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Posts Tagged ‘Wenda Millard’

Harvey Weinstein, Ron Meyer and the Secrets of Sheryl Sandberg’s Media Coach

LunchAtMichaelsIt was the usual mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein and Ron Meyer at Table Four), seasoned with a smattering of stylistas, social types and a generous side order of  publicists at Michael’s today. The mood was downright festive in the dining room with a birthday celebration for Shari Rollins, who was feted by hubby politico Ed Rollins and a table full of BFFs at Table One, while a group of fashion folks led by Laurie Haspel toasted the return of National Seersucker Day in the center of the room. As the festivities grew more spirited and the decibel level rose, I leaned in to hear every fascinating utterance by my lunch date, Emmy-Award-winning correspondent and media coach to the famous and fabulous, Bill McGowan.

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

Bill McGowan and Diane Clehane

As founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, Bill, who describes himself as a “total Cyrano de Bergerac,” has coached a head-spinning roster of newsmakers, captains of industry and media types to say the just right thing at the right time on air and in front of an audience when it really counts. He’s crystallized all his best advice and culled it down into a highly digestible, compulsively readable book, Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time (HarperBusiness), which was published in April. “I’ve been coaching HarperCollins authors for 12 years; now I am one,” said Bill. And, trust me, he’s got plenty of material. In the course of his 25-year career in television, Bill conducted thousands (!) of interviews and worked on ABC News’ 20/20, CBS News’ 48 Hours, Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel and Current Affair. He also worked with the “very generous” Bill O’Reilly back in the day at WCBS News as a desk assistant when Fox’s future front man gave him his first on-air shout-out. “I was 21 at the time and he was always really good to me.”

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Isabella Rossellini’s Animal Instincts

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There are lunches at Michael’s and then there are lunches at Michael’s. Today I joined Isabella Rossellini at Table One and had a fascinating conversation with her about aging, celebrity, fashion and gay geese. Stay with me … these seemingly disparate topics are all connected.  Ostensibly there to talk about Mammas, her new series for Sundance Channel which looks at the ways different creatures use their maternal instincts in nature, Isabella did get around to the topic eventually. Yet, there was no feeling of the usual PR spin to the lunch which was attended by a handful of journalists who sat enthralled by her stories of her days as an actress and model and her charming tales of growing up in Rome as the daughter of iconic actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini.

“The image I have of myself doesn’t correspond to the image people have of me,” she said. “I live on Long Island and I don’t go to fancy parties and premieres. I don’t like that aspect of celebrity. I never said, ‘When I grow up I want to be a celebrity.’” She didn’t have to.  Between her famous parents, ex-husbands (Martin Scorsese and model Jon Wiedemann), her celebrated career as a model and 14-year run as the face of Lancome before the brand dismissed her in 1996 for being ‘too old,’ and her unforgettable turn as tortured nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, she secured a permanent spot in our collective consciousness without employing any of the usual contrivances associated with modern celebrity.

Isabella Rossellini and Diane Clehane

When she showed up to join the small group of journos gathered to meet her (I was lucky enough to score the best seat in the house right next to the guest of honor!) the conversation first turned to fashion as Frazier Moore asked her who designed her understated ensemble of a wool tweed cocoon coat,  navy mandarin collared silk jacket, foulard blouse and simple slacks. She gamely removed her coat to reveal the impeccably tailored pieces designed for her by Christina Bomba in Italy. “It’s less expensive than Donna Karan or Dolce & Gabbana, and I like that I can pick the fabric and have it made just for me,” she said. Isabella told us she can’t relate to the fashion-celebrity complex which has turned the red carpet into big business. “When Mama got dressed for the Oscars, she wasn’t solicited by designers. She didn’t have a committee of business people telling her what to wear. She was loyal to one or two Italian designers, and, when they could no longer make dresses for her, the costume designers from her films created something unique.”

