Forget about having to dig out a coat for the first time this season to ward off this morning’s chilly temps, the real sign of fall here is that the power lunch scene is back in full swing at Michael’s. Today the dining room was full of famous faces (Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts at separate tables, Wendy Williams, Star Jones); entertainment bigwigs (Tad Smith, Nick Verbitsky); social swans (Margo Nederlander and pals); and more spinmeisters than there are Kardashian tabloid covers on any given week. You get the picture.
Fall also means the launch of a plethora of “important” titles and made-for-gift-giving books. I was joined today by Steve Koepp, editorial director of Time Home Entertainment, the book publishing division of Time Inc., who gave me the inside story on the company’s impressive and incredibly diverse fall list. He came toting three books to illustrate the point: the just-published Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts, born out of Fortune‘s compulsively readable “40 Under 40″ annual list and featuring original interviews from headline-making top execs, including Marissa Mayer and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank; LIFE‘s bookazine The Wizard of Oz: 75 Years Along the Yellow Brick Road; and JFK: His Enduring Legacy (published by Time as both a book and bookazine).
Between bites of Cobb salad, Steve told me the book business is, in fact, thriving over at Time Inc. thanks to the company’s multi-pronged approach to reaching all different readers with books that often connect them back to those people and eras that “resonate” and seem to grow more iconic over time. This is certainly true with The Day Kennedy Died from Life, which Steve described to me as “magisterial.” Certainly sounds like it. Due out Oct. 15, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the book is full of fascinating reporting, artifacts and images from Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, there is so much material that has been thoughtfully assembled that the book comes with a magnetic closure to hold a full-size exact replica of the issue of Life published immediately after Kennedy’s assassination as well as a gatefold with the entire Zapruder film — all 486 frames — published for the first time. Reporting includes the “centerpiece” of the book: a narrative by Dick Stolley, then the magazine’s Los Angeles bureau chief who flew into Dallas after the shooting and recounts his experience covering the event that made the world stand still. Stolley, not so incidentally, was also the person that purchased the film from Zapruder for $50,000 the day after the assassination. He then went back the following Monday and bought all rights for an additional $100,000. The e-Book version contains the footage from the film. “The images from that film are burned into our collective consciousness,” says Steve. “This is a very substantial book,” he says, adding: “The Kennedys have been a staple of Life from the time JFK was a senator to his courtship of Jackie, his presidency and his death.”
Based on early sell-in numbers, The Day Kennedy Died is expected to be one of Time Inc.’s biggest books of the season. Other books from this year with high hopes include New Scientific Discoveries from Time and The Rat Pack from LIFE. As for Time Inc.’s top sellers of all time? Inside the Red Border, which looks at world events through the decades with the iconic covers and reporting from Time and Baseball’s Greatest by Sports Illustrated. In other words there’s something for everybody here. Aside from the usual go-to booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the new books will be sold at Costco, which placed a “substantial order” — just the thing for harried holiday shoppers. Steve tells me that bookazines are flourishing due to two important factors: accessibility — many are sold at supermarket checkouts that allow for perusing while that annoying person in front of you has to run back for that carton of milk they forget — and price (most run between $11.99 and $14.99). “They are doing quite well because customers see a good value,” says Steve. Other strong sellers include the bookazine about Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and anything about the British royal family. “The royals are always strong sellers.” Next year looks equally promising with Bob Spitz’s book on The Beatles’ first trip to America. “It’s a look at the 14 days that changed pop culture forever.” Mark your calendars, it’s due out in February.
It was interesting to get Steve’s optimistic take on publishing, given his own extraordinary career. A Time Inc. vet, he has served as deputy managing editor of Time, executive editor of Fortune, and editor of Time.com and Fortune.com. He also managed Time Inc.’s Assignment Detroit project from the house the company purchased in Detroit, which made for an interesting commute from Brooklyn. He left the company briefly in 2011 to be the interim editor of Newsweek but returned six months later. “I was the bridge between the old and new regimes.” Now that sounds like a book we’d like to read.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. The ladies who lunch: Producers Margo Nederlander and Terry Allen Kramer and news gal Felicia Taylor, who all got a warm welcome from Andrew Stein when he stopped by their table to say hello
2. Diet diva Nikki Haskell and Eva Mohr
3. Meet the parents: Wendy Williams and her parents Thomas and Shirley Williams. This isn’t the first time the talk show queen has brought her parents to Michael’s. Sweet.
4. PR prince Steve Rubenstein
5. The Today show’s Al Roker
6. Most of ‘The Imber Gang': Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield and Michael Kramer
7. Steve Koepp and yours truly
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Head Butler’s Jesse Kornbluth. Kudos to DPC for his affecting column on encountering a homeless woman earlier this week on the Upper East Side which served as a stunning reminder to his readers than even within the world of privilege he so scrupulously covers, there are those New Yorkers who are desperately in need. Bravo David.
9. Back from the Hamptons: author Wednesday Martin and Kelly Klein (yes, the ex-Mrs. Calvin Klein)
10. The New York Times’ Bill Keller and Harlem Village Academy’s Deborah Kenny
11. Andrew Stein
12. Producer Beverly Camhe with some interesting folks, including Kevin M. McGovern, chairman of The Water Initiative
14. IMG’s Jerry Inzerillo
15. BFFs Star Jones (Loved the curls!) and CBS News medical editor Dr. Holly Phillips with Planned Parenthood’s Alexis McGill Johnson.
16. United Stations Radio Networks’ Nick Verbitsky
17. Cablevision’s Tad Smith
18. ABC News’ Deborah Roberts with Cosmo editrix Joanna Coles, who wins today’s Best Dressed honors for her rock-star-chic ensemble that looked like something straight out of the pages of her magazine. Where can we get a pair of those gorgeously patterned knickers?
19. Spinmeister BJ Coleman — in shades, of course
20. Producer Joan Gelman and son Josh Gelman
21. Warner Bros.’ Edward Bleier and Mort Janklow
22. PR maven Catherine Saxton with Graham Gaspard, caviar czar to the stars as president of Black River Caviar and Rhona Silver, creator of CaterBid.com.
23. Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s Richard DeScherer
24. Beauty queen turned real-estate exec Julie Hayek (She’s a former Miss USA, in case you were wondering)
25. PR powerhouse Tom Goodman; Second seating: BizBash’s David Adler
26. Just the ticket: the go-to PR principal in the hospitality industry Trica Jean-Baptiste, who was nice enough to introduce me to PR/communications strategist Tammy Peters. Tammy’s new company, Media Mixology (Don’t you just love that name?), handles high-profile travel industry clients like the Mandarin Oriental.
27. PR pro and political analyst Robert Zimmerman with Gertrude CEO Kenneth Schlenker and COO Pablo Cerrilla. Just in case you didn’t know, Gertrude is “a platform for unique art experiences.” Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?
28. Lulu Chiang
29. The Wall Street Journal’s David Sanford and Lewis Stein, who was celebrating his birthday today. Cheers!
81. Journo Betsy Perry and literary agent Fredrica Friedman
82. Author Mary Murphy
And Liz Wood taking in the scene from a perch at the bar. See you next week!
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.