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Lunch At Michael’s: Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper & Natasha Richardson

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here. Now that the holidays are in full swing the mood in the dining room at 55th & Fifth was downright festive — especially at one table where a little birdy told me two gents rang up quite a bill toasting themselves with multiple glasses of port at $250 a pop. But Gotham’s glitterati — A-list anchors (Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper at separate tables but back-to-back), actors (Natasha Richardson), authors (Ken Burns) and the usual Town Car set — seemed high on the sweet smell of success. It was air kisses all around as the fabulous and fashionable table-hopped between bites of their cobb salads. As one regular keenly observed: “Don’t these people know there’s a recession coming?” Evidently not and if they do, I don’t think they’re overly worried about it.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Peggy Siegal presiding over one of her legendary press lunches for Control with the film’s handsome young British star, Sam Rilley, doing a meet and greet with journos Roger Friedman and Michael Musto. Harvey Weinstein popped in for a quick hello as the group was finishing up their cappuccinos.

2. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive with Elle’s Roberta Myers, New York’s Adam Moss and David Willey of Runner’s World

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong & Dave Zinczenko celebrating Dave’s birthday a few weeks early. Men’s Health‘s tireless honcho told me he was dashing off to Portland this afternoon with publisher Jack Essig to pitch the powers that be at Nike to get behind the magazine’s highly successful FitSchools effort. Dave told me the pilot effort to ‘adopt’ one middle school in South Carolina and teach the students about the merits of healthy eating and exercise as been a big hit. “We want to increase the number of charter schools we work with every year because this is such an important message to get out to kids.” So Nike execs listen up: Just Do It!

4. Anderson Cooper and a casually clad unidentified gent.

5. Brian Williams and Ken Burns. When I congratulated Saturday Night Live‘s newest star about his breakout performance as co-host and bit player (they’ve already rerun his show) he confessed, “I was so nervous.” It certainly didn’t show. The always unflappable anchor who has never taken himself too seriously told me he really got into the spirit of things when it came time to do the hilarious sketch where he played a deadpan firefighter (loved the moustache!) trying to explain fire safety to ‘Bronx Beat’ gals Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler. Williams, who once toiled as a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey, told me he relied a some method acting by using his own helmet from his hook and ladder days and by inserting the names of some real firefighter pals from the good old days into the dialogue. Well done!

6. ‘The Imber gang’: Gerry Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman.


7. Today‘s senior producer Marc Victor lunching with Star Jones and her publicist Brad Zeifman. Star, fresh off a morning appearance on Today had to dash out early to get back to the studio in time for her 3 p.m. show where she was going to dig into the lawsuit brought by Dennis Quaid against the manufacturers of Heparin after his newborn twins, Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace were given a dosage 1,000 times stronger than needed at Cedars-Sinai Medical last month. Star gave me a legal primer on the case and clarified a few perplexing questions that most people are asking. Why is Quaid suing the drug maker and not the hospital? “Clearly, Cedars-Sinai got out in front of it and there was likely some settlement reached,” explained Star, who also said there were several other cases that have been brought against the drug company for similar incidents. (She was having some family members on today’s show) Why $50,000? “That’s just opening the door. They wanted to make sure this was heard in civil court.”

8. Kathie Lee Gifford and her new pal, the utterly charming Eduardo Verastegui. The Renaissance woman has found a new calling — press agent. Kathie Lee, who is always gracious about answering whatever questions I might have for her, told me she had just hosted a screening of Eduardo’s new film, Bella (he’s the producer and star) at her home in Greenwich and was so taken with it she’s doing everything she can to help spread the word. The film is getting rave reviews from all over including the Los Angeles Times and picking up awards at film festivals far and wide. If Kathie Lee has anything to do with it, Bella will be front and center come awards season. “I called Regis to give him a copy of the DVD and he told me that he already had one because Tony Bennett had given him his,” she said. Suffice to say, by the end of lunch Eduardo had met anyone who is anyone in the dining room, which includes pretty much everybody. For those of you who want to see what all the fuss is about go to www.bellanews.com.

80. Cosmo gal Kate White and pal.

9. Hallmark Channel president Henry Schleiff. Congrats to his tireless pitchwoman Jennifer Geisser on her big promotion to senior vice president of corporate communications. Well done!

11. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien with Paul Caine, president of Time Inc’s Entertainment Group.

12. Wendy Saks, so we’re told.

14. Early Shift: Peter Brown & Michael Holtzman. Second act: Natasha Richardson, whose becoming something of a regular although this is her first Wednesday appearance, with a handsome woman named ‘Marti.’ Loved the Chanel bag and shades, Natasha!

15. Ad man Peter Rodgers and pals.

16. Nick Verbitsky.

17. Herb Allen, Jr..

18. Power pair Ken Auletta and John Huey.

20. Patricia Duff.

21. Ed Adler and Courtney Dolan.

22. John Josephson.

23. Peter Price.

24. Penthouse Media Group president & publisher Diane Silberstein (an old pal of mine from her days at Elle & Vogue) who introduced me to Roxanne Donovan, real estate publicist and president of Great Ink. Great to meet you!

25. Walter Sabo and Arthur Sando.

26. Gerry Byrne.

27. Katherine Oliver, Lisa Dallos and Christine Taylor.

28. Social swan and accessory design extraordinaire Cece Cord. If you’re in need of a swanky bag to tote your terrier around town, Cece’s your gal. You can check out her luxury wares at Bergdorf’s. Just thought you’d like to know.

More Faces in the crowd: Joannie Danielides, author/activist Emme and our good pal Nick E. Rubinstein.

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

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