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Harvey Weinstein, Ali MacGraw and the Brains Behind Coffee With Tim Cook

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Where to begin? This week at 55th and Fifth, the scene in the dining room provided whiplash-inducing people watching with a tasty mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Finkelstein) with a side of social swans (Sharon Bush, Patricia Kluge, Terry Allen Kramer).

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wednesday at Michael’s without the random celebrity sighting. I was thrilled to hear that I would be sitting next to none other than Ali MacGraw today. The ageless actress, who catapulted into the pop culture hall of fame with her iconic performance (and preppy wardrobe) in the 1970 tearjerker Love Story, turned every head in the place when she arrived — which is quite a feat among this crowd. She was beyond gracious as diners (including yours truly) lined up for pictures. Several years ago, I worked with her on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where she was honored with FGI’s entertainment award for her contributions to film and fashion. When I re-introduced myself, she immediately said, “Oh, I remember that night. It was so much fun!” and then proceeded to tell me this delicious bit of gossip from the evening: “I was standing next to Bill Blass when he saw Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones come in. And Bill turned to the person next to him and said, “Finally, some real movie stars!” She giggled, clearly delighted by the memory of the snarky diss from the designer.

Diane Clehane and Coppy Holzman

Speaking of the power of celebrity, I was joined today by Charitybuzz CEO and founder Coppy Holzman who dazzled me with tales of his work with the famous and philanthropic. His company, which he founded in 2005, is currently the world’s largest online charity auction site and is the go-to partner for every famous person with a charity looking to raise serious money for their pet causes.

It all started at a backyard fundraising party for The Clinton Library in Westport, Connecticut that Coppy attended where he met President Bill Clinton and Chevy Chase. “Isn’t there a way  for you to use your experience on the Internet to raise for the library?” the host of the party asked Coppy. On the spot, he came up with the idea of auctioning off a lunch with the former president. One year later, The Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction brought in $250,000 for the library, including $80,000 paid by one bidder to lunch with Clinton and Chase. Since then, Coppy has worked with Clinton on many different initiatives. “There is no bigger celebrity in the world,” he says. The top dollar paid to spend the day with Hillary’s husband: $255,000 in an auction last year.

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Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

1003_mockup.gifMaybe it was today’s dreadful weather (Will this winter from hell ever end?) or perhaps some boldface names can’t bring themselves to leave the sunny West Coast after the Oscars, but the scene at Michael’s today was pretty much a celebrity-free zone unless you count the random sighting of Stephen Baldwin. The more low-key Baldwin made a curiously brief appearance in the dining room (he didn’t even sit down) before leaving, so we never got the chance to ask him what he thinks about brother Alec Baldwin‘s war with The New York Post, but we did try. There was, however, an interesting mix of bold faced names including police commissioner Ray Kelly and the newly crowed Miss USA Nana Meriwether who, despite leaving her sash and crown at home, looked every inch the pageant winner. Being almost six feet tall certainly helps stand out in a crowd.

I was joined today by Woman’s Day editor-in-chief Susan Spencer and Hearst executive director of public relations Mimi Crume Sterling. Having never met these smart, savvy gals before, we bonded over a talk about our daughters. Susan, like me, is mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter adopted from China; Mimi has a little girl and is about to give birth to her first son any minute (we had our fingers crossed she’d make it through lunch!). We all agreed parenthood is an unending source of material.

Susan Spencer and Diane Clehane

Since joining the magazine in February of last year from Time Inc.’s All You, Susan has made some interesting changes to the magazine. “I’ve fallen in love with the reader,” she says. This is not your mother’s Woman’s Day, although Susan is mindful of the generational connection between readers of the 75-year-old Hearst title. “Some readers have been reading the magazine for 60 years, and now their daughters and their daughters’ daughters are reading it,” she explained. When asked just who is the Woman’s Day reader, Susan told me: “She’s the ‘Average Josephine’ — the receptionist, the administrative assistant, the teacher, the nurse. These are the women who I consider to be the backbone of America.” That doesn’t mean, however, these women (more than half work outside the home) are not interested in fashion and the good things in life. Just the opposite. “These women have a lot of joy in their life. They embrace positivity,” says Susan. “That’s why the title of the magazine is so perfect for them. It’s about her day and the joy she gets out of it.” To tap into that, Susan retooled the fashion pages focusing more on value in all its iterations. “Our reader doesn’t want to see a great shoe and then find out it’s $300 or even $150. It has to make sense for her life.” In fact, “Value Tags” appear throughout the magazine to highlight steals, deals and all-around great ideas.

