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Posts Tagged ‘Walter Sabo’

Merlin Media Moves Closer to Potential WRXP Flip, Names Walter Sabo COO

Since buying a trio of Emmis radio stations last week, including New York’s WRXP, Randy Michaels has kept adding important parts to its upper management at newly formed Merlin Media.

Today, the fledgling company named Walter Sabo (left) as chief operating officer. Sabo, a former executive at ABC Radio, RKO Radio, and NBC’s FM station group, founded his New York-based Sabo Media consultancy in 1984.

“Success requires building brands that are unique, desirable and difficult to duplicate. Walter has the vision, intelligence, leadership skills, and experience to move Merlin beyond current convention and to take advantage of emerging media opportunities. It also means attracting special, talented people, and Walter knows how to do that,” said Michaels.

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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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Renee Fleming, Harold Ford Jr & The Social Swells

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was jammed packed this afternoon with plenty of suits, swells and the requisite random boldface names (Renee Fleming! Harold Ford Jr!). While the scene was light on expense account-fueled editors (who are, no doubt, still recovering from the fabulosity of Fashion Week), it looked as if there were plenty of deals being struck between bites. Could it be that those ‘experts’ who are trying to convince us that the recession is over are right? We’re taking a wait and see attitude on that one.

I was joined today by Dr. Phillip Romero who recently published two books, The Art Imperative: The Secret Power of Art and Phantom Stress: Brain Training to Master Relationship Stress. Talk about timely! Phil, who has been in private practice for over 25 years counseling individuals, families and couples on how to deal with stress, was the perfect person to weigh in on our collective cultural anxiety. “We are in unchartered territory,” he told me. “Never before has there been a bigger demand for human creativity as a means of adapting to change. Not since the Renaissance has there been a stronger need for a major reorganization of the species.”

But all is not lost. “We are living in an age of transformation,” says Phil who believes art will, as it has for centuries, play a pivotal role in the new emerging “global humanism” of the future. No less than Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson applauds Phil’s findings from The Art Imperative. In Phantom Stress, Phil writes about how we can tap into “the miraculous, resilient nature of our bodies” to reconnect to what matters most. His advice to everyone who is feeling unhinged by the uncertainty of ‘the new normal’: “Reflect and connect with your personal truth and adapt in a creative way.” So put down that pint of Haagen Dazs and write your memoirs!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Terry Allen Kramer, Margo McNabb Nederlander and a table full of well-heeled gals.

2. Uber agent Esther Newberg

3. Discovery ID honcho Henry Schleiff

4. Peter Brown, Renee Fleming, sporting some Medusa-like tresses, and two mystery gents.

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Lunch: TV Titans, Ivana Trump, & Devo!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You never know who you’re going to meet on any given Wednesday at Michael’s. I’ve chatted with former presidents, Oscar winners, and tabloid targets who have made the usually unflappable crowd turn and stare, but it’s those unexpected, below the radar moments that are often the most fun. When GM Steve Millington introduced me to Jerry Casale of Devo, one of my favorite ’80s bands, I was delighted. Just last week, I’d just seen Pearl Jam’s cover of the group’s famous anthem, “Whip It,” on YouTube where they wore copies of those infamous yellow jumpsuits and red flowerpot hats. I asked Jerry if he’d known about the act in advance. “No, and I wished they’d told me,” he joked. “I would have been able to tell them about the hard hat holders we wore to keep our hats in place. They had to settle for those silly elastic straps under their chins.” Still, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, says Jerry. “I’ve gotten so many calls since it wound up in Rolling Stone and gone viral. It’s a lot of fun.”

