The Insider: Variations on a Close-Knit Theme

Dec 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The Insider has never led a life that includes dining at Le Cirque, the oh-so-elite New York restaurant. But a documentary that will debut on HBO Dec. 29 provides a juicy look at Sirio Maccioni, the restaurateur who decades ago became a New York institution by catering to the chic set. It’s also the tale of Maccioni’s family, for whom life with this demanding father is not a piece of cake.
“Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven” was screened at Bloomberg headquarters, where koi swim and appear to beg for food in a long, low rectangular tank on the reception area’s floor. (Yeah, but can they curl up on one of the nearby desks like Miss Kitt, The Insider’s affectionate home office cat?) After the showing, the audience was invited across the cobblestoned motor court to Le Cirque for a buffet.


HBO EXECS LIVE IT UP Sirio Maccioni, left, joins HBO’s Richard Plepler and Sheila Nevins Dec. 3 at Le Cirque for a screening of the documentary about his restaurant, “Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven.” (Jimi Celeste / patrickmcmullan.com)

While others juggled heaped-high plates, wine and champagne, The Insider focused on spotting the people in the industry around which her world revolves. CBS News sage Jeff Greenfield was there. Robert Wuhl. Fran Drescher. Fox News’ former entertainment gadfly Bill McCuddy, hanging for a while with former colleague Laurie Dhue. Tru TV’s Ashleigh Banfield having a long animated conversation with Pat Kiernan, the NY1 fixture who does not go for animated as an early-morning anchor.
When The Insider stopped in the open-air courtyard for a smoke (yes, she fell off the wagon in May) in between the screening and the party, a well-dressed security man ushered her and BFF Bobby Rivers outside the security stanchions and onto the sidewalk. There she met Christian Campbell, actor (“The Book of Daniel”) and brother of Neve, and talked about possible documentaries-to-be. When a four-day trip to Pakistan for a friend’s father’s birthday turned into a two-month stay (because he’d flown in from India, there was a reluctance to let him fly out), he became fascinated with a nightly ritual at one stretch of the Pakistani border and decided he would like to produce a documentary about it.
The person to talk to, of course, would be Sheila Nevins, HBO’s diva of documentaries, who was energetically working the room in classic slacks and a white turtleneck poncho with sleeves, and a great new hairdo that’s still the familiar blond around the face but a deep strawberry or light auburn elsewhere. She brushed off the numerous compliments on her hair by saying it had been blown out way too big. Au contraire. It had been blown out just right.
The most divine scene in the affectionately warts-and-all documentary (directed by Andrew Rossi) finds the family, minus the senior Maccioni, recovering from a particularly contentious business meeting by dining at McDonald’s.
In homage, The Insider stopped at her neighborhood McDonald’s for a delayed dinner after the working portion of her evening.
Meanwhile, over at “Inside Edition,” the focus is on content aimed at people who do not live like Le Cirque habitues. The how-to’s on the show recently have ranged from negotiating home prices to having successful yard sales. This week, there’ll be suggestions for homemade gifts.
Going up on the syndicated magazine’s Web site today is a video segment that shows the knitting lessons that host Deborah Norville began giving to staffers last week.
A congenitally caffeinated friend who works there said she learned how to spell “purl” during the lesson she sat in on.
But Ms. Norville said several producers and support staffers have caught the knitting bug and the therapeutic zen it can induce. She herself is a multitasking multi-crafter who learned how to knit at age 8, but confesses she still doesn’t cast on stitches prettily.
“It’s a nice little bonding thing. I love to teach,” said Ms. Norville, who has even inspired Premier Yarns to create a line in her name. The Deborah Norville Collection, an acrylic line that is so soft some veteran knitters have asked if it’s cashmere, is expected in stores in February.
Who else would tell you these things?
P.S.: Despite what Paul Steiger said at the recent Committee to Protect Journalists benefit dinner, the event raised $1.25 million. Perhaps Mr. Steiger, the former Wall Street Journal editor who is editor-in-chief of ProPublica, added an extra million in a wishful Freudian slip. So don’t think the CPJ is so flush it couldn’t use more contributions to its work on behalf of journalists in less-than-friendly environments around the world.


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