Lunch: Johnny Weir Is “Not From Mars,” Nate Berkus Readies Transformations


You just never know who’s going to turn up at Michael’s, and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected during my weekly lunches. That’s just what I got when U.S Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and his agent Tara Modlin showed up to join Rob Weisbach, uber agent and former president and CEO of Miramax Books, at Table One. I loved every minute of the drama on and off the ice at this year’s games, so I just had to go over and introduce myself to Johnny.

The usually flamboyant and outspoken star, who was wearing a red ruffled sweater, black pants and flat boots, was downright subdued as I offered my congratulations on his Olympic performance but perked up when I asked if the trio might be discussing a possible book. “Yes, I want to do a book. I write a blog for my Web site and I’d like to write about a lot of the things that happen behind the scenes in figure skating,” Johnny told me. “I’ve got a cool background. I’d like people to know I’m not from Mars.” I also asked the sixth place finisher to weigh in on silver medalist Yevgeny Plushenko’s controversial remarks about Evan Lysacek winning the gold medal without doing a quadruple jump. “I’m good friends with Yevgeny and his comments were taken out of context,” says Johnny. “He’s Russian. English is his second language.” So there you have it; it was all just a simple misunderstanding.

Speaking of books, I was joined today by literary agent Fredi Friedman who helms her own agency and has an impressively diverse list of clients including hedge fund king (and former Morgan Stanley honcho) Barton Biggs, Pat Buchanan, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, and her Republican counterpart Kellyanne Conway. “I go from one side of the aisle to the other!” says Fredi.

We were deep in conversation when Today show producer Marc Victor stopped by to introduce us to Oprah’s favorite design guru, Nate Berkus. His new syndicated show, Nate Berkus (catchy title!) is set to premiere in September on NBC. Nate tells me he’s branching out from home makeovers. The show will air as a lead-in to Ellen DeGeneres’ chatfest and will include a variety of different segments. “I’ll be doing some design, but I’ll also be doing interviews and focusing on the idea of transformations.” You might recall Oprah has sent Nate to several viewers’ homes for missions that go beyond a bathroom gone bad. One of my favorite recent episodes had Nate making over a woman who wanted him to glam her up and take her to her 25th high school reunion. “It’s tricky terrain when you’re picking out clothes for someone,” says Nate, who will also “have a presence” on Oprah’s OWN network when it launches. But he came through with flying colors and is now confident enough to give it a go on his own show. “We’re going to be focusing on transformations.”

Fredi, who is always thinking about new book ideas, told Nate he really had something there. “You should do a book!” she said. “Maybe I will,” Nate replied with a smile as he said his good-byes. “Thanks for the feedback!” At Michael’s, lunch is never just about lunch. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Rob Weisbach, Johnny Weir, and Tara Modlin

2. Today show producer Marc Victor (long time, no See!), Nate Berkus, and Nate’s agent Kristen Giese

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, Ed Victor, and his gorgeous wife, Carol.

4. Jean Doumanian with two gents, including producer Jerry Frankel.

5. The New York Observer‘s publisher Jared Kushner. How’s the missus?

6. The ‘Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, and Michael Kramer.

7. Designer Alexander Julian (Remember those color blocked sweaters circa 1982?) and pals

8. Fredi Friedman and yours truly

9. My friend, journalist Jill Brooke and Huffington Post’s Colin Sterling. Here’s some fresh dish that’s sure to interest foodies everywhere: Colin tells me he’ll be editing HuffPost’s new Food page scheduled to debut some time in the next month.

11. Lynn Goldberg

12. Bettina Zilkha, presiding over a table of social swans.

14. Bob Kerrey, who joined the Imber Gang for a while at their table before settling in for lunch with a lovely blonde lady.

15. Town & Country‘s Jim Taylor

16. Discovery ID’s main man Henry Schleiff

17. My good pal Cindy Lewis, who was rocking a seriously gorgeous Prada bag, with the always elegant Anne Fuchs. The gals stopped by my table on their way out to say hello. I was thrilled to see Anne again. We churned out a head spinning number of advertorials together back in the day when she was the publisher (and my boss) at Elle.

18. The perennially best dressed Randy Jones and a chic lady we didn’t recognize.

19. Asylum Records’ Todd Moskowitz

20. My good pal, producer Joan Gelman with Joan Hamburg

21. Mark Cross’ president & CEO Neal Fox

22. David Schulhof

23. BizBash’s founder David Adler

24. Renown Cartoonist William Hamilton, whose renderings of the inner workings of the social set graces the pages of The New Yorker.

25. Zelnick Entertainment’s Jim Friedlich

27. Pamela Keogh (looking fab in her LBD, despite having stayed up into the wee hours writing) with Joseph Montebello (loved the orange muffler!)

28. Jody Arnhold

29. Rubstein & Associates’ Suzi Halpin

Please send comments and corrections to DianeClehane AT mediabistro Dot com and lunch at mediabistro DOT com.