After the last few head-spinning Wednesdays at Michael’s kept me ricocheting between Hollywood A-listers (Meg Ryan) and tabloid targets (Rachel Uchitel), it was something of a relief to turn my attention to the restaurant’s core constituency of authors and their agents (remember books?) who have always viewed the dining room at 55th & Fifth as a de facto company cafeteria. When I arrived a few minutes before noon and overheard Tom Connor telling L’Oreal Sherman he was meeting Gretchen Young for lunch, I just had to go over and introduce myself. Gretchen was my editor at Hyperion, and we worked together on two bestsellers: I Love You, Mom! a collection of celebrity essays I edited and Objection! which I co-wrote with Nancy Grace. Like I always say, in certain circles, all roads lead to Michael’s.
Now vice president and executive editor at Grand Central Publishing, Gretchen recently signed Tom’s clients Willie Geist and his father Bill Geist to write a father-son book scheduled for publication next year to coincide with Father’s Day. When Willie (who, it should be noted, is quite the snappy dresser) arrived, I asked him if the dapper duo had ever worked together before. “Aside from some yard work, no,” he told me. The yet-to-be-titled tome does have a subtitle: Birds, Bees and Other Conversations We Never Had. “It’s not going to be one of those super earnest father-son books,” says Willie. Bill describes the book as something “born out of our experiences and what we’ve learned from each other.”
“It’s really our humorous take on things,” says Willie, which seems only fitting since his first book, the bestselling American Freak Show, was a send-up of our tabloid culture featuring imagined conversations with characters like ‘President’ Sarah Palin. The upcoming title will chronicle life growing up in the Geist household through a mix of essays and interviews. “I think we’ll both write things and then bounce it off each other,” says Bill. Sounds like there’s no shortage of material. “There’s the time the Christmas presents were accidentally locked in the trunk of dad’s company car and a sledgehammer was wielded,” recalls Willie. “And then there was the summer I was sent off to what was supposed to be an idyllic summer camp in New Hampshire, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the counselors were fresh-out-of-rehab juvenile delinquents, and there were literally knife fights going on around me. We’ll basically write about what not to do.”
Speaking of parenting advice, Willie, a father of two toddlers, is scheduled to appear on the Tonight show Thursday with expectant mother Kim Kardashian. Any words of wisdom for boyfriend and baby daddy Kanye West? “The booker asked me the same questions and I just broke into laughter. I don’t think my parenting experience bears any resemblance to what Kanye’s will be,” says Willie. “I just don’t see him changing diapers, but I guess you never know.” Perhaps then impeccably dressed Willie might offer fashion victim Kim some pointers on dressing for success rather than excess. We wish we could un-see today’s New York Post cover but it’s burned into a brain for all eternity. Yikes!
I was joined today by my good friend, actress and prolific author Kathryn Leigh Scott, who is in town from Los Angeles promoting her latest book, Down and Out in Beverly Heels (Montlake Romance). Don’t you just love that title? The book tells the story of Meg Barnes, a former television star who had it all and through a series of unfortunate events loses everything and is reduced to living in her car, the “Ritz-Volvo.” Says Kathryn, “It’s a novel that is a light-hearted romance and a mystery, but also shows the gritty truth of the women in Beverly Hills I call ‘shadow women’ who are homeless and hiding it.” Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews have all praised Kathryn for her ability to blend her insider’s perspective on Hollywood with witty, fast-paced storytelling.
Best known as Maggie Evans, the love interest of Barnabas Collins on cult classic ABC daytime soap Dark Shadows, Kathryn has maintained her acting career while churning out an impressive array of books. She had a cameo in the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton big screen homage last year and plays a clairvoyant in the indie film Dr. Mabuse out later this month, and her books include The Bunny Years (the 25-year history of the Playboy Clubs told through the women who worked as Bunnies, like Gloria Steinem) and last year’s Dark Shadows Return to Collinwood in which she offered fans an unprecedented look behind the scenes at the iconic soap, as well as exclusive material about its theatrical release. My favorite of her books, Dark Passages, gives readers a funny, fascinating look at life on a daytime gothic soap seen through the eyes of the main character, a starlet who just happens to be a vampire.
Down and Out in Beverly Heels has barely been unpacked in book stores, and Kathryn is hard at work on the sequel (she’s planning to do a series) and has already written the screenplay, which is timely since the book was just optioned for a film two weeks ago. Kathyrn thinks Sandra Bullock would be perfect as the lead. Somehow, she’s also penning the Dark Passages sequel at the same time. “My year is off to a good start,” she says. I’ll say. But, like most success stories, there’s plenty of hard work behind all of Kathryn’s apparent good fortune. She first wrote Down and Out in Beverly Heels a few years ago based on a piece she wrote about a star and her stalker for Opera News, and then she decided to completely rewrite it. She did the same thing with Dark Passages. “It took me about a year to write each book and then another year to rewrite them,” she told me.
“I really love the character,” says Kathryn of Down and Out’s heroine. “Meg Barnes’ story is about what happens to an actress when the paparazzi is no longer hanging around your doorstep and women like Meg become invisible through bad investments, bad marriages and bad luck. I know these women exist, because I’ve done work at homeless shelters in Beverly Hills. The real story is it doesn’t take that much for it to happen.” Luckily, this being a work of fiction, Kathryn can rescue her plucky heroine from the brink. “Ultimately,” she says, “It’s a tale of redemption.” Kathryn will be signing all her books and meeting fans next Monday night at 7 pm at Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway. See you there.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Attorney Bob Barnett and Howard Wolfson
2. Star Jones, celebrating her birthday with two gal pals, including Dr. Holly Peterson
3. 48 Hours Mystery executive producer Susan Zirinsky, perusing some important looking papers with two folks we didn’t recognize
4. The Early Show: Steven Rubenstein; Act Two: John Sykes
5. Michael J. Wolff
6. Most of the ‘Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman
7. Elle Decor‘s Michael Boodro and Debbie Bancroft
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Nina Griscom
9. Mellody Hobson with an impeccably dressed fellow we didn’t recognize. In case you haven’t heard, Mellody got engaged to her longtime love, producer/director George Lucas, in January. Just what do you get the couple who has everything and then some? We’ll wait for our invitation before we start worrying about it.
11. Kathryn Leigh Scott and yours truly
12. Producer Joan Gelman, literary agent Lynn Goldberg and her client author Betsy Prioleau whose new book, Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them (Norton) chronicles the considerable charms of charismatic ladies’ men from Casanova to Ashton Kutcher and has garnered plenty of attention on the airwaves. “I can’t believe how much radio I’ve done in the past few weeks,” Betsy told me. Perhaps that’s because there just so much to say on the subject. Next up: a spot on NPR next Tuesday. We’ll be tuning in.
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
15. Alexandre Chemla
16. TV Guide Magazine‘s acting CEO and renowned wine enthusiast, Jack Kliger, enjoying a decanted bottle of red from his private collection with a pal.
17. Elle‘s Kevin O’Malley
18. William Siegel of News Corp.
20. Landau Center For Art’s Candia Fisher
21. Producer Beverly Camhe
22. CBS’ David Poltrack
24. Jolie Hunt, rocking some killer Louboutins
26. Bettina Zilkha
27. Gretchen Young and Tom Connor with Willie and Bill Geist
29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein
Please send comments and corrections to DIANECLEHANE at MEDIABISTRO dot COM and LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.