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Posts Tagged ‘Steven Haft’

Bette Midler, Al Roker & Bravo’s Bickering Brokers From Million Dollar Listing New York

LunchAtMichaelsWhen it comes to Bravo’s ever-expanding slate of reality stars, it’s hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard. Between the Housewives, hipsters and wannabe singers, few have retained more than a few seasons of fame (or infamy) outside the realm of their melodramatic universe give or take a few Life & Style covers. I can count the number of Bravolebrities on one hand that have left an impression on me beyond registering their sheer delight at their own insta-fame. That’s why my lunch with Luis D. Ortiz and Fredrik Eklund, stars of the network’s Million Dollar Listing New York, was such a pleasant surprise.

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Luis Ortiz, Diane Clehane and Fredrik Eklund

Besides being charismatic, funny and extremely well dressed (more on that later), these guys are driven beyond belief and smart as hell. Over the course of our lunch to dish about the new season, (premiering next Wednesday, April 2 at 9 p.m) I learned quite a bit about Fredrik and Luis (unfortunately their castmate Ryan Serhant was tied up at a pitch meeting and never made it to Michael’s.) Fredrik heads up the country’s top selling real estate team (which he founded) at Douglas Elliman. Between bites of his Cobb salad, he told me he sold 36 apartments last year, raking in 2.2 million in commissions during season two. So far this year, he’s sold $400 million (yes, you read that right) worth of real estate. Luis, who now works with Fredrik at Elliman, where he heads up his own real estate group, has sold over $300 million in residential real estate in the past three and a half years.

Almost thirty minutes before the appointed hour, Luis arrived at Michael’s and we sat at the bar chatting about the fickle finger of reality television fate waiting for the rest of our party. Besides being struck by Luis’ impeccable made for GQ style (a perfectly cut, made-to-measure suit “from a tailor in Mexico,” Patek Philippe watch and a Zara coat I’d kill for), I couldn’t help but notice his laser-like focus on my questions. The guy knows how to listen (a very underrated character trait, if you ask me). When I inquired if he thought the show had created a ‘character’ for him he said, “Television can’t edit you differently if you are yourself. I respect myself and I’m myself at all times. I understand the need for drama, but the business is inherently dramatic enough that we don’t have to make things up. I feel like the camera is telling the truth.”

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Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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The Truth About Rachel Uchitel’s Tweet and a Birthday Party for Ed Rollins

1003_mockup.gifWhen it comes to Wednesdays at Michael’s, the early bird might not always get the best table, but today it did land me something of a timely scoop. Some time before noon, I spotted Rachel Uchitel, the woman whose texts to Tiger Woods helped bring down the golf legend and launched a thousand tabloid headlines in 2009. I half expected her to bolt when I identified myself as a reporter, but she was gracious and downright chatty when I asked about the countless reports that her recent “Everyone deserves a second chance” tweet was a thinly veiled reference to Tiger and Lindsey Vonn‘s joint announcement on Facebook that they were dating.

“Everyone in the media immediately thought it was about Tiger,” she told me exclusively. “I still have not talked about him and never will. I haven’t told anyone about this, but the tweet was about my 94-year-old grandfather, Sam Lionel, who is getting married. His fiancee is 52 and there has been some family drama about it, so that’s what I was referring to. I’m even throwing her a bachelorette party.” Rachel, who just moved back to New York from San Francisco, told me that The New York Post approached her about writing an article about the recent turn of events but she turned them down flat. “First of all, check your facts, thank you very much,” she said referring to their reporting about her tweet. “And also I’d never write anything about that.”

Rachel told me these days she is “totally obsessed” with her 10-month-old daughter Wyatt Lilly who took her first steps yesterday. (Dad is husband Matt Hahn.) “I love that she wants a big kiss just from me sometimes. It’s the first time that I really have come to understand just what unconditional love is. You think you can get it from a man, but this is so different. She is my whole existence.” Being a mother, says Rachel, has given her a sense of peace and satisfaction that had previously eluded her, but she still is sorting out where she wants to go from here. ”I don’t want to be away from her and miss anything.” Still, though, she’d like to find “meaningful work.” Says Rachel, “For the past three years I have struggled with my identity. I used to be a journalist, but since 2009 it has been difficult to find a job because of the baggage attached to me.” She’s been offered several reality shows and did a stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, but has turned them all down. “It’s hard, but now that I’ve moved back to New York, I’d like to find something interesting to do.” For the woman whose tear-stained face made the cover of The New York Post when she first lost her then fiancé on 9/11 (a tearsheet hangs in the Smithsonian) and then went on to become the poster girl for one of the biggest celebrity scandals of the decade, life in recent years has been a series of headlines. That’s a pretty attractive quality in an employee in certain circles is this town, isn’t it?

