Happy New Year — now let’s get back to business. The power lunch season is back in full swing at Michael’s, so we’re serving up a double helping of ‘Lunch’ this week.
On Tuesday, Lisa Vanderpump and her husband Ken Todd joined me along with Bravo’s Jennifer Geisser and Jodi Davis at Table One to talk about her new Bravo series, Vanderpump Rules and, of course, dish about the current season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Lisa was wrapping up a whirlwind 48-hour stop in New York to promote her new show and in the last 24 hours appeared on Good Morning America, The Wendy Williams Show, Joy Behar, Anderson Live and Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen where, so I heard, things got a little bawdy. It took a few minutes for Lisa and Ken to make their way to our table, because several RHOBH fans stopped them to ask to take a photo with Giggy, their Pomeranian who accompanies them everywhere. It turns out Giggy also has a famous fan in Alec Baldwin, who Lisa told me, jumped out of his town car at 30 Rock that very morning and asked, “Can I hold him?” He then snapped his own photo with the four-legged reality star who has his own Twitter handle. See, Andrea Peyser, the 30 Rock star does have a heart.
When Lisa and Ken settled in for our chat and Giggy, who was wearing a jewel encrusted sweater that I’m pretty sure cost more than my dress, was safely seated and drinking water out of a champagne glass (you can’t make this stuff up) — I just had to ask why this very successful, smart and even-keeled couple jumped into the reality show pool of insanity in the first place. It turns out Ken was “extremely apprehensive” about letting in the cameras in, and Lisa turned down requests many times before deciding to give it a try. None other than Jennifer Flavin (Mrs. Sylvester Stallone), who was obsessed with the New York housewives, encouraged Lisa to try out. “We were sitting on Jennifer and Sly’s bed and she said, ‘You have to watch this.’ I did and thought, ‘I’d never do anything like that.'” Well, never say never. After finally auditioning for the show and then waiting months to hear from the producers, Lisa decided she did want in. “Once I thought it might not happen then I wanted it,” said Lisa with a laugh. While awaiting word from Bravo, Lisa had attached herself to another reality show with friend Kathy Hilton, but when Andy Cohen came calling she was in. And that, as they say, was that.
In a typical six-degrees-of-Beverly-Hills-separation way, Lisa did know all the women that wound up on the show. “But not like the way I know them now,” she said. Indeed. After last season’s tense, accusation-filled reunion show where costar Adrienne Maloof accused Lisa of selling stories to media outlets, which Lisa vehemently denied, her relationship with her former neighbor has cooled considerably. Now it seems, Adrienne turned her attention to her soon to be ex-husband Dr. Paul Nassif. “She’s been vicious to him in the press,” says Lisa. When I asked Lisa how the other housewives feel about her getting her own show she told me, “Brandi [Glanville] has been supportive and Taylor [Armstrong] sent me flowers.” You can fill in the rest. As for the newest housewife, Yolanda Foster, Lisa says, “Yolanda is just hitting her stride with the show. I think she was a good addition to the cast.”
In talking with Lisa it’s clear that she considers her reality show fame a lark. “I always loved being a wife and mother and all the things that go along with that.” Lisa and Ken have been married for almost 30 years, which is something like 200 years in Beverly Hills. “We’re each other’s best friends, ” says Ken when asked for the secret to their long-lasting union. Lisa agrees. “It’s all about respect. Once that is gone, you’re in trouble.” It’s always been family first with the couple who has managed to build an incredibly successful business together, including their restaurants in Beverly Hills, Villa Blanca and Sur. A reality show just never figured into the plans. “I don’t think I would have done it if my children were younger. The show came along at the right time. We had a empty nest,” she said. Last season when her daughter Pandora got married, Lisa, Ken and the bride-to-be were fiercely protective of just what they would allow to be aired and, while it might not have looked like it on camera, limited what the producers could and could not film. Pandora even got final approval on what would air.”It was her day and she knew what she wanted.”
It’s Lisa’s straight shooting, no nonsense yet often maternal manner on the show that often grounds the high drama in some semblance of sanity. “I think when these shows get too shrill people tune out,” she says. “That was my condition in going on the show. I said I wanted to be portrayed honestly and openly, and the producers have done that.” Whatever has happened on-screen has really happened. “These women that say they are made to look a certain way are wrong — editing my butt. They can amp up the drama, but they can’t put words in your mouth.”
Vanderpump Rules was introduced Monday night through a seamless transition of having a waitress from Sur go from the restaurant’s dining room where she had been having a heart-to-heart with housewife Brandi Glanville through the kitchen where she met her new co-workers and co-stars in the new series. The show features the young, ambitious and, of course, catty staff of Sur whose personal and professional lives are tailor made for the reality show treatment. It looks like Bravo has a winner on its hands. The premiere episode, which begins airing in its regular time slot Mondays at 10 p.m next week, garnered nearly 2 million viewers, making it the highest-rated new series since Bethenny Getting Married? “I’m thrilled with it,” says Lisa. “[Producers] Evolution Media made it look really good and have been so great about everything.” Both Lisa and Ken, who are executive producers on the project originally rejected the series’ title. “We wanted to have ‘Sur’ in the title,” Ken told me. I also asked why there wasn’t more Lisa in the show that bears her name. “There are eight episodes of Vanderpump Rules and a reunion and 23 episodes of Housewives, including reunions and lost footage. That’s quite enough of me,” she said with a laugh. “Bravo has been very clever. They are clearly going after a younger audience with the new show. They don’t have to saturate Monday nights with any more of me.” A reality star who isn’t looking for more of the limelight? Now that’s news.
