Judy Blume, Shirley MacLaine and a Chat With the City’s Hardest Working Real Estate Broker

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaelsWhere to begin? Michael’s was especially lively today, with a head-spinning mashup of mavens of every stripe, moguls and boldface names—but with the added bonus of some serious star power. None other than Shirley MacLaine was first to arrive in the dining room today, giving me the perfect opportunity to grab the Academy Award winner for a quick chat. Contrary to what you may think, it’s not easy to just go up to a Hollywood legend and strike up a conversation, so I had to think fast. After I said my hello, I quickly added that we’d met at Michael’s a few years back when she stopped in to present Liz Smith with her grey armadillo-shaped birthday cake. She remembered! “That was one ugly cake,” she smiled. I asked her if she was going to reprise her role as Martha Levinson, mother of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and sparring partner of Maggie Smith’s Violet on the final season of Downton Abbey. Her answer: “No. There’s too many characters on that show!” And with that, she sailed over to her table.

Diane Clehane and Ross Ellis
Diane Clehane and Ross Ellis
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I was joined today by multitasking philanthropist and real estate broker extraordinaire Ross Ellis. She’s one of those women who accomplishes more before lunch than mere mortals do in a week. Ross started her week driving out to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to accept a $50,000 check from the Jets, presented by president Neil Glat, to STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national bullying and cyberbullying prevention nonprofit for kids and teens she started in 2005. The presentation was the highlight of the Jets’ first Anti-Bullying Awareness Day, complete with the airing on the jumbotron of a PSA with the team’s (now injured) wide receiver Eric Decker. Ross told me the Jets organization has been steadfast in its support of STOMP Out Bullying (“They’re amazing to work with”) and have even partnered with Ross’ organization to distribute 1,000 Educator Bullying Prevention Tool Kits to 1,000 tri-state area schools.

The timing for our lunch was fortuitous, because October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and Monday is Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention (which Ross created). It appears as if she has managed to get all of Manhattan involved. On Monday morning, ABC’s Good Morning America will show a PSA with Robin Roberts, produced by STOMP Out Bullying. The Chew and The FabLife will also be featuring the initiatives. In the evening, she’ll join Taye Diggs as he flips the switch to turn the Empire State Building blue.

A national expert in violence against children, bullying and cyberbullying prevention, school violence and Internet safety, Ross has spoken at schools and communities all over the country about this troubling epidemic. After the suicide of Greenwich high school student Bart Palosz, who was widely reported to have been bullied in school for years, she came up to speak to the town’s Board of Selectmen about preventative measures needed to avoid future tragedies. As a resident of Greenwich and mother of a soon-to-be middle schooler, I say thank you.

Helping children has been a longtime passion for Ross. After a successful career in public relations and public affairs, Ross founded Love Our Children USA in 1999, the national go-to prevention organization fighting all forms of violence and neglect against children. Her work has garnered the support of a long list of A-listers, including Julianne Moore, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Debra Messing. In November, Ross is being honored for her work by The New York Association of Fundraising Professionals at a gala awards ceremony at the Plaza.

Ross runs STOMP Out Bullying all while toiling as an award-winning real estate broker at Halstead Properties in the city. She’s been with the firm for a decade, working with the one percenters looking to buy and sell their palatial properties. A residential broker who does plenty of hand holding of VIPs and celebrities, Ross says she’s constantly arranging for limos and town cars for well-heeled buyers and sellers who could surely afford their own fleet of Mercedes. These days she noted, “There are a lot of foreign buyers who are buying places for investments or to live in when they are in town. The Chinese are buying properties site unseen.”