of All Time by Comedy Central and a sitcom (A Different World, The Sinbad Show) vet, Sinbad told me the new show, Sinbad: It’s Just Family (premiering April 12 at 10 pm on WE tv) is a marked departure of the bumper crop of dysfunctional family fright fests that populate the reality TV landscape.

“These producers want meltdowns and dramas, but most of the dramas wouldn’t happen if people weren’t shooting their show. Most reality shows have an agenda and you have to understand that. I got about 80 percent of what I wanted. I was the voice of reason. We picked and chose what we wanted to shoot.” Any scenes in the master bedroom were off-limits, he said. “That’s just not respectful.” Instead, the show focuses on his version of family life — his re-marriage to his ex-wife Meredith Adkins and his relationship with his two “grids” (semi-grown kids) Paige and Royce. When he’s not on the road doing stand-up, he’s home keeping things together — his way. “The show is not about some comedian looking for a comeback because I never went away!” he quipped.

I had to ask him what he thought of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice since he appeared on season three of the show. “Donald Trump likes fights. He likes drama,” he told me. “That’s why Meat Loaf and Gary Busey are still around. That’s what people want to watch.” As for his take on his former cast mates: “Brett Michaels was a baby and Sharon Osbourne has the filthiest mouth of any woman I’ve ever met. She faked being sick just so she could miss being project manager for the first three weeks.” He also has choice words for Ozzy Osbourne. “That show they did made him look like a fool. Do you really want people to remember you like that? These people are stars and they don’t really think about how they want to be perceived.”

For their show, Sinbad and the family ”focused on the positive” and shot weeks of 12-14 hour days for six episodes, which was quite an adjustment. “It’s the most time we’ve spent together since the kids were babies,” says Meredith. “We were miked all the time and had to remind ourselves that they were recording everything.”

Royce is a college student studying audio sound engineering, and Paige is an R&B artist (Meredith is her manager) who co-wrote all the songs on her new album, Imperfect Me. Both had to be convinced to do the show at first, but wound up enjoying the experience. Proud Papa says of their TV debut: “He surprised me and she turned out to be quite the daredevil.”  In one episode, Paige convinced the family to try out a trapeze park, and the producers were only too happy to get it all for the show. “That’s what was so great about the show.  If we wanted to do something and the producers thought it was a great idea, they made it happen,” says Paige. “The flip side was we were having family barbecues, and there was someone standing on the driveway handing out releases for our friends to sign. That was a little strange but we got used to it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Sinbad, his wife Meredith Adkins, daughter Paige, son Royce and yours truly.

2. Project Playlist CEO John Sykes and Brian Bedol

3. Melania Trump and designer Rachel Roy. I was nearly blinded when I happened to look over at The Donald’s better half  and spotted the sparkler on her ring finger. And, yes, she is even more gorgeous in person.

4. Barry Diller

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It’s An A-Lister Buffet! Cate Blanchett, Debra Messing, Star Jones and The Morning Joe Team

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a sure sign that spring is actually on its way when the A-list comes out of hibernation and flocks to Michael’s once again. The appearance of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing holding court at their respective tables had the whole place buzzing. Wendy Williams, seated in the middle of the action, could barely focus on her own table because she was so excited. We also have to imagine that the grub at the NBC cafeteria must be wanting these days, because there were so many of the network’s bold face names (Joe! Mika! David!) all around the room.

I was joined today by my good friend, Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR and Kristen Vigrass, president of The Brandman Agency. We were celebrating Kristen’s promotion to to president of the firm which was announced earlier this year. A public relations vet with a long history in the luxury market for companies including Calvin Klein, Kristen started at The Brandman Agency as a supervisor and worked her way up during her decade with the company. Bravo!

Kristen tells me she and founder Melanie Brandman are planning to celebrate a decade of working together with a possible  sojourn to Borneo. The exotic port of call will be on the intinerary later this year when the agency’s client Orion Expedition Cruises sets sail to the destination with a new ship. Kristen’s suitcase is always packed and ready to go somewhere. The Brandman Agency also represents Intercontinental Hotels Group and Orient-Express Hotels. When do we leave?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Debra Messing, looking every inch the star in a luxe white fur vest with her manager Molly Madden (the gals co-produced Messing’s now cancelled series The Starter Wife for USA Networks) and producer Desiree Gruber.

2. A Fox5 reunion: Rosanna Scotto, Penny Crone and Lynne White.

3. Sony Pictures Television head Steve Mosko with Tom Bernard and Michael Barker

4. Here’s an interesting trio: Uber celeb handler Cindi Berger, Hearst honcho Ellen Levine and Conde Nast front woman Maurie Perl

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Maxim, Blender Publisher May be Turned Over to Creditors

maximgg.jpgLooks like Citigroup wasn’t the only one struggling to get through the weekend. The WSJ is reporting that Alpha Media, the publisher of laddie magazines Maxim and Blender, is in “restructuring talks that are expected to turn over the company to creditors.” Just to give you a sense of how closely everything is tied together, Alpha Media was purchased in 2007 by superstar deal-maker Steve Rattner‘s Quadrangle Capital Partners — Rattner’s firm also happens to be in charge of Mayor Bloomberg‘s fortune.

Quadrangle’s private-equity fund paid about $250 million for Alpha Media in August 2007, lauding the company as an “unrivaled” play for reaching 18-to 34-year-old males. The New York-based firm put up about $90 million of equity and borrowed the rest to purchase the titles from British publisher Felix Dennis.

Like everyone else even remotely involved with Wall St. Rattner’s firm is “struggling with its private-equity portfolio and recently unwound its hedge fund amid market turmoil.” That and both Blender and Maxim‘s ad pages have plummeted. And that’s not all.

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