The joint was jumping at Michael’s today with a slew of PR mavens, moguls (Barry Diller) and talking heads (Greg Kelly). I was glad I got there early for my ‘Lunch’ with Dr. Robi Ludwig, who was fêted last night by Bella Magazine at Mamo in Soho in celebration of her new book, Your Best Age is Now (HarperOne). I first met Robi, one of television’s most popular and respected psychotherapists and a regular contributor for Investigation Discovery’s Scorned (“No one loves to talk about murder more than me!”), when she was one of Nancy Grace’s favorite guests on her HLN show and I was writing Nancy’s book, Objection! Let’s just say we’ve always had plenty to talk about. Robi always introduces me to interesting women and today was no exception. She invited publishing consultant Nancy Hancock, who acquired Robi’s book when she was an editor at HarperOne and former QVC host-turned-Nutrisystem pitchwoman Kathy Levine to join us. Between Robi’s new book, Kathy’s stories of working with the late, great Joan Rivers and Nancy’s take on the current climate in book publishing, we covered plenty of ground.
Robi’s book is a myth-buster on middle age and is a rallying cry for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond to reinvent themselves, take (calculated) risks and not be held back by outdated thinking. Robi told me she was somewhat inspired by her own experiences. “I was interviewing for television jobs and when people asked me how old I was, I wondered if this was going to be a deal breaker. I’m not insecure about my age but I thought, is this it for me?” Clearly not. Robi jumped into researching the new realities for women at midlife and was greatly encouraged by what she found. Women’s lives at midlife today are vastly different from anything our parents experienced. To wit: Meredith Vieira, Ellen DeGeneres, Viola Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker and the ageless Christie Brinkley are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Contrast those women with images with The Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur. Get the picture?
“There is science that shows what women experience in midlife is not unlike what happens in adolescence. Hormones change and it’s a time of passages where you ask yourself, ‘Who am I now?'” said Robi. “Women are living longer, so there’s a real need to reboot. Women need to rebel against this idea that youth is the only time of beauty and there’s an expiration date on our dreams. At this stage, women know themselves betters and in some cases look better than they did in earlier stages of their life.”
As Robi sees it, it’s all about staying relevant. Help in that department can come from a surprising source: the teenagers in a woman’s life. “They can be a tremendous source of information in terms of what’s modern and happening in areas like technology.” This does not, she explained, mean foolishly trying to act “young.” She advises women to “achieve agelessness” by truly believing one “gets better with age.” In the book, midlife mentors like Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Juju Chang, Kate White, Dari Alexander and Robi’s own mother, Helene Shalotsky, talk about the ways in which they have embraced this stage of their life and offer advice based on their own experiences.
Not so coincidentally, Nancy and Kathy had their own words of wisdom. Having left the security of a senior position at HarperOne, Nancy is now an independent consultant working with authors on all stage of their work, from polishing proposals to advise on where to spend (and where to scrimp) on publicity and promotion. “Every single book I’ve worked on with an author since I started doing this has gotten a book deal,” said Nancy. That’s because, she explained, she offering an essential service. “Every editor who edits and every writer who writes needs the other person to do that other job.” And here’s some good news: “It’s a very robust market for the right book.”
Kathy, who was one of QVC’s most popular hosts and worked with Joan Rivers on her segments, told me, “It’s a different world” since she left the home shopping network. “Young viewers are buying everything online.” Kathy and I traded stories about Joan’s legendary kindness and generosity. “Every time she saw me, she’d say, ‘Take a piece of jewelry.’ I’d say, ‘No, I can’t.’ It wasn’t hers to give — it was QVC stock. But she’d say, ‘I don’t care!'” On Kathy’s last show Joan surprised her by giving her a piece of Faberge jewelry from her own personal collection. “There was no one like her.” Everyone at the table agreed that Joan was one of the best examples of how a woman in midlife can use change to her advantage by keeping up with the times. “That’s why even though she was in her 80s when she died, her death was so shocking,” observed Robi. These days Kathy has reinvented herself as Marie Osmond’s co-host on Nutrisystem’s infomercials. “Marie is a lot of fun to work with. I’m having a great time.”
All of this, said Robi, is exactly what the title of her new book espouses. “Your best age really is now. It’s time we reject the idea that midlife is a time of loss and not being noticed. If you’re true to yourself and remain passionate and purposeful, it can be an extraordinary time of your life.”
We’re gonna hold you to that.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd
1 . HollywoodLife.com’s Bonnie Fuller presiding over the monthly schmoozefest. In attendance: Brandsway Creative PR’s Kelly Brady, Hitha Prabhakar-Herzog, Escada’s Buffy Hersly, Eyewitness News’ entertainment guy Sandy Kenyon, Coty’s Laurie Verbinski and Oskar Chabrowski, Michael Jaconi of Button (it’s an app), WWD’s Paul Jowdy, Foursquare’s Jeff Glueck and Allison Slater Ray of IT Cosmetics.
2. Accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh fresh off her trip to Florida, who told me she’s working with Angela Cummings while she’s in town.
3. Dov Seidman
4. Barry Diller and a young man we didn’t recognize. We noticed several people including Jon Steinberg made their way over to the table to pay their respects.
5. Dr. Robi Ludwig, Nancy Hancock, Kathy Levine and yours truly
6. Andrew Stein and a dark-haired gal we didn’t get to meet.
7. Bookseller Glenn Horowitz
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia
9. Jack Myers
11. Fox 5’s Greg Kelly who kept his coat on all through lunch (it was chilly since the air conditioning was on!) and a fellow from WNET.
12. Cheri Kaufman of Kaufman Studios
14. Cosmetic connoisseur Marc Rosen and PR guru and politico Robert Zimmerman
15. Jack Kliger and Tanya Steel. Jack tells me he’s off to London where he’s got a jam packed schedule
16. Marshall Cohen and Jesse Kornbluth
17. Jim Casella
18. Peter Price and Randy Jones (Long time no see!)
20. Producer Joan Gelman and radio doyenne Joan Hamburg
21. Quest’s Chris Meigher
23. Bernard Schwartz
24. Philip Murphy
25. Steven Greenberg
26. Jon Steinberg
27. Louis Iacovelli among a table full of execs from GQ and Testoni
81. Nest’s Nancy McKay
I will be on a NYC staycation next week. See you back at Michael’s on April 20!
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.