When I ‘Lunched’ with Dr. Mehmet Oz on the eve of the debut of his namesake magazine back in 2014, I was struck by his incredible charisma and approachability. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one. In all my years covering the Michael’s crowd it is the only occasion I can remember where a slew of other famous folks literally lined up to meet another celebrity.
This didn’t come as a surprise to Dr. Oz The Good Life’s editor in chief Jill Herzig, who joined me today along with the magazine’s publisher Jill Seelig and Hearst’s Allie Haake. “Some people really freak out when they meet him,” said Herzig. She recounted an anecdote about the hilarious reaction the wife of one of Dr. Oz’s cardiac patients had when she first met him. Herzig found out about the encounter while doing a web series about the effect the good doctor has had on his patients. “These are people who owe their lives to Dr. Oz.,” she explained. “For the most part, people don’t know he still does surgery and when he does, they often don’t know he’s going to be their doctor until the last minute. This woman whose husband was having surgery once made Dr. Oz leave the room until she could put on a full face of makeup — she’s wasn’t ‘ready’ to meet him — and her husband was having heart surgery!”
It’s Oz’s unique combination of accessibility, star power and credibility that have made the Hearst title a hit with readers and advertisers alike. In an anemic advertising climate, ad pages are up 17 percent through the October 2016 issue, attracting new advertisers including Pantene, Sherwin Williams and California Walnuts, and the title is among the top 10 best selling magazines at newsstand this year. “We provide an environment that elevates their message,” said Seelig. “[Advertisers] understand there’s an extra level of trust which makes us unique.”
Herzig told me that even with his grueling schedule of seeing his patients and taping his daytime show [more on that later] Dr. Oz is “very hands on” with the inner workings of the magazine. “He signs off on every page in the magazine. She has weekly meetings with Lisa Oz (“She’s incredible”) and is in “almost daily” contact with Dr. Oz. He’s also made himself available to the staff. “Editors on the staff feel free to email him and often do. They always get a quick response.” And, Herzig noted, it doesn’t always have to do with business. “I have a friend whose son was hurt out in Los Angeles. I emailed Dr. Oz about it at 11:30 at night and at 11:35 he responded with names of people for him to see. He’s really great that way and he’s that way with everyone.”
Oz’s reputation as the go-to doctor for the global age is obviously enhanced by his popular daytime television show, which has been renewed through 2019. “That’s a huge boost [for the magazine,]” said Herzig, who told me there are no plans to experiment with Oz-free covers. “It’s still extremely important even at the two-year mark.”
Both the editors and advertising staff have an “unusual” and highly synergistic arrangement with the staff on Oz’s show. “We co-create content,” said Herzig, who has also appeared on the broadcast. “For our January-February diet issue, the show’s producer worked with us during the show’s July hiatus. Our schedules could not be less synced up, but they are willing to do whatever they need to make it work to cross promote [the magazine and the show]. It drives us to do our best.”
For her part, Seelig “collaborates” on advertising buys with Sony, who distributes the show. “Their sales team and our sales team work together on tent pole and custom [ad packages] for advertisers. It’s mostly custom [programs].”
Herzig also works closely with Oz’s medical team on the show, a staff of six headed by Dr. Michael Crupain, who serve as the clearing house for every bit of medical news and information included in the broadcast. “They vet everything and nothing gets taped without them going through all the details.”
Oz was intimately involved with the special report on heart health in the upcoming November issue. “It’s his area,” said Herzig, who noted that since she came on board a short time after the test issues in 2014 she’s become much more educated about the effect certain foods have on the body and as a result has cut back on foods with added sugar and sworn off daily desserts.”Now I save it for really special occasions.”
By the time coffee was served (true to her word, Herzig didn’t touch the cookie plate), we’d covered all the health myths and newfound realities we’ve discovered over the years. Surprisingly, Herzig told me that during her days as EIC of Redbook, she praised all sorts of serums and sunscreens but rarely used them. All that has changed. “I know better now.” I can’t imagine why.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Camille Douglas
2. Andrew Stein
3. Producer Terry Allen Kramer with Felicia Taylor some other well-heeled blonde gals.
4. Barry Diller
5. Sony Television’s Steve Mosko
6. Mrs. Richard Oldenburg
7. Euan Rellie
8. Jolie Hunt
11. Bob Friedman and Robert Halmi, Jr. ; Second seating: Beverly Camhe
12. Maryam Banikarim
14. Jimmy Finkelstein
15. British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger and Jean Louis
16. Barry Frey
17. Jonathan Soros
18. Tivo’s Tom Rogers
20. Joan Gelman and Lynn Goldberg
21. Steven Stolman and Michael McGraw celebrating Steven’s new book, The Serial Entertainer’s Passion for Parties.
22. PR maven Judy Twersky, Dr. Robi Ludwig and Kathy Levine celebrating Kathy’s birthday who took a celebratory selfie with me when I stopped by their table to say hello. Cheers!
23. Bob Towbin and Vincent Mai
24. Michael’s newest regular Julian Niccolini with Paul McDonnell, and Ed McDonnell. A little birdie told me Ed was bigwig at Seagram’s back in the day.
25. Tom Goodman and Rick Rielly. Tom, whose firm is celebrating its milestone 20th anniversary this month, tells me the guys were classmates back in the day at Scarsdale High School.
26. Anne Jones
27. Jill Herzig, Jill Seelig, Allie Haake and yours truly
28. Matthew Sippel
29. Betsy Donovan
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.