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Lunch: Dishing With Dolly Parton

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sure, it’s fun checking in with the media mavens and moguls during our weekly Wednesday outings at Michael’s, but sometimes it’s the random celebrity sighting that can be the most entertaining. When I heard that Dolly Parton was coming today, I was really looking forward to chatting with her. I first sat down with her and Jane Fonda way back when there was some big anniversary for her breakthrough film, 9 to 5. Of all the celebrities I’ve interviewed over the years, Dolly was by far one of the least pretentious. The hair, the outrageous outfits, the nails — the boobs — it’s all part of a perfectly calibrated persona that is as compelling today as it was back then.

When she arrived in the dining room, every head turned. Trust me, she’s like no one you’ve ever seen. At 63, she looked like a living doll with her expertly made-up ageless face, Barbie doll suit (paired with sheer black leggings), that famous platinum mane, and shoes that no other human being could possibly walk in. When I stopped her to chat, she gave me a big smile and grabbed my hand. “Of course I remember you!” she drawled when I explained when we last spoke. I almost believed her — she’s that genuine. When I asked her how things were going with 9 to 5 set to debut on Broadway next week (she wrote 40 songs for the show; 16 made it into the production), she said, “We’re working like crazy just tweaking little things until we get it right. We’re working ’til midnight. I’m really enjoying myself!” Then she sailed in to meet her producer Bob Greenblatt (Showtime’s president), Matt Blank and the rest of her table.

I was dining today with my good pal Kathryn Leigh Scott, who is one of the most prolific women I know. She’s written so many books I’ve lost count (and is currently working on two — one fiction and one nonfiction). But her really big news involves the article she’s penned on “the star and the stalker” for Opera News, due out in August. Kathryn has left no stone unturned in the account of the downside of divadom, which chronicles the complicated and chilling relationship between legendary opera star Birgit Nilsson and her stalker, model Nell Theobald. Kathryn uncovers some startling details in her report, which has attracted the attention of some Hollywood bigwigs: “There’s some interest in the dramatic rights,” Kathryn tells me. Like they say in Tinseltown, stay tuned…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Dolly Parton, Showtime’s Matt Blank and Bob Greenblatt and Lee Resnick. There was also an imposing looking fellow at the table who, from the looks of things, keeps things running smoothly for Dolly. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to mess with him…

2. The first lady of New York, Michelle Paterson, and Jackie Rogers. For the moment, at least, it seems as if her husband’s dismal poll numbers weren’t top of mind: We spotted Michelle yukking it up as she enjoyed some white wine with her friend.

3. Dan Abrams and CNBC’s Brian Steel (Glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ loyalist!)

4. Expectant father Les Moonves (congrats!) and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. When Michael McCarty offered the television titan a hearty greeting of “Dad!” Les looked a little sheepish and uttered, “I’m an old man.” What’s that old saying about kids keeping you young? Please extend our congratulations to the missus, Julie Chen.


5. Stan Shuman and Steve Rubenstein

6. The ‘Imber Gang’ — looking particularly dapper today: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer.

7. Nina Link

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Ron Mwangaguhunga

9. Peggy Siegal and Jennifer Creel (loved that groovy necklace!)

11. Freddie Friedman

12. The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly and ASME CEO Sid Holt

14. The Early Shift: Linda Wachner. Second seating: Manolo Blahnik’s main man George Malkemus and a glamorous gal who spoke impeccable French.

15. Peter Price

16. Public relations maven Susan Magrino

17. Judy Price and Kathleen Lacey

18. Meredith Brokaw (Tom’s wife) and Toni Goodale

20. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive and celebrity flack Cari Ross

21. Doug Steiner

22. Allure‘s Linda Wells (Love your editor’s letters!) with, we’re told, a staffer and another gal we didn’t recognize…

23. Jay Kriegal

24. James LeFrak

25. Jack Myers (Long time no see!)

26. Estee Lauder’s Alexandra Trower, who was nice enough to introduce me to her friend, Alyse Myers. Alyse, whose new memoir Who Do You Think You Are? tackles the complex issue of untangling one’s memories with the real truth about one’s deceased parents, is garnering lots of praise far and wide. None other than Frank McCourt called Alyse’s writing “masterly taut and honest.” While we were all chatting at the bar, we discovered that my good friend Kathryn had appeared in The Great Gatsby with Alexandra’s good pal, Lois Chiles. What a small world.

27. John Keitt

29. Joanna Jordan

Happy anniversary to Michael McCarty, who opened his first Michael’s in Santa Monica 30 years ago today!

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

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