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Lunch: Kerry Kennedy, Monica Crowley & Barbara Walters

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Maybe it was the gorgeous pre-Memorial Day weather, but the mood in the dining room at Michael’s today was noticeably upbeat. The usual suspects were out in force, and it seems everyone has caught a whiff of the optimism in the air. A welcome change, to say the least.

I was lunching today with Linda Gaunt, who I first met during her days as EVP of communications for Giorgio Armani: She was nice enough to provide me with an original sketch of a dress Mr. Armani had designed for Princess Diana that she never got to wear. I used it in the forward of my book, Diana: The Secrets of Her Style, and it is one of my favorite images from its pages. Since launching her own firm on Madison Avenue five years ago, Linda Gaunt Communications, Linda has amassed an impressive roster of clients, including Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, Versace, and The Whitney — and she just signed Hanro and Chantelle. Her results-oriented approach to PR has done wonders for her luxury fashion and lifestyle clients. Rather than sit back and wait for what happens next, says Linda, it is a critical time for companies to get smart about public relations and go after market share with “a targeted approach that really understands what the consumer wants and give them a reason to buy.” Sounds like good advice to us…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Leslee Dart, Vanity Fair scribe Leslie Bennetts and Mary Alice Williams

2. The always dashing Henry Schleiff and Kerry Kennedy, who told me she is so excited about the online auction that’s going on now through May 28 for The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Kerry has assembled a stellar list of lots for bidding, including a meet-and-greet with Oprah Winfrey and a day during Fashion Week with Vogue‘s man about town Andre Leon Talley. The money raised goes to aid the work being done on behalf of those in need in many areas including the Gulf Coast and in Darfur.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, George Farias and Fox News’ Monica Crowley (loved the necklace!) Seems the Mayor felt like he needed some fortification since he was lunching with two staunch Republicans, so he brought along an Obama bobblehead doll (which was a dead ringer for the president, by the way) and placed him squarely on the table for support. It definitely got our attention! I was glad I stopped by to say hello to the talkative trio who was dining early because Monica had to be back at the studio and on air this afternoon. Did you know that she is a team member of the Council on Foreign Relations? Now you do … George, who is always such a gentleman, had some good dish to share: He told me Nancy Reagan will be making a rare appearance at the Capitol on June 3 for the unveiling of a statue of President Reagan. Mark your calendars!

4. Barbara Walters (all in red!) and ABC Daytime head Brian Frons dishing about one ‘hot topic’ or another, I’m sure…


5. Nancy Murray and Jim Abernathy

6. Fashionista Micki Ateyeh

7. Ann Rapp and Jackie Rogers

8. Bobby Zarem and a gal we didn’t recognize.

9. Estee Lauder’s global communications guru Alexandra Trower who kindly introduced me to her godmother, Patricia Chadwick. Talk about timing: Patricia, who has had a long career in the financial services industry, now heads up her own firm, Ravengate Partners, and is taking on the “tyranny of the credit card companies” and writing her memoirs about her corporate life. “Saving is the new spending in the United States,” says Patricia. Indeed…

10. Catherine Saxton and Kipton Cronkite, who has a full slate of projects these days with KiptonArt. I was happy to meet Catherine in the flesh after chatting with her on the phone for so many stories over the years. We’ve had several occasions to chat: Catherine has been Ivana Trump‘s very busy publicist for the past 20 years. My lips are sealed…

11. Shari Redstone (Sumner’s daughter)

12. Jonathan Tisch

14. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive (loved the leopard shoes!) and Meryl Poster

15. Richard Rubenstein

16. John Arnhold

17. Cablevision’s Barry Frey (See you tonight on the train to Scarsdale) and Dr. Phillip Romero, who is hard at work on several books on the mind-body connection. The good doctor specializes in treating mood, anxiety and stress disorders, so we’re guessing he’s pretty busy these days …

18. Warner Brother’s president Ken Werner

19. My longtime pal public relations maven Trica Jean-Baptiste and her friend Alicia Bythewood (nice to meet you!). Alicia is busier than ever these days fundraising for several organizations including Unicef.

20. Trident Media’s Dan Strone and Michael Gross, who I spotted signing a copy of his new book, Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum (Broadway) for Michael’s GM, Steve Millington. Michael, who knows a thing or two about stirring things up at the best possible time for his long list of bestsellers, is making waves — and a few headlines — by incurring the wrath of Annette de la Renta (Oscar’s wife) over his portrayal of her in the book. Jesse Kornbluth wrote about it this week for The Huffington Post, and it’s being talked about at great length in certain circles around town. Can’t wait for the next chapter in this social saga to unfold…

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher and designer Dennis Basso

22. Andy Wing of A.C. Nielsen

23. Dave Johnson

24. Larry Baer

25. Don Epstein

26. Steven Yee

27. Men’s Journal editor Will Schenck

28. John Kenney

29. ICM’s Jennifer Joel

Faces in the crowd: Celia Visconte of New York & Co. and my pals, “the bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse in from New Jersey for the monthly champagne lunch at the bar. See you in June!

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

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