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Posts Tagged ‘Francine LeFrak’

Chris Matthews Stops by Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Now that summer is unofficially over and the glitterati have shuttered their cottages in the Hamptons, the regulars have begun to trickle into Michael’s for catch-up power lunches. Things weren’t exactly operating at full tilt today, but there were enough media mavens and moguls scattered around the dining room to signal that the city’s busy social season is upon us. So, pack up those summer whites and buckle down. It’s back to business.

I was joined today by jewelry designer Lisa Salzer and my good pal Miriam Driot, who is handling international public relations and marketing for Lisa’s line of vintage costume jewelry, Lulu Frost. The gals were all abuzz about Lisa’s first-ever Fashion Week presentation with live models at MAC & Milk Studio next Monday. Lisa says the show will have an “elegant, fifties feel” and feature Mad Men-inspired period clothes from Amarcord. Despite the frenzy going on in showrooms all over town, this afternoon Lisa was the embodiment of Grace Kelly cool. “It’s the calm before the storm,” she joked.

In just six years, Lisa went from being a Dartmouth college student who sold jewelry out of her dorm room to respected talent whose vintage pieces are carried in Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and overseas in Paris and Japan. “It’s my passion,” she said. She also told me she inherited her love of all that glitters from her grandmother who ran an antique estate jewelry firm in England.

When I asked her how her business has been affected by the lingering recession, she said: “We’ve been lucky. Things have been very good. Because the collection is costume, women are still buying the pieces they love. It’s much different than selling apparel.” I’ll say. In fact, Lisa is so optimistic about her clients’ bling obsession that she’s planning to launch a fine jewelry collection next year.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Diana Taylor and Susan Mercandetti

2. Terry Allen Kramer and James Nederlander

3. Women’s Day‘s Carlos Lamadrid

4. Public relations scion Steve Rubenstein

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Deborah Norville, Cindi Leive & A Slew of Fashionable Folks

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead to Michael’s, and today was no exception. Everyone in the place seemed connected by less than six degrees of separation, as we observed plenty of old friends and former colleagues exchanging air kisses before dining and dishing. Then there was the completely random fashion moment that caught our eye. Did you know it was ‘Seersucker Day’ here in New York City? Now you do. So it was only fitting that Michael’s GM Steve Millington was sporting his summer seersucker suit in honor of the sweltering heat. Earlier today, a little birdie told me that the outdoor set of The Early Show was filled with men (including the show’s weatherman Dave Price) in Haspel seersucker suits in honor of the company’s 100 anniversary. Who made Steve’s suit? Why Haspel, of course. Just thought you’d like to know.

I was lunching today with Susan Silver, who I met in this very dining room a while back when I was lunching with our mutual pal Brian Balthazar at the next table. When I found out Susan was one of the brilliant writers behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show (the first and best one), I just had to get to know her better. Today we talked TV — of course — and Susan weighed in on her favorite sitcoms of the season. She gives high marks to ABC’s Modern Family (“Genius!”) and The Middle (“It is laugh out loud funny!”). It turns out we share a mutual obsession with reality television; specifically Bravo’s wild and wacky Housewives. I can’t get enough of the New York City divas — except for Jill Zarin. Susan loves ‘em all.

These days Susan is turning up everywhere on television (most recently with Rosanna Scotto on Fox 5) and radio (chatting with Bill Bennett) to talk about the baby boomer generation, spurred by a column she did a few years back, “The Search for Mr. Adequate,” for New York Social Diary. Now she’s on a mission to become “The Martha Stewart of The Baby Boomers,” offering her take on everything from fashion to travel and, of course, relationships for this “underserved market.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Chris Taylor presiding over a table of fabulous females, including Desiree Gruber and CNN’s Alina Cho

2. Bonnie Timmermann and two pals

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamour editrix Cindi Leive

4. The Early Show: It was a family affair for sisters Andrea Barzvi (who works at ICM) and Alexandra Barzvi (a clinical psychologist), who were celebrating mom Bianca’s birthday. We simply had say hello to this stylish trio because Bianca’s hat just dazzled us. Second seating: Peggy Siegal.

