It was one for the books today at Michael’s. While the SRO crowd of mavens, moguls and machers was celebrating at full tilt, the joint got an extra jolt of adrenaline when word spread that Jennifer Aniston would be hosting an intimate lunch for twenty as she continues her unofficial Oscar campaign for her role in her latest film, Cake. In case you haven’t heard, Jen goes without makeup (gasp!) and does the whole ‘I can look like a real person’ thing as she portrays a widow and chronic pain sufferer in the film. Today, though, she was in full movie-star mode as she arrived with a bodyguard in tow who stood watch over her table in the corner of The Garden Room to keep away the curious. This intrepid reporter tried to get a few words with the former Friends star, but when I introduced myself to her handler Stephen Huvane and asked him if I could ask her a few questions about the film, I got a big smile and a “I don’t think so.”
Too bad, because I also wanted to tell Jen I think her fiance Justin Theroux was unjustly snubbed by the Globes and SAG Awards for his outstanding work in The Leftovers. Oh well. Among those who were invited to the gathering: Gayle King, who stopped by our table to say hello, Marlo Thomas, Arianna Huffington and one of her daughters. I caught up with Deborah Roberts, who was also on the guest list who told me, “The whole thing was very low key. I kept waiting for someone to make a speech about the film, but there was none of that. Just a nice lunch with some great people.” We’re told Jennifer was gracious to the staff on the way out, but no one dared ask for a selfie or a quick chat. If you want to see some shots of all the big doings, photographer Kevin Mazur was there to document this momentous occasion, which is sure to show up on the usual sites soon.
I was joined today by Nancy Lee, president of MyRegistry.com and Lauren Theodore, vice president, consumer practice, for Steinreich Communications. Our chat seemed particularly timely given the frenzied holiday season, and I was eager to find out how the whole shebang worked when I reviewed the company’s media kit, which boasted some staggering statistics. MyRegistry is the world’s largest universal gift registry that gives users the ability to create a personalized online registry for any gift-giving occasion. Users are able to add any items from “any store in the world,” enabling MyRegistry to be one of the largest barometers of consumer product preferences in the industry. Since its inception in 2005, the company has seen a 55 percent increase in year over year growth. More than 20,000 gifts for weddings, baby showers, birthdays, graduations, housewarmings, holidays and more are added on MyRegistry every day. The company’s busiest time, as you might expect, coincides with “wedding season,” running mid-May through mid-October, Nancy tells me, and the site has seen a 45 percent increase in holiday traffic this year. Currently, MyRegistry is getting over 25,000 visitors a day. “We’ve seen an incredible surge in traffic as more and more people are using registries to make it easier for friends and families to shop without having to worry about buying the right gift.”
This is not your run-of-the-mill wedding or baby shower registry, by a long shot. Nancy tells me users are doing all kinds of interesting things with their personalized pages. To wit: couples are registering for cash earmarked for their honeymoon, often showing wedding guests pictures of their exotic dream locale in hopes of getting them to open up their checkbook. “It’s very commercial, but everything that couples do to make it their own makes it feel anything but,” says Nancy. Families are also creating “off to college” registries for kids, which has become more popular in the last two years. Clever, no? It’s all very user-friendly, says Nancy. “It takes seconds to create a free account, either on a desktop or smartphone. Drag-and-drop interfaces and mobile barcode in-store scanning capabilities make it seamless to add gifts to registries quickly.” There’s also a live feed that allows visitors to see the latest items users are registering for (all anonymously, of course) to serve as an inspiration board for those looking for that perfect gift for that picky daughter-in-law-to-be or status-conscious cousin.
The company has agreements with more than 3,000 retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Crate & Barrel, Sur la Table and West Elm, to offer their products for its registries. Hundreds of retail partners use MyRegistry’s Universal Gift Registry software. In addition, thousands of nonprofit organizations use MyRegistry registries as a valuable fundraising tool for donations. MyRegistry is also heavily invested in digital B2B relations. The company employs an accessible and highly customizable Web widget that adds universal gift registry functionality to all merchant websites and has developed numerous custom software integration with website builder platforms to enhance functionality.
