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Lunch: Liz Smith, Frank Langella & A Bevy of Social Swans

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The streets may be eerily empty these days (at least you can always get a cab), but you can pretty much count on a full house on Wednesdays at Michael’s. Today the dining room was buzzing as media mavens and a fair share of fashionistas made the scene. Before things really got going, I checked in with ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who is keeping good thoughts for his pal Robin Williams as he undergoes heart surgery. It was Joe, you may recall, who first brought Robin to Michael’s all those years ago for a lunch with Bill Clinton, which made headlines far and wide and even wound up being discussed on David Letterman. Here’s hoping one of our favorite funnymen makes a full and quick recovery.

Today I was lunching with Dorian Benkoil, mediabistro.com’s former editorial director and the man who first asked me to do this column. Dorian has a very full plate these days helming his own company, Teeming Media. He’s hosting an online show, Naked Media, broadcast monthly on NakedMedia.org, and recently had Businessweek.com’s Jon Byrne and Howard Lindzon, co-founder of Stockwits and Wallstrip, as guests. At the moment, Dorian is hard at work producing a seminar entitled “Finance for Media Professionals” to be held on March 23. If you want to check out the details for this timely talk, go to TeemingMedia.com.

I was happy to see regulars Kira Semler and Vi Huse (‘the bar-ettes’) having their monthly champagne lunch at the bar. I only wish that Kira had told me about her letter to the New York Post (which they printed) bemoaning the paper’s decision to stop publishing Liz Smith‘s column. (She showed it to me when we were all on our way out the door.) I would have loved to have introduced Liz to such an ardent fan. Oh well, next time…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The New Yorker‘s David Remnick, publisher Lisa Hughes and Cartier’s Frederic de Narp with a few members of his incredibly chic staff.

2. My new Facebook friend Terry Allen Kramer with Broadway producers James Neiderlander and Rob Greenblatt

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and The Hallmark Channel’s honcho Henry Schleiff. I had to go over and tell Henry that I’m loving those Saturday night made-for-TV movies on his network (What can I say? I have a four-year-old and don’t get out much). Henry told me he’s particularly excited about this week’s offering, Relative Stranger, starring Eriq La Salle, Cicely Tyson and Michael Michele, about a football player who leaves his family and years later returns to make amends. It premieres Saturday night at 8 p.m. I’m in! And, for all you fans of I Love Lucy and The Golden Girls reruns (Come on, confess, I know you’re out there) Hallmark is now home to these television gems. You’re welcome…

4. Liz Smith and Frank Langella (who gallantly got up and offered to pull out Liz’s chair — chivalry is not dead! Liz and I chatted before Mr. Langella’s arrival (he’s just too imposing to call Frank) and she told me now that she’s made the move to the Internet writing for her Website wowOwow.com (check it out, it’s addictive), she’s “trying to pump up her sources.” Aren’t we all?


5. Sports Illustrated‘s Terry McDonnell and Tim Arango

6. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank presiding over a table full of folks we didn’t get to meet (They looked very important from afar)

7. Alice Norris

8. Republican booster Georgette Mosbacher (sporting some serious sunglasses) with a table full of gals including Deb Grubman

9. Producer Paul Blake

11. My good pal, IMG’s Fern Mallis, with Nick Graham. Back in the 90s when money was no object, Nick was ‘Joe Boxer,’ and he famously took a plane full of fashionistas — including Fern — to Iceland to close out Fashion Week. (I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty nostalgic for those good old days) In case you haven’t heard Fern, along with Isaac Mizrahi, is the latest fashion maven to join Bravo’s squadron of reality show stars. Fern will be a judge on Isaac’s new fashion competition reality show, The Fashion Show, which will premiere on Bravo on May 7. You can read more about the show and catch up with Isaac in next week’s So What Do You Do? interview. We had a great chat. Don’t miss it!

12. The Imber Gang: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. When the guys were on the way out, I asked Jeff to weigh in on how the avalanche of minute-by-minute economic crisis coverage is affecting the press’ relationship with the Obama White House. In this “hot house environment,” he told me, instead of becoming part of the collective chatter, reporters need to “step away from all of it” to gain some perspective. “If this was 1933, there would be 500 Web sites writing about this.” Food for thought…

14. Lanky Luke Janklow with a gent we didn’t recognize

15. Peter Price

16. My pal Joan Gelman with her sons Josh and Gregg

17. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden with Patrick Murphy, who heads up the Fashion/Retail desk of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The dynamic duo was celebrating the news that Fashion Week will be moving to Lincoln Center (The CFDA Awards, which are happening June 15, will also be moving to the West Side and will be held at Alice Tully Hall)

18. Jane Friedman

20. The Barefoot Contessa‘s Ina Garten

21. Jay Kriegel

23. Ambassador Carl Spielvogel

24. Martin O’Connor with Vanity Fair‘s Jane Sarkin

25. John Arnhold

26. My good friend Pamela Keogh, looking like an ingenue in this season’s très chic new look — short shorts with tights. “I saw it in Paris!” said Pam as she bashfully accepted some compliments. Her friend Joseph Montebello looked dashing, as well. He was wearing long pants, though…

27. Sandra Whitney and Mary McFaddden

29. Marilyn Ungar

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

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