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Lunch: Joan Collins Holds Court at Table One, Plus Barbara Walters & Vernon Jordan

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The dining room at Michael’s was buzzing as boldface names settled in to plot their next big move and dish over their Cobb salads. We overhead plenty of chatter about the David Letterman and 48 Hours Mystery producer Robert “Joe” Halderman scandal — sorry, but it’s all off the record. The one thing everyone agrees on is that this tawdry tale is far from over. “There’s got to be a lot more to it,” said one flack. “This is going to be interesting if and when it gets to court.”

I was lunching today with Jason Allen Ashlock, who I first met a while back when he was toiling at The Marianne Strong Literary Agency. In January of this year, Jason struck out on his own and opened Movable Type Literary Group with his partner Meredith Dawson. Things have been going great guns for Jason despite the less than fortuitous timing for launching his business. “It was completely accidental, but because it was counter intuitive, I was able to meet with people and houses that would have otherwise been more difficult to get to, if for no other reason than they wanted to find out what I was doing,” says Jason.

So far, he’s inked 17 deals for his authors this year. Just last week he landed first-time author Adrienne Arieff a deal with Random House to publish her memoir, The Sacred Thread, which chronicles her decision to use a foreign gestational surrogate in India. Arieff decided to move in with the woman who was carrying her child, and the book chronicles their fascinating and unique bond. Jason also got that strangely fascinating husband and wife team of The Real Housewives of New York City, Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen, a deal from Sterling & Ross to pen their upcoming parenting tome, Little Kids, Big City due in March of next year. He brought me a copy of Robert Rave‘s novel Spin, which tells the tale of a wide-eyed publicist who finds himself working for one of Manhattan’s most notorious divas. Robert, by the way, once worked for Lizzie Grubman. We’re sure that’s just a coincidence.

I asked Jason what he thought of the news that Tina Brown will be doing ebooks in association with her website, The Daily Beast. “Tina has said books are the new magazines. I worry about that. Look what’s happening to magazines,” Jason reasoned. “As books become more ‘temporary,’ we lose what they are most useful for: authority. Books that take time, that are well researched, and edited offer a comprehensive point of view on a subject that you can’t get from a magazine article or on the Internet. Publishers can’t just be printers.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Francine LeFrak with a bunch of ‘suits’ and surprise guests Joan Collins with her much younger husband Percy Gibson. Our favorite ’80s TV villainess was doing her best Alexis Carrington by sporting a leopard print cowboy hat.

2. Peter Brown with a distinguished looking fellow we didn’t recognize.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko (Long time, no see!). Joe is just back from a humanitarian mission to Cuba where he helped deliver supplies to several orphanages. “These kids really need a lot of help,” says Joe of the heartbreaking poverty he witnessed first-hand. He came brandishing a cane today because of some back trouble as a result of — we’re not kidding — laughing too hard at a fellow Texan’s joke recently. Here’s hoping you’re on the mend soon.

4. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and Vernon Jordan. I noticed that several times during lunch this intriguing duo had their heads together and seemed to be amused at something or another as they observed the noontime crowd. One can only imagine.

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Lunch: The Usual Suspects Today — But Sarah Palin Was Here Last Night!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Michael’s was packed with plenty of familiar faces this afternoon. Seems the gang was out in force before disappearing for the true dog days of August. The real side show in the dining room took place last night, when none other than Sarah Palin dropped in with Bob Barnett and took the staff completely by surprise. A little birdie told me Bob was dining with a couple of folks, left and came back with Palin and her husband Todd, the ex-’First Dude.’ According to all accounts, the former governor was clearly enjoying her new role as a private citizen last evening: She drank Deutz champagne and ordered lobster ‘off the menu.’ Could she have been celebrating some big soon-to-be announced TV deal? As they say on the small screen, stay tuned!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Cablevision’s Barry Frey presiding over a table full of Red Bull marketing execs

2. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden (loved that amazing handbag!) with Silda Spitzer, who was wearing a pretty summer toile dress

3. Jim Wiatt, Tim Armstrong, and another gent we didn’t recognize.

4. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Barbara Walters and ex-Portfolio editrix Joanne Lipman

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Lunch: Dishing With The Usual Suspects

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The regulars were out in force today at Michael’s as media mavens, moguls and social types were deep in conversation around the jam-packed dining room. Everyone, it seems, had plenty to talk about, including the terrible news of Natasha Richardson‘s skiing accident. “I can’t believe it,” one diner told me. “It was sickening to see the coverage last night — especially the premature reports of her death.” The consensus at Michael’s was that there was a lot of irresponsible reporting that seemed more interested in being first than being right. Today, thank goodness, the reports seem more measured and everyone is awaiting an official word from the family. I had the opportunity to meet the talented Ms. Richardson at Michael’s on several occasions last year and she was always utterly gracious and lovely. My thoughts go out to her and her family.

Today I was lunching with Lisa Linden of Linden, Alschuler & Kaplan, Inc. public relations. A tireless gal who is as nice as she is busy. Lisa — who started the firm with Steve Alschuler 16 years ago (Lloyd Kaplan joined three years later)– reports that despite the gloomy economic climate, business is on solid ground. It’s no wonder. The principals bring a wealth of experience to their clients, having toiled in a host of positions including stints in city and state government (Lisa and Steve both served at various times as press secretary to Senator Roy Goodman and later worked together at Rubenstein; Lloyd was chief of staff at City Hall during the financial crisis in the early 70s). Lisa was also a consultant to the Clinton/Gore ’96 campaign. These days, the firm counts top tier real estate companies like Brookfield and The Plaza as clients, as well as an impressive list of “major” law firms, fashion brands (Sigrid Olsen) and nonprofits including City Meals on Wheels and The Broadway League.

During these perilous economic times, one of the things that keeps Lisa and her staff so busy is crisis management: “We’re living in unprecedented times,” Lisa told me. “There is no industry that has not been hit with a crisis.” And, counsels this public relations powerhouse, even those companies that are not dealing with disaster per se should think twice about scaling back their public relations efforts. “This is not the time to pull back,” she says. “While it is a time of crisis, it is also a time of tremendous opportunity to move messages. The media is happy to report positive stories and people are happy to read them. There is so much negativity. Companies should look for what is good and get the word out because that resonates now more than ever.” Amen to that!

And, one more thing, Lisa was thrilled to break the news to me exclusively that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former governor George Pataki and New York State’s new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will be the speakers at this year’s fundraising gala for The New York League of Conservation Voters (she’s co-chair of the board) scheduled for May 28 at Chelsea Piers.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Somers Farkas, Francine LeFrak and two other well-heeled gals

2. Mike Medavoy and a dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Jon Burnham. Joe told me he’s off to Texas to visit mom. Thanks, Joe, for telling me about the terrific mention in Liz Smith‘s column last week on wowOwow.com about our weekly ‘Lunch’ assignations. Have a safe trip to Texas and see you in two weeks.

4. Martin Dunn and Steven Rubenstein.

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Lunch: Dishing on the Oscars & Obama

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As I’ve been reporting for weeks, it was SRO at Michael’s today as the movers and shakers, undeterred by the unsettling economic news, were out in full force plotting their next big move — or looking for a safe place to land. On the menu today: plenty of talk about President Barack Obama‘s speech last night and the Oscars. There was a strong consensus that one was a big winner, while the other got surprisingly mixed reviews. While everyone in the audience on Oscar night thought Hugh Jackman killed, plenty of folks here were less than impressed. “Movie people don’t like Broadway,” sniped one Hollywood insider. “And it was too Broadway.” Okay then…

Everyone I talked to about President Obama’s speech felt his oratory skills are nothing short of amazing and that he struck just the right tone where he basically told us its time to pay the piper and think of our children’s future. Personally, I was impressed at his unflappable ability to mix his formal and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks with ease — and he didn’t even blink when he forgot to follow protocol and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduce him. She had to stop him mid-sentence, but he never faltered. Talk about cool under pressure. But here’s what wowed the women in the dining room — his affectionate introduction of the First Lady Michelle Obama and her mouthing, ‘I love you’ back to her smitten husband. “They’re marriage is obviously hot,” one divorcee told me. I’m telling you, no one wants to admit it, but that’s what people are really talking about.

