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Lunch: Joan Rivers & Some Serious Stealth Campaigning

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— DIANE CLEHANE

While Hillary and Obama enter the final stages of battle — at least that was the consensus of today’s crowd — there was some serious political posturing going on today at Michael’s. As anyone with a bestseller, hit show or billion dollar deal knows a well-timed appearance at 55th & Fifth — especially on Wednesday — signals you’re on top and you want everyone to know it. There is also the “return engagement” appearance that telegraphs in no uncertain terms that happy days are here again. Two indefatigable ladies — Joan Rivers and Amy Rosenblum — were sitting together front and center today, both with plenty to say without having to utter a word. Amy, who was let go from Today last year, strutted into lunch with Joan this afternoon wearing a fiery red dress and a Cheshire cat grin that told me she had some big news. “Can we talk about it yet?” she asked. “Not yet,” cautioned Joan. “I’m superstitious.” Seems my tireless pal Joan is cooking up “something big” with Amy. “Really big!” reiterated Amy. Joan, you may recall, gave Amy her start in television and now, it seems the gals have come full circle. All we know is that there was plenty of champagne at that table. We want the scoop first girls — you promised!

“It’s been an amazing year,” says Joan who has more projects in the hopper than Ashley Dupre has dates. She’s starring in Z Rock a new sitcom on IFC come September, is about to take her show A Work in Progress by A Life in Progress to London and Edinborough after sell-out runs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And for all of you out there who spend some of your Saturday mornings watching PBS Kids with your kiddies, you already know Joan voices Shirley the Sheep on Jakers! (Mel Brooks is her cartoon hubby) and is now the “Jewish grandmother” on Arthur. In her spare time she sells a bazillion dollars worth of jewelry and perfume for QVC. And, she’s also got a book on plastic surgery coming out from Penguin. “Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask,” she says. Whew!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Joni Evans and five young pals including a glowing expectant mom to be…

2. Ed Victor — fresh off his trip to Havana — and Peter Brown.

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong, who had “a great time” on his jaunt “across the pond.” Today Joe was joined by his pal Jonathan Burnham who was celebrating a birthday. Cheers!

4. A table full of suits awaiting the arrival of Ron Perelman who was sporting a Yankee’s cap and blue blazer. We find his wardrobe choices fascinating…


5. Herb Siegel and his son Billy.

6. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and the gang.

7. Joan Rivers and Amy Rosenblum.

8. Helen O’Hagan with a handsome bespectacled gent and another gal we didn’t recognize…

9. Showtime’s spinmeister Stu Zakim with “man about town” Neal Boulton.

11. Bob Friedman and Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center.

12. Law & Order SVU‘s Richard Belzer (sporting some spiffy shoes) with Michael Yuddin and an indentified pal.

14. Mike Ovitz (who got a big kiss from Ron Perelman when he came in) and a mystery gent.

15. Harper Collins’ David Hirshey with Richard Johnson. So glad to hear you’re a “Lunch” fan. We, of course, read Page Six first thing every morning…

16. My pal Victor Neufeld with CNN’s Melissa Long in from Atlanta. Victor and I chatted about last night’s coverage of the Democratic primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. “It’s such an exciting time,” says Victor, who stayed up well into the night riveted by CNN’s coverage. He also found time to catch his former colleague, Barbara Walters, on Oprah yesterday, “What can you say?” he enthused. “Barbara is it.” We’re sure Victor gets some ink in the sure to be best seller. “I’m a just tiny supporting player,” says Victor. “I’m looking forward to reading it.” As are Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell, I’m sure.

17. Lisa Linden, who was nice enough to introduce me to her pal Suri Kasirer, president of Kasirer Consulting. Says Lisa: “She’s the Queen — and the King — of New York Lobbyists!” (New York says so, too!) Suri and I bonded over the truly tough and equally wonderful job we have in common— being a mother to a toddler. Suri’s daughter Sophia Isabella is 18 months and “just amazing,” says mom. No doubt…

18. Ken Star (no, not that one) and Herb Allen.

20. Joan Gelman — brandishing an Obama button on her handbag.

22. Stu Rekant.

23. Early show: Jon Friedman and Time Inc’s Ed Adler engaging in “high level discussions” says Jon. When these two charming fellows stopped to chat with me at the bar I asked them when they thought Hillary was going to throw in the towel. Both agreed “When Bill tells her to.” Interesting… Second seating: Esther Newberg.

24. Joe Versace .

25. Elle‘s style guru Joe Zee and a dark-haired gal.

26. My good friend Beverly Camhe who is gearing up for her annual trip to Cannes. Beverly, who is always so terrific about introducing me to new people, inadvertently hooked me up with a part of my past life. She was lunching today with John Evans, president & COO of Hollywood Life. John is presiding over the magazine’s newest — and best — incarnation, which is swanky, sleek and filled with great images and lots of great articles. The cover boasts the most gorgeous photo of Christina Ricci ever. Back in 1985, the magazine started out as Movieline which was equally loved — and feared — by Hollywood insiders because of its take no prisoners approach to covering the business. In the late nineties, worked for Virginia Campbell, one of the toughest and smartest editors around at the time and penned the magazine’s first ever best dressed list and, sadly, one of Gianni Versace‘s last interviews. The Hollywood Life brand is now back with a vengeance with its Hollywood Style Awards and plans to go international. Beverly is planning to talk up the idea of doing a broadcast version of the magazine while breaking bread with the power brokers strolling the Croisette. Bonne Chance!

27. Joan Hamburg, who was overheard saying, “I hear this place has really been buzzing” dining with a blonde, blinged-out gal pal.

28. Lisa Shields.

Faces in the crowd: Ralph A. Gerra, Jr. and Martin J. Jones of Pryor Cashman who were seated next to me at the bar. These lovely gents were fascinated by today’s sociological study and utterly charmed by meeting Joan Rivers who was thrilled with Ralph when he told her, “You’re much prettier in person.” Last night Ralph attended a memorial service for his dear friend R. Palmer Baker, Jr. who recently passed away just shy of his 90th birthday. Palmer and Ralph shared several lunches at Michael’s so Ralph found himself dining here today in honor of his pal in a bit of a sentimental frame of mind. “Was it a happy 90 years?” asked Joan. “Yes,” said Ralph. “Well,” concluded Joan, “That’s all that’s important.”

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

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