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Posts Tagged ‘Stu Zakim’

Lunch: Where the Magic Happens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I thought I’d seen just about everything from my regular perch at Michael’s during my weekly visits, but today topped all. They were serving up sides of card tricks with the Cobb salads today and the gang was just eating it up. When I arrived, illusionist JB Benn was standing at the bar shuffling a deck of playing cards for Frank Gifford as his pals Hunter Millington — yes, Steve‘s brother — and Chris Graham looked on. He asked the gridiron great to sign a card and place it back in the deck. After a great deal of slow-mo shuffling, he finally pulled out the very same card from a sealed envelope in his jacket pocket.”I better make sure I’ve still got my watch,” quipped Frank. JB then drafted me into service asking me how many dollar bills he was holding in his hands. Frank and I both agreed he had four single dollars. Literally, right before our eyes the bills turned into hundreds. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered and there were gasps all around. I wouldn’t be surprised if JB is now booked between now and 2010 as the entertainment at parties from the Upper East Side to Easthampton as result of his impromptu performance this afternoon.

The utterly charming and adorable Mr. Benn (“He looks like a better-looking Tom Cruise,” said one smitten diner) made the rounds in the dining room eliciting applause all around. When I saw how wowed Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were after the illusionist worked his magic on them, I suggested they might want to have him on the show to make ‘Sam the Cooking Guy’ disappear. In case you haven’t heard, Sam caused quite a stir on Today last Wednesday’s show in a segment during the fourth hour when he basically told the co-hosts to shut up and let him talk about his salad when he thought they had gotten too chatty. Sam clearly didn’t know what to do when he realized he had actually verbalized what he was thinking. He then sputtered out the ingredients of his salad while Kathie Lee and Hoda just watched him squirm — a classic TV moment. But, says Kathie Lee, Sam isn’t banished from the set. “I’m big on second chances,” she says. But be warned, Sam. “I forgive — but I don’t forget.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Woody Johnson (sporting a discreet ‘McCain‘ button) and a squadron of suits. Just asking: Is the Jets’ owner advising Michael’s on personal seat licensing?

2. Three members of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry Della Femina. I had a great chat with Jerry about AMC’s runaway hit “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t tuned in, check it out on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. It’s the best dramatic series on television right now — seriously) Turns out the legendary ad man was one of a select few that got an early look at the script for the series’ pilot because creator Matthew Weiner wanted to make sure he got every detail right, from the Brooks Brothers suits worn by the execs to the nonstop smoking that helped fuel the creative fire on Madison Avenue in the early sixties. Jerry, who had a “four pack a day” habit back then, says the show has been a boon for business. “For the longest time nobody wanted to be in advertising. Everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Now, because of the show, people are talking about advertising again. It’s revitalized the industry. I’m back in fashion again!” Indeed.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Joan Gelman and marketing strategist and frequent CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman (glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ fan!). Before my good pal Joe — who is jetting off to Europe this week for a much-deserved vacation — and his fellow Democratic boosters settled down for lunch they, too, were dazzled by Mr. Benn’s sleight of hand. Before they could dash off to their table I asked Robert, who is privy to the inner workings of the Democratic party, for his thoughts on who will be Barack Obama’s running mate. The suddenly taciturn strategist demurred, but offered his thoughts on who it should be — “Joe Armstrong, of course.” Remember, you heard it here first.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld and Carnegie Hall head Clive Gillinson

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Lunch: Captain Picard, I Presume?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.

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Lunch At Michael’s: Barry Diller, Bob Iger & The Literary Lioness Club

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— DIANE CLEHANE

For those who like their cobb salads served up with a side order of adrenaline, 55th & Fifth was the place to be today. Media moguls and literary lionesses convened their cliques for some lively conversation that kept the dining room buzzing. Esther Newberg and Anna Quindlen enjoyed lively conversation with ABC’s Lynn Scherr and Faye Wattleton in one corner, while NBA commissioner David Stern and Disney honcho Bob Iger kept a much lower profile in the back. The sighting of the power pair set tongues wagging about this morning’s New York Times story that Stern is forming a Chinese subsidiary with some help from a yet to be announced multi-media partner. Has Mickey got game? Stay tuned …

