“Oh! You came!” exclaimed actress Renee Zellweger when she spotted designer Carolina Herrera through a crowd of people at Michael’s this afternoon.
Ms. Zellweger was attending a private luncheon to celebrate Living Proof, a Lifetime original movie on which she was an executive producer about a doctor who works to find a cure for breast cancer.
The two women embraced, after which Ms. Herrera promptly departed before everyone sat down to eat. But Ms. Zellweger didn’t seem to mind as she had plenty more people to greet. After all, Ron Perelman had just walked in. (“Hey Peggs!” he shouted in the direction of publicist Peggy Siegal, who was lining the tables with name cards—Liz Smith, Bonnie Fuller, Trudie Styler—and shuffling guests around at the last minute.) And there was Ms. Zellweger’s dear friend, Christiane Amanpour.
“Renee and I are old friends,” Ms. Amanpour told the Daily Transom. “She is very smart about current affairs—she wanted to be a journalist in her previous life—and so we catch up and talk about the election and what’s happening overseas.”
Speaking of the election, the Daily Transom was briefly distracted by a guest who had placed a baseball hat that read “Democrats for McCain” at the center of his eight-person table. Given that the room was full of New Yorkers who have likely attended quite a few Barack Obama fund-raisers in the last year, a lively discussion was taking place by the table. (“But she’s more qualified than Obama,” the gentleman was saying to a young woman.)
We wondered if despite Ms. Amanpour’s busy schedule and frequent travels overseas, she was the type of gal to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a box of tissues for a Lifetime movie.
“No, it’s not for me,” she said. “But it’s mostly because I grew up in Iran so I never watched it. I am really here for my friend Renee.”
The Lifetime Network has gone through a transformation of sorts. The channel that used to be known for over-the-top original movies about abusive boyfriends or eating disorders–who can ever forget For the Love of Nancy?–recently convinced Harvey Weinstein to move Project Runway over from Bravo, and has attracted more recognizable faces like Mena Suvari, Marcia Gay Harden, and John Stamos for its films.
“It was really treated like a feature film, it really was,” noted Harry Connick Jr., the lead in Living Proof, when the Daily Transom found him mingling with guests. “The level of people that were involved from a production point of view to the talent, it really felt like a feature.”
And 22-year-old Amanda Bynes, also a star in the film, said that she has also noticed a difference with the network that she used to turn on for reruns of the Golden Girls.
“With Renee Zellwegger producing this, it’s definitely a classy project and the network is just getting…” Here Ms. Bynes paused. “It’s just getting cooler.”
“What we’re doing is elevating the talent,” said Lifetime’s senior VP of original movies Tanya Lopez. “Lifetime movies are like comfort food, but we’re just saying ‘step it up a bit!’ It doesn’t all have to be so earnest.
“We just got very comfortable before and the audiences didn’t seem to mind, so we decided to shake the tree a bit and then everyone suddenly went, ‘Oh!'” she continued. “In December we’ll have Heather Locklear and Robert Buckley and that just says happy holidays!”