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Shirley MacLaine Stops by a Birthday Party for Liz Smith

1003_mockup.gifI knew it was going to be quite the scene at Michael’s today when a little birdie told me that there was going to be a lunch for Liz Smith celebrating the grand dame of gossip’s upcoming birthday at Table One. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed. None other than Shirley MacLaine stopped by to say hello to Liz (more on why later), and I got to chat with the legendary actress about her guest-starring stint on Downton Abbey. While the entire restaurant swiveled in our general direction, I jumped up from my seat to ask about her experience on PBS’ smash hit and she couldn’t have been more gracious.

“I loved doing the show,” she told me. “Everyone was so welcoming and great about everything. I was amazed that no matter what the weather — because it rained a lot when we were shooting — they all went on as if the sun was shining. They were wonderfully professional.” Her character, Martha Levinson, appeared in only two episodes but left quite an impact on viewers — particularly when Martha sparred with Violet, the Dowager Countess played by the legendary Maggie Smith. “That was one of my favorite days on the set,” Ms. MacLaine told me of the scene where she and Ms. Smith sat for hours in a church pew waiting for the ill-fated wedding of Lady Edith to begin. “We spent eight hours talking about life, and we never ran out of things to say.” I bet. Before she dashed out the door — she only stayed long enough to say her hellos — I asked whether she’d be returning to the series and she said, “Yes. We start shooting soon. I’m looking forward to it.” So are we.

Liz Smith with her party pals and her armadillo cake

Now, back to Liz’s lunch (described as a “southern confab”), which Hearst’s Deb Shriver put together with scribe Julia Reed and ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong. Deb was putting the finishing touches on the table, which included a bouquet of yellow roses arranged in Joe’s Texas bronzed boot and a specially designed menu (fried chicken, collard greens and corn bread) featuring a photo of Liz at a year old. Liz and Joe have a long friendship that dates back to 1968 when Joe first arrived in New York and met the fellow Texan. They forged an unbreakable bond. “I didn’t know one person when I came here and found out she was raised a block from where my mama grew up in Fort Worth. She was the only person I met who I thought didn’t talk with an accent.” The two have been great pals ever since.

Shirley MacLaine stops by Michael’s

Southern belle Deb, who has written two fabulous books on New Orleans including the gorgeous Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, surprised Liz with one of the most unusual birthday cakes ever served at Michael’s or anywhere else for that matter, and had a Brooklyn baker recreate the Steel Magnolias armadillo red velvet cake. Ms. MacLaine, as you might recall, was one of the stars of the 1989 film, and she arrived with the film’s screenwriter Robert Harling to jazz up the festivities. They departed before Michael’s staff paraded through the dining room with the life-size armadillo on a platter, raising  more than a few eyebrows. Clearly thrilled by the gesture, Liz was served the head of the baked beast while the rest of the guests dug into the ‘carcass.’ Mmm… yummy.

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The ‘Cosmo 100′ Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Seinfeld; The Wednesday Crowd with Star Jones and Doris Kearns Goodwin

1003_mockup.gifAs you probably know by now, only the most extreme circumstances could keep the faithful from their usual lunch at Michael’s. Since Mother Nature proved to be too formidable a force for us on not one, but two back-to-back Wednesdays, we were only too happy to pull double duty this week.