Larry Kramer joined me for lunch today and was excited to tell me all about his upcoming book, Talespin, which was bought by HarperCollins earlier this fall (Freddie Friedman agented the deal). In it, Larry tackles the idea of how all businesses are grappling with “the recreation of storytelling” from publishing to retailing. The game has changed, says Larry, especially in media. He takes “the media guys” to task for “protecting the business model instead of the business.” Besides getting top executives from here and abroad to weigh in (in his reporting Larry discovered Europe was way ahead of the curve in adapting to a changing multi-platform world) — the book is a sum total of Larry’s experience in “the old and new worlds of media.” In addition to his two decades as a reporter and editor for top papers including The Washington Postand the San Francisco Examiner, Larry founded MarketWatch in 1997 and has helmed CBS Digital Media. These days, he’s consulting for a cross section of media ventures including Discovery Networks and The Weather Channel. In January, Larry will begin teaching a graduate level course at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School where some of the lectures will be Skyped in and students will be “embedded” into companies to study their strategies first hand.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cosmo editrix Kate White with a table full of gals we didn’t get to meet.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, uber agent Ed Victor and Don Epstein of Greater Talent Network.

4. Author Ed Klein and Owen Laster

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Lunch: Power Blondes Rule! Katie Couric, Tina Brown and Barbara Walters Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Today at Michael’s, they were dishing like it was 2007. As if the head-spinning assortment of media alpha gals (Katie! Tina! Barbara!) wasn’t enough to keep us busy, the dining room, bar and lounge was jam-packed with mavens and moguls of all stripes who barely made time to peck at their Cobb salads between all the table-hopping. It was hard to keep up! I made my rounds in the dining room to check in with the regulars, and all anyone wanted to know was ‘Who else is here today?’ (I’ve always thought this place was just like a high school cafeteria, but with better clothes.) Plenty of heads turned when Katie Couric breezed in sporting a chic, shorter ‘do and a pretty polka dot summer dress. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “She looks 35!” We have to agree. I caught Katie on her way to her table just long enough to ask what she has planned for her summer vacation next month. No trips to Wasilla for the CBS News’ anchor: “I’m going to the beach with my daughters to enjoy my time with them before Ellie goes off to college!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Katie Couric, Lifetime’s CEO Andrea Wong, Deborah Roberts, Sherrie Westin and Cynthia McFadden

2. Jeanine Pirro with publicist Adam Schiff and an unidentified bespectacled gal. I hadn’t talked to Jeanine since I profiled her for Westchester magazine last fall on the eve of the premiere of her show, Judge Jeanine. With one season under her robe, Jeanine is thrilled — “We’re in syndication now!” Life must be pretty good for the former Westchester DA — she was tan and dressed to the nines, toting a gorgeous alligator bag.

3. The ladies who lunch: Somers Farkas (in Pucci) with three other social swans

4. Barbara Walters and Diana Taylor

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Lunch: Valerie Bertinelli Weighs In

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As much as we love our bird’s eye perch from the bar, it’s always a treat when we’re invited to dine in the grown up section — especially when the scene is as head-spinning as it was today. Hallmark Channel’s senior vice president Jen Geisser and her power publicist Jaime Saberito made room for me at the table at a luncheon hosted by their fearless leader the consummate showman Henry Schleiff and attended by a tasty stew of bold-faced names and top executives from UNICEF that made for one interesting afternoon of Cobb salads and conversation. Henry, newly ensconced on UNICEF’s board, brought the group to together to kick off the TAP project during ‘World Water Week’ (March 16-22). The initiative was created to raise funds and awareness by asking NYC diners at select eateries around town to forego their Fiji water for good old NYC tap water and donate what they would have spent on it to help fund clean water for kids around the world. And, yes, Michael’s is participating.