I was lunching with my good pal Chris Madden. The lifestyle maven is everywhere these days: on the cover of Your Good House (her new magazine produced in partnership with Hearst), in her charming ads for her furniture line with JCPenney and in last week’s Home section of The New York Times. The tireless Ms. Madden is celebrating her 30th year in business next Wednesday at a party at the Gramercy Park Hotel in their oh-so-chic rooftop garden. (Massive goodie bag alert!) Cathie Black, Ellen Levine, Random House’s Chip Gibson and jazz man Steve Tyrell are on the guest list. “It’s all gone by so fast!” says Chris, who started out as a publicist for Random House before breaking out on her own and parlaying her eye for all things fabulous into a far-flung empire encompassing a design business (Oprah, Katie Couric and Toni Morrison have been clients), 16 books, an eight-year run on HGTV and her ever-expanding home furnishings line. Chris has always been a believer that those who do well should do good as well and as such, spent much of last spring in Mississippi where she donated the contents of her Vermont warehouse filled with furniture to help survivors of the Hurricane Katrina rebuild their homes.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Lynn Scherr, Esther Newberg, Faye Wattleton (who left her trench coat on during lunch) and Anna Quinlan.

2. Peter Brown & Jonathan Alter.

3. Ed Rollins and a distinguished looking gent…

4. Jay Cross and Steve Greenberg.

5. A smiling (!?) Barry Diller with an unidentified guest. We’re intrigued by the fact that no one ever seems to know the name of the taciturn Mr. Diller’s lunch guests…

6. Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Gerry Imber and pals.

7. We’re not sure and neither was anyone else…

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Lunch At Michael’s: The Dog Days Are Here!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The morning monsoon that shut down the city for several hours kept all but the true diehards away today at 55th & Fifth. Even general manager Steve Millington was kept from his post due to a weather-related nanny nightmare (we can relate). Others, like our pal Jaqui Lividini, arrived breathless due to today’s stifling heat and annoying lack of cabs. The fashion maven recovered her cool before being joined by Teen Vogue‘s Amy Astley, a newly minted member of the International Best Dressed List. (Check out the full list of fab fashionistas — including Posh & Becks and the always dreamy George Clooney in Vanity Fair‘s gigantic September issue). Memo to Mike Bloomberg: Why don’t you stop waging your will-he-or-won’t he run for president, declare August a citywide holiday and put us all out of our misery?’

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Four suits — one, we’re told was a Fox News bigwig (obviously someone else was charged with bailing out the drenched mothership) — tucking into cobb salads.

2. The soul of Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus — looking dapper in a blue blazer — dining with two guests.

3. Jack Myers and two jacketed gents.

4. Portfolio’s David Carey

5. Bill Siegal(Herb’s son).

6. Allen & Co.’s John Josephson with a table full of young turks and one mystery gal.

7. The man himself, Michael McCarty, dishing with John Hilton. We’re assuming he’s part of that Hilton clan. I wanted to ask how Paris was doing since being sprung from the slammer but I just couldn’t bring myself to utter her name in public …

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Rita Jamais, the former owner of La Caravelle.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Forget Michael Caine — It’s Star Jones!

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgImagine our disappointment when we heard that had we chosen to come by on Monday, we’d have been sipping Bloody Marys at the bar with Claire Danes and Natasha Richardson. Luckily, there were enough faces in today’s crowd from filmdom, fashion and, of course, publishing to satisfy our appetite for observing bold face names in action.

While we were intrigued to spot Michael Caine and Vernon Jordan at opposite ends of the dining room, we were most interested to catch up with Star Jones who slipped in after most of the crowd had begun tucking into their Cobb salads. The svelte and smiling Star told lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane that she’s thrilled about her yet to be titled Court TV show set to debut on August 20th. “They’re calling it The Star Jones Project for now,” she said over her lunch of soft-shelled crab. “I think they want to announce the name at TCA.” Was it really just a little under a year ago that Star’s tumultuous departure from The View was Barbara Walters‘ biggest problem? No matter. That’s all ancient history now anyway, says this fall’s comeback kid who plans to spend her summer vacation jetting between Europe and the Hamptons: “This is a joyous time in my life.” See, there really are happy endings.

Here’s a rundown of the crowd:

Table 1. Howard Rubenstein and Betsy Perry presiding over a table full of gents in suits and grand dames in pearls.

