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Lunch: Why So Glum, Anna Wintour & Ralph Lauren?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was standing room only at Michael’s today with a head-spinning assortment of movers and mavens doing some serious table-hopping between bites. We were brightened to see there was a dash of celebrating between all the intense conversations that were going on all around. It’s the holidays, remember?

I was lunching today with Gerry Byrne, senior vice president of The Entertainment Group at Nielsen Business Media. One of the truly good guys in the industry, Gerry has had an amazing career in media that started after he served as a United States Marine Corps Officer in Vietnam, when he took a job at The New York Daily News working in business development. You name an important showbiz publication, and chances are Gerry has been at the helm. He was president and CEO of Stagebill, served as group publisher and president of Variety and Daily Variety (and launched the Gotham edition), started Electronic Media (now Television Week) and Crain’s New York Business. He was consulting for Nielsen when they lured him back into corporate life earlier this year with his current gig. “I never expected to be back doing this, but I’m having a great time,” says Gerry. He’s keeping busy overseeing the company’s entertainment properties and exhibitions including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Backstage, Kirkus Reviews, The Bookseller and expos like ShoWest. Whew!

We had a fascinating conversation about the state of the entertainment and media industry, with Gerry offering some valuable insights. “It’s all about brand management and creating new partnerships,” he told me. “More people than ever are willing to listen to new ideas about partnerships.” That, says Gerry, is good news for everyone willing to acknowledge what’s in the past is gone and it’s a brave new world. So buck up, all you naysayers, put your thinking caps on and get out there and reinvent yourself. Speaking of reinvention, I asked him to weigh in on NBC’s decision to offer Jay Leno a nightly show on their prime time schedule. “They’re protecting their franchise. Jeff Zucker made a dramatic statement.” The “game-changing” move is sure to change the face of television, says Gerry, who noted, “It couldn’t have been done 10 years ago.” Timing is everything, isn’t it?

The scene spilled over into the Garden Room where Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell and David Gregory were seated. The newly-minted host of Meet The Press gave us a big hello and a smile as he made his way to the back, but slipped out early before we could ask him about his new gig. mediabistro.com’s founder Laurel Touby was a few tables away with metacafe’s CEO Erick Hachenburg and SVP Jack Rotherham and Michael A. Vorhaus of Frank N. Magid Associates. So take that, all you strivers — power is where you find it!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. There were plenty of fireworks: Jerry Inzerillo, Paul Grucci and some lively fellows who were celebrating some big news with champagne

2. Judy McGrath and a gent we didn’t recognize…

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with a trio of interesting — and enterprising — women: Democratic booster Maureen White, Sarah Rosenthal and Cynthia Brill, who told me the Clear Card biz we chatted about some months ago for this very column is going great guns. The brainchild of Cynthia and her husband Steve, ‘The Easy Pass of airports’ designed to help users ‘fly through airport security,’ is now in 21 airports and coming soon (in ’09, she says) to LAX. We’re all for anything that will improve the hellish experience of surviving a stay in that confounding maze.

4. Frank Gifford and Ron Kanecke


81. Mike Ovitz and a mystery power broker, so we’re told…

5. Stan Shuman and another distinguished gent

6. Producer Jon Hart holding court over a table full of hipsters

7. Cathy Blaney

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and literary agent extraordinaire Freddie Friedman

9. Peter Price and Hearst’s Ellen Levine — looking fab in all black.

10. Gerry Byrne and yours truly.

11. Hallmark Television honcho Henry Schleiff and the casually clad Michael Fuchs

12. The Imber Gang: Dr. Gerry Imber stopped by our table to say hello. Turns out Gerry and Gerry, who have known each other “for a thousand years” forged their friendship, in part, because their sons are so close. The rest of the ‘gang’ was out in force: Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Michael Kramer and Andy Bergman.

14. Joan Gelman and her dashing sons Gregg and Josh. “Guess what I’m buying my sons for Christmas,” Joan joked on her way out. “A senate seat!” Ho, ho, ho!

15. Debbie Bancroft

16. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Anna Wintour and Ralph Lauren. The fabulous fashionistas both arrived on the early side — 12:30 — and were still deep in conversation after much of the dining room had departed. Now that we’ve been assured by Si Newhouse that Anna’s safe at the top of Vogue‘s masthead, we have to wonder why the pair looked downright anguished. We watched in fascination as the pair leaned over the table with their foreheads practically touching as Ralph propped his head up with his hands and rubbed his eyes. Tough times for the titan? We can’t imagine…

18. Patricia Watt with Sharon Bush, who told me that the perilous economic climate has somewhat dimmed the prospects for Sharon’s book, Bushology, for the moment. “We’re thinking television,” says Patty. Stay tuned…

20. Deb Grubman

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher

22. Deb Collins

23. Mort Hamburg (Joan’s husband) with attorney Elkan Abramowitz, who represented Woody Allen in his custody battle with Mia Farrow. Just thought you’d like to know…

24. Peggy Siegal and Marian Koltal-Levine

25. Bob Barnett

26. CBS’s David Poltrack

27. Mickey Ateyeh and Jeffrey Banks

28. Pat Mitchell

Faces in the crowd: My pal Linda Carrick-Warfield of Colliers International, in town from Florida. Great to see you!

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

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