Lest you think the site is only for the time crunched and couch potatoes among us, Nancy tells me that the site is also a popular destination for celebrities, including Rachel Zoe (who created a baby registry), Greg Louganis (a wedding registry) as well as Jessica Alba‘s husband Cash Warren, who created two different baby registries under his name when he and the missus were expecting their daughters. That wasn’t the case when Princess Madeleine of Sweden created her bridal registry under her own name. “The royal family wasn’t happy about it,” recalls Nancy. And what do you get the princess who has everything? Something special from Tiffany & Co., Christofle or something a bit more reasonably priced at Williams Sonoma (I know, but it’s all relative). “We were surprised she registered in her own name. She picked out some really lovely things,” says Nancy. I’ll bet.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. John Josephson, Freddie Gershorn and a dark-haired pal we didn’t get to meet
2. Peter Brown; Second Seating: Designer Pamela Dennis
3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko, who, along with a few hundred of his closest friends, celebrated a stellar year for his burgeoning media company, Galvanized, this past Monday night at his new hotter than hot restaurant White Street with his business partner Dan Abrams. Among those movers and shakers we spotted at the celebratory holiday gathering: Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife Lisa Oz, Showtime’s Matt Blank, The View‘s co-executive producer Brian Balthazar and the New York Post columnist Richard Johnson.
4. CNBC’s Joe Kernen with famed investor and philanthropist Stanley Druckenmiller. Joe, the first diner to arrive today, told me he’s very excited about Squawk Box‘s new home, a street-level studio with plenty of windows and a set with all the bells and whistles. It’s directly across the street from 30 Rock which, says Joe, is much better for getting big-name guests to come to the set. “It’s a really big deal.” A vast improvement, says Joe, from the frequent satellite interviews which have come in handy for those bigwigs who can’t make it out to the show’s current set in New Jersey. (“It’s just not the same.”) Expect big things from the show for which 2015 marks its 20th anniversary. Congrats!
5. Jim Abernathy with his wife Tevin Abernathy and their daughter.
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield and Michael Kramer.
7. Bookseller Glenn Horowitz
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and PR maven Leslie Stevens
9. Designer Dennis Basso and an equally well-dressed pal
10. Ron Insana
11. Accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh with Barbara Tober
12. Lynn Goldberg
14. Hearst’s David Carey and the New York Post‘s Keith Kelly, who met for a quick confab. The brevity of the lunch no doubt attributable to Keith’s tireless chronicling of the pink slips being given out at media conglomerates all over town this month. Don’t they know it’s Christmas? Act two: Designer Zac Posen with dopelganger Christopher Niquet
15. Tony Hoyt
16. The creators of Chic Simple: Jeff Stone and Kim Johnson Gross
17. Neil Glat of The New York Jets and Cablevision’s Tad Smith
18. Forbes Travel‘s Jerry Inzerillo
20. Susan Silver and PR powerhouse Judy Twersky
22. LVMH’s Pauline Brown
23. Elliot Groffman
24. Legendary ad man Martin Puris
25. Penske Media Vice Chair Gerry Byrne with his daugher Megan and son Gavin.
26. Vanity Fair scribe Vicky Ward
27. Nancy Lee, Lauren Theodore and yours truly
29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein
30. Joe Versace
81. Dr. Deborah Kenny of The Harlem Village Academies
82. Pamela Van Zandt
Faces in the crowd: Jennifer Aniston wasn’t the only one holding court in the Garden Room. J.Crew’s CEO Mickey Drexler and The New York Times’ fashion critic Vanessa Friedman fled the main dining room for Table 51 in search of a “quiet corner,” at Table 58 (right next to Jen and company) Jack Kliger, Amy Kliger and Cheryl Williams of AT Media, home of Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn.
We’ll be busy wrapping presents in anticipation of Santa’s arrival next Wednesday, so this is our last “Lunch” of 2014. Happy holidays! See you back at Michael’s next year.
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.