2. Star Jones and her friend David (whose last name we didn’t quite catch).

3. Jonathan Tisch, Wayne Tabach and a bespectacled gentleman we didn’t recognize …

4. Two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine (That’s Sir Michael to you) and, we’re told, Bobby Zarem‘s brother (?). Quick: For which films did this tireless thespian nab his little gold men? Answer: Cider House Rules in 1999 and Hannah And Her Sisters in 1986. According to Michael (McCarty, who owns the joint), Caine and his wife have dined here “hundreds of times” (we’ve just never seen them on our weekly Wednesday visits) and “usually prefer the Garden Room.” So take that all you wannabes — it’s not Siberia, it’s chic!

5. Peter Brown and guest.

6. Terry Allen Kramer, who passed the time waiting for fellow diners Margo McNabb and Claire Mercuri by checking her cell phone.

7. Dave Zinczenko with The Waverly Inn’s chef John DeLucie. The Men’s Health honcho, who has become something of a cheerleader for Graydon Carter‘s downtown hotspot, introduced John to Michael and general manager Steve Millington. The culinary confab kicked off a nonstop food fest that left DeLucie and Zinczenko begging for mercy. After sampling everything from salmon carpaccio to foie gras to duck, the duo joked that today’s meal was a marked departure from The Abs Diet. “It’s more like the three hour workout meal,” said Dave.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Kate White & Her Lethal Blondes

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgAfter the last few relatively uneventful Wednesdays, we were thrilled to see the dining buzzing with excitement when we arrived this afternoon. Our favorite Cosmo gal Kate White was celebrating the publication of her latest book, Lethally Blonde, with a ladies lunch at Table One comprised of an intriguing mix of flaxen-haired gals. The festivities spilled out into the main dining room causing quite the hubbub until Steve Millington corralled the crowd and the gals settled down to tuck into their salads. White’s power peroxide set: Kim Cattrall (who was overheard telling a reporter she “hasn’t heard anything new” about a possible Sex And The City movie), Hilary (Mrs. Bryant) Gumbel, Cecile Richards (president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the late Texas governor, Ann), Linda Fairstein, Sarah Greenberg of Lionsgate Films and Joan Carl, president of D. Porthault (which would explain the lovely little packages at each place setting).

The View‘s Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who looked glowing in her 15th week of pregnancy (“It’s the self-tanner”) told lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane that she was there because she was “in awe” of Ms. White, adding, “Cosmo and The View have a lot in common. They both cover all the things women really care about. Both have also been subject to others trying to duplicate their successful formulas but they’re both true originals!” Fresh off yet another dust-up on this morning’s show with Rosie O’Donnell, Hasselbeck professed to know nothing about plans to replace her departing co-host. “I never know anything.” But, she admitted, “I’m sure there’s some master plan.” When asked to characterize her contentious relationship with O’Donnell, Hasselbeck gamely replied: “We’re friends. We’re in different places philosophically. When you feel deeply about issues, things get heated. Some times I wish I didn’t care as much as I do.”

Also in attendance: Lesley Stahl (who slipped in after things had settled down) and the one true head-scratcher of the group: Carolyn Kepcher, who, you might recall, served as Donald Trump‘s hatchet woman on The Apprentice until he banished her from the boardroom. We’re guessing Ms. Kepcher enjoyed the news that the once popular reality show was left off NBC’s new fall schedule.

Here’s the rundown on the rest of today’s crowd:

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Lunch at Michael’s: Tina Brown’s Bathroom Promise

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We were expecting a celeb sighting or two since it’s Upfront time — the week the networks trot out their overpaid and underfed stars to shill for their supper — but alas, there were no signs of McDreamy or Matthew Fox anywhere. (Thankfully, we didn’t see any cavemen either.) Disappointed, we settled in at our regular perch at the bar to survey the suits and check out the regulars when our pal publicity maven Leslie Stevens appeared on the scene. A scheduling snafu left Leslie solo, so she gamely pulled up a stool and chatted up lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane. The tireless pitchwoman told us she only had time for a quick bite because she was en route to D.C. to attend the launch party of the Onion Express, a joint venture between “America’s Finest News Source” — The Onion — and The Washington Post. Tonight’s soiree is expected to draw the likes of Christopher Hitchens (just don’t get him started talking about religion) and Christopher Buckley as well as “a bunch of politicos.” See, there really is life outside of New York.

Here’s a rundown on the rest:

Table 1. Glamour‘s Cindi Leive, Allure‘s Linda Wells, Playboy‘s Chris Napolitano and a few folks we didn’t recognize having their monthly “editor’s lunch.”