Emilio Romano and Diane Clehane

I had a fascinating and enjoyable lunch with Emilio Romano, (pictured, right) president of Telemundo Media and the network’s vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, Michelle Alban. The charming and dynamic Emilio joined the company in 2011 and in his current position runs Telemundo’s broadcast network, its 15 owned stations, as well as the company’s entertainment division and Telemundo Studios, which is the No. 1 producer of original Spanish language primetime content for Hispanics in the United States. He also oversees the news and sports divisions, Telemundo’s digital media group and the company’s sales and marketing arms. I’ve talked to plenty of media titans in this dining room over the years, and I can say without question I found Emilio to be one of the most engaging, genuine and interesting executives I’ve ever met. While telling me about all the exciting things happening at Telemundo these days, he chatted easily with the wait staff about where they were from and asking them in Spanish what they watched on television and why.

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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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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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Vernon Jordan, Paul Shaffer and Richard Belzer Grab a Bite at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Harvey Keitel (who, we hear, is a pretty nice guy) by a day, but the usual suspects kept things hopping in the dining room at Michael’s today. By now, we’ve grown used to seeing Richard Belzer with his dog Bebe (pronounced Bay-Bay en Francais, in case you were wondering) in tow for his 1 pm lunches every now and again. But we did perk up when Vernon Jordan came in. Talk about presence!

I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite regulars, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstong who, when I first started writing this column, made it his personal mission to introduce me to as many movers and shakers as possible. The native Texan with the heart of gold just can’t help himself when it comes to do-good deeds. This afternoon he was full of fire telling me about the upcoming benefit for The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp on October 21 at Lincoln Center. Joe spent seven years as a camp counselor during the summer at the original Connecticut camp — He now proudly bears the title of ‘Mr. Ambassador’ for the organization — and can’t say enough about the kids whose lives are forever changed thanks to Paul Newman. “They make you realize what is really important, ” says Joe.

So, if you want to help continue Newman’s good works and spend an evening rubbing shoulders with Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Joanne Woodward and Renee Zellweger, get out those checkbooks and buy a ticket to the gala. Tell them Joe sent you …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Self‘s Lucy Danziger and some leggy leather clad gals from L’Oreal talking ‘stress management’

2. Law & Order SVU’s Richard Belzer and David Letterman‘s band leader Paul Shaffer

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and O’s book editor Sara Nelson.

4. Leonard Lauder and a casually elegant gal who, upon greeting the cosmetic king exclaimed, “This is the high point of my week!”

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Lunch: Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose, and John Sykes Stop By

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The mood may have been a little low-key today at Michael’s, but we spotted plenty of power players dining and dishing about their next big moves. I was intrigued to see former MTV colleagues John Sykes (now Playlist’s CEO) and Tom Freston chatting over lunch. Turns out the guys are both on (Product) Red’s board and are very enthusiastic about HBO’s upcoming documentary The Lazarus Effect which chronicles the effort being undertaken by the Global Fund to bring lifesaving drugs to Africans with AIDS.

“The title comes from the Bible and it’s truly amazing to see the results they have been getting,” John told me. The idea that marketing T-shirts and sunglasses can have a life-changing effect on dying patients with little hope of survival is truly news worth passing on. John also tells me that HBO is going to work with other companies like Playlist to make sure as many people as possible see the film.

I was joined today by Lisa Linden, CEO of Linden Alschuler & Kaplan Public Relations. Besides repping some of the biggest names in New York, Linda is a vice chair of The New York League of Conservation Voters and is working like mad on their upcoming spring gala. The big event is scheduled for May 17 and plenty of Gotham’s power players will be making an appearance. Mayor Michael Bloomberg will give the keynote, and this year’s honorees are: Julie Menin, chairman of Manhattan Community Board 1; Frank Sciame of F.J. Sciame Construction; eco-organizer Billy Parish, who co-founded Warner Music Group’s Green Owl Records, a green music label; and New York University. Comedian Mo Rocca is sure to keep things lively as the evening’s emcee. We’re calling for tickets now.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Charlie Rose (in pinstripes and white Jack Purcells) and an elegantly attired lady no one seemed to know.