On Monday, I attended the estrogen-fueled lunch for “The Cosmo 100,” a gals-only power lunch hosted by Joanna Coles who, having been named EIC of Cosmopolitan mere weeks ago, put together a guest list to end all guest lists for her first event. When I arrived  a few minutes before noon, the paparazzi was lined up to capture the arrival of Sarah Jessica ParkerDiane von Furstenberg, Ali Wentworth, Jennifer Westfeldt and Jessica Seinfeld, who seemed to be channeling MC Hammer in some curious gold lame harem pants. Also in attendance: ABC News’ Deborah Roberts, model Carol Alt, bestselling author Jane Green and more A-list Gotham gals than I’ve seen in one place in ages. Hearst’s amazing PR team headed by Deb Shriver, Alexandra Carlin and Holly Whidden deserve some major kudos. I was seated at a fabulous table with Cathie Black, modeling icon Pat Cleveland and Barbara Taylor Bradford, who told me her 29th book will be published early next year. The mind reels.

When the A-list crowd made their way to the Garden Room, Joanna (who was rocking some gorgeous leather pants) greeted everyone with her trademark cheeky humor, telling us she’d prepared ‘binders of men’ as research for her new gig and then quoting Margaret Thatcher with the wise words, ‘Cocks crow but it’s hens that lay the eggs.’ She also advised us “never to underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes.” So true. But Joanna wanted to do more than celebrate fun, fearless females at her kick-off lunch; she surprised everyone by introducing some truly formidable women who’d broken through the glass ceiling during this election cycle. New Hampshire’s first female governor Maggie Hassan talked of having her daughter run her winning campaign, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to congress explained how she won her race in Hawaii by proving wrong the naysayers who told her “it wasn’t her time,” and Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to congress from New York, spoke of the need for women to be mentors to other women. It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Marcy Syms and Diane Clehane

Today, I was joined by another trailblazer Marcy Syms, who you must know from those commercials for the legendary off-price retailer (“An educated consumer is our best customer”).  It was Marcy’s father, the late Sy Syms who founded the business in 1958 as the first national retailer to sell off-price men’s clothing. At first, it was Sy who gave voice to the slogan in 1974, but he wisely asked Marcy to take his place in 1978 thus tapping into an emerging public consciousness about working women. The rest, as they say, is history.  ”I still remember wearing those bow blouses and those short haircuts!” said Marcy.

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Cynthia McFadden, Gayle King and Blythe Danner at the Bar

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School is back in session! The faithful have returned to Michael’s and the place was buzzing with activity as the media mavens, talking heads and social swells sailed into the dining room. Table One (Cynthia McFadden, Lesley Stahl and a host of other power gals) was the center of gravity, while the rest of the dining room was a tasty mix of spinmeisters (Gil Schwartz),  fashionistas (Julie Macklowe) and literary types (Long time no see, David Hirshey).

I was joined today by two of the stars of Bravo’s Gallery Girls, the freshman reality series chronicling the professional lives of seven ambitious New York gals toiling in the “cutthroat environment” (according to the show’s press release) of the New York City art world.  Oh, the pressure! Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez are not your average Bravo-lebrities. The two gorgeous — and tall! — young women were downright earnest in describing their experience as twentysomethings in the city and their commitment to their careers. ” I don’t like drama. I’m pretty even keeled,” Kerri told me. “I think I have an inspiring story. I’ve built this little life for myself that shows if you work hard and are passionate about it, you can do it.” As for Claudia, she wants to concentrate more on “philanthropic” works in the coming years. Not exactly a page out of Nene Leaks’ handbook.

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Having filmed the series over the course of four months last year, both Kerri and Claudia agree it’s a bit difficult watching themselves now on the show. “I can’t even listen to myself on my answering machine,” Kerri told me. “It’s interesting, because you rarely get the chance to see yourself the way other people might see you,” said Claudia. Even if the producers went for the most Bravo-esque snippets of otherwise everyday scenarios, she continued, “I said everything and did everything they showed and I’m comfortable with that.”

