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Posts Tagged ‘Thia Breen’

All in the Family with Joe Kernen & A Dark Shadows Star is Reborn

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It was a bustling scene at Michael’s today as the power lunch crowd  crammed in some last minute networking before their late summer vacations. In the mix: talking heads (Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin), hot shot editors (David Zinczenko, Joanna Coles), and beauty gurus (Estee Lauder’s John Demsey and Thia Breen at separate tables).

I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott who I met years ago while working on a piece for TV Guide about the ongoing appeal of the ’60s Gothic soap, Dark Shadows. Long before Twilight, Kathryn starred as the doomed lady love of vampire Barnabas Collins. Like its eternal leading man, Dark Shadows just won’t die. Tim Burton, one of the show’s most fervent fans, is currently shooting a big screen version starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas and scheduled for a May 2012 release. Kathryn just returned from London where she shot a cameo role for the film. I was dying to get her take on how Johnny is sinking his fangs into the role, but Kathryn demurred, “I’ve been sworn to secrecy!”

We had plenty to talk about anyway. Kathryn’s  latest novel, Dark Passages (Pomegranate Press) is a love letter to Dark Shadows and is already getting rave reviews. Set in the swinging ’60s, it tells the tale of an actress moonlighting as a Playboy bunny who just happens to be vampire and is determined to make it in New York City without her supernatural powers. While working on the cult hit Dark Passages, she meets her nemesis, a 300-year-old witch. ”Anyone who, as a kid, ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows will love it,” Kathryn told me. (We’re starting it tonight.) On the 17th of this month, she’ll be at Barnes & Noble at 86th and Lexington signing copies. Then, on August 19 through the 21, she’ll join several of the original cast members at the annual Dark Shadows festival at the Brooklyn Marriott.

Kathryn is one author who has always taken that old chestnut ‘write what you know’ to heart.  Having worked as a Playboy bunny herself in the ’60s, she interviewed over 250 former bunnies, including Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry, for her 1999 release The Bunny Years. The book was recently acquired by Imagine Television for potential use in upcoming episodes of The Playboy Club premiering this fall on NBC. With renewed interest in the subject, Simon & Schuster is releasing an updated edition next month with a new forward written by none other than Hugh Hefner.

While Kathryn is over the moon about The Bunny Years getting a new lease on life, she is livid with one former bunny who worked with her back in the day. None other than Gloria Steinem was part of a class of seven women who trained at The Playboy Club at the same time — but Gloria’s stint was a ruse so she could write a scathing expose on the women and the club. While she didn’t identify any of the women by name, she used stories they’d shared thinking they were talking to a friend. “What kind of feminism is it when you put down the women you work with?” asked Kathryn. “All of us were just as ambitious. She knew I was a scholarship student trying to build a career in acting.” What burns Kathryn the most is that Gloria is still bad mouthing the bunnies. “I’m in warrior mode,” she told me, “because this 46 year-old rant is tiresome.” Ms. Steinem, I think you’ve met your match.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne, a Penske board member, presiding over their monthly lunch. On the guest list:  Activate’s co-founder and managing director, Michael J. WolfKatherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment; Ritu Trivedi of Mindshare Interactive; Tribeca Enterprise”s Jon Patricof; Estee Lauder group president John Demsey; WWD‘s AmyWicks; J. Walter Thompson CEO Bob Jeffrey; and Penske Media president Aly Racer; and the company’s head of strategy and operations, Will Lee.

2. Marie Claire’s publisher Nancy Cardone and editor Joanna Coles (Loved that Alexander McQueen dress!) with Estee Lauder’s Thia Breen.

3. Discovery ID’s head honcho Henry Schleiff. Henry tells me last night’s premiere of Big Law starring former boxer Eric Esch who returns to his hometown of Jasper, Alabama as ‘Deputy Butterbean’ to exact some big justice was “a knockout.”

4. CNBC’s Squawk Box host Joe Kernen with  his lovely wife and adorable daughter, Blake (co-author of Your Teacher Said What? with her dad). The family stopped in for a quick bite before catching today’s matinee performance of Wicked.

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Lunch: Hoda Kotb & Bravo’s Housewives Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

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

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

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

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

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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

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

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

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

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Lunch: Barry Diller (on a Vespa!), Harvey Weinstein & Judge Judy

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Maybe it was because it finally stopped raining for five minutes, but the power-lunchers were out in force today at Michael’s. There was a crowd gathering in the lounge before noon waiting for tables. Of course, most of the regulars breezed in at their appointed hours, making sure they had plenty of time for glad-handing before settling in for some serious dish. Harvey Weinstein and Barry Diller did their fair share of hand shaking before getting down to business at separate tables.

I was lunching today with public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden and Tom O’Brien, president and general manager of WNBC. Tom had plenty to talk about, since these days it seems you can’t go anywhere without an NBC star beaming out from a TV set in a growing number of spots. Look for that to continue, says Tom. With the newscasts on WNBC-TV, the fledgling lifestyle channel New York Nonstop (now in 5 million homes), NBCNewYork.com and Taxi TV (in 5,500 cabs and growing), “We have the ability to get our content out across multiple platforms and reach people at any time of the day,” says Tom. Now the network has gone underground with their latest digital out-of-home effort, NBC in Transit, with video of news and NBC Universal entertainment programming broadcast on PATH trains between NYC and New Jersey. “We’re excited about this new way to reach an audience who isn’t waiting for news. It’s another great way for keeping people informed.” Coming soon: more televisions on the platform in Newark. Stay tuned…

I told Tom I have a particular soft spot for those adorable spots with Jimmy Fallon and that cuddly bear cub that seem to be playing in every taxi I’m in. “He’s doing very well,” reports Tom, who says Conan O’Brien‘s new show is set to debut June 1 and there will be an announcement about Jay Leno‘s new primetime show in two weeks. We’re all ears…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman

2. My new pal Susan Silver, Abby Ellin of The New York Times and Judy Twersky

3. Andrew Stein and a mystery gent…

4. Barry Diller and an unidentified young fellow. Here’s a fun fact: Barry is a mogul on the move. I happened to catch him suiting up for a quick getaway after lunch as he slipped into a windbreaker and donned a helmet and sunglasses before revving up his Vespa and disappearing into midtown traffic.

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