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Posts Tagged ‘Cindy Lewis’

Alex McCord & Simon van Kempen Serve Up Some Tasty ‘Real Housewives’ Dish

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— DIANE CLEHANE

There’s never a dull moment on a Wednesday at Michael’s. When I arrived in the dining room today I spotted LX TV‘s senior executive producer Amy Rosenblum shooting a segment for tonight’s show with host Sarah Gore and Michael’s GM Steve Millington about their famous $36 Cobb Salad. Who says lunch here isn’t about the food?

I had a delightfully dishy lunch with Alex McCord, one of my favorite cast members from The Real Housewives of New York City, her husband Simon van Kempen and their literary agent, my pal Jason Allen Ashlock. The couple is surprisingly down to earth given the histrionics filled season. “We’re trying to prove you don’t have to be an idiot to be on reality television,” says Simon.

At the moment, Alex and Simon are in the middle of their book tour for Little Kids Big City, which is now in its second printing. It’s a well-written, ‘mom-oir’ (as Simon likes to call it) that chronicles their transformation from DINKY (dual income no kids yet) couple to hands-on, working parents of two sons, Francois and Johan. Also in the works are a “relationship book” written in the same ‘he said, she said’ style as Little Kids, a possible cookbook, and Alex tells me she’s penning a “roman a clef about the dark underbelly of reality television.” Watch out Jill Zarin!

I just had to ask Alex what she thought of Jill’s tearful performance at the marathon three-part reunion show, which culminated in Jill basically begging former BFF Bethenny Frankel for a hug. (I’m told the women shot for nine hours with very little down time.) “It was a long day,” says Alex. “I don’t know whether it was genuine or not.” But she didn’t hold back in describing Jill’s backstabbing behavior overall: “When you have nothing else in your life, you can sit around and scheme like a character in Dangerous Liaisons.”

The couple was first tapped by Bravo to appear on what was to be called Manhattan Moms in 2007 before it morphed into The Real Housewives of New York City. “We didn’t know we were going to be paired with bitchy, socialite wannabes,” says Simon. With three seasons behind them, Simon feels Alex “hit her stride” this year. For her part, Alex says her friendships with Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, and Bethenny have grown and she’s spoken to all three of them “within the last 48 hours.” No decision has been made about who will be returning next season but Simon says of the couple’s plans, “At this point, it would be silly to not do one more season.”

You can catch Alex at her next New York City book signing on July 6 at Barnes & Noble on Lexington and 86th Street with New Jersey Housewife Caroline Manzo, who be on hand to promote Bravo’s new tell-all on the popular franchise.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Lunch: Tim Gunn Talks ‘Age Appropriate Fashion’ with Grace Mirabella

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If we’d come by on Monday, we would have run into Tyra Banks at breakfast and Harold Ford, Jr. at lunch. Oh, well. Michael’s was still brimming with plenty of the usual suspects today, and more than a few did a double take when Tim Gunn arrived with legendary editor Grace Mirabella on his arm.

When Project Runway‘s unflappable designer mentor sat down with the former Vogue editor, I wasn’t surprised to overhear their conversation turn immediately to fashion. Tim was all ears when asking Ms. Mirabella (whose namesake magazine remains one of my all-time favorites) about her thoughts on age-appropriate looks for everything from jeans to evening wear. Gathering intelligence for all those fledgling fashionistas, no doubt.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Advisory Group, presiding over a table of social media gurus: Huffington Post’s CEO Eric Hippeau, president Greg Coleman and senior vice president Phil Cara with Stephen Cannon of Mercedes Benz, Virgin Mobile’s Stacy Schwartz and Tom Cuniff of Combe Inc.

2. Peter Brown and John Reid

3. Producer John Hart (long time, no see!) with another distinguished looking white-haired gent

4. My good friend and publicist extraordinaire Catherine Saxton and Richard Smullen, co-founder and CEO of AdGenesis, beezag, and koppr. Catherine tells me she’s jetting off in a few days to Marabella to visit with “some Khashoggis.” Send us a postcard!

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Lunch: Johnny Weir Is “Not From Mars,” Nate Berkus Readies Transformations

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You just never know who’s going to turn up at Michael’s, and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected during my weekly lunches. That’s just what I got when U.S Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and his agent Tara Modlin showed up to join Rob Weisbach, uber agent and former president and CEO of Miramax Books, at Table One. I loved every minute of the drama on and off the ice at this year’s games, so I just had to go over and introduce myself to Johnny.

