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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger


5. Herb Siegal

6. Lisa Dallos with TV Guide editor-in-chief Debra Birnbaum and The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly. As a TV Guide alum, it was good to catch up with Debra and see what the old gang has been up to. Congrats to my good pals Lisa Chambers and Carol Dittbrenner on their much-deserved promotions. I know it was a while ago, but still…

7. Andre Leon Talley and Linda Wachner

8. Versace’s Lisa Hellman with two unidentified fashionistas

9. Joe Versace

11. Stephen Swid

12. Cindy Lewis, Mandi Norwood (who is one of the few women who can get away with super short hair and look gorgeous doing it) and Bradi Nathan and Terry Starr, co-founders of Butterfly — a social networking site “for moms who want to spread their wings” geared toward multitasking working moms. (Is there any other kind?) I’d settle for finding a competent babysitter, but what do I know? You can check it out for yourself MyWorkButterfly.com

14. I stopped to chat with my friend, Nielsen’s Gerry Byrne and his pal Brendan Ryan. Gerry had just returned from Quantico, Virginia, where he attended last night’s premiere of HBO’s Taking Chance at Quantico Marine Corp Base. The film stars Kevin Bacon as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, who volunteers as a military escort to accompany the remains of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Philips, USMC, back to his home in Dubois, Wyoming after he is killed by hostile gunfire in Iraq. Gerry, who served as a Marine Corps. Officer in Vietnam, was extremely moved by the film. Sounds like a must-see to me…

15. Jeff Pollack

16. Author Sandy Schrier

17. Sandy Hill

18. Francine LeFrak and pals

20. Rob Weisbach

21. Jay Kriegel

22. Lora Graev

23. Michael Kassan

24. Nick E. Rubinstein

25. Jeremy Philips, News Corp’s EVP

26. Bev Camhe and Patty Watt

27. Peter Miscovich and Peter Slatin

28. Kristin Bedard

29. Shelly Zalis

Please send comments and corrections to DianeClehane AT mediabistro Dot com and lunch at mediabistro DOT com.

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