2. Ben Silverman and guests. The ubiquitous Ms. Stevens is throwing a party for the reality show guru (The Biggest Loser, The Restaurant) at the new karaoke joint Spotlight Live (we hear J.Lo has been by) on Thursday night for the crowd in town for the Upfronts. Sorry, by invite only …

3. Terry Allen Kramer and a table full of guests. (We’re told Mayor Joe Armstrong is not MIA, but simply enjoying a trip across the pond to London. Hurry back!)

4. Norman Pearlstine, sporting a military-looking buzz cut, with two equally close-cropped young gents.

5. Arnold Scassi and Parker Ladd. After witnessing Mr. Ladd take a call at the bar we’re amused to report he might be the only adult male in New York City that doesn’t own a cell phone.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Post-Hasselhoff, All Business

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We’re guessing many of our favorite media celebrity regulars have headed south with their families for spring break or to rev up from the endless winter doldrums that have left us feeling a bit grumpy. Today, the tables were packed with a cross section of Prada and Gucci suits, and the mood was definitely all business. Luckily, we got our boldface name fix Tuesday when lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane broke bread with fashion maven Jaqui Lividini and the bustling dining room brimming with the usually eclectic mix of celebs. We spotted Marlo Thomas, Danny DeVito, Ron Perelman and Tommy Mottola in the mix. Some of the staffers were still buzzing about last week’s visit from David Hasselhoff, who most recently headlined a Las Vegas production of The Producers. Seems “The Hoff” made quite an impression. Says one fan of the tireless showman: “He looks great! If he’s had surgery you can’t tell — and believe me I’ve seen some scary ones in here. The guy is amazing!”

Here’s a rundown of today’s menu:

1. “Men Who Lunch”: BusinessWeek‘s Jon Fine (husband to our own mediabistro.com founder and CEO Laurel Touby), Radar editor Maer Roshan ABC News communications VP Jeff Schneider, Peter Himler, Arnold Huberman, Sirius Satellite Radio pr czar Patrick Reilly, Radar‘s Jeff Bercovici and Magazine Publishers of America’s Howard Polskin.

2. Casual chic: a tweedy Luke Janklow. The uber-agent was lunching with an unidentified jeans-clad beauty.

3. Univision’s Maryann Bannikarim and three guests.

4. Producer Jonathan Hart (Chicago) and four well-dressed gents.

5. Michael Fuchs and a bespectacled fellow who passed the time waiting for him by reading Variety.

6. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive and guests.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Gay Talese, John Huey and The Guys

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgThe scene at 55th and Fifth resembled something of a men’s club today where the power suits — and ties — ruled. Media machers including Time Inc.’s editor-in-chief John Huey, ad man Jerry Della Femina and the sartorially splendid Gay Talese (who got our attention when he removed his coat and fedora to reveal an eye-catching rust velvet blazer, coordinating vest and yellow tie) broke bread with their equally powerful pals in a dining room. It should be noted, though, that Mr. Huey evened things out a bit by lunching with power gals Martha Nelson of The People Group and “People’s” style director Susan Kaufman. Hope to see more of our favorite gals (Barbara and Diane, where are you?) next week.

We’re were thrilled by how chatty the crowd was today. We made the acquaintance of tech scribe Tucker Hall, who was seated a few stools down from us at the bar, when we overheard him telling a pal that “There’s some blog on mediabistro that writes about the lunch crowd.” His lunch date, Harper Collins editor Peter Hubbard, made our day when he told us that “Lunch” is a must-read around the office. Thanks guys!!

Here’s who we spotted today:

1. Super spin meister Stu Zakim and a host of media movers and shakers who must have had a lot to talk about between bites of their burgers and fries including Business Week‘s Jon Fine (who happens to be the husband of our founder and CEO Laurel Touby), Radarmagazine.com’s Jeff Bercovici, ABC’s Jeffrey Schneider and Patrick Reilly of SIRIUS.

2. Mr. Huey with Ms. Nelson and Ms. Kaufman, who said she was dazzled by divorcee’s Reese Witherspoon‘s (she’s recently spilt from hubby Ryan Phillippe) startlingly young, hip appearance on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. We agree!

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong — fresh off jury duty — with publishing legend Gay Talese and Newsweek‘s new number two man, Dan Klaidman. The newly minted managing editor comes from the magazine’s Washington, D.C. bureau.

4. Peter Brown & guest.

5. Designer Arnold Scassi, Parker Ladd and an unidentified friend.

6. Debbie Fine and Estee Lauder’s vice president of global communications, Sally Susman.

7. Ed Adler.

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Alice Mason.

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