The usually flamboyant and outspoken star, who was wearing a red ruffled sweater, black pants and flat boots, was downright subdued as I offered my congratulations on his Olympic performance but perked up when I asked if the trio might be discussing a possible book. “Yes, I want to do a book. I write a blog for my Web site and I’d like to write about a lot of the things that happen behind the scenes in figure skating,” Johnny told me. “I’ve got a cool background. I’d like people to know I’m not from Mars.” I also asked the sixth place finisher to weigh in on silver medalist Yevgeny Plushenko‘s controversial remarks about Evan Lysacek winning the gold medal without doing a quadruple jump. “I’m good friends with Yevgeny and his comments were taken out of context,” says Johnny. “He’s Russian. English is his second language.” So there you have it; it was all just a simple misunderstanding.

Speaking of books, I was joined today by literary agent Fredi Friedman who helms her own agency and has an impressively diverse list of clients including hedge fund king (and former Morgan Stanley honcho) Barton Biggs, Pat Buchanan, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, and her Republican counterpart Kellyanne Conway. “I go from one side of the aisle to the other!” says Fredi.

We were deep in conversation when Today show producer Marc Victor stopped by to introduce us to Oprah‘s favorite design guru, Nate Berkus. His new syndicated show, Nate Berkus (catchy title!) is set to premiere in September on NBC. Nate tells me he’s branching out from home makeovers. The show will air as a lead-in to Ellen DeGeneres‘ chatfest and will include a variety of different segments. “I’ll be doing some design, but I’ll also be doing interviews and focusing on the idea of transformations.” You might recall Oprah has sent Nate to several viewers’ homes for missions that go beyond a bathroom gone bad. One of my favorite recent episodes had Nate making over a woman who wanted him to glam her up and take her to her 25th high school reunion. “It’s tricky terrain when you’re picking out clothes for someone,” says Nate, who will also “have a presence” on Oprah’s OWN network when it launches. But he came through with flying colors and is now confident enough to give it a go on his own show. “We’re going to be focusing on transformations.”

Fredi, who is always thinking about new book ideas, told Nate he really had something there. “You should do a book!” she said. “Maybe I will,” Nate replied with a smile as he said his good-byes. “Thanks for the feedback!” At Michael’s, lunch is never just about lunch. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Rob Weisbach, Johnny Weir, and Tara Modlin

2. Today show producer Marc Victor (long time, no See!), Nate Berkus, and Nate’s agent Kristen Giese

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, Ed Victor, and his gorgeous wife, Carol.

4. Jean Doumanian with two gents, including producer Jerry Frankel.

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Lunch: ‘Bag Lady’ & Madoff Victim Alexandra Penney: ‘Writing Well is the Best Revenge!’

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Things must be looking up in the journalism biz, because Michael’s dining room was jam packed with media folks of every stripe. While CEOs and spinmeisters held court from their usual perches, writers and editors were shoehorned in all over the place. I was glad I got there early because I bumped into former Self editor-in-chief Alexandra Penney, who I had not talked to since she authored the much buzzed about book, How to Make Love to a Man. “That was another life ago,” said Alexandra. I’ll say. Last fall, I was riveted by her posts on The Daily Beast where she chronicled the emotional and financial devastation that almost consumed her when she lost everything thanks to Bernie Madoff‘s ponzi scheme.

Alexandra bravely wrote about her experiences for Tina Brown‘s site under posts dubbed ‘The Bag Lady Papers,” because, she says simply, “I needed money.” When agent Ed Victor read her deeply personal revelations he told her, “I think you might have a book here.” And indeed she did. The Bag Lady Papers is due out February 16 from Hyperion’s Voice imprint. “When something like this happens, it either galvanizes you or devastates you. I chose to be galvanized because I had to. It’s amazing what you can do when you really need to.”

I was joined today by another enterprising woman, my good friend Dr. Robi Ludwig. In addition to her thriving private practice as a psychotherapist, Robi is a frequent contributor to the Today show where she weighs in on modern relationships and the celebrity crack-up of the moment. She’s logged plenty of airtime trying to get inside Tiger Woods‘ marital meltdown, and she and Redbook‘s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison dished with Al Roker just yesterday on what couples are fighting about most these days (If you guessed money, you’re right). When Robi is not seeing patients or lending her expert opinion on matters of the heart, she keeps busy with her “inspirational” jewelry line for QVC, Dr. Robi. After her first book, Till Death Do Us Part: Inside the Mind of A Killer Spouse (Atria), kept her busy on the talk show circuit, she is now hard at work on her second which will offer tips on how to have a happier marriage during these stressful times. Earlier this month, she also signed on as a contributor to care.com, an online community and comprehensive source for people searching for caregivers of all kinds from babysitters to eldercare workers. “I’ve always loved the idea of not pigeonholing myself,” says Robi. “There’s no reason to do just one thing if you’re passionate about a lot different things.” Obviously.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The “Imber Gang”: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer.

