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Posts Tagged ‘Trica Jean-Baptiste’

Dishing with a Downton Abbey Star

LunchAtMichaelsThere are Michael’s lunches and then there are Michael’s lunches. Over the course of all the years I’ve been chronicling the scene on Wednesdays at 55th and Fifth for this column, I’ve had plenty of occasion to dine and dish with the famous and infamous, strivers and stars and more than my fair share of pop cultural icons. When I think about what I love most about this gig, I have to paraphrase Forrest Gump: Each Wednesday at Michael’s is like a box of (very expensive) chocolates because you never know what you’re going to get. Today, I got the chance to spend a delightful few hours with Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore, the blustery and big-hearted cook on Downton Abbey, my absolute favorite television show. As anyone who follows my posts on Facebook and minute-by-minute recaps for XFinity knows, I am beyond obsessed with the PBS hit, so I was more than a little excited about the chance to have a lengthy sitdown with one of my favorite actors of the series. And Lesley didn’t disappoint.

Diane Clehane and Lesley Nicol

Diane Clehane and Lesley Nicol

She arrived — and looked quite chic in leather pants and high heel boots! — right on the dot of 12:15 for our lunch and promptly charmed everyone in the place, telling GM Steve Millington the dining room was “gorgeous” and graciously chatting with a few fans who stopped by the table to say their hellos. As she looked around the mercifully subdued dining room, I explained that Michael’s was the place to be for all sorts of movers and shakers and, of course, the random celebrity. “Joan Collins was here a few weeks ago,” I told her searching my mental Rolodex for the name of a British star I could mention. “Probably ate a few lettuce leaves,” said Lesley. I knew I’d love her.

We quickly dispensed with ordering (Dover sole for two) and settled in for our chat — and after five minutes I felt as if I’d known her forever. Lesley told me she was in town for a flurry of meetings with her new New York agents at Bauman Redanty & Shaul, who she’d hadn’t yet met, and with casting director Avy Kaufman. Her PR rep, Andrew Freedman, who moved his firm from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago, had managed to arrange our lunch between all these big doings.  She’d also found time to take in a Brooklyn production of Julius Caesar, whose all-female cast included her good friend Susan Brown as Casca. But, she confided, she was really looking forward to tonight’s after-party for Thor on the off chance she’d get to meet her celeb crush, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who appears in the film. “He is just gorgeous,” she said as she speared a Brussels sprout, “If he’s there, I’ll probably be too tongue tied. I’ll just drop down and die.”
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Joanna Coles, Wendy Williams and the Inside Story on the New JFK Book

LunchAtMichaelsForget about having to dig out a coat for the first time this season to ward off this morning’s chilly temps, the real sign of fall here is that the power lunch scene is back in full swing at Michael’s. Today the dining room was full of famous faces (Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts at separate tables, Wendy Williams, Star Jones); entertainment bigwigs (Tad Smith, Nick Verbitsky); social swans (Margo Nederlander and pals); and more spinmeisters than there are Kardashian tabloid covers on any given week. You get the picture.

Fall also means the launch of a plethora of “important” titles and made-for-gift-giving books. I was joined today by Steve Koepp, editorial director of Time Home Entertainment, the book publishing division of Time Inc., who gave me the inside story on the company’s impressive and incredibly diverse fall list. He came toting three books to illustrate the point: the just-published Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts, born out of Fortune‘s compulsively readable “40 Under 40″ annual list and featuring original interviews from headline-making top execs, including Marissa Mayer and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank; LIFE‘s bookazine The Wizard of Oz: 75 Years Along the Yellow Brick Road; and JFK: His Enduring Legacy (published by Time as both a book and bookazine).

Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane

Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane

Between bites of Cobb salad, Steve told me the book business is, in fact, thriving over at Time Inc. thanks to the company’s multi-pronged approach to reaching all different readers with books that often connect them back to those people and eras that “resonate” and seem to grow more iconic over time. This is certainly true with The Day Kennedy Died from Life, which Steve described to me as “magisterial.” Certainly sounds like it. Due out Oct. 15, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the book is full of fascinating reporting, artifacts and images from Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, there is so much material that has been thoughtfully assembled that the book comes with a magnetic closure to hold a full-size exact replica of the issue of Life published immediately after Kennedy’s assassination as well as a gatefold with the entire Zapruder film — all 486 frames — published for the first time. Reporting includes the “centerpiece” of the book: a narrative by Dick Stolley, then the magazine’s Los Angeles bureau chief who flew into Dallas after the shooting and recounts his experience covering the event that made the world stand still. Read more

A Rodale Refugee Reunion; Christine Lahti Penning a Memoir?