The reigning queen of the celebrity diet wars Valerie Bertinelli (A 40-pound weight loss thanks to Jenny Craig!) was the guest of honor (arriving with her boyfriend Tom Vitale) having made one movie for the network with another one in the works — Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith (Catchy title!). The still adorable actress and newly minted best-selling author was busy signing books for everyone (Henry thinks of everything!) but still made time to chat with me. Her big news — her book, Losing It — And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at Time will debut at No. 1 on this week’s New York Times‘ list. “I’m so thrilled — it’s on my son’s 17th birthday and I dedicated the book to him,” she says. “I couldn’t be more blessed.” Val (we’re on a first name basis now) also confided that she’s hot on starting another book and already has an idea that’s bound to strike a chord. “I’d like to write something like Divorce & Children: Love Your Child More Than You Hate Your Ex. The list is long when one considers who might benefit from such a tome. For now, at least, it appears Silda Spitzer won’t be needing it but we’re not closing the book on that one just yet.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The white wine was flowing in celebration of Linda Fairstein‘s latest book, Killer Heat with a table full of gals that know a little something about the subject. In attendance: Cosmo editrix Kate White, super agent Esther Newberg, former Law & Order SVU star Stephanie March, Lesley Stahl (I promise to keep my eye out for that 60 Minutes watch!) and Cynthia Lufkin (Congrats on being named The American Cancer Society’s Mother of the Year!)

2. Bobby Zarem and a Jake Gyllenhaal doppelganger.

3. Mayor Joe Armstrong who has been traveling far and wide hard at work on his upcoming book with some lovely looking ladies. Welcome back Joe, we missed you!

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Lunch At Michael’s: Judy Collins Stops By

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Last week we developed some serious whiplash craning around to keep up with the A-listers that table hopped at lunch. Today’s crowd was much more low key with a smattering of regulars dotting a somewhat unfamiliar landscape consisting of business types and the occasional captain of industry who might dazzle in the boardroom but didn’t make for the star gazing we’ve come to expect at 55th & Fifth. After checking in with a few of my favorite folks, I settled into my regular perch at the bar and made the acquaintance of fellow diners Michael and Linda Warfield who were in visiting from California. The Warfields, bemoaning the lack of famous faces they usually see on their regular trips, kept me entertained by sharing stories of Michael’s days as a producer of mall extravaganzas where television stars would meet and greet their devoted fans. Michael gave me the skinny on his favorites (The Dating Game‘s Jim Lange and Dynasty‘s Emma Samms — remember them?) and those who were, shall we say, a bit too high maintenance. (My lips are sealed). Just when I thought this week would mark a first — a celeb-free Wednesday! — I caught a glimpse of Judy Collins swaddled up in a pink pashmina chatting with a snowy haired gent at the door when I was on my way out. Here’s hoping the joint is jumping once again next week.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The Imber gang — or at least most of them — Dr. Gerry Imber, Michael Kramer and Jerry Della Femina. Where was Jeff Greenfield?

2. Jonathan Wald.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Men’s Health honcho Dave Zinczenko. The tireless Mr. Z’s new book Eat This, Not That co-authored by Matt Goulding (published by Rodale, of course!) is a fascinating read for those of us (you know who you are) who delude ourselves into thinking as we toast the holidays with that festive holiday Starbucks — “This isn’t that bad.” Reality check: a Venti White Hot Chocolate with whole milk is a whopping 640 calories and 28 grams of fat! And don’t even think of having that cinnamon chip scone — it’s got 490 calories and 25 grams of fat!! The compulsively readable tome (that smartly fits into a tote) does offer healthier alternatives. Young Dave will be on Today tomorrow morning talking all about it …

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Lunch at Michael’s: Presidential Politics & Brian Grazer

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The media mavens, captains of industry and money men were out in full force today where a heaping helping of presidential politics were on the menu. Mayor Joe Armstrong, fresh off his latest trip to Paul Newman‘s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp hosted one of his legendary lunches where his guests were Robert Draper, GQ writer and author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush (Free Press), political pundit Jonathan Alter (who deconstructed FDR’s first 100 days in his book, The Defining Moment) and Joan Ganz Cooney. “There are some explosive things in Robert’s book!” says Joe. No doubt. On the other side of the aisle, I learned a fun fact about Estee Lauder’s Sally Susman who stopped to chat with me at the bar. Before she became a beauty bigwig she worked at the White House. Which one? I asked. “The only one,” she quipped. “The Clinton White House!” Of course. Coincidently, Sally was lunching with another Clinton alum, Internet exec. Margo Spiritus, who now toils as Pingg Interactive’s vice president of marketing. Turns out 55th & Fifth is a must-stop on the campaign trial. Are you listening Hillary & Barack?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mayor Joe Armstrong and the gang.

