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Lunch: Tina Brown & Barbara Walters Break Bread; Jonathan Wald Works The Room

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a little disconcerting these days when no matter where you go in the city, the streets seem quieter than usual, and there are 10 cabs lined up outside Grand Central any time we need one. But we’ve observed an interesting phenomenon: The worse the economic news, the busier the scene at Michael’s during our weekly Wednesday visits. The dining room was abuzz with plenty of glad handing and table-hopping, and the mood, despite all the gloom and doom out there, was downright jovial. “It’s a bit of escapism,” one regular confided to me. “There’s no doubt things are bad, but people have to be out there now more than ever, so you might as well enjoy yourself for a couple of hours.” I certainly did today as I was joined at the bay by my friend and former boss Susan Malinowski, brand ‘incubator’ and licensing/marketing guru who has some big deals brewing. (I’m sworn to secrecy.) We practically got whiplash keeping track of all the goings-on. So come out from under your desk and get out there and network. You never know who you’re going to meet over a Cobb salad.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Bonnie Timmerman presiding over a full table of guests including Claudia Peltz

2. Peter Brown and Shirley Lord

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Quest‘s Chris Meigher

4. Michael J. Wolfe


5. Money man Stan Shuman

6. Publicity princess Elizabeth Harrison with David Edelstein. Late-arriving Melanie Brown and her husband made it a foursome. The former Spice Girl seems to be keeping her killer bod that she toned up during her stint on Dancing with the Stars.

7. Producer Jon Hart, who was nice enough to introduce me to hotter than hot director Tom Hooper. Tom has just come off an amazing awards show run, having earned a statuette at the Golden Globes for directing John Adams for HBO and seen his cast collect all kinds of kudos. I asked Jon why he thought the joint was jumping when pretty much everywhere else seems dead these days, and he offered his take: “People want to go where they feel welcomed and where they know people. It feels good to be here.”

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with best selling author Linda Fairstein. I’ve known Linda for a while, having chronicled her stellar career for a few different outlets, and she never ceases to amaze. She cranks out a book every year — each one with an intricate plot steeped in intrigue that has kept her legions of fans captivated. Her latest, Lethal Legacy, comes out on February 10th from Doubleday, and it’s a bit of a departure for her. Linda told me the story is inspired by a case she prosecuted back in 1974 involving a man who was going across country stealing valuable maps out of public libraries. (Back in the day, Forbes Smiley made headlines with similar heists in New York.) Forsaking messy sex crimes and murders this go round, the twists and turns Linda has come up with for this tome revolve around “evil trustees and collectors” and their nefarious doings “behind the lions.” She’ll be doing a book tour with stops in Washington, D.C, Denver, Boston, Phoenix and Palm Beach, among others. And, she’ll be talking about the book on Imus this Friday. Turns out crime — at least writing about it — does pay.

9. Cindy Lewis and Diane Silberstein

10. Harriet Weintraub.

11. Liz Lange and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive. I was thrilled to catch up with Liz, who looked like a million bucks in her winter white (sans hosiery) and killer fur coat. (Trust me, she wears it well.) This hard-working and brilliant entrepreneur always looks glam and is one of the nicest women in the biz.

12. Most of the members of the Imber gang: Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman

14. We would have loved to pull up a chair — Tina Brown and Barbara Walters, deep in conversation

15. Jonathan Wald who introduced me to his good pal Charlie Walk, former president of Epic Records and now president and CEO of his own multimedia company, CWE Media.(They met through mutual pal Andrea Brokaw, Tom’s daughter) Jonathan was clearly the man of the moment today. His impending departure from CNBC (we broke it on TVNewser yesterday) when his contract expires in March made news everywhere, and Jon was making the rounds and shaking hands like nobody’s business during lunch. We spied him stopping to chat with Tina and Barbara for a while and caught up with him at the bar. When I asked him if he was surprised by all the coverage he’d gotten, he said, “I think it’s a testament to how successful CNBC has become.” He was mum on what he might do next, but offered, “I want to keep moving forward and doing interesting things. It’s all good.” We’ll be expecting a call the minute you’ve got something to announce …

16. Bobby Friedman and Lisa Caputo

81. Joel Silverman and Patricia Duff

17. Nick Simunek

18. The dashing Vernon Jordan (who got a great big hug from Joana Andrade at the front desk when he arrived) with a distinguished-looking blond lady we couldn’t quite place…

19. Tyler Jones

20. Joan Gelman

21. Richard Rubenstein

22. Chanel’s John Galantic with Bergdorf Goodman president Jim Gold

23. Peter Price

24. Nancy Peretsman of Allen & Co.

25. Ed Blier

26. The New York Observer‘s boy wonder Jared Kushner

27. I happened to catch the very impatient Tommy Mottola when I arrived earlier than usual. He insisted on being seated with the squadron of suits that were with him before the lunch service started because, he said, “We gotta get out of here.” Okay then…

28. Ronald Weintraub (Harriet’s husband)

29. David Corvo

30. Chanel’s Barbara Cirkva and Style.com’s Candy Pratts Price

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

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