1003_mockup.gifAs faithful readers of this column know, in the meta media universe that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, there is no end to the way fellow diners are connected. I was joined today by Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief and chief content officer of Reader’s Digest and the author of New York Times‘ best sellers The Digest Diet and The Digest Diet Cookbook. Minutes after Liz sat down, David Zinczenko arrived and the two Rodale refugees exchanged a big hug and chatted while I made the rounds in the dining room. When things settled down, Liz explained that both she and Dave got to know each other during “The Steve Murphy Era” at Rodale when she was Prevention‘s EIC.  ”It was Dave who paved the way for so many editors to write books – including me,” she added. During those halcyon days at Rodale, Liz penned Flat Belly Diet!, which sold a million copies, and the equally successful Flat Belly Diet! 400 Calorie Fix and became an in-demand health and fitness expert on television, securing a spot as a regular guest host on The Doctors and appearing regularly on Good Morning America, which she still does for Reader’s Digest. She’s even logged two seasons on The Biggest Loser.

Liz left Prevention to helm Every Day with Rachael Ray and, in 2011, landed her “dream job” at Reader’s Digest, which has even taken her to the Oval Office. In an interview she scored with President Barack Obama, he told her that his grandfather would have been proud to see him featured in the magazine’s pages since he tore out the jokes in his issues to save for his grandson. It’s easy to see why the stunning and energetic mother of twin eight-year-old daughters, Sophia and Olivia, finds the EIC job at the iconic publication (which as a 99 percent brand awareness rating among Americans) a perfect fit. Between bites of her kale chicken Caesar salad, she enthused about the “positive, life-affirming” stories that have been RD‘s signature throughout its long history. In fact, she told me that she had plans to bring more of that signature all-American optimism into the mix by ”returning [the brand] to its roots.” But make no mistake about it — while  features like its well-loved jokes, “Quotable Quotes” and “Word Power,” are an enduring part of the mix, this is not your grandmother’s Reader’s Digest.

Liz Vaccariello and Diane Clehane

I was fascinated to learn that the magazine was the first publication to be available on Kindle and one of the first to offer readers an app. In December of last year, digital sales overtook newsstand sales, and the magazine now has over 1.2 million Facebook fans. All this bodes very well for Liz’s plans to unveil both a print and digital redesign of the magazine next year where, she says, there will be even more opportunities for readers to share and engage with the magazine and with each other.

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Lunch: Glenn Close Talks Fatal Attraction

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I love when the stars align just right on a Wednesday at Michael’s, and I get to chat with a star I’ve always admired. I hit the jackpot today when I spotted Glenn Close in the dining room. Just last week, I’d seen Glenn on Oprah Winfrey‘s Oscar special where she and Michael Douglas did their first joint television interview about Fatal Attraction. “It was great fun,” Glenn, who looked positively radiant, told me. “We’d never done that before and it brought it all back for us.”

I don’t think anyone who saw the iconic thriller (nominated for six Academy Awards, including a best actress nod for Glenn) could ever forget her portrayal of book editor Alex Forrest. While audiences pegged Glenn’s character as a home wrecker and bunny boiler, the actress, after doing tons of research for the part, saw her much differently. “I never thought of her as a villain,” she says. Instead, she viewed the character as an unstable woman driven to madness over an affair gone wrong. Audiences made it the second highest grossing film of 1987, and it became a cautionary tale for men everywhere who thought twice, at least for five minutes, about having that one night stand. “We had no idea we were going to be part of a social phenomenon,” says Glenn, who happened to be lunching with Stanley Jaffe, the film’s producer. “But it was right at the time when there was a lot of feminist anger, and we touched something that was right below the surface.” I’ll say.

I was joined today by Myrna Blyth, who after spending two decades as editor-in-chief of Ladies Home Journal and later launched MORE, is now at the helm of BettyConfidential.com. (Full disclosure: I write a parenting blog for the site). Since launching two years ago, the site, which was co-founded by Deborah Perry Piscione and Shaun Marsh, now ranks seventh in comScore’s top ten in the Beauty/Fashion/Style category and was recently nominated by MIN for editorial excellence for their Best of the Web Awards — competing with Conde Nast and The Daily Beast. “What’s great about being online is that you can talk to women about what they want to talk about when they want to talk about it,” says Myrna. While so many in print are bemoaning the decline of magazines, Myrna doesn’t have time for all the whining: “The web is great. You can’t go backwards and you can’t fight it, so you’ve got to get with it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today show co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Sunny Luciani. The gals ducked out early for their weekly Broadway outing.

2. Michael Fuchs and a blonde mystery gal

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Paula Zahn

4. Jonathan Wald and The Financial TimesChrystia Freeland. I told Jonathan that his Facebook posts on Sunday had reassured me that Cablevision and WABC-TV would, in fact, come to their senses and restore service so that their 3.1 million viewers could watch the Oscars. “It will be settled in time,” he predicted when things didn’t look good later that afternoon, and lo and behold, the show appeared 13 minutes into the telecast. Whew!

