The Dish on Christmas at The White House | Mrs. Howard Stern and the Social Swans

Lunch At Michaels


With yesterday’s monsoon a not-so-distant memory, an SRO crowd of the usual suspects at Michael’s showed up at 55th and Fifth today. There was the requisite gathering of ladies who lunch perched at Table One (including Peggy Siegal and Beth Ostrosky Stern amid a sea of blondes) with a smattering of power brokers (Bob Barnett) and TV types (Bill Hemmer, Felicia Taylor) scattered around the room. ‘Tis the season!

Diane Clehane and Loren Ruch
Diane Clehane and Loren Ruch

I was joined today by Loren Ruch, vice president of programming partnerships and special events for HGTV, DIY Network and Great American Country. He oversees many of the networks’ high-profile specials, like the annual broadcast of White House Christmas and many popular series, including Flipping the Block, Brother vs Brother, HGTV Dream Home, HGTV Smart Home, HGTV Urban Oasis and the upcoming Sharing Paradise. I met Loren (where else?) in this very dining room a few weeks back when he was lunching with PR maven extraordinaire Judy Twersky, who always introduces me to the most interesting folks, and we decided our own “Michael’s lunch” was in order.  With White House Christmas 2014 premiering on HGTV this Sunday at 8 p.m., it was perfect timing. Everywhere you look these days, it seems an HGTV show or personality is being obsessively talked about. The Property Brothers aka the telegenic twins Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott, recently got the full People magazine treatment. Hillary Clinton frequently cites Love It or List It as one of her favorite shows and everyone I know watches House Hunters, although it’s always a bit disconcerting to realize that for what you paid for your modest East Coast home, you could buy an entire block in other parts of the country. “House Hunters is absolutely a part of pop culture. We’re in the attainable, aspirational space,” said Loren, who explained the network’s multi-generational fan base this way: “We’re one of the few G-rated networks left on TV! We hear a lot about families watching our shows together.”

I know at our house watching White House Christmas has become an annual tradition. “We shot beginning on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for four days and basically produced the entire thing in five days,” said Loren, who together with host Genevieve Gorder had exclusive access to the behind-the-scenes goings on involved with the elaborate preparations in dressing The White House for the holidays. This year’s theme  is “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” with “whimsical and child-friendly decor” and other embellishments that celebrate the country’s military families. Having worked on the annual event since 2005, Loren told me “These are my favorite decorations ever because they weren’t the typical ornaments and are just so beautiful.” They transformed spaces, including the Vermeil Room, with hundreds of twinkling lights and glittering trees. The show is full of surprises and features appearances by First Lady Michelle Obama and the first family’s dogs, Bo and Sunny. “Seeing The White House at Christmas is magical,” said Loren. “Just stepping into the building is a bucket list kind of experience.”

And speaking of once-in-a-lifetime thrills, another one of Loren’s shows, HGTV Dream Home 2015 premieres New Year’s Day.  This year (its 19th!), the incredible home exquisitely decorated and furnished that one lucky viewer will win is located in Martha’s Vineyard. “It’s the biggest giveaway in history of cable television,” said Loren. I’ll say. The winner gets the house and all its furnishings, a GMC Acadia Denali and $250,000 provided by Quicken Loans — a total prize package valued at over $2 million. Last year, the network logged over 70 million entries on its website, but as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. We’re logging on the minute the contest goes live on December 29. The winners will learn of their good fortune some time next spring when the network shows up on their doorstep unannounced.