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The Return of Aleksey Vayner

FINANCE • Aleksey Vayner, everyone's favorite bizarre self-promoting video maker, is back with a new Website and perhaps a book! Impossible may be nothing after all. [Gawker] • Goldman Sachs set new records with their $20.2 billion bonus pool, including $67.9 million for Lloyd Blankfein, but rumor has it the bank decided to stiff their back-office employees. [NYP] • Blankfein's salary still pales in comparison to hedge-fund kings like John Paulson and Paolo Pellegrini, who raked in more than $1 billion each in 2007 betting against the housing market. [NYT]

Hedi and LVMH: Together at Last!

FASHION • Hedi Slimane is back in talks with LVMH to launch his own fashion house. Everyone, commence jumping up and down. [WWD] • IMG is behind Bravo’s new model show but won’t be giving the winner a contract. [Fashionista] • Not even Cavalli can rev up H&M’s sales. [NYP]

Live Like a Supermodel, But With a Better Apartment

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Comely wannabes looking to launch their modeling careers usually bunk up in tiny apartments to make ends meet until they land that elusive cover. But not apparently the contestants for Make Me a Supermodel, Bravo's upcoming reality series. A tipster says scouts for the show, slated to hit the air early next year and hosted by the easy-on-the-eyes Tyson Beckford, recently checked out a luxe (read camera-ready) 4500-square-foot penthouse on West 20th Street with five bedrooms, four and a half baths, and a roof deck. It's currently on the market for $8.2 million, though apparently also available for rent for somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 a month. Listing broker Darren Sukenik of Prudential Douglas Elliman declined to comment. Needless to say, it's not your average apartment, for models or otherwise. —S. Jhoanna Robledo 129 West 20th Street [Prudential Douglas Elliman]

Padma Leaves a Bad Taste in Fiamma's Mouth

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Manhattan Moms, an East Coast equivalent of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County, will premiere early next year. A lot of the city's foremost graffiti artists congregated for a book party at Auto in the meatpacking district. Billy Joel is in talks with the Mets to perform a bunch of gigs at Shea Stadium. George Steinbrenner will have a high school named after him in Tampa. Padma Lakshmi was rude to the staff at Soho eatery Fiamma, but Martha Stewart overtipped and was nice. CNN gave out an award to someone for forcing "one of the world's largest oil corporations to pay more than $6 billion to clean up toxic waste in the Amazon rain forest," but didn't name Chevron as the company because they are an advertiser.

The ‘Top Chef’–‘Project Runway’ Mash-up We've Been Waiting For

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How did such a coupling take so long? Top Chef’s Dale Levitski (who was NOT invited back for this week’s holiday special) and Project Runway’s Jack Mackenroth are dating! Here’s the dirt: “We randomly met over MySpace,” says Dale. “I like keeping it incestuous. Keep it in the Bravo family,” says Jack. Other pairings we’d like to see: Sam Talbot and Uli Herzner Mike Midgley and Wendy Pepper Elia Aboumrad and Michael Knight Have any suggestions for hot Project RunwayTop Chef crossovers? Play matchmaker in the comments. Real Reality Couple: Jack Mackenroth and Dale Levitski Dating [BreakOUT News via Towleroad]

Is Jay McCarroll Homeless? He Sure Said So (and So Did His Publicist)

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In this week's cover story on the challenges facing winners of Bravo's reality shows, New York's Jennifer Senior noted that two years after winning Project Runway's first season, Jay McCarroll is still homeless in New York, using his studio and other people’s couches as crash pads. How did Senior know McCarroll was homeless? He told her so. But once the fact appeared in print, he denied it, posting mocking YouTube videos of himself wandering city streets with a cardboard sign reading “Will Design for Food.” Then his best friend and publicist, Nancy Kane, responded more aggressively, as publicists and best friends are wont to do: She left an angry voice-mail message for Senior Tuesday charging that the suggestion McCarroll is homeless is “unequivocally untrue.” She went on: "His studio is a live/work space, and it might not be ideal, but it is more than a lot of people have in New York City, and he pays rent every month.” Later in the day, however, she must have realized this wasn’t much of a response; in fact, it was exactly what Senior had written. So Kane proceeded to tell various gossip columns that New York Magazine had fallen for a hoax. Jay, she said, in fact lives in a beautiful apartment building at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. Perhaps. (Why Kane's so defensive we don't know. There’s no shame in struggling for your success, which was the whole point of Senior’s story.) We'll choose to believe the version enshrined in her voice mail, reported in the magazine, and detailed by McCarroll himself. Don't believe us? Take a look at the transcript, after the jump.

Straight Talk From Ted Allen

In this week's issue of New York, Jennifer Senior examines the Bravo network's reality-TV machine and the former contestants whose lives it's upended.

