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Lunch: Barbara Walters, Barry Diller & Dana Perino

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I’m glad I got to Michael’s early today because by 12:30 they were literally lining up outside the front door to get in the joint. Even the Garden Room (Siberia to the uninitiated) was SRO. The groups of wannabe diners at the bar and in the lounge were enviously eyeing the tables occupied by the famous and fabulous in the front room as they dined and dished without notice. Who says there’s no class system in America?

Ah, but you know better, and so do the regulars who, despite hurricane winds and the worst traffic we’ve seen all year, found their way to their power perches to see and be seen by Gotham’s glitterati. Perception is reality these days and from where I sat, it’s business as usual for these folks. We spotted Michael Fuchs working the room like nobody’s business, shaking hands with Matt Blank, Jon Tisch and an assortment of moguls who crossed his path. Others, such as Barry Diller, were riveted to the conversation at their own table. Working on some killer deal, no doubt.

I made my way around the jam-packed dining room to check in with my pals. I needed the breathing room since it was elbow to elbow at the bar, and I was seated across from a gleeful foursome who were celebrating something over a few beers. (See, despite what you’ve been reading not everything is gloom and doom). I was happy to stop and chat with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko and his former public relations man (and brand new dad to seven-week-old son Benjamin!) Jon Hammond. Jon, who also worked for Conde Nast Traveler, now works for the NBA as senior director of community and player programs communications. Somehow, the three of us got into a lively discussion about the merits of Twitter. “All my guys are doing it,” says Jon of the NBA players he’s working with. I shared that in working on an upcoming story for Variety, I’ve discovered that some pretty high-level folks are saying it’s an effective way “to build a brand.” David, who never misses a thing, had a brainstorm within seconds of hearing our cases for using Twitter professionally. Look for Men’s Health to have its own Twitter feed in the not-too-distant future where readers can join in the conversation about things like the magazine’s highly popular “Eat This, Not That” franchise. Dave also gave me some scoop about some changes afoot in the next issue of Men’s Health: Fans of recently shuttered Best Life (we loved it!) will be happy to hear that, according to Dave, “the best elements of Best Life are being incorporated” into Men’s Health. Makes sense to us. And, Best Life‘s former editor, Stephen Perrine, is now heading up the newly created position of overseeing books from Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines. Congrats!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. A smiling Barry Diller and a bespectacled gent we didn’t recognize…

2. Jonathan Tisch and a dark-haired beauty. Jon had a big hello for Hoda Kotb when he spotted her across the room.

3. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank

4. Barbara Walters deep in conversation with Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s gal pal Diana Taylor


5. Herb Siegel

6. Early birds: Hoda Kotb and her Chanel-clad friend Sunny Luciani. The two gals were the first to arrive today, so I had a chance to chat with them about this and that. Where was Hoda’s Today show co-host? (The gals always lunch together on Wednesday and take in a Broadway show afterward…) Hoda tells me she’s running around promoting her new book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg: Life & Other Calamities (Ballantine) hither and yon. Speaking of books, I gave Hoda a copy of my pal Pamela Keogh‘s fun read, What Would Audrey Do?, now out in paperback. Hoda, who is as nice as they come, promptly walked over to Pamela’s table to thank her. Maybe there’s an appearance on Today‘s fourth hour in Pamela’s future. Just happy to help, ladies…

7. Peter Price with a serious-looking fellow.

8. Bobby Zarem, who was overheard raving about HBO’s latest Grey Gardens (the New York premiere was last night in case your invite got lost in the mail). Catch it this Sunday night in the comfort of your own living room. Who needs the red carpet when there’s Tivo?

9. Hallmark Channel honcho Henry Schleiff

10. Michael Gross

11. Bobby Friedman with BusinessWeek‘s Jon Fine.

12. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer.

14. Hearst’s high priestess Cathie Black, looking sporty and chic in a taupe jacket and black and white scarf.

15. Peggy Siegal and a blonde gal pal.

16. Sesame Street Workshop’s Sherrie Westin and a table full of movers and shakers.

17. David Zinczenko and Jon Hammond.

18. Quest‘s Chris Meigher with legendary lensman Harry Benson (loved the jaunty jade green pocket square!)

81. We would love loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: ABC’s Cynthia McFadden and former White House press secretary Dana Perino, who just joined Burson-Marsteller.

19. Peter Lauria

20. Brooke Hayward

21. Pamela Keogh with the always dapper Joe Montebello and Ron Leal.

22. Vanity Fair‘s David Friend

23. Lew Korman

24. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and an exec from Shiseido cosmetics. This is the second time in a few weeks that we’ve spotted Mika lunching with some beauty big wigs (she was dishing with Evelyn Lauder and Alexandra Trower when I last saw her). Could the gorgeous Morning Joe co-host have some deal brewing? We wanted to go over and ask, but the dining room was so packed at that end we couldn’t make our way over to the table. We also wanted to tell her that she and her debate partner Barbara Walters were dressed almost identically in pretty peach sweaters. Imagine that…

25. Tom Goodman — who tells me he’s been busy getting settled over at his new digs. We’re taking you up on your offer and coming over for coffee to check things out soon!

26. Producer John Hart with a fellow we didn’t know…

27. Lou Margolis (Happy Birthday!)

28. The lady in black: Cindy Lewis

29. My good pal Christy Ferer (we met when she was producing videos for Donna Karan and I was a very green PR assistant). These days, Christy is busier than ever with her Web site. Christy, who knows everybody, was lunching with the former Mrs. Sarkozy — Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz, who is now a newlywed. Isn’t it nice when things work out so well?

30. Beverly Camhe with Katherine Oliver of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

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

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