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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

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