The Tragic Tales Behind ‘Top Chef’

So let’s say you somehow make it on to Top Chef or Project Runway, elbowing past the thousands of other rivals seeking to fertilize the egg of an upcoming reality-TV-show season. And let’s say you even win the contest, getting crowned Top Chef or No. 1 designer: Shouldn’t that be enough to launch a career? You would think it would be, but as Jennifer Senior’s article from this week’s issue reveals, it often isn’t — a fact we hope our own Top Chef non-winners, like our friends Joey and Lia, will remember as they return to the kitchens they knew before fame came calling. The Near-Fame Experience [NYM] Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner Lia on What Went Wrong

Padma Lakshmi Introduces Dismemberment, Cannibalism to ‘Top Chef,’ Our Fantasies

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The freakazoid highlight of last night's Top Chef premiere, provided by host and Salman squeeze Padma Lakshmi in response to a contestant's decision to fry a snake:
"Anything can stand up to frying. You can fry my toe and if you batter it right, it's going to taste good."
We don't know if we're hungry, horny, or nauseous.

The Frying Pan Still Adrift in a Sea of Red Tape

Last winter we reported that the Frying Pan had lost its lease and was moving three blocks uptown. The little party boat that could has indeed made the move to Pier 66 at 26th Street, and though at one point it was set to open June 1, a call to Angela Krevy, wife of owner Steve, reveals that lease negotiations with the Hudson River Park Trust are taking longer than expected. “You can't fight City Hall,” Krevy quipped, “And you can’t speed it up, either.” But is this more than simply a matter of red tape?

The Soho Grand Is a Wonderland

Rumors of the demise of the John Mayer–Jessica Simpson relationship may be greatly exaggerated; the two spent Sunday night together at the Soho Grand. (Mayer is also still doing the stand-up comedy thing). Today show correspondent Jill Rappaport owns eighteen acres in the Hamptons. Johnny Damon hung out till 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, but he still hit a two-run double later in the day. Ivanka Trump and Zach Braff exchanged numbers. (Uh-oh. Does Jared Kushner know about this?) Warren Buffett, David Remnick, John Kerry, Ted Turner, and Jann Wenner, among others (ahem), were all rejected from Harvard. After asking for $5.5 million, Stone Phillips sold his penthouse on West 72nd Street for $4.35 million. Times managing editor Jill Abramson is suing the truck driver who ran over her foot.

Marco Pierre White Sets Himself on Fire With Flaming Cocktail

Just another night at the Spotted Pig: Marco Pierre White, trying to demonstrate a flaming cocktail to Mario Batali, Tony Bourdain, and friends, sets himself on fire, gets doused with wine and Champagne, and stabbed in the hand. [NYP] Related: Batali, Bourdain, and Ramsay Mentor to Finally Take on America? [Grub Street] There are so many high-end restaurants looking for good ingredients that the world will literally run out of them, a world-famous Australian chef claims. [Australian News] Utterly dependent as it is on illegal workers, the restaurant industry is lobbying hard against the new immigration bill in Congress. [Nation's Restaurant News]

Oh, the Absurdity!

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Last night's double-length 24 meant twice the time to finally wind up this season's plotlines — or twice the chance for ridiculousness. Would they take the responsible route and finally let us know whether Palmer is alive or dead? Whether Logan is alive or dead? Whether Audrey will ever say anything other than "Help me, Jack, please don't let them do this to me"? How the Russian president turned in like three hours from best buds with crazy Mrs. Logan to the guy ready to start World War III? Alas, the answers there are nope, nope, nope, and nyet. Instead, dirty old Veep Daniels absurdly led the country further down his reckless path of destruction. Over at Vulture, Ben Wasserstein runs the finale through the Absurd-o-Meter. The ‘24’ Absurd-o-Meter: So Long, Jack Bauer. Until We Meet Again. [Vulture]

If They Don't Win, It's a Shame

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As we write this, the sun is shining, the birds outside the window are chirping, and last night, on six and a third solid innings from Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks beat the Sox, 6-2. It's a good day to be a New Yorker.* * The whole nine-and-a-half-games-back thing notwithstanding.

New York's Racistest?

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• The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the Fire Department for discriminating against minorities. A complaint filed in Brooklyn alleges that the firefighter recruitment exam is racially weighted and serves to "weed out" blacks and Latinos. [Metro] • We've said it should take more than greening your mansion to make it into the news. This qualifies: An abandoned upstate steel mill has reinvented itself as a wind farm, a first for the Rust Belt. [NYT] • Peter Braunstein didn't just want to kill Anna Wintour: He also spoke of heading down to New Orleans to head up a gang of angry Katrina survivors, according to a shrink. (Braunstein did briefly pretend to be a hurricane victim to get free food and shelter while on the run.) [amNY] • Subway Superman Wesley Autrey left NBC's Deal or No Deal with $25 after picking the wrong suitcase (the other two held $1 million and $10,000, respectively). No X-ray vision, then. [NYDN] • And there's some sort of conspiracy afoot among the Post, CBS, Amy Fisher, and Joey Buttafuoco to pretend that there's some juice left in the Long Island pair's story — enough, perhaps, to sustain a reality show. Let's not encourage any of them. [NYP]