The mood was downright festive at Michael’s today as the usual suspects celebrated various milestones between bites of their Cobb salads. On Table One, Politico Ed Rollins and his wife, Shari Rollins, toasted Ed’s good health and the close-knit circle of good friends who stuck by the couple’s side during Ed’s heath issues last year. Nearby, best-selling author Linda Fairstein donned a bridal veil (albeit briefly) to celebrate her nuptials with several girlfriends, including Lynn Scherr and Faye Wattleton. Across the room, The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford helped hubby Lewis Stein celebrate his 70th, while Michael’s GM Steve Millington serenaded the birthday boy. It was almost too much fun for one lunch.
I was dining today with Bianca de la Garza, who was celebrating a milestone of her own. (Thank you to Steven Stolman, who after lunching with Bianca at Michael’s, decided the two of us should meet and made an introduction.) After 17 years in television news, the last seven spent as co-host of New England’s top-rated newscast, The Eye Opener, at WCVB-TV and anchor of the midday news for the Hearst-owned ABC affiliate in Boston, Bianca signed off in May to start her own production company, Lucky Gal. Now Bianca is about to launch her own lifestyle show that highlights the latest trends in everything from travel to fashion “for New England and beyond.” In her first interview about her latest venture, Bianca gave me exclusive details about the program, which will air in a “late-night weekend spot” on WCVB and will be taped in front of a live studio audience. “It’s not a talk show,” Bianca told me. “It’s more of an entertainment-variety show.” A press conference at The Four Seasons in Boston is scheduled later this fall to reveal more details.
Bianca, who is as personable as she is glamorous, was bubbling with excitement over the next chapter in her career. As host and executive producer, the Massachusetts native is thrilled to be wearing many hats while working with New-York-based producing partners that are currently producing programming for Bravo. (“I won’t miss getting up at 2:45 a.m. every day!”) The show (the title is still top secret) will premiere in January. “It’s been really empowering to do what I want and do it for myself as the owner and creator of the content,” she told me between bites of Dover sole. “My objective has been to create a world-class New-England-centric show with content parallel to a national program.” In order to do that, Bianca is tapping into her extensive experience in news, where she covered events ranging from investigative reporting that led to the closure of an illegal sweatshop in Los Angeles to her Emmy-nominated coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. For that piece, she scored an exclusive sit-down with Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, who was killed in the car crash that claimed the life of Princess Diana.
Having covered some of the most seminal news events in the past two decades, including 9/11 (“It was my second day on the job at Fox 25”), the Newtown shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing, Bianca explained that as a news anchor “you have to be the voice of calm, the voice of reason.” In the next chapter of her television career, “Now it’s time to have fun.” She told me she looks forward to revealing more of her personality to her New England viewers who have come to know her. “They are going to see a different side of me,” she said. “In creating my own content, I can be a bit quirky. The show is going to have sass and spunk. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously.” It’s also going to occasionally take viewers out of their hometown in Bianca’s interviews with news makers like Vogue editor Anna Dello Russo in Italy.
“In news, you always have to go where the jobs are, so to be able to do a show in my hometown and do it the way I want do is really exciting,” said Bianca. “I named my company Lucky Gal because I really do feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do this.”
Bianca told me she also hopes that the show will “start a lot of conversations” about hot topics in New England, and she’ll jump-start those online and via social media. “There is no such thing as appointment television anymore,” she said. “We’re going to be creating content that drives conversations throughout the week and hopefully has more people watching the show.”
As CEO of the self-financed Lucky Gal, Bianca is clearly a woman who believes in sharing the secrets of her success. She’s also a tireless supporter of many charities and philanthropic causes, including The American Red Cross, the Girl Scouts and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “I think it’s important to inspire other women.” And that includes being a positive role model to her 8-year-old daughter, Danica. “I love that she sees Mommy working at something she loves to do. That’s an important message for our daughters.” And with that, we said our goodbyes as the single mom went off to catch her train back to Boston that would get her home in time to help Danica with her homework. All in a day’s work.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Shari Rollins and a table full of pals, including politico and marketing man Robert Zimmerman toasting Shari’s tireless husband Ed Rollins. “It a celebration of life!” she told me on the one-year anniversary of Ed’s recovery. “We brought together all the friends who stuck by us and helped get us through.” Congrats Ed and cheers!
2. Nikki Haskell, Rikki Klieman and another gal we didn’t recognize
3. The entire “Imber Gang” temporarily relocated (from their usual perch at Table Six): Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer
4. PR scion Steven Rubenstein
5. Mitch Kanner and Dana Miller, EVP of marketing and brand development for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter
6. Here comes the bride: A gaggle of power gals feting newlywed Linda Fairstein (that’s now Mrs. Goldberg to you!). We spotted Lynn Scherr, Esther Newberg and Faye Wattleton toasting the bride (who briefly donned a wedding veil)
7. DuJour‘s Jason Binn and a dark-haired gal we didn’t get a chance to meet
8. Author Wednesday Martin with a team of execs from Gotham Entertainment
9. CBS This Morning‘s Norah O’Donnell
10. PR maven Maury Rogoff and AARP’s editorial director Myrna Blythe
11. Bob Friedman with Penske Media’s vice chair Gerry Byrne
12. Andrew Stein, his ex Danielle, and so we’re told, her sister. How cozy.
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
15. Pamela Ford and author Allison Pataki (daughter of former Governor George Pataki), who has written a new book
16. Producer Joan Gelman with her sons Josh Gelman and Gregg Gelman
17. Jim Wall
20. Accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh with the owner of Royal Silk
22. Ed Wilson
23 Sony Epic’s David Massey, presiding over a table full of suits
24. Bianca de la Garza and yours truly
25. Tom Goodman and Jack Kliger
27. LuAnn de Lesseps with “producers from my show.” When LuAnn stopped by my table to say hello, I complimented her on the oh-so-chic snakeskin print blouse she was wearing. Was it from her new clothing line on ShopHQ? Nope. “C.Wonder” she told me. No matter. The always-impeccable countess always dresses to impress.
29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein. The guys were celebrating Lewis’ 70th birthday (the big day is actually tomorrow). Here’s to many more.
81. Valentino’s “worldwide brand ambassador” Carlos Souza. No wonder he was the best-dressed guy in the place.
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.