- Catering Aramark
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Much has been written about the Frank Gehry-designed Conde Nast cafeteria, but it was “The Lodge,” Viacom's in-house canteen, that hosted the media heavies this time. MTV Networks and Inside.com presented the results of research MTV conducted on Americans and their leisure time, and then hosted a panel discussion with media bigwigs including Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein, music industry player Danny Goldberg and MTV Networks' CEO, Tom Freston. (Ad guy Drew Marcus from Deutsche Banc Alex.Brown and research execs from MTV and tech research firm Jupiter Communications filled the other brightly colored plush chairs.)
The moderator of the media insider gabfest was (surprise!) Inside.com co-chairman Kurt Andersen. (We're wondering: Is he the only person qualified to moderate these things?) A quick run-down: The food was bad (cold, dry chicken and couscous). The information was interesting--for media hounds at least--if not that surprising (Americans are cramming more media time into their days by multitasking). And the music before and after the talking was odd: Instead of the latest Total Request Live--worthy hits, MTV played Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Byrds.
The audience included media reporters, MTV guests including folks from Saatchi and Saatchi, and lots of freshly-scrubbed researchers from the various MTV divisions. But the BMOC was Viacom's chairman, Sumner Redstone, who had his cell phone to his ear and did some reading during the slower parts (a presentation of MTV research and Andersen's opening remarks) and managed to be called into the discussion by members of the panel.
Weinstein mentioned him frequently, even joking, “We surrender, Sumner. I'll call Michael.” (Eisner, of course, the CEO of Disney, Miramax's owner and Viacom's competitor.) And later, after Weinstein mistakenly referred to the Sci-Fi Channel as a Viacom property, Redstone called out, “That's Diller's.” No doubt he was gloating a bit on the day after a Delaware court ruled in a contract blow--out that WWF wrestling programs-the most popular on cable--would leave Barry Diller's USA Networks and go to Viacom. Then he issued a jokey warning: “You be careful, or you'll end up like Diller did.”
Even with seven media insiders crowding the stage, Redstone got the biggest laughs of the afternoon, and he left long before the gabbing stopped. After all, it was his party.