2. A casually clad Paul Wilmot (loved the sweater!) and Omnicom’s CEO Tom Harrison

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Norris Mailer

4. Former William Morris chairman Jim Wiatt and Quadrangle Group’s Josh Steiner

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Lunch: Warren Buffett Dines & Dashes

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— DIANE CLEHANE

How about a side order of sound investment advice with that salmon? When none other than Warren Buffett showed up at Michael’s today, every head in the dining room turned his way. Even if he is ‘the world’s greatest investor,’ this legend is, by all accounts, fairly low-key when dining out. He ambled over to his table without a fuss and waited patiently for his date, Fortune‘s Carol Loomis, who has written extensively on him.

It seemed money was on everyone’s mind today. When I sat down, I found myself right next to Cosmopolitan‘s Kate White as she lunched with Jean Chatzky, the financial guru who dispenses tips on the Today show and Oprah. When Kate asked, “Do you have any questions for Jean?” I wasn’t sure where to start. So, I decided to go with whether we’d seen the bottom of the market. Jean replied, “I think we could still see some dips, but that doesn’t mean I’m not investing.” Being a financial novice myself, I also queried her on why there’s so much talk about the recession being over when employment continues to climb. She explained, “The markets are the leading indicator” while the unemployment statistics “lag a bit behind.” All of us agreed that, based on all the folks we know who are under-employed or who have just given up searching for jobs all together at the moment, the unemployment figure is actually much higher than what’s reported. I guess that means don’t take all of that money out from underneath your mattress just yet.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mrs. Martin Bregman and pals, so we’re told.

2. The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly (love the beard!) and a fellow we didn’t recognize.

3. Warren Buffett and Carol Loomis were in and out before we even got our salads. Guess that proves the old adage ‘time is money!’

4. Men’s Health honcho Dave Zinczenko and William Morris’ Jon Rosen. Dave is everywhere these days promoting the 2010 edition of Eat This, Not That! and its low-cal cousin, Eat This, Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution. Watch out Zagats! He’s been on the Today show, Extra, and The Bonnie Hunt Show of late to reveal the staggering fat and calorie counts of some seemingly innocent-looking food. (Did you know Cosi’s Cobb salad has a whopping 55 grams of fat? Now you do!) Dave told me he was headed off to tape a segment on Rachel Ray after lunch. Perhaps he’ll helm his own show one day soon. Stay tuned.

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Lunch: Hoda Kotb & Bravo’s Housewives Hold Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today, and although the place was filled to the brim with movers and shakers of every stripe, all eyes were on table one: Today‘s Hoda Kotb presided over a raucous lunch with a trio of Real Housewives from Bravo’s compulsively watchable franchise. Tongues wagged aplenty as the crowd watched the reality TV stars saunter in. First to arrive was Tamra Barney (Orange County) with her husband Simon, followed by NeNe Leakes (Atlanta). Danielle Straub (New Jersey) was, of course, the last to arrive — all the better to make a grand entrance. The gals have been guest-hosting Today‘s fourth hour this week, filling in for the vacationing Kathie Lee Gifford.

I just had to make my way over to their table to chat with the headline-making Danielle, who just last night precipitated a catfight for the ages on the season finale of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. As faithful fans of the series know, Danielle’s former life as a stripper who ran with a bad crowd was chronicled in Cop Without A Badge, written, she says, by an ex-husband more than two decades ago. Since then, Danielle reinvented herself and settled in suburbia hoping to keep the past buried. Lucky for Bravo, her frenemies on the show discovered her story, and the fur started flying. Last night, things came to a head when Danielle confronted the other Housewives about their role in bringing the long-forgotten tome to town.