2. Gerry Byrne.

3. Terry Allen Kramer and her son, who, we hear, made the scene at the US Open this weekend.

4. Viacom’s Philippe Dauman.

5. 60 MinutesSteve Croft, Brian Grazer (thanks to his distinctive ‘do we spotted him immediately) and a fetching mystery gal. We wanted to ask Brian about the upcoming season of 24 which, we’re told, has Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) matching wits with the first female president. But since he kept his back to the room throughout lunch, we abstained.

6. Luke Janklow (loved the charming photos of your family at home in this month’s Vogue!), Michael Soloman and designer Liz Lange.

7. An exec. from Satellite Radio XM, so we’re told…

8. George Leeds and Estee Lauder’s Lew Rice.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Ken Sunshine: Lindsay’s Woes Are ‘Beyond PR Issues’

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We’ve truly hit the dog days of summer when there isn’t one Fiji water sipping-celeb in sight come high noon at 55th & Fifth. Luckily, that didn’t mean there was a shortage of Tinseltown talk in the dining room. The topic du jour — what else? — Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest on suspicion of DUI. (For those two people who’ve been on the moon, it’s the starlet’s second bust in three months and comes on the heels of her recent 45-day stay at Promises and her big show of wearing an ankle bracelet that was supposedly programmed to detect any alcohol in her system). “If I were her publicist,” sighed one media maven, “I’d have my head in the oven.” Uber publicist Ken Sunshine, who represents one-time rehabber Ben Affleck, told me he’d received “tons of calls” from outlets near and far to weigh in on Lohan’s dire straits and said, “Her problems are beyond PR issues.” The Today Show‘s Marc Victor says Lohan’s relapse is sure to focus attention on the country club-like atmosphere of facilities that cater to coddled celebs: “That’s certainly something that will be looked at now.” The general consensus among today’s crowd is that this story has gone from tabloid train wreck to a truly tragic tale. “She needs compassion,” said Lisa Sharkey, Harper Collins’ senior vice president and director of creative development who, together with the house’s executive editor, Maureen O’Brien, was lunching with Sunshine. No doubt that’s exactly what the editors of Us Weekly, In Touch and TMZ.com are thinking …

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

1. Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Gerald Imber and another gentleman we didn’t recognize.

2. Peter Brown

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, Today‘s Marc Victor and Men’s Health editor Dave Zinczenko. Our pal Dave was overheard thanking Esquire‘s David Granger for putting a call into none other than George Clooney inviting him to speak at the upcoming American Magazine Conference about his work in Darfur. (Politicians are so last year!) To entice the Oscar winner, seems plans are in the works to see if there’s a way to “incentive-ize” publishers into offering ad space to help promote Clooney’s off-screen endeavor.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Peggy Siegal: ‘I Want It Now’

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgPerhaps it was the schizophrenic weather that kept most of the familiar faces and celebrity diners away. It was a pretty subdued crowd at 55th & Fifth today. No big stars of stage, screen and nary an editor in sight. (Okay, Kathie Lee Gifford was there.) Since there wasn’t much star gazing to do, lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane was left with plenty of time to chat with some regulars and learned this fun fact from a longtime staffer who managed to satisfy our celeb craving for the day: Did you know that actress Gretchen Mol (last seen in The Notorious Bettie Page) once worked as the coat check girl? Legend has it that CAA’s George Lane (who was dining today with Jean Doumanian) discovered the one time Vanity Fair cover girl on one of his visits to the restaurant. It got us thinking — perhaps our salad nicoise was served up today by a future Oscar winner. Food for thought …

The rundown:

1. The early shift: Hallmark TV president Henry Schleiff and CNN honcho Jim Walton (who picked up the check). Round two: Peggy Siegal who did her usual round of glad-handing before settling in with two colleagues — but not before telling the staff: “We have to order now!” The hyper-busy trio spent much of the meal on their phones talking to other folks. Oh, the pressure!

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