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Matt Lauer, Harold Ford Jr. & Neil Sedaka

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If the scene at Michael’s today is any indication, summer vacations are so 2010. The place was full of magazine honchos (the cafeteria at Hearst must have been empty), media mavens (Does Jason Binn ever sleep?) and bold face names who were all working the room like nobody’s business. I knew this group meant business when the chatter rose to such a decibel-splitting level that I could barely hear what my lunch dates were saying. So forget about playing hooky this week because the weather is so good, get to work on making that next big deal happen!

When I arrived a little before noon today I got a chance to catch up with Harold Ford Jr. I asked the former congressman, now MSNBC analyst, what he thought of the contentious negotiations between President Obama and the Republicans on raising the debt ceiling. Will the two sides reach an agreement before the August deadline? “They’ll strike an 11th hour deal,” Harold told me. “They have to.” Harold thinks the president is “acting responsibly” while the freshman Republicans are “playing with fire.” His solution: “If I were advising the president, I’d say get out on a ten-city tour and talk to people and explain (in his plan) there would be no new taxes until the end of 2012.” When it comes to raising taxes, Harold espouses raising the tax threshold for individuals and households. Eat your peas, indeed.

I was joined today by Redbook’s editor-in-chief Jill Herzig and Hearst PR director Alexandra Carlin and we had a lively conversation that ranged from raising kids to keeping up (literally) with the Kardashians. Jill just celebrated her first anniversary at Redbook in May and has made some savvy tweaks to Hearst’s magazine for smart, style-conscious women who juggle work and family. The biggest change? A shift in tone from “commiserating to celebrating” life in all its glorious, modern day chaos. “We love it when we hear about that from our cover celebrities. Brooke Burke was very honest about it recently. She said balance doesn’t exist. It’s just life.” In the new August issue, Jada Pinkett Smith gives some very frank — and emotional — answers about raising a family of budding superstars, her “excruciating” choices and how she wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wouldn’t want to go home to Will Smith?

Speaking of celebs, Jill gave me the rundown on which cover gals have scored on the newsstand this year. The big winners were the multiple covers featuring reality/competition show queens Bethenny Frankel, Allison Sweeney and Padma Lakshmi, and the issue featuring country star Miranda Lambert right before she married Blake Shelton. The top seller? The May issue which featured the women of the Kardashian clan clad all in white. Jill tells me ‘momager’ Kris earned her complete respect by rounding up her daughters and arriving early for a 6 am call to the set. “They were incredibly professional and all genuinely seemed to enjoy each other. They were just lovely.”

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Niche Media’s Jason Binn (Loved the seersucker suit!) presiding over a table of young bucks.

2. Producer Francine LeFrak and some well-heeled pals.

3. Cosmo‘s publisher Donna Lagani and Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller. A little birdie told me that Bonnie and Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne moved their monthly ‘Influencer’ luncheon from Tuesday to Wednesday this month because Jay Penske, whose company Mail.com Media owns Hollywoodlife.com, was in town and didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. Just in case you were wondering who joined the terrific trio here’s the list: social swan and Vanity Fair scribe Amy Fine Collins , designer Stacey Bendet, Ogilvy Entertainment president Doug Scott, Maybelline’s Deborah Marquardt, ION Media Networks’ CEO Brandon Burgess, Razorfish VP of media Julie Weitzner, Charlie Corwin, founder of Original Media,  publicist Matt Hiltzik and Aly Racer, president on PMC.

4. Producer Freddie Gershorn.


5. Allen & Co.’s Stanley Shuman and Silda Spitzer (yes, Eliot’s wife)

6. Peggy Siegal looking tres chic in coral.

7. Fitness guru Nikki Haskell with journo Jeffrey Slonim and legendary lensman Patrick McMullan. I did a double take when I saw Patrick at the table since I’d never seen him in the light of day before. (He favors the Manhattan nightlife scene that he’s been chronicling for decades for everyone from Interview to Allure). When I asked him how he was holding up, “I haven’t melted yet,” he quipped. “Although I’m not so sure how long that will last since I’m sitting facing the sun.”

8. 42 West’s founder and CEO Leslee Dart

9.  McAndrews & Forbes’ Christine Taylor

10.  Vidicom’s Christy Ferer

11. Accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh

12.  Glamour‘s editrix Cindi Leive (who, Jill tells me, is her periodic early morning jogging pal) and a table of power gals we didn’t get to meet.

14.  Hearst’s Michael Clinton and Marta Hallet

15.  Harold Ford Jr. and Dr. Irvin Redlener, a specialist in disaster preparedness. No word on what these two frequent television commentators were talking about but we have to ask: Is there something we should know?

16.  Betsy Perry with, we hear, her ex-husband and a pal. How civilized!

81. Avon’s Andrea Jung with an elegant looking blonde lady whose face we recognized but whose name escaped us. Anyone?

17.  Jay Kriegel and Thomson Reuters’ Joely Hunt

18.  Matt Lauer and Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell who was sporting what looked to be the beginnings of a beard. Before the guys had a chance to dig into their Cobb salads Matt got what appeared to be a very important call and had to dash outside for a few minutes. Who could possibly have been calling? Casey Anthony’s attorney, perhaps?

19.  Comedy writer turned radio commentator Susan Silver (Long time no see!) with a gal pal. Our mutual friend, Brian Balthazar, stopped by for a while to join them. Brian was also nice enough to come over and say hello at our table. I was so glad to get the chance to catch up with my multi-tasking pal who juggles his day job as HGTV’s director of original programming with his appearances as a pundit on pop culture for shows like Joy Behar and Today. Whew!

20. Neil Sedaka who found the star power in the room so overwhelming he slipped on his mirrored sunglasses midway through lunch with a mystery pal.

21. Morgan Stanley’s Patrick Murphy and Martin Dunn. I was thrilled to see Martin since I’d not run into him since his departure from the top of the masthead at The Daily News a while back. Martin tells me he’s “back in the game” with a just launched business, StreetSmartVideo.com.  Glad to hear it!

22.  Bottega Veneta’s designer Tomas Maier with style scribe Kate Betts and another fashionable fellow.

23. Hearst’s David Carey and attorney Michael Kassan.

25. PR guru Tom Goodman and Jonathan P. Danforth, president and CEO of ExperienceTheRide.com.

27. Jill Herzig, Alexandra Carlin and yours truly.

29. The Municipal Art Society’s Vin Cipolla

Faces in the crowd: Designer David Biscaye, fresh off buying in Rome and Naples. 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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