Barry Diller, David Zaslav and the Exclusive on Star Jones’ TV Plans

Lunch At Michaels

LunchAtMichaelsIt was business as usual at Michael’s today, which means it was wall-to-wall moguls (Barry Diller, David Zaslav), EICs (Liz Vaccariello, Alison Brower) and TV newsers (Ron Insana, Felicia Taylor and Lynn Sherr) — and plenty of other famous faces. I was joined by Star Jones, one of my favorite regulars at 55th and Fifth, who I met when I was one of the first reporters to cover the freshman season of The View. Suffice to say there’s been plenty that’s happened in Star’s professional and personal life since then, and she’s come through it all wiser, funnier and more determined than ever to forge her own path. Sitting at Table 1 today, nibbling on her kale salad with a side of salmon, she practically glowed with happiness.

She was excited to tell me about her role as chief development officer and national spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Women, where she is serving as a passionate advocate for members on healthcare and equal pay, which, she said, has become a tent pole issue. With most of NAPW’s members in middle management and plenty of entrepreneurs in the ranks, Star is all about “stiletto networking,” as she told me, which involves developing programming for the membership that will help empower them to reach their goals. “This is an opportunity for me to use all my experience and not just be in one box as an attorney, talk show host or author. Women’s lives are comprised of so many difference facets; it’s exciting to act as a advocate for NAPW, as I’ve done with my work for the American Heart Association, for causes that I’m passionate about.” She has also created the NAPW Foundation which, in addition to AHA, supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Dress for Success and Girls Inc. Star also brings another valuable skill to NAPW:  finding the right benefits and services to offer to its members. “You know I’m good at getting perks for the sisters!”

Michael Cominotto, Diane Clehane, Star Jones and Katherine Butkevich
From left: Michael Cominotto, Diane Clehane, Star Jones and Katherine Butkevich
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Ever since she forged her age on her driver’s license (upping it from 15 to 16) so she could get a job at McDonald’s (“The statute has run out on that crime!”), Star has been creating unforeseen opportunities for herself that have defied expectations. In the early 90s, she went from the Brooklyn DA’s office to the small screen when she was tapped as a commentator for Court TV and Inside Edition, covering high profile cases like William Kennedy Smith’s rape trial and The OJ Simpson case. By the time she left her seat at the table with Barbara Walters on her ABC chatfest, she was one of daytime television’s most famous faces. Of her run on The View: “They were the best eight years of my life,” she said before adding with some laughter, “But I was on for nine years and that last year was a little rough.” But, like they say, time heals all wounds, and Star reports her relationship with Walters is better than ever. “Johnnie Cochran was my legal mentor, and Barbara has always been my broadcasting mentor. We’ve had our ups and downs, but no one has been more supportive of me than Barbara.” The two women have forged something of a blood bond having both undergone heart surgery in 2010 within months of each other. “My surgery was in March and Barbara’s was in May — and both our surgeries were on our aortic valves,” said Star. “So, of course we reached out to each other.”

Her old boss has even invited her back on The View to talk about her latest venture: her new line of stylish, affordably priced sportswear for QVC — Status by Star Jones. “It’s exciting to go back as a designer on the show.” (She tapes the segment next week.) And lest you think that Star just lent her name to the venture, think again. “I wanted to be able to say I designed the collection. I picked every zipper, every button; I wanted the chiffon scarf on this jacket to come attached because I know that women like me don’t want it to fall off when you sit down,” she said as she opened the beautifully cut teal jacket from her fall collection she was wearing this afternoon (trust me, it looked a heck of a lot more expensive than its $69 price). “I tried to think of everything because I’m designing this for every woman and a lot of women I know are single, so things like having side zippers on dresses and blouses you can do without help was important to me.” Above all, said Star, she wanted clothes that fit all sizes, so her line runs from size 0 to 26 W. “I didn’t size up one design for big girls and size down the clothes for smaller ones. The 8 is an 8. The fits are true to size.” Best of all, the fabrics are so good, she said, “it’s like Spanx you can wear outside.”