I’ve been covering Wednesday’s at Michael’s for five years and have never seen anything like the head-spinning scene that unfolded there today. Harvey Weinstein and Steve Tisch threw a pep rally to end all pep rallies, and the media A-list all came out to cheer on their favorite team. Peggy Siegal and her minions descended on the place before the crowd rushed in with plenty of New York Giants paraphernalia, transforming the California cool decor into an indoor tailgate party.
By noon, I counted at least a dozen paparazzi staked out at the entrance, and they certainly weren’t disappointed. Drew Nieporent was the first to arrive (“What’s for lunch?”), and in short order the lounge was flooded with famous folks, including Brian Williams, Gayle King, Piers Morgan, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb (wearing newly identical red dresses and looking fabulous), former governor George Pataki, Matt Lauer and various members of the Tisch family.
Everyone’s mind was on the big game; conventional wisdom says the Giants will be this year’s Super Bowl champs, but it’s going to be a close one. (All except Jerry Della Femina, who predicts the Patriots will take it 27-24.) “I think it’s going to be a squeaker,” offered Andrew Ross Sorkin. “At least I hope so because it will be a better game.”
Not surprisingly, Giants legend Frank Gifford, who will be watching the game from his home in Greenwich with family and friends, predicts a 30-10 win for his former team. “Eli Manning has really come into his own as a quarterback,” he told me. “But a quarterback is only as good as his team. They’re a great team. If you were playing for the Giants, you’d be a great quarterback.” Doubtful, but we appreciate the sentiment. Brian Williams, who’ll be going to the game, refused to speculate on the final score for fear of tempting the gods. “You just don’t do that,” he told me.
The gridiron gridlock had most of the lunch guests packed into the lounge before making their way to their tables. Piers Morgan tried to avoid the crushing crowd by hanging back at the bar. He told me he was a “big fan” of American football and would be watching the game at pal Vinnie James‘ pad in Los Angeles. “We’ll be British knees up,” he said, admitting later that he’s more excited about the soccer match he’ll be commentating on for Fox earlier that morning.
I got the chance to chat briefly with Regis Philbin, just back from a 17-city tour promoting his new book. “It was exhausting but fun,” he told me. What’s he enjoying most in his post-Live life (“I’m not retired!”)? “Sleeping in with my lovely wife.” We miss you in the morning. I also caught up with Star Jones, resplendent in Giants blue, who told me she would be watching the game on Denise Rich’s yacht in the Bahamas with a group of Gotham gals off on their yearly sun and fun trip. Blaine Trump came up to say hello and we got into a conversation about our mutual obsession: Downton Abbey. While Blaine and I fretted about missing the PBS hit since it airs during the game, Star was resolute. “You’ve got to watch the game! There’s no contest!”
When I sat down to lunch, I found myself at a terrific table (thanks Cindi Berger!) next to Dan Lindsay and TJ Marx, who waited until halfway through lunch before telling me they nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for their documentary, Undefeated. (Clearly, these guys aren’t Michael’s regulars) The film, which was produced by The Weinstein Company, follows the story of a high school football team in Memphis who has gone 110 years without winning a playoff game. “It’s a football movie that is about a lot more than football. It’s a coming of age story,” TJ told me. This will be the guys’ first trip to the Oscars, and I must say they seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. “I really couldn’t believe it when I got the call last week,” Dan told me, “but it’s starting to sink in.” With Harvey behind these terrific guys, I wouldn’t bet against them.
While today was billed as a pep rally for the Giants, Harvey and Steve Tisch had a little more than football on their minds. Before the crowd tucked into their ‘Giant’ cheeseburgers, Matt Lauer, “lifelong Giants fan,” addressed the crowd and introduced special guests Paulette Figoski and her daughters Caroline and Corrine. Paulette is the ex-wife of slain police officer Peter Figoski whose story of bravery and love for his four daughters captured the city’s collective heart. Harvey and Steve surprised the family with the announcement that they were flying them to the Super Bowl as their guests. Matt also announced that the two other Figoski daughters, Christine and Caitlyn, are invited to the Oscars with Harvey since they are away at college and can’t make it to the game.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Harvey Weinstein, Brian Williams, Jon Tisch, Lizzie Tisch and Paulette Figoski with daughters Caroline and Corrine. Kate Couric arrived midway through lunch and happily posed alongside former co-host Matt Lauerfor the scrum of photographers circling her table . She also made sure to stop by Regis Philbin’s table and give him a big hello.