2. Luke Janklow and another casually clad gent. Second seating: HBO’s Richard Plepler and pals

3. Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (long time, no see!) with attorney Larry Shire and Eric Saks

4. Tom Brokaw (who slipped in before anyone noticed) and Morris Offit

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Lunch: What Recession? Michael’s Keeps Buzzing with Walter Isaacson, John Sykes & The Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The power lunch lives! While budgets are being slashed all over town, if the media mavens at the top are feeling the pinch, they’re determined not to show it. For the past several weeks, I’ve noticed that Michael’s is back to its pre-Great Recession level of buzz with a packed dining room. The regulars were out in force today along with an impressive array of captains of industry who were no doubt doing a lot more than catching up with old pals.

I was lunching today with Andrew Heyward, who I got to know during his tenure as president of CBS News. Andrew is busier than ever these days consulting for a full slate of companies including Monitor Group and NBC News. I asked him how he felt when the New York Supreme Court’s appellate division threw out Dan Rather‘s $70 million lawsuit against CBS last month. “I’m gratified by the appellate court’s unanimous decision to dismiss the case,” he told me. “I hope this is an opportunity for everyone involved to move on once and for all.” Not everyone seems to share that sentiment. Dan’s lawyer, Martin Gold, told TVNewser he plans to appeal.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Nick Simunek with, we’re told, a table full of showbiz types including the fellow who wrote Love At First Bite.

2. Peter Brown, Shirley Lord, and two other distinguished gentlemen we didn’t know.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive. Second seating: ICM’s president Chris Silbermann.

4. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank and attorney Alan Grubman. I caught up with Matt on the way out, and we chatted about Toni Collette‘s Emmy win for The United States of Tara. I also asked about one of my favorite shows, The Tudors. Matt tells me they just wrapped production and the show promises to deliver plenty of royal drama in its final season. We’ve been hearing rumors that Showtime’s next dysfunctional dynasty to receive the star treatment will be the Borgias. We can’t wait!

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley Stops By — and Hugh Jackman is Coming Tonight!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Our invitation to tonight’s party for Joel Grey hosted by Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborah Lee Furness, must have gotten lost in the mail. Oh well. The dining room was jam-packed with the Wednesday regulars in action, so there was plenty to keep us entertained. I was also happy to catch up with some pals I hadn’t seen in a while. When my friend Andre Leon Talley swept through the door resplendent in a rose-hued Prada coat and “raspberry velvet” custom-made Manolo Blahnik sandals, I was thrilled that he had time for a chat before joining George Malkemus for lunch.

I just had to ask him what he thought about Morley Safer‘s segment on Anna Wintour that aired on 60 Minutes a few weeks back. “I was really impressed with their research,” said Andre, who reported that the show spent weeks at Vogue‘s offices and trekked to Europe for the collections to cover Anna in action and get many of fashion’s most famous faces to weigh in on her decades-long reign at the style bible. We both agreed that Morley sounded a wee bit contemptuous of the players and the game. The newsman’s occasional barbs thrown into the piece — including an observation that Karl Lagerfeld dressed like Count Dracula (“He’s had that look for eight years!”) and that all Vogue‘s young staffers have to be skinny — were “a bit dismissive,” said Andre. (I did love when Anna said that on a recent trip to Minnesota she found most of the folks resembled “little houses.”) Andre reports Anna was “thrilled” with the piece. “It’s 60 Minutes — she was on the same show as Secretary Gates. It was fabulous,” proclaimed Andre.

Today, he was taking a break between the resort presentations that designers were hosting around town in their showrooms this week. “The resort shows are fabulous,” he reports. “It’s become a much more interesting season where people are really doing some fabulous things.” Among the highlights so far: Diane von Furstenberg‘s “Going to Rio”-inspired collection with everything a girl needs all packed into one bag (“It’s her best collection in three years”), Zac Posen‘s ruched silk lame jeans and “major” shoes — especially the sexy lace d’Orsay numbers. Andre also gave high marks to Michael Kors‘ batik prints. “There are a lot of great clothes and great items that women will want to buy.” Music to a lot of retailers’ ears, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Conde Nast’s Lou Cona and the dashing Daniel Lalonde, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton, presiding over a table full of movers and shakers.

2. Peter Brown

3. Judith Verno

4. Stephen Swid and a blonde gal we didn’t recognize

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