After a 25-year run in different roles, Diane Clehane has resigned from Fashion Group International as its director of media relations and advertising. Having been more than a consultant to the group, she has been the ringleader in lining up A-list celebrities and musicians for the group’s annual Night of Stars.
Clehane said Tuesday that she is in talks with several media companies about new projects. She is also at work on a novel and a screenplay about her decades as a royals reporter. “I have a voice and a reputation as a royals expert that I want to explore and take in new directions,” Clehane said. “There is tremendous interest in the royals and I see tremendous opportunity to do more with that kind of reporting, because people really do seem to have a hunger for it. It is a brief escape from our somewhat bleak reality at the moment. It’s fun and it’s something that takes people out of themselves and is completely different from their own lives.”
In addition to heading up her own marketing and public relations firm, Madeline Communications, Clehane is a five-time author and the royals editor at Best Life. Her books include “Diana The Secrets of Her Style” and “Imagining Diana.” NBC’s “The Today Show,” CNN and NBC News are among the outlets that have had Clehane appear on-air to share her royal-watcher commentary skills.
Through her work at FGI, Clehane arranged for a bevy of celebrities to turn up at Night of Stars. Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington, Michael Douglas, Julianne Moore, the musician known as Prince, “Stars Wars” creator George Lucas and Sarah Jessica Parker were among those attended the red-carpet event.
”The great surprise and fun for me has always been meeting these celebrities, and seeing what they are really like as their wrangler for the night at Night of Stars, for example. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the really badly behaved. Luckily, they [the badly behaved] have been in really short supply,” Clehane said. “The year that Miley Cyrus had that very controversial performance at the MTV Awards with Robin Thicke [in 2012], everybody was saying, ‘Oh, what’s she going to do?’ She showed up and could not have been nicer or more professional. It was, ‘Yes, ma’am. Yes, whatever you would like me to do ma’am.’”
Lopez also earned high marks from Clehane. “Jennifer Lopez, who has this reputation for being high maintenance, was without a doubt one of the loveliest people I have ever dealt with at that event,” she said.
Standing backstage at the 2015 gala with Streep, who presented the Superstar award to Alber Elbaz, Clehane said Streep “rushed over and said, ‘I love that necklace. Is that one of Alber’s?’ I said, ‘As a matter of fact, it’s $39.99 from Zara and I picked it up on the way here.’ She said to me, ‘I’m going tomorrow to get that necklace,’ which I thought was really cute.”
The low point in terms of a celebrity attendee’s demeanor occurred years back, when Night of Stars was held at The Rainbow Room. The event was billed as “Salute to Film & Fashion,” since American Movie Classics was a sponsor and the first sponsor that Clehane secured. With a large number of Hollywood stars in the crowd, Clehane said, “Annette Bening came and I walked up to her, as I did every year to greet these people. I said, ‘Hello Miss Bening…’ She didn’t even let me finish. She said, ‘Here’s my coat. Where can I get a drink?’ Hmm, nice, very nice.”
Another memorable black-tie occasion was the year that Sandra Bullock’s now-former husband Jesse James vanished shortly after walking into the Night of Stars. At Bullock’s request, Clehane and her team searched for him and one male associate found him in the bathroom. James explained to Clehane’s associate that he hated these kinds of events and didn’t want to go out there, she said.
All in all, though, Clehane said she found that the celebrities are “just great people that have been very personable, cooperative and have done what we’ve needed them to do for Night of Stars to an extent that really made a significant difference in making that event what it was. Hollywood’s participation of celebrities is really what elevated that event to the kind of awareness that it has today where everybody covers it — Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and all those outlets that would not have given a second thought to the event had it not been for the A-listers that were there,” Clehane said. “And it was great fun. I always enjoyed that part of it. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been great fun.”
Clehane first teamed with FGI as a consultant in 1995 at the request of its former president, the late Margaret Hayes. Along with securing media coverage and helping reel in celebrity attendees, Clehane worked with AMC to produce a special film tribute to Hollywood style. She also reimagined the FGI commemorative journal as an advertising vehicle. She took on the additional responsibilities of advertising in 2012.
FGI’s president and chief executive officer Maryanne Grisz said, “Through Diane’s work with Margaret Hayes and the early Night of Stars [events], Diane brought the Hollywood connection to the evening in building its structure. As an FGI partner and creative writer, I thank Diane for her extensive contributions to FGI and wish her the best in her next endeavor.”
With the new year in motion, Clehane said, “It was a whole, very disorienting year last year. It’s time to really look forward and to think about the things that you really want to do. You look at how you’ve been spending your time in the last year, and you really have to focus on the things you love. At the moment, that’s pretty much all we have — the love of the people that we have in our lives and the love of what we do. That has to make sense. Otherwise, what are we doing?”