Where to begin? This week at 55th and Fifth, the scene in the dining room provided whiplash-inducing people watching with a tasty mix of moguls on the menu (Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Finkelstein) with a side of social swans (Sharon Bush, Patricia Kluge, Terry Allen Kramer).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Wednesday at Michael’s without the random celebrity sighting. I was thrilled to hear that I would be sitting next to none other than Ali MacGraw today. The ageless actress, who catapulted into the pop culture hall of fame with her iconic performance (and preppy wardrobe) in the 1970 tearjerker Love Story, turned every head in the place when she arrived — which is quite a feat among this crowd. She was beyond gracious as diners (including yours truly) lined up for pictures. Several years ago, I worked with her on The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars where she was honored with FGI’s entertainment award for her contributions to film and fashion. When I re-introduced myself, she immediately said, “Oh, I remember that night. It was so much fun!” and then proceeded to tell me this delicious bit of gossip from the evening: “I was standing next to Bill Blass when he saw Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones come in. And Bill turned to the person next to him and said, “Finally, some real movie stars!” She giggled, clearly delighted by the memory of the snarky diss from the designer.
Speaking of the power of celebrity, I was joined today by Charitybuzz CEO and founder Coppy Holzman who dazzled me with tales of his work with the famous and philanthropic. His company, which he founded in 2005, is currently the world’s largest online charity auction site and is the go-to partner for every famous person with a charity looking to raise serious money for their pet causes.
It all started at a backyard fundraising party for The Clinton Library in Westport, Connecticut that Coppy attended where he met President Bill Clinton and Chevy Chase. “Isn’t there a way for you to use your experience on the Internet to raise for the library?” the host of the party asked Coppy. On the spot, he came up with the idea of auctioning off a lunch with the former president. One year later, The Chevy Chase Earth Day Auction brought in $250,000 for the library, including $80,000 paid by one bidder to lunch with Clinton and Chase. Since then, Coppy has worked with Clinton on many different initiatives. “There is no bigger celebrity in the world,” he says. The top dollar paid to spend the day with Hillary’s husband: $255,000 in an auction last year.
You name the celebrity, and Coppy and his teams in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC have worked with them. From Bruce Springsteen (who made an appearance last weekend at his event at the Tribeca Grill benefiting the Kristen Ann Carr Fund) to Beyonce who recently inked a deal with Charitybuzz and has set aside a number of tickets from her “Mrs. Carter” tour for the auction site. Among the other high profile do-gooders who have raised funds with Charitybuzz: Ben Stiller (“The nicest guy you’d ever want to meet”), Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren (who auctions off all kinds of fashionista fantasies, like front row tickets to his show or a private viewing of his vintage car collection all to raise money for his breast cancer foundation Pink Pony), Tory Burch (“So genuinely generous”) Sir Paul McCartney (who began working with Coppy to raise money for land mine victims and now raises funds for a host of other causes) and Lauren Bush (for her FEED charity).
Just today, Charitybuzz launched an initiative for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights with an auction for coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple headquarters in California. Bidding started at 11 am, and at press time 30 bidders had bid up the cost of the experience to over $75,000. The auction is on track to be a record breaker. “We might even hit $100,000 today!” predicts Coppy. The winner of the auction is sure to get another surprise: a personal call from Ethel Kennedy. “Ethel is the most sincere, humane and engaged person I have ever met,” Coppy tells me. “She calls every person who supports the RFK Center and personally thanks them whether they spend $100 or $100,000.”
Charitybuzz’s motto (Do Good Live Well) is big business indeed. Coppy tells me the company is on its way to raising over $100 million for charity by September. With over half a million unique visitors, it has tapped into the zeitgeist in a major way while becoming a formidable force in fundraising and a profitable company. Coppy explained that his company makes money by taking a 20 percent commission from the winning bids. “My vision is to create a destination for unique experiences where bidders can meet interesting people and bid on iconic events like the Oscars and have the money go to charity.” I’d say mission accomplished.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Harvey Weinstein who, we’re told, was “closing three big deals” during lunch with David Glasser who was wearing headphones and watching something on a DVD player. That what I’d call a real ‘working lunch!’
2. Steven Rubenstein and former Post scribe Peter Lauria, who now toils for BuzzFeed.
3. Terry Allen Kramer, just back from Palm Beach, with Wendy Stark and Alana Stewart (who posed for pictures with Ali MacGraw). In the ‘isn’t-it-a-small-world department?’ I couldn’t help but notice these two gals shared an interesting link. Ali was famously Ryan O’Neal‘s on-screen love while Alana became oh so close with him after the death of her best friend Farrah Fawcett. Just thought you’d like to know.
4. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman
6. Sharon Bush, Anne Hearst, Patricia Kluge and another blonde social swan we didn’t recognize
7. DuJour‘s Jason K. Binn (“The ‘K’ is for kale!”) with High 10 CEO Lisa Dallos (Long time no see!) and Evan Strom
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia, Blair Sabol (loved the jewels!) and Miss Ali MacGraw
9. Star Jones, who dazzled us with her royal blue crystal-studded platforms. Work it, girl!
10. Coppy Holzman and yours truly
11. Uber agent Wayne Kabak
12. Jimmy Finkelstein (Nice to meet you, finally!), who told us he was lunching with two gents from Microsoft
14. The Early Show: Attorney Alan Grubman; Second seating: author Holly Peterson, ABC News’ Juju Chang and Sony Pictures Television president Andrea Wong
15. Marc Rosenthal
16. United Stations Radio Networks chairman/CEO Nick Verbitsky, presiding over a table of distinguished gents
81. Marketing man and political analyst Robert Zimmerman with Jimmy Lyons of Edmiston & Company. Proof positive Michael’s in a place where anything can happen: Robert actually found a pearl in one of his oysters today. Some people have all the luck.
17. Peter Price
18. Question of the day: Who was James Murdoch lunching with. Anyone?
19. Ambassador John Loeb
82. Producer Beverly Camhe, whose documentary, In God We Trust, premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival and is generating major buzz. None other than Andrew Madoff slipped into the theater for the premiere and was, says a spy, “very moved” by the film which purports that both he and his late brother Mark Madoff knew nothing of their father’s Ponzi scheme. Today, Beverly was with Jennifer Lee, Richard Pryor‘s third wife.
20. Author Wednesday Martin, who was nice enough to introduce me to David Margolick. The Vanity Fair contributing editor tells me his new book, Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns (Other Press) is due out in June. David tells me his latest tome was 45 (!?) years in the making. “It gives hope to writers everywhere who struggle with writers’ block.” Better late than never.
22. Tom Bennett
23. Sarah Simms Rosenthal
24. John Bernbach
25. Tech guru Shelly Palmer
26. Michael Kempner
27. HeadButler.com’s Jesse Kornbluth
28. Wenda Millard
30. Scott Singer with Teddy Goff who, says Scott, is responsible for President Barack Obama‘s 2008 and 2012 digital campaigns. Teddy told me he is “starting a business next week” (Who isn’t these days?) and presently consulting on “some digital things.” What were these two techies cooking up over lunch? “That’s confidential,’ said Scott. Alrighty then.
Faces in the Crowd: Radical Media’s Bobby Friedman … ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse, toasting the arrival of spring with champagne at the bar. Cheers!
Please send comments and corrections to DIANECLEHANE at MEDIABISTRO dot COM and LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.