We could barely keep up with the steady stream of A-listers who poured into Michael’s today. When we arrived a little before noon, there was a handful of power brokers quietly hunkering down to business over their Cobb salads in the back of the room. By the time Bravo’s latest star, designer Chris March arrived with Jennifer Geisser, the network’s senior vice president of communications, and publicist Alana McElroy, there was a palpable party vibe in the dining room. Late arrival Harold Ford, Jr. worked the room like nobody’s business while social swans Muffie Potter Aston and Suzanne Johnson doled out air kisses like they were candy.
While it was a little hard to hear over the chattering crowd, I thoroughly enjoyed dishing with Chris, whose new show, Mad Fashion, premiered Tuesday night on Bravo. Chris, you might recall was a finalist on Project Runway. (Christian Siriano was the winner that season). His quirky couture and good natured personality ( gotta love that laugh!) made him a fan favorite. Chris tells me when Bravo’s resident boy wonder, Andy Cohen, got wind he was shopping a show around, he got in touch with Chris and insisted Bravo see it first. The deal was done in a matter of days.
Unlike most of those ubiquitous Bravolebrities, Chris isn’t into the fame game. “I didn’t do either show to get famous,” he tells me. “I did it to get to do the type of work I wanted to do.” Things have worked out pretty well on that score. On the Wednesday before the I Heart Radio concert in Las Vegas, Chris got a call from Lady Gaga’s office requesting he make something fabulous for her appearance at the show. In less than a week, he delivered the studded motorcycle cape she wore on stage. “That wouldn’t have happened without being on television.” Maybe, but the guy has definitely got it. This is the same man who made Meryl Streep‘s last Oscar dress at his kitchen table. His secret weapon: a drama-free attitude when dealing with people who live and die for style.
Chris says he warned the powers that be that he wasn’t into the cat fights that have become a Bravo signature. “I wanted to do a show that would be fun. I’ve worked with the same people for a long time and we all get along.” So much so that while taping on his birthday, producers had no choice but stand back and watch (and, of course, film) when Chris, his wig maker Izzie, and the rest of the gang decided to do an impromptu reanactment of the infamous table flipping episode on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Chris donned a red wig and channeled Caroline Manzo while Izzy wore a dark wig pulled all the way down on her forehead to play Teresa Guidice. You can see how it all went down on next week’s episode or get a sneak peek now on Bravo’s website.
Having toiled as a hairdresser, stylist, chef and costume designer for Beach Blanket Babylon in his native San Francisco for 10 years, Chris has big plans for his first season of Mad Fashion. In upcoming episodes, he makes a Mardi Gras dress for actress Jennifer Coolidge (“You should see her house in New Orleans. It’s like a haunted mansion!”), fashions a dress from 200 bras for the digital launch of Jene Luciani‘s The Bra Book, and even ventures into New Jersey to design something for ex-Housewife Dina Manzo. (She was never our favorite, but maybe Chris can lighten her up.)
Chris said he finds today’s red carpets “dull,” because celebs are afraid of the criticism of trying something different. “There aren’t a lot of places that celebrities can take chances. Maybe they can push it a little bit at the VMAs and the Grammys, and then they are criticized for being ‘too safe.'” His dream clients: Katy Perry, who seems like the perfect fit, and Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks, who has had her share of fashion disasters. “She needs something special,” he advises. “You can’t take a person with an unusual shape and put her in something you can go out and buy. She needs custom undergarments and then design the dress over them. Then everything will fit perfectly.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, presiding over a table of movers and shakers
2. Peter Brown and Judith Miller. In case you haven’t heard, the former New York Times reporter has a new gig: theater critic for Tablet magazine.
3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong (Long time no see!), back on campus having just returned from Israel, with Sanford Bernstein’s Paul Beirne
4. Cosmo editrix Kate White (loved the leopard!) with Pamela Fiori and legendary PR guru John O’Keefe. Nice to meet you!
5. CNBC’s Squawk Box anchor Joe Kernen, who was kind enough to introduce me to Marc Lasry, CEO of Avenue Capital Group. (Charmed, I’m sure). Joe tells me he and his daughter, Blake Kernen, who co-wrote Your Teacher Said What? Defending Our Kids from the Liberal Assault on Capitalism, are taking their show on the road. Next Thursday, Blake will be addressing the Washington, D.C., Chamber of Commerce at their author’s forum. The appearance is something of a warm-up for the big event, where the proud papa will be on hand to see Blake give the keynote address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference in Orlando early next year. Bravo!
6. Chris March, Jennifer Geisser, Alana McElroy and yours truly
7. Hanna Lee
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with some well heeled pals, including Marc Freden
9. Confessions of a Shopaholic screenwriter Tracey Jackson
10. Fashionista Elizabeth Musmanno and Diesel’s president, Cristiano Quieti
11. Project Playlist’s John Sykes and Michael Bloom. Richard Bilotti, who was dining in the Garden Room, stopped by the table for a quick chat on his way out.
12. Sony ATV/Music’s CEO Martin Bandier with Jimmy Finkelstein
14. Time Inc.’s Paul Caine
15. Steve Mosko
16. Would love to know what these three BFF’s were talking about: Democratic Leadership chair and NBC News analyst Harold Ford, Jr., Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Susie Essman (all in white!) and public relations guru and television analyst (he weighs in the political scene on Fox News and CNN) Robert Zimmerman
17. Suzanne Johnson and Muffy Potter Aston. Have you seen Suzanne in those ads hawking hubby Woody’s Jets’ gear? The woman knows how to accessorize.
18. Barbara Walters and Marie Josee-Kravis, looking tres chic in head-to-toe baby blue Chanel
20. Shelley Zalis and Shelly Palmer
21. Quest’s Chris Meigher
22. Jason Pomeranc
23. Black Ocean’s Gerry Byrne with Scott Higgins, chairman and founder of Veterans Advantage, which offers discounts from companies like Verizon and United Airlines to America’s vets. Scott was also the driving force behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Wall Street. Gerry is on Veterans Adantage’s board of directors.
24. Legendary ad man Martin Puris
25. Walter Sabo (Long time, no see!)
26. Washington, D.C., power broker Tammy Haddad
27. Conde Nast spinmeister Dan Scheffey with Mark Schwartz. Mark has quite a CV: he’s, chairman of both Ireland’s largest department store, Arnotts and of Palladin Capital in Boston.
28. Rubenstein’s Susie Arons
29. The always stylish Judy Della Femina (hubby Jerry and The Imber Gang were out of town this week, in case you were wondering)
Faces in the crowd: The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein. David tells me that TV legend and Priceline pitchman William Shatner had the newsroom doubled over in laughter during his visit yesterday. “This is not a newsroom where you hear a lot of laughter,” David tells me. “So it was something to see. Everywhere the man goes, he leaves people smiling.” …. Kira Semler and Vi Huse, enjoying their first champagne lunch of the fall at the bar. See you next time!
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