I asked Danielle if the Sopranos-style last supper where everyone gathered for a ‘friendly’ dinner had been staged. “Of course,” she said. “Why else would I have been invited?” Things got really ugly when Teresa Giudice started letting the profanities fly in front of Danielle’s two young daughters and the group ganged up on her. Despite putting up a strong front, Danielle told me the episode “ripped her apart” and afterward, she and her girls retreated to her home where they stayed curled up in her bed for a few days. “We were sick from it, and it was the one place we felt safe.” But, like the tough survivor she is, the breakout star of the series is back with a vengeance with plans to write a book (“It will be something empowering to help women”) and is being repped by Maura Teitelbaum at Abrams Artists Agency. According to Danielle, her daughters have adjusted to the limelight nicely. Her eldest, Christine, is fielding offers from modeling agencies, including Elite. And get this — she says if Bravo wants a second season, she’s there. “Oh my God, of course I’d do it!”

I was glad I was lunching today with my new friend Dr. Phillip Romero, who specializes in family and couple’s therapy. Phil is currently hard at work on two books, Phantom Stress and The Art of Impermanence. I asked him why we like to watch these reality shows that are such spectacles of dysfunction. “It’s voyeurism that makes us feel better about ourselves,” says Phil. These days when “our collective anxiety is higher than at any other time in human history” because of the “sweeping changes occurring at all levels of society” Phil says these shows offer a diversion, “a media quick fix” that takes our mind off the serious issues at hand. Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Today‘s Hoda Kotb, producer Tammy Filler, Bravo’s Real Housewives NeNe Leakes, Tamra Barney (with husband Simon), and Danielle Straub.

2. Andrew Stein with a distinguished dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive rocking a LBD and pearls. Joe tells me he’s off to Cuba on a ‘humanitarian mission’ for a few weeks. Safe travels, and we’ll see you when you return!

4. Esther Newberg and Jeffrey Toobin. We caught Jeff on CNN the other day deconstructing the effect of David Letterman‘s joke about Sarah Palin‘s daughter. While the other pundits debated whether the former vice presidential nominee’s daughters were fair game, Jeff weighed in by saying he thought Letterman crossed the line by calling Governor Palin’s look ‘slutty.’ Chivalry is not dead after all…

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Lunch: Barbara Walters, Barry Diller & Dana Perino

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I’m glad I got to Michael’s early today because by 12:30 they were literally lining up outside the front door to get in the joint. Even the Garden Room (Siberia to the uninitiated) was SRO. The groups of wannabe diners at the bar and in the lounge were enviously eyeing the tables occupied by the famous and fabulous in the front room as they dined and dished without notice. Who says there’s no class system in America?

Ah, but you know better, and so do the regulars who, despite hurricane winds and the worst traffic we’ve seen all year, found their way to their power perches to see and be seen by Gotham’s glitterati. Perception is reality these days and from where I sat, it’s business as usual for these folks. We spotted Michael Fuchs working the room like nobody’s business, shaking hands with Matt Blank, Jon Tisch and an assortment of moguls who crossed his path. Others, such as Barry Diller, were riveted to the conversation at their own table. Working on some killer deal, no doubt.

I made my way around the jam-packed dining room to check in with my pals. I needed the breathing room since it was elbow to elbow at the bar, and I was seated across from a gleeful foursome who were celebrating something over a few beers. (See, despite what you’ve been reading not everything is gloom and doom). I was happy to stop and chat with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko and his former public relations man (and brand new dad to seven-week-old son Benjamin!) Jon Hammond. Jon, who also worked for Conde Nast Traveler, now works for the NBA as senior director of community and player programs communications. Somehow, the three of us got into a lively discussion about the merits of Twitter. “All my guys are doing it,” says Jon of the NBA players he’s working with. I shared that in working on an upcoming story for Variety, I’ve discovered that some pretty high-level folks are saying it’s an effective way “to build a brand.” David, who never misses a thing, had a brainstorm within seconds of hearing our cases for using Twitter professionally. Look for Men’s Health to have its own Twitter feed in the not-too-distant future where readers can join in the conversation about things like the magazine’s highly popular “Eat This, Not That” franchise. Dave also gave me some scoop about some changes afoot in the next issue of Men’s Health: Fans of recently shuttered Best Life (we loved it!) will be happy to hear that, according to Dave, “the best elements of Best Life are being incorporated” into Men’s Health. Makes sense to us. And, Best Life‘s former editor, Stephen Perrine, is now heading up the newly created position of overseeing books from Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines. Congrats!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. A smiling Barry Diller and a bespectacled gent we didn’t recognize…

2. Jonathan Tisch and a dark-haired beauty. Jon had a big hello for Hoda Kotb when he spotted her across the room.

3. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank

4. Barbara Walters deep in conversation with Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s gal pal Diana Taylor

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Lunch: Ben Bradlee — Fewer Newspapers May Not Be ‘Such A Bad Thing’

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It was truly a head-spinning afternoon at Michael’s today. The joint was jumping with so many movers and shakers we could barely keep up with all the goings on, but we did a few laps around the dining room to catch up with the boldface names and those media mavens whose jobs are still secure to find out the latest dish.