As for the president’s remarks, “Inspirational but realistic,” is how one media summed things up. Others were scratching their heads asking why Wall Street wasn’t feeling the same way. More than one person said, “With everyone feeling a little bit hopeful, I don’t get why the market is down.” (It had dropped by more than 100 points by lunch). A question for the ages, no doubt.

On a much lighter note, I asked the always dapper Dr. Gerald Imber what he thought of the Botox-ed beauties on Oscar’s red carpet. But this plastic surgeon to the stars never cuts and tells — “I didn’t watch,” he confessed. He laughed when I asked him why he’d pass up the chance to admire his handiwork and did offer his assessment on why movie stars make better plastic surgery patients than mere mortals: “They come in with headshots saying, ‘I’ve changed a little here, I want to fix this here.’ They know what they want. There’s no whining.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Here’s a fun fact: A little birdie told me that Andy wrote the screenplay for Blazing Saddles. Now you know…

2. Hallmark honcho Henry Schleiff with two other well-dressed fellows

3. No one puts a lunch together like ‘The Mayor’: Joe Armstrong, Glamour editrix Cindi Leive, George Stevens and Kerry Kennedy. I was thrilled to meet George (who was sporting a very patriotic red, white and blue shirt and tie ensemble). He’s the man behind the television broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors and the amazing broadcast of the concert on the Mall in celebration of President Obama’s inauguration. Kerry and I met once before at a lunch given by Henry Schleiff in this very dining room, where we talked about her then yet-to-published book, Being Catholic Now. I was so fascinated by her interviews with the likes of Bill Maher and Gabriel Byrne (who spoke about being abused by a priest) that I got through the terrific tome twice. Today the conversation was all about how stirring and inspirational the group found the president’s speech last night. “It made me proud to be an American,” Kerry told me. And we both totally melted over the young school girl who was seated next to the First Lady having written to the White House looking for aid for her school, which is in a serious state of disrepair. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Kerry. She wasn’t the only one…

4. An early-arriving Matt Blank who chatted with Joe and I before The New Yorker‘s David Remnick and Lisa Hughes joined Showtime’s head honcho for lunch. I was happy to reconnect with Lisa. Way back when, she was my sales rep at Self when I was the marketing honcho for a fashion company. I knew then that Lisa was destined for big things at Conde Nast, and she’s risen through the ranks like the pro she is. Well done and congrats!

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Lunch: Special Fashion Week Edition

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— DIANE CLEHANE

These days, you just never know who you’re going to meet on Wednesdays at Michael’s. If we’d come yesterday, we would have been able to chat with Willem Dafoe. Oh well. This being New York Fashion Week, I was thrilled when Donna Karan came in. I was happy to catch up with my former boss (I once toiled as her flack during her heyday at Anne Klein) and add to the praise she’s been getting for her show earlier this week. When I asked her if she’s seen the glowing review Cathy Horyn wrote in this morning’s Times, she replied with a smile. “That was a surprise!” Not to her most fervent fans, though. Donna’s gorgeous jackets and draped skirts that are sure to be on plenty of well-dressed city gals come next fall hearkened back to her 80s heyday without looking at all retro. While everyone else is referencing the decade of giant shoulder pads (Is anyone really going to wear them again?) and DayGlo brights, Donna has managed to make everything look thoroughly modern and beautiful. Bravo!