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Lunch: Charlie Rose, Dan Abrams & The Rain-Soaked Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The biblical rain kept most of the moguls and media mavens away today. So, rather than people watch, I passed the time by flipping through the latest issue of Avenue featuring an ultra-glam Katie Couric on the cover. The glossy devotes eight (!) pages to the CBS Evening News anchor and photographed her dripping in diamonds and sporting gowns by red carpet favorites Alberta Ferretti and Monique Lhuiller. Interviewed by Law & Order SVU‘s Mariska Hargitay, Katie says, “Looking sexy is not my goal when I’m at work.” Obviously, it’s a different story when she’s not sitting behind the anchor desk.

I lunched today with my longtime pal Trica Jean-Baptiste, who is the principal of her own public relations firm specializing in the travel and tourism industries. We met years ago through New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) where she served on the board. Trica brought along another NYWICI member, Ross Ellis, who works on the organization’s tireless Matrix committee. We all agreed that Brian Williams will be a fabulous host for next year’s Matrix Awards. Remember Rosie O’Donnell‘s disastrous expletive-fueled turn at hosting a few years back? We’ll never forget it — and we’ve tried. Besides working on Matrix, Ross helms the not-for-profit group, Love Our Children USA, which works to end abuse and educate families about stopping violence against children. The organization has been going strong for eleven years and Ross, who was an abused child herself, has garnered the support of an impressive roster of celebrities including Bette Midler and Elton John. Both have donated great items for the group’s online auction going on right now at charityfolks.com. (Get your bids in soon, because it ends Friday.) These days, Ross is hard at work on next year’s National Love Our Children Day which is scheduled for April 10. Mark your calendars!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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

2. Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne and Fox5′s Greg Kelly

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and HarperCollins’ publisher Jonathan Burnham. I couldn’t wait to get some dish-y morsel about Sarah Palin‘s new book Going Rogue due November 17. “What was the most surprising thing about working with her?” I asked. Jon deferred with a wry smile saying, “My lips are sealed.” I guess we’re going to have to wait for her appearance on Oprah the day before the book is released for the scoop. Here’s hoping the former governor includes a Wednesday lunch at Michael’s on her itinerary for what’s sure to be a whirlwind media tour.

4. Dan Abrams (in jeans!) and John Josephson

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Lunch: Kerry Kennedy, Monica Crowley & Barbara Walters

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Maybe it was the gorgeous pre-Memorial Day weather, but the mood in the dining room at Michael’s today was noticeably upbeat. The usual suspects were out in force, and it seems everyone has caught a whiff of the optimism in the air. A welcome change, to say the least.

I was lunching today with Linda Gaunt, who I first met during her days as EVP of communications for Giorgio Armani: She was nice enough to provide me with an original sketch of a dress Mr. Armani had designed for Princess Diana that she never got to wear. I used it in the forward of my book, Diana: The Secrets of Her Style, and it is one of my favorite images from its pages. Since launching her own firm on Madison Avenue five years ago, Linda Gaunt Communications, Linda has amassed an impressive roster of clients, including Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, Versace, and The Whitney — and she just signed Hanro and Chantelle. Her results-oriented approach to PR has done wonders for her luxury fashion and lifestyle clients. Rather than sit back and wait for what happens next, says Linda, it is a critical time for companies to get smart about public relations and go after market share with “a targeted approach that really understands what the consumer wants and give them a reason to buy.” Sounds like good advice to us…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Leslee Dart, Vanity Fair scribe Leslie Bennetts and Mary Alice Williams

2. The always dashing Henry Schleiff and Kerry Kennedy, who told me she is so excited about the online auction that’s going on now through May 28 for The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Kerry has assembled a stellar list of lots for bidding, including a meet-and-greet with Oprah Winfrey and a day during Fashion Week with Vogue‘s man about town Andre Leon Talley. The money raised goes to aid the work being done on behalf of those in need in many areas including the Gulf Coast and in Darfur.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, George Farias and Fox News’ Monica Crowley (loved the necklace!) Seems the Mayor felt like he needed some fortification since he was lunching with two staunch Republicans, so he brought along an Obama bobblehead doll (which was a dead ringer for the president, by the way) and placed him squarely on the table for support. It definitely got our attention! I was glad I stopped by to say hello to the talkative trio who was dining early because Monica had to be back at the studio and on air this afternoon. Did you know that she is a team member of the Council on Foreign Relations? Now you do … George, who is always such a gentleman, had some good dish to share: He told me Nancy Reagan will be making a rare appearance at the Capitol on June 3 for the unveiling of a statue of President Reagan. Mark your calendars!

4. Barbara Walters (all in red!) and ABC Daytime head Brian Frons dishing about one ‘hot topic’ or another, I’m sure…

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