On the menu today: lunch with The Municipal Art Society of New York’s president Vin Cipolla and my good friend, PR maven Lisa Linden, which was quite timely due to all the recent talk about sustainability in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Throughout his career, Vin has been devoted to urban sustainability, conservation and the arts. Fresh off the latest MAS Summit (now in its third year) where Vin convened 80 speakers and policy makers including Amanda Burden and architect Norman Foster to tackle the subject, Vin was brimming with interesting insights about how to make New York City more vital during these changing times. With a parallel professional life spent in both the private and public sectors, Vin has been a CEO in the corporate world six times, founded three companies and had extensive experience in media, marketing and communications. Prior to joining MAS, he was president and CEO of the National Park Foundation (which is a presidential appointment). With all his diverse executive experience, Vin says there are more similarities than differences in those environments. “It’s all about mission.” These financially challenging times provide opportunity within the public sector today, says Vin, because “people are searching for solutions and are open to new ways of thinking. It’s not business as usual. It’s about how elastic New York can be.”
Vin’s advocacy for smart, sustainable solutions in design for the changing urban landscape are grounded in equal parts common sense and extraordinary vision. “It’s not business as usual anymore. The old models are not holding up,” he says. “New York is the global capital of entrepreneurship; it’s on the shoulder of entrepreneurs that we did not fall off the cliff. Entrepreneurs have to get closer to civics and landscape projects and be part of meaningful discussions.” Certainly, he notes, innovative thinking is critical to the rebuilding effort of any areas of the city affected by the storm. “We’ve gone to the water’s edge with the hardscape and we need to be thinking about nature and challenging the conventional way of thinking. The policy makers are way behind on this. We need to be thinking about land use in the city in a different way.”
To help further the conversation and to recognize and reward innovation, Vin has a full slate of events for The Municipal Art Society of New York this year. This weekend he is helming “The Resilient City From The Ground Up” at the New School where MAS is bringing together civil activists and local entrepreneurs to brainstorm new ideas at the local level. On February 26, at the organization’s annual meeting, their annual award will be bestowed on an individual nominated by the public and selected by a jury who “has had a profound effect on the city through art.” In the late spring, MAS will host its annual gala event at Grand Central Station, which is celebrating its 120th anniversary where the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal is presented. The award, created in 1994, the only one of its kind named after the former first lady, in honor of her passionate efforts to save great architecture as she famously did in 1974 when she led the charge to save Grand Central Central Station. Past honorees include Joan Ganz Cooney, Pete Peterson and Diane von Furstenberg. See you there!
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. How you doin’? Daytime diva Wendy Williams, Suzanne DePasse of DePasse Entertainment, and an entourage of folks
2. Agent Lynn Goldberg
3. PR guru Hamilton South
5. Wayne Kabak and Gerri Willis
4. Hearst’s Michael Clinton and a mystery gal. Anyone?
6. Bravo’s SVP of communications, Jennifer Geisser, and communications VP Jodi Davis with another Bravolebrity, the sequined and spangled Patti Stanger whose new season of Millionaire Matchmaker premieres January 10 at 9 pm. We wouldn’t miss it.
7. Stylista Julie Macklowe. Congrats to the v Beaute founder for being named a finalist in the entrepreneur beauty/fragrance category for the Rising Star Award presented by The Fashion Group International. You’ve got our vote.
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and AOL’s Jolie Hunt
9. Discovery Communications’ Henry Schleiff with attorney Bob Piliero
11.Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and Jim McGinnis
12. Jim Torey and Patricia Duff
14. Mark Rosenthal
15. Mitch Rosenthal (no relation to Mark — just thought you’d like to know)
16. Great Talent Network’s Don Epstein
81. Author Wednesday Martin and Kelly Klein (yes, Calvin‘s ex)
17. Judy Price
18. Vin Cipolla, Lisa Linden and yours truly
19 Rachel Zallis
20. Today show contributor Star Jones and former Today producer Marc Victor, whose new production company, aptly named Tomorrow Productions, was responsible for that fascinating special on presidential families that aired last month on NBC. Congrats!
21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher and Chuck Pfeiffer
23. Steven Greenberg
24. Scalamandre president Steven Stolman with designer Ray Raymakersan, the proprietor of the much loved Van Der Akker shop specializing in fine mid-century furniture in case you’re looking for something for the weekend house
25. Spin doctor Tom Goodman with sports PR strategist Al Abrams
26. Amy Olli and Kay Koplovitz
27. Author (Jackie as Editor) Greg Lawrence and a stylish blonde gal we didn’t get to meet
28. Hal Goldberg
29. KPMG’s Terri Santisi
Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.