Mika Brzezinski, Miss USA and a Mysterious Stephen Baldwin Sighting

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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.

She has also created a new front-of-book section, “Embrace the Day,” that offers the reader “inspiring ideas that make your life richer” which includes a monthly column by Katie Couric, who has written on a cross section of topics that have ranged from how she is embracing getting older (If we had her legs, we wouldn’t mind that much either) to her vow to clean up her act and de-clutter her home and office. “Katie is the perfect personality to talk to our reader because she is relatable,” says Susan. “She’s not the typical celebrity;  she has an accessibility that readers respond to.”

Speaking of celebrities, I asked Susan how Woman’s Day competes in this celeb-obsessed culture by opting for food-focused photography on the cover every month, not a famous face. “That’s our readers’ sweet spot,” she explained. “She doesn’t cook because she has to; she cooks because she enjoys it. It’s a creative pursuit, and in some ways it’s a art form to her.” Rather than keep the food editorial in the back of the book, Susan moved it to the center to showcase the category and has served up more recipes and entertaining ideas to keep readers cooking for every occasion. She’s isn’t opposed to putting a celebrity on the cover as long as it’s the right celebrity, and she found a match made in foodie heaven this month in Paula Deen. “Our readers have a huge interest in her and in her lifestyle and weight loss,” says Susan. “I’m not going to put a celebrity on the cover for the sake of having a celebrity; it has to make sense for us and our readers and Paula certainly does.”

The formula seems to be working. Woman’s Day is Hearst’s top performer at the newsstand with 3.25 million subscribers and a 14.4 percent jump for the second half of 2012. Susan is confident that the magazine is on track for a strong 2013 despite all the challenges facing print titles. “Our reader has a strong appetite for print,” says Susan. The magazine’s website is overseen by Hearst Digital but has a slightly different feel than its namesake, and more digital innovations are on the way. “It is incumbent upon us to constantly evolve what we do,” says Susan. “The days of just coasting along as an editor and not keeping up with what’s happening are gone.” Yup.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hollywoodlife.com EIC and president Bonnie Fuller and EVP/publisher Carlos Lamadrid with Penske Media Vice Chair Gerry Byrne, hosting a full table of guests including Miss USA Nana Meriwether (who was, as you might expect, stunning); WWD‘s James Fallon; Today show producer Deb Huberman; Rachel DiCarlo from American Eagle; Ted Fine, producer of Bloomberg Surveillance; Jenn Rogien, costume designer of HBO’s Girls; USA Digital’s Sandra Hors; Planet PR’s Matt Rich and Mike Indursky, president of Bliss.

2.  Euan Rellie

3. Producer Freddie Gershon and Neil Ritter

4.  Ron Perelman (we almost missed him under his knit cap) with his son, Steve Perelman

5. Allen & co.’s Stan Shuman and UBS’ Areyeh Bourkoff

6. The ‘Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

7.  Woman’s Day EIC Susan Spencer, Mimi Crume Sterling and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia

9.  Author Wednesday Martin who was nice enough to introduce me to Barbara Reich, author of Secrets of an Organized Mom (Do tell!), fresh off this morning’s appearance on the Today show

10. PR maven Maury Rogoff, who got a shout out in Cindy Adams‘ column today in The New York Post, and Susan Reilly of The Reilly Group

11.  Here’s an interesting pairing: former Town & Country SVP Valerie Salembier (looking every inch the well-heeled hipster in her Moncler puffer and Dior bag and sporting a flaming red streak in her blonde mane) with police commissioner Ray Kelly, whose bodyguard took a look around and then made himself scarce.

12. PR princess Lisa Linden with political consultants Joseph Mercurio and Frank Baraff

14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew

15.  Alexandre Chemla

16. United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky

17. Media Link’s Wenda Millard

18. Pete Peterson

19. Blonde to the second power: Morning Joe‘s Mika Brzezinski and Cosmo editrix Joanna Coles

20. Marketing guru and political commentator Robert Zimmerman

21. AGM Partners’ Alan Mnuchin

22.  Steve Rattner

81. Candia Fisher

23. Author Pamela Keogh and Joseph Montebello (Long time, no see!)

24. Advertising icon Martin Puris

25.  Fortune‘s Patty Sellers and Gannett’s Maryam Banikarim

26. Susan Blond

27.  William Miller

29. Melissa Bradley

Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.