Kerri, who grew up on Long Island and graduated from Syracuse University in 2009, says the series showed just “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to how hard the cast works in real life. Unlike some of the other women on the show, Kerri didn’t know anyone from the cast and was pretty much on her own when it came to dealing with the rest of the women. “I didn’t trust anyone in the beginning and still don’t,” she told me. Having gone to college fully expecting to follow in the footsteps of her family members that work in investment banking, Kerri told me her eyes were opened to other possibilities during college internships in public relations and at a luxury concierge service.  She changed her major to entrepreneurship and landed in the art world. “I want to work for myself s0meday.” Doesn’t everybody?

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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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Tom Brokaw, Trudie Styler, Joan Rivers & Happy Birthday, Jon Meacham!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If you were wondering why the streets of midtown seemed a bit quiet today it was because everyone — well, almost everyone — was at Michael’s today. I could barely keep up as the A-listers filed in one after another (Tom Brokaw! Jon Meacham!) and random celebs (Trudie Styler, Joan Rivers) drifted by.

And to think I was worried I missed all the action when Gabriel Byrne and Chelsea Clinton made appearances last Thursday. If it’s Wednesday, you can pretty much always count on a head-spinning lunchtime scene at 55th and Fifth.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Joan Rivers, presiding over a table full of folks including John Miller and some execs from WEtv. We’re guessing the group was feting Joan over the ratings success of the first season of her reality show, Mother Knows Best. (Glasses of white wine were being raised.) The compulsively watchable series starring Joan and Melissa Rivers chronicled the roller coaster ride of their mother-daughter relationship. When it wasn’t making me laugh out loud, it had me in tears. I should have expected as much since Joan put it all out there in A Piece of Work, the documentary which chronicled her fascinating life on and off stage.

Before she made her way to her table, I grabbed her for a chat and asked if she’d attended the royal wedding, since she’s been a guest of Prince Charles at many a dinner party at Highgrove. “I didn’t go,” she told me. “I’m a friend of Camilla‘s and none of her friends were invited.” Even so, she gave the wedding party high marks in the fashion department. (Much to their relief, I’m sure.) “Everybody looked fabulous!”

2. Stephen Swid with two gents that looked like they stepped right out of the pages of a Judith Krantz novel

3. Trudie Styler and two scholarly looking gents. (One was toting a folder from a school whose name we just couldn’t make out from afar) I’m thinking the fellows were from the Child Mind Institute at Hunter College where Trudie gave a well-received talk yesterday on her own childhood struggles with ADHD and dyslexia. Thanks to my pal blogger Beth Arky for giving me the heads up on this one.

4. Sony Television head Steve Mosko and Jerry Stiller (Yes, Ben‘s dad.)

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Joan Collins, Dennis Basso And The Media Mob

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The biblical rain didn’t keep the crowds away from Michael’s today. The media mavens were networking at warp speed (Bonnie Fuller, we mean you) while the social swans and style set enjoyed their usual air-kissed filled leisurely lunches.

Oh, to have a rich husband (or good divorce attorney) and deep-pocketed clients. We can dream, can’t we?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com‘s Bonnie Fuller jointly hosting what Gerry tells me is the first of a series’ of  lunches with “influencers.” The tastemakers at the table today were HL’s CRO Alyson Racer, Showtime’s main man Matt BlankCosmopolitan’s Donna Lagani, Caroline Hirsch, MediaLink’s Wenda Millard and Marie Claire’s fashion director, Nina Garcia.

2. Alexis Carrington lives! Joan Collins, sporting an ensemble that would have passed muster at the royal wedding, with husband Percy Gibson, producer Terry Allen Kramer and Joyce Rubin.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Men’s Health head honcho David Zinczenko. This was Joe’s second lunch at Michael’s this week. On Monday, he came by with his sister Marilyn Spence and her husband Don who were  in visiting from Plano, Texas. The trio, I’m told, had a grand old time.

4.  Peter Brown and Liz Smith, looking none the worse for wear from a recent hip injury. The indomitable Liz, who got plenty of hugs from her pals in the dining room,  dished with fellow Texan Joe Armstrong until Peter arrived.

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