As devoted as we are to covering the Fellini-esque scene that is Wednesdays at Michael’s, we do occasionally break tradition and report the news from 55th and Fifth on other days of the week when we’re invited to especially dishy lunches with A-listers. Monday’s head-spinning gathering of the “Cosmo 100” hosted by the hotter-than-hot editrix Joanna Coles more than fit the bill. Boasting one of the year’s most impressive guest lists, the estrogen-fueled confab now in its second year, brilliantly showcased Joanna’s savvy for bringing together her vast network of female overachievers from every conceivable sphere of influence for the dual purpose of some high-profile networking and some serious brand building. “Last year when I came up with the idea for this lunch, people came and didn’t really know what to expect,” Joanna told me as she stood in the lounge accepting air kisses and posing for photos with the growing throng of well-wishers. “This year, we had people calling up asking to come.”
Among those that did make the final cut: actresses Sarah Jessica Parker (“This is my new favorite yearly lunch!” she told me) and The Carrie Diaries star AnnaSophia Robb (The original Carrie and Carrie 2.0 met for the first time in the dining room and posed for their first ever joint photo during cocktails); The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee; Arianna Huffington; Mika Brzezinski (whose late arrival during Joanna’s opening remarks earned the Morning Joe cohost some cheeky chiding about her tardiness); celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson; supermodel Coco Rocha (who sported a chic shorter hairstyle and towered over the crowd); producer Desiree Gruber; designers Georgina Chapman and Stacey Bendet; Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon; A&E Network’s Nancy Dubuc; Politico‘s Kim Kingsley; Atlantic Record’s chairman Julie Greenwald; lobbyist Heather Podesta (whose striking silver locks, sky high Louboutins and flawless makeup earned her my pick as the best-dressed guest); Harvard Business School professor and TED talker Amy Cuddy; Lauren Zalaznick; Leslie Sloane; Liz Kaplow; The Chew‘s Daphne Oz; attorney Robbie Kaplan (who argued Edie Windsor‘s case before the Supreme Court); director and producer Alexandra Kerry (Dad is Secretary of State John Kerry); Laurie Tisch; and aspiring songstress Sky Ferreira, a frequent subject of lensman Terry Richardson.
Joanna’s penchant for political discourse was well represented by senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who both spoke while the crowd picked at their salads (a delicious “Cosmo Cobb” with Maine lobster, cherry tomato, bacon, feta and baby romaine). Sen. Klobuchar was particularly tickled about being invited to lunch — many years ago, she revealed, she submitted a column to Cosmopolitan, which was promptly rejected. “My Sex and the City days didn’t happen,” she said, pointing to SJP. “Then I decided to go to law school.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who stayed just long enough to be serenaded with a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” led by Joanna, told the room she was hoping for “equal pay for equal work” as her present this year. New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn stood to accept some applause when Joanna said of her ill-fated run for New York City mayor, “Christine fought a hard and long battle… It’s likely we will see a woman in the White House before we have one running this great city.” And this being a lunch for Cosmo, after all, there was a smattering of sex talk. Klobuchar made a joke of steering clear of being photographed with the nudes hanging in the restaurant, while Joanna told the crowd of a “disappointing visit to the gynecologist” who “found something in her vagina” before waiting a beat to reveal “it was some Texas Republicans.”
That started plenty of chatter at my table, where I was seated between Queen Noor of Jordan and Meryl Poster, president of television at The Weinstein Company. On the other side of Queen Noor was Hearst’s Ellen Levine, who regaled us with tales of her husband (a noted gynecologist) bringing his work home in the form of the occasional TMI. “Sometimes I worried about my sons,” she joked, “But they turned out perfectly normal.” I couldn’t help but wonder what Queen Noor’s connection was to this group. She told me she was a longtime friend of Joanna’s, and she wanted to be here to support her. “Not that she needs it,” she said. I was more than a little relieved when Ellen asked her the question on my mind, which was: “How do we address you?” to which she replied, “My friends and family call me ‘Noor’ so by the end of this afternoon, I’m sure you’ll be part of that group, so ‘Noor.'” Over the course of lunch, I chatted with this incredibly poised and gracious woman about all sorts of things. She told me she’d just flown in to New York from London the night before (having attended a conference on missing persons) to visit her 95-year-old mother, who lives here, and spend some time with her two daughters, one of whom is in search of the right university to earn her PhD (Queen Noor attended Princeton). She told me it was rare to have all three generations together in one place, “so I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them.” When the conversation turned to fascinating women, Queen Noor expressed her admiration for none other than singer and Broadway star Cyndi Lauper. “For someone to have had a career like she has had and be able to reinvent herself as she has done with her artistry is very impressive to me,” she noted referencing her Tony-winning music in Kinky Boots.
