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Lunch: Soledad O’Brien Talks Helping Haiti’s Children

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The media mob was out in force today at Michael’s and we spotted plenty of table hopping between bites. It was fascinating to see all the head honchos make the rounds while checking in with the competition. Who needs to eat anyway?

I was joined today by CNN’s anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, who I’ve known since her days as anchor of Weekend Today, and CNN publicist Van Scott. Since making the move to cable, Soledad, who left NBC in 2003 to anchor the network’s maiden season of American Morning, has gotten plenty of attention for her on-the-ground reporting of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina. It was Soledad’s infamous interview with then FEMA chief Michael Brown that started the public outcry eventually leading to his resignation in September 2005.

After logging in plenty of air miles last year covering major news stories like the earthquake in Haiti, Soledad has unpacked her bags long enough to do a slew of documentaries that are kicking off next month. On May 8, CNN will premiere Rescued, an hour-long look at the plight of Haiti’s children told through the eyes of 6 year-old Cendy Jeune and former child slave Marc Kenson Oliphi. After being in Haiti immediately following the disaster, Soledad tells me she held orphans in her arms whose eyes had seen so much that “they looked old.” The documentary chronicles the lives of the children who are living in the Lighthouse orphanage where rather than being put up for adoption, they are instead taught skills, given an education, and encouraged to be valuable members of society when they “age out” of the orphanage at 18.

It was clearly a transformative experience for Soledad, herself a mother of four. She told me, “The best way to help Haiti is to help the children of Haiti help Haiti.” She’s planning on returning to the region next month with her 9 year-old daughter Sophia in tow. “My kids really want to do something to help. We’re going to ‘adopt a community’ and do what we can.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The lovely Pat Schoenfeld, in a chic red topper and matching loafers, with a few close pals.

2. Cablevision’s president Tad Smith

3. Sony Pictures’ Steve Mosko

4. Steve Rubenstein and William Lauder


5. Donny Deutsch (Someone has been spending a lot of time at the gym lately) and an exotic dark-haired gal.

6. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Andy Bergman, Michael Kramer, and CBS News’ Jeff Greenfield, who stopped by our table to chat with Soledad. I’m not sure, but I think Soledad’s admission (“I’ve always had such a crush on you”) to her former CNN colleague made the veteran newsman blush.

7. Soledad O’Brien, Van Scott , and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia (long time, no see!) with a fellow we didn’t get a chance to meet.

9. Cosmo editrix Kate White, rocking a cute zebra print top and black pencil skit. Kate’s new book Hush just came out, and she’s been all over town being feted by Gotham’s glitterati. Just last night, she was the guest of honor at a party at Diane von Furstenberg‘s store in the Meatpacking District. Congrats!

11. Agent Lynn Goldberg

12. My good friend, public relations maven Lisa Linden and Taxi & Limousine commissioner Matt Daus

14. Hearst high priestess Ellen Levine, whose look I raved about last week. She and I got to chat for a while at the bar, and we discussed the merits of having long versus short hair. Ellen tells me her shorter new ‘do requires more work than her formerly longer tresses. Based on how fabulous she looks, we’d say it’s well worth the effort.

15. Attorney Richard Descherer

16. Conde Nast’s David Carey (See you in Scarsdale!) and The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly with plenty to talk about, I’m sure.

17. Avenue‘s Judy Price

18. Legendary lensman Sir Harry Benson, looking as dapper as ever, with Kerry Kennedy.

20. Shari Rollins (wife of Ed)

21. Would love to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Gina Sanders and Richard Beckman, longtime Conde Nast pals and the current and former holders of the same job. Gina, former publisher of Teen Vogue, Lucky, Gourmet and Details, is now president and CEO for Fairchild Fashion Group, a division of Conde Nast and parent of WWD. Richard, who spent 24 years at Conde Nast and served as publisher of GQ and Vogue, is the former president and CEO of Fairchild Fashion Group. He now heads up e5 Global Media, which recently bought The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Media Week and AdWeek.

23. Real estate scion Dan Tishman who, I’m told, also owns a llama farm in Maine. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

24. AEA Investor’s Sanford Kriger

25. Ernie Olse

26. Producer Beverly Cahme, who tells me she’s off to Morocco where she and filmmaker Barbara Kopple have been commissioned by the country’s royal family to do a documentary on the nation’s ‘green’ efforts.

27. Richard Attias

29. Susan Danilow

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

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