2. Terry McDonnell, CBS News This Morning‘s Gayle King, actress Susan Saint James, cosmetic titan William Lauder
3. Regis Philbin, Joy Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford, Frank Gifford and Hoda Kotb
4. Mort Janklow, Linda Janklow, The New York Times‘ Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bill McCuddy and Today‘s Savannah Guthrie and Natalie Morales
5. Restaurateur Drew Nieporent, Mitch Modell, chef Dino Gatto, Daniel Lindsay, TJ Martin and yours truly
6. Wilbur Ross and Hilary Geary Ross, Deborah Norville, WNBC 4 anchor Chuck Scarborough, Piers Morgan and former governor George Pataki
7. Griffin Dunne, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, Showtime’s Kent Sevener and GMA‘s Andrea Canning
8. Today’s Matt Lauer, Steve Tisch, Joan Tisch, Jamie Tisch, John McEnroe, Mickey Drexler with wife Peggy, UBS’ Aryeh Bourkoff
9. Piers Morgan’s exec producer Jonathan Wald, WNBC 4’s Darlene Rodriquez, Ian Mohr, Robert Mortimer and Today‘s style guru Jill Martin
10. Aerin Lauder (We can’t wait to see the first offerings from her upcoming ‘lifestyle’ line entitled — what else? — Aerin), Blaine Trump, Sherrie Rollins, Pamela Gross, Christina Cuomo and James Reginato
11. Star Jones, CNBC’s Ron Insana, Eric Alterman, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade, Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Nick Summers and Shaun O’Hara
12. Fox News honcho Roger Ailes, Joanne Lipman, Fox Business Network’s Alexis Glick, and Bill O’Reilly and Laurie Dhue who I snapped while they were chatting away in a quiet corner before lunch started.
13. Niche Media’s Jason Binn, who was busy taking pictures of everyone in the dining room with his phone, WCBS 2’s Maurice Dubois, who had to dash out early but made sure to tuck one of the coveted Giants NFC champion hats under his arm before departing, and WNBC 4’s Michael Gargiulo
14. Bob Weinstein, Marshall Heyman for The Wall Street Journal and Showtime’s main man Matt Blank, who is still over the moon at Homeland‘s big win at the Golden Globes last month. (We thought Damian Lewis was robbed but are thrilled the show took top honors for Best Drama). “It’s been amazing,” Matt told me about the show’s popularity, especially among some folks who know something about dealing with terrorists. President Barack Obama has been quoted as saying it’s his favorite show. “He was just talking about it the other day. We’re thrilled.”
15. Political scribe Jonathan Alter, Clinton aide Doug Band, CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, The New York Daily News’ Gatecrasher Frank DiGiacomo and Quest‘s Chris Meigher
17. Page Six’s Emily Smith, MTV’s sBill Flangan, Fox’s Jamie Colby, Euan Rellie and his uber stylish wife, Lucy Sykes
18. CBS’s Jim Rosenfield, Stephen Sheppard, Black Ocean’s Gerry Byrne
19. Publicist Howard Bragman, who is now vice chairman of reputation.com (“Everyone has a Google nightmare and we fix it!”), Frank Russo, Sammy Arthur, New York Giants VP Doug Smoyer and Thomas Burns of the NYPD
20. The Early Show‘s Chris Licht, CBS News’ Vicki Gordon, journo Jackie Leo (love your musings on Huffington Post!), John Leo, Susan Mercandetti, Steve Brill and Cynthia Brill
Faces in the crowd: WPIX 11’s Jodi Applegate who, upon meeting Savannah Guthrie said, “I used to work at NBC!” … Margin Call director J.C. Chandor — congrats on your Oscar nod … Jerry Della Femina, Dr. Gerald Imber and Jeff Greenfield, who had to deal with a few extra folks at their regular ‘Imber Gang’ Wednesday get-together… attorney Mickey Sherman, taking in the pre-lunch scene at the bar.
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