I was thankful I got there early this afternoon because I was able to collar legendary newspaper man Ben Bradlee before he sat down with his family. I just had to ask him what he thought about the obit currently being written for the newspaper industry. The former The Washington Post editor wasn’t about to buy into all the gloom and doom. “I’m actually quite hopeful,” he told me of his survival of the fittest approach. “When I was editor of the Post, there was something like 7,500 papers and now there’s 1,200. But I don’t think it’s such a bad thing if there’s a few less papers — if they’re better. The Washington Post is losing money at the moment, but I think things will settle down. As long as the surviving papers are good, it’s not going to be a disaster.”

I had the good fortune today to lunch with Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, two of my favorite people who I’ve come to know through my weekly Wednesday visits. We had a lively conversation (Sorry, but the juiciest stuff was strictly off the record). Joan is a hero of mine, having written about the perils of parenthood and working motherhood so brilliantly back in the ’80s for The New York Times‘ Hers column. I re-read many of them the other night, and they could have just as easily been written today. Joan has toiled at a plethora of television jobs, including producing stints at Good Morning America and David Letterman. Her latest show that she’s written, Triple Sensation, is scheduled to run in June in Canada on CBC, and she’s back freelance writing again. God knows she’s got plenty of material. Robert is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Long Island-based marketing-public relations firm Zimmerman/Edelson, which counsels a diverse client base which consists of an impressive roster of energy and real estate firms, as well as educational institutions including Hofstra University. Robert also moonlights as a CNN contributor, where he lends his intelligent, well-reasoned voice in support of public advocacy on a whole host of issues. “It’s a passion of mine,” he says. His gig with CNN (he signed on in 2007) came about after he got a call from The White House following one of his television appearances back in 2005. Turns out both Al Gore and Bill Clinton thought Robert would be just the guy to carry the flag on Fox News. Since then, he’s gone on to tangle with Lou Dobbs and plenty of other contentious commentators and flacks. “I have had the unique distinction of antagonizing both parties at the same time,” says Robert. That must mean he’s doing something right …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The indomitable Evelyn Lauder, looking lovely as ever in a chic brown tweed suit and presiding over a table of powerful gals, including our pal MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski (we forgot to tell her we’re on her side on the vibrator debate she’s currently having via the airwaves with Barbara Walters) and Lauder’s public relations maven Alexandra Trower (who looked dazzling in bright pink) all gathered to talk about Mrs. Lauder’s upcoming annual gala for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to be held on April 29 at the Waldorf. And before you run out and buy a fancy frock for the occasion, Mrs. Lauder was delighted to tell me the invitation calls for gals to “shop your closet.” “Let’s give all the money we can to the foundation,” she wisely advises. Gentleman should opt for “black tie with a touch of pink.” The evening is sure to be one for the record books. Longtime Lauder spokesperson Liz Hurley is hosting and Elton John is going to perform with — wait for it — Liza Minelli! So if you’ve been holding back on making the scene on the charity circuit, this might be just the time to crack open the checkbook if you can…

2. Here’s an interesting foursome: Sports Illustrated editor Terry McDonnell, Victoria’s Secret model Marissa Miller, an unidentified dude with a Mohawk, and a ‘suit.’

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with The Daily Beast’s books editor Alexis Gelber. Joe told me all of New York was at the party for Quinn Bradlee‘s book held at Barry Diller‘s last night. (We were home watching Dancing with The Stars. Oh well). Joe has just returned from his annual visit to The Whole in The Wall camp for critically ill children. This will be the first summer season for the camp since its founder and guiding force, Paul Newman, passed away. “He was the real deal,” says Joe. Luckily, his work lives on. Joe reports they will be opening a camp in Israel in June for Jewish, Arab and Christian children whose parents will be required to attend meetings together while the kids go about being kids and enjoying themselves despite their medical conditions. An inspiring concept to say the least …

4. Would love to have been a fly on the wall at this table: Jonathan Wald, Charlie Walk and Donnie Deutsch.

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger

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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

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