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Lunch: Joan Collins Holds Court at Table One, Plus Barbara Walters & Vernon Jordan

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dining room at Michael’s was buzzing as boldface names settled in to plot their next big move and dish over their Cobb salads. We overhead plenty of chatter about the David Letterman and 48 Hours Mystery producer Robert “Joe” Halderman scandal — sorry, but it’s all off the record. The one thing everyone agrees on is that this tawdry tale is far from over. “There’s got to be a lot more to it,” said one flack. “This is going to be interesting if and when it gets to court.”

I was lunching today with Jason Allen Ashlock, who I first met a while back when he was toiling at The Marianne Strong Literary Agency. In January of this year, Jason struck out on his own and opened Movable Type Literary Group with his partner Meredith Dawson. Things have been going great guns for Jason despite the less than fortuitous timing for launching his business. “It was completely accidental, but because it was counter intuitive, I was able to meet with people and houses that would have otherwise been more difficult to get to, if for no other reason than they wanted to find out what I was doing,” says Jason.

So far, he’s inked 17 deals for his authors this year. Just last week he landed first-time author Adrienne Arieff a deal with Random House to publish her memoir, The Sacred Thread, which chronicles her decision to use a foreign gestational surrogate in India. Arieff decided to move in with the woman who was carrying her child, and the book chronicles their fascinating and unique bond. Jason also got that strangely fascinating husband and wife team of The Real Housewives of New York City, Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen, a deal from Sterling & Ross to pen their upcoming parenting tome, Little Kids, Big City due in March of next year. He brought me a copy of Robert Rave‘s novel Spin, which tells the tale of a wide-eyed publicist who finds himself working for one of Manhattan’s most notorious divas. Robert, by the way, once worked for Lizzie Grubman. We’re sure that’s just a coincidence.

I asked Jason what he thought of the news that Tina Brown will be doing ebooks in association with her website, The Daily Beast. “Tina has said books are the new magazines. I worry about that. Look what’s happening to magazines,” Jason reasoned. “As books become more ‘temporary,’ we lose what they are most useful for: authority. Books that take time, that are well researched, and edited offer a comprehensive point of view on a subject that you can’t get from a magazine article or on the Internet. Publishers can’t just be printers.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Francine LeFrak with a bunch of ‘suits’ and surprise guests Joan Collins with her much younger husband Percy Gibson. Our favorite ’80s TV villainess was doing her best Alexis Carrington by sporting a leopard print cowboy hat.

2. Peter Brown with a distinguished looking fellow we didn’t recognize.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (Long time, no see!). Joe is just back from a humanitarian mission to Cuba where he helped deliver supplies to several orphanages. “These kids really need a lot of help,” says Joe of the heartbreaking poverty he witnessed first-hand. He came brandishing a cane today because of some back trouble as a result of — we’re not kidding — laughing too hard at a fellow Texan’s joke recently. Here’s hoping you’re on the mend soon.

4. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and Vernon Jordan. I noticed that several times during lunch this intriguing duo had their heads together and seemed to be amused at something or another as they observed the noontime crowd. One can only imagine.


5. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank (congrats on your Emmy shout-out) and a pal.

6. The ‘Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber, whose Youth Corridor skincare line we’re loving; Jeff Greenfield, who made a stop at Barbara Walters’ table before joining his pals; Jerry Della Femina; Andy Bergman; and Michael Kramer.

7. Meals on Wheels founder Robert Grimes

8. The Carlyle Group’s Pauline Brown

9. Martha Luttrell, ex-ICM agent whom we’re told is now enjoying retirement.

11. Uber agent Lynn Nesbitt

12. Politico Ed Rollins, wife Shari, and some friends.

14. Michael Fuchs

15. Author Ed Klein was nice enough to stop by and say hello. (Loved the pink tie!)

81. The Paley Center’s Pat Mitchell

16. Bill McGowan with publicists Linda Lipman and Judy Twersky

17. Joan Hamburg

18. Jann Wenner , looking a bit scruffy, with U2 manager Paul McGuinness

19. Spin sisters: Sarahbeth Shrager of Marvel Enterprises and Judith Bressler of Rogers & Cowan

20. My pal, producer Joan Gelman, and editor Lisa Drew. On the way out, Joan and I got to chatting about her old boss, David Letterman. Joan is definitely on ‘Team Dave’ and says she thinks he’s handling the fall-out from the scandal perfectly. “It’s ridiculous. They were all consenting adults,” she says of the tabloid headlines painting Dave as an office lothario.

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher.

22. Conde Nast Traveler‘s publisher Chris Mitchell (Do those guys at McKinsey know about this?)

23. Allen & Company’s Steven Greenberg

24. Martin Puris of Puris Bernbach Partners

25. Moneyman Kevin Engl

26. Jason Allen Ashlock and yours truly

27. Judy Della Femina and two other stylish gals

28. Warner Music’s Roger Gold and Dave Johnson

29. Vera Wang publicist Elizabeth Musmanno

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

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