While my mind swirled with a million questions I wanted to ask “Noor,” she turned the tables on me and asked about my career. It was extraordinary to me that this woman, who has lived such a uniquely fascinating life, would take such an interest in a stranger she’d just met. I quickly realized her ability to make people feel as if they were the only person at the table, in the room — and deflect interest from herself — is truly a gift that had undoubtedly been cultivated by her life as a royal. “So you write a column about who comes here and where they sit… does it change according to where they are in their careers or depend on who they’re with?” she inquired. “That’s fascinating.” Really. She also didn’t bat an eye when I realized I had been drinking out of the wrong water glass on the table (when there’s more than two place settings, I get confused). “No worries,” she told me as I sheepishly reached over and gave her the untouched glass I should have been using. “I was going to ask you for it if you didn’t give it to me.”
Midway through the lunch, Barbara Walters arrived at our table and was seated next to her publicist, the tireless and terrific Cindi Berger. Walters, of course, had interviewed Queen Noor many years ago when she first married King Hussein of Jordan and spent a few minutes catching up with her. I then turned to Meryl, who had been catching up with Leslie Sloane (making the rounds). After deciding that the “Cosmo Cobb” should get a permanent spot on Michael’s menu (it was created for the luncheon and will remain on the menu throughout the month), Meryl and I traded award show war stories. I also told her I was a huge fan of Project Greenlight, one of Harvey Weinstein‘s first reality series about a fledgling filmmaker’s quest to get his movie made, in which she appeared with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. “Did you see I was always checking my watch on that show? Shooting felt like it took forever,” she joked. “And I didn’t have a stitch of makeup on!” When the conversation turned to her more recent projects like Project Runway All Stars, and she mentioned Harvey’s wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, who is a judge on the show, I told her one of my favorite dresses of Georgina’s came from the girls’ line she created for Target last Christmas. Then I whipped out my phone to show her a shot of my daughter modeling the frilly, fuchsia confection. “You have to show that to Georgina — she will love it! Come on, I’ll introduce you.” And with that, she brought me over to Georgina’s table where we dished about fashion. Georgina is also having quite the week with First Lady Michelle Obama earning high marks for the stunning emerald chiffon Marchesa gown she wore to the Kennedy Center Honors. “I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled,” Georgina told me. I left Meryl and Georgina to talk about the new set design on their show.
By then, the crowd was dispersing, leaving the plates of holiday cookies on the tables untouched. Servers bearing platters of white chocolate and dark chocolate truffles didn’t find too many takers, either. This group was decidedly set on fattening the contact lists on their phones over the size of their thighs. Based on the number of hugs and the flurry of business cards I saw being exchanged on the way out the door, I knew the afternoon was a rousing success on that score. Earlier Joanna had told all of us: “This is my Christmas present to you. I hope you leave with your Smythson notebook (each guest got a specially designed hot pink book embossed with THE COSMO 100) and someone else’s phone number!” Mission accomplished.
And lest you think all the star power at Michael’s was on Monday, there was the usual crush of movers and shakers — and plenty of celeb sightings (Regis Philbin, Phil Donahue, Kathleen Turner) in the dining room this afternoon…
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Margo Nederlander with eleven of her closest pals, including actress Kathleen Turner and producer Terry Allen Kramer celebrating the season. Cheers!
2. CBS board member Arnold Kopelson with his wife and incoming NYPD chief William Bratton and his better half Rikki Klieman
3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko
4. Regis Philbin, Phil Donahue, Charles Grodin and Henry Schleiff
5. Herb Siegel
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman
7. Matt Rich, Eva Roosevelt and tennis great Martina Navratilova
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia
9. Vbeaute founder Julie Macklowe and Amy Rosenblum
11. Wayne Kabak
12. Jimmy Finkelstein
14. Peter Brown
15. Star Jones
16. Attorney Michael Del Guidice
17. Digital Place Based Advertising Association CEO Barry Frey
18. Mitch Kanner
19. Euan Rellie
20. Producer Joan Gelman and my “Lunch” date last week, Dan Scheffey
22. Gannett’s Maryam Banikarim
23. Spin sisters: Susan Magrino and Allyn Magrino
24 Ad man Martin Puris, Mike Murphy, Jay Cross and scribe Michael Wolfe
29. Victoria King
81. Former Hearst exec Cathie Black and Cosmo publisher Donna Lagani
Faces in the crowd: Red carpet photographer Greg Pace (who took the shot of SJP and AnnaSophia Robb in today’s column), ringing in the Christmas season with his lovely mom Carolyn Pace in the Garden Room.
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.