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Posts Tagged ‘Woody Johnson’

Woody Johnson, Jared Kushner and a Haute New Hollywood Handbag Designer

LunchAtMichaelsSince so many media mavens and talking heads have headed to the West Coast for Oscar week, my lunch today with designer Michelle Vale was particularly timely. Just a few days ago, Michelle sent off several of her handbags to LaLa land in hopes that a certain Best Actress nominee will walk down the red carpet carrying one of her creations come Sunday night. If the actress, whose name for the moment is top secret (“But she’s a big Oscar person!”) utters Michelle’s name when she is asked the million dollar question of the night — “Who are you wearing?” — by E!’s Giuliana Rancic, that could mean very big things for the designer. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Michelle told me. “An actress can pick a dress and change her mind at the last minute. She can look in her suitcase and pick up something else. I won’t know until I see her on television.”

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

Diane Clehane and Michelle Vale

No stranger to the celebrity scene, Michelle’s collection of sophisticated, versatile designs that allow women to customize their bags by selecting a variety of  different hardware and straps  — all made right her in New York City — have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Kate Bosworth and Kate Beckinsale. Michelle also managed to score valuable television exposure on Gossip Girl, a favorite of fashionistas everywhere where posh Upper East Siders played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester toted around the Amex Black cards in Michelle Vale handbags.

While fashion was part of Michelle’s DNA — dad was a senior vice president of Sasson Jeans, favored by aspiring disco divas everywhere in the 80s, and mom once owned a boutique, she never planned on going into the business as a career. “I used to go to Studio 54 with my father,” Michelle told me. “It was such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to something completely different, so I got a master’s in counseling  children which, as it turns out, has come in handy in this business.” It was when the accidental designer got pregnant quickly after getting married that she decided she wanted to do something that allowed her to stay at home with her newborn son. “I literally started the business with my son in my lap,” she said.

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Separate Tables for Jann Wenner and Neal Boulton

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We were grateful that several faithful Lunch readers emailed to let us know  Bill Clinton was at Michael’s yesterday. Thanks guys! I guess Mr. Clinton didn’t get the memo stipulating that all A-listers book their lunch dates for Wednesdays. Oh, well. Seems the former president was lunching with Harvey Weinstein to settle a bet on Harvey’s little production company winning an Oscar for The King’s Speech. These two under-the-radar guys were accompanied by a squadron of (Clinton) handlers and Secret Service men who were stationed all over the restaurant.  Sorry we missed all the excitement!

Today, things got off to a slightly late start (1:00 pm is the new noon if you’re keeping tracking of such things), but the dining room quickly filled up with plenty of master of the universe types (Barry! Woody!) who are always interesting to observe in their  natural habitat.  All I can say is french fries must be brain food.  I expect the place to be going full-tilt tomorrow night when The Kelly Gang hosts The 7th Annual Kelly Gang St. Patrick’s Day Benefit. The organization’s founders include The New York Post’s Keith Kelly, House Beautiful publisher Kate Kelly Smith and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. The ‘Gang’ is back in full swing after taking a hiatus last year and is expecting a huge turnout to raise money for this year’s beneficiaries: Catholic Relief Services in Haiti and Tuesday’s Children. So, if you’re looking for a great St. Pat’s celebration that is doing a lot of good, stop by Thursday night and bring your checkbook.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Legendary crooner Neil Sedaka, sporting sneakers and a jaunty beret with a chic looking lady and a fellow we didn’t get to meet. We overheard Neil say that his son, Marc Sedaka, was on the Today show this morning alongside wife Samantha to talk about Marc’s new book, What He Can Expect When She’s Not Expecting. The book deals with how a spouse can support a wife’s struggle with infertility. Talk about an evolved man! Impressive.

2. Jets owner Woody Johnson, who hobbled in on crutches. Hope you’re on the mend soon.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Peter Jennings’ widow, Kayce Freed.  Kayce, a former producer of 20/20, is the co-founder of The Documentary Group which produced the much lauded To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports for ABC News which chronicled his recovery from his near fatal brain injury.

4. Barry Diller and an unidentified important looking gent

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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: 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 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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