— DIANE CLEHANE
It’s always a treat when the dining room at 55th & Fifth is buzzing with bold-face names to observe in their natural habitat. We love when the regular gang of media mavens, television titans and social swans stop by the bar to catch us up on the latest dish. Imagine my delight when I was invited over to join Tony Bennett and Eduardo Verastegui at Table One to chat with the two dashing gents about this and that. Tony (we’re on a first name basis now) told me this was his first lunch at Michael’s. The legendary crooner has got a full schedule these days. He’s performing with Zubin Mehta on February 6 at the Waldorf at a benefit for the Israeli Symphony and will be presenting the award for Album of the Year at the Grammys. Although he’s got a room full of them (15 and counting — he’s nominated this year for his duet with Christina Aguilera,) he’s still thrilled to go to the party. “Every industry has a convention and the Grammys is a chance to see all my good friends like Bono. I enjoy it.”
Today Tony was breaking bread with his new pal Eduardo — they met last year at a benefit in Las Vegas and have been fast friends ever since. During lunch Tony managed to do an incredible pencil drawing of Eduardo. “I’ve been painting and drawing my whole life,” says Tony. The charming Eduardo (who is otherwise known as the ‘Brad Pitt of Latin America’) asked me to weigh in on the two covers in the running for the DVD of his runaway hit Bella. One boasted ‘the smiley version,’ which depicted Eduardo in happy chick flick mode while the other showed a more passionate, intense image of the star and producer of the film that is sure to get hearts racing. Our verdict: go with the intense Eduardo. Turns out we’re in the same camp as Charles Osgood, Josh Hartnett and a slew of editors who’ve cast their vote. Bella is truly a phenomenon. Made for just $3 million, its domestic box office is $7.8 million and counting says producer-financier Sean Wolfington. A little gem with a lot of heart in a season full of gloom and doom pictures. Go see it now!
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Tony Bennett, Susan Bennett, Eduardo Verastegui and Sean Wolfington.
2. Peter Brown & two well dressed gents.
3. Warren Hogue & Gerald Schoenfeld.
4. Early shift: Richard Rubenstein; Second seating: Judy Price.