I was lunching at the bar with fellow People scribe and soul sister Natasha Stoynoff when Ed Victor came up for a chat. Our favorite uber agent told us he was meeting Fugees producer/rapper John Forte and his lawyer Aarti Tandon. Here’s a tantalizing tale: John was one of 14 people who got a presidential pardon from departing President George W. Bush. John received a 14-year sentence in 2000 for drug trafficking when he was caught with two suitcases of liquid cocaine worth $1.4 million in Newark Airport. Carly Simon and Senator Orrin Hatch (now there’s an odd couple) both championed his release, says Ed. Now, he’s blogging about his experiences for Tina Brown on The Daily Beast, and Ed is shopping a book about his adventures in and out of jail. Sounds like a page-turner to us…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Bonnie Timmerman and Richard Belzer

2. Peter Brown and a young bespectacled gent

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dorothy Kallins

4. My pal, Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville and CBS Television’s Bob Madden. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Deb, so I went over to chat, and we laughed about how busy the dining room is despite empty tables all over town. “This place is the cafeteria for the LinkedIn set,” she laughed. So true ….

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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: Katie Couric & The Fashion Flock

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— DIANE CLEHANE

You’d think all the fabulous fashionistas would have fled Gotham by now (they’ve got to rest up for Fashion Week which is just around the corner). Nothing doing: The style mavens and social swans that populate the front row of those shows you can never get into were out in force today at Michael’s. Katie Couric breezed in looking chicer than ever although she couldn’t tell me whose dress she was wearing. She let me peek at the label — it was Brian Reyes. “My daughter told me about his sample sale,” says Couric. But it’s not all summer fun for the CBS Evening News anchor. She’s off to the conventions soon and promises lots of “cool things.” Says Couric: “We’ve got a lot of great new things planned — podcasts and things on the Web. I think there’s a press release going out today.” Right you are, Katie, and TVNewser has it.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hallmark honcho Henry Schleiff hosting a Court TV reunion with Hallmark staffer and Court TV alums Jennifer Geisser, Yvette Harrison and Rochelle Dire who just landed a new gig at Lime Wire.

2. Michael Hirshorn and two pals.

3. Charles Koppelman and Martha Stewart Living’s new co-president Robin Marino

4. Glamour‘s Cindi Leive (who looked tres chic with her short ‘do and killer Louboutins) and Katie Couric.

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Lunch: Hillary—Obama Smackdown!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Bill Clinton isn’t the only one who is getting a little testy about the endlessly long and increasingly tabloid-y battle for the democratic nomination. At today’s lunch, politics were on the menu as supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took sides over their Cobb Salads. Our unofficial dining room poll finds Obama holding a commanding lead. Producer Joan Gelman — between commuting from Canada where her show Triple Sensation is going great guns — has taken to handing out her very own campaign buttons. “I do one for every election,” she told us. Her latest creation got lots of attention at a party at Tina Brown‘s recently when ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong arrived wearing one. It boasts a picture of President George Bush and John McCain in an embrace and is emblazoned with the words — Four More Years. Here’s the punch line: There’s a question mark at the end of the phrase. Joan was handing them out today (thanks!) and people were gobbling them up like mad. A few tables down, the exchange at David Patrick Columbia ‘s regular perch between David (a Hillary booster — “I just don’t know why she is the subject of so much hate”), Charlie Scheips and Terry Allen Kramer (decidedly not a fan) rivaled the dust ups on Sunday morning on The McLaughlin Group. But it was all in good fun. Isn’t it always?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. One big happy family: Michael’s wife Kim McCarty and kids Clancy and Chas with Martin von Haselberg and daughter Sophie. The families’ friendship goes back 30 years, says Michael. To wit: a painting of Martin (done by Kim) hangs in the reception area of the restaurant. There was plenty to celebrate all around: Clancy just graduated from NYU last week, Chas is starting his first year at Bard and Sophie is at Yale. Impressive! We were hoping that Martin’s wife — none other than Bette Midler — would join the party but, said Michael, she was rehearsing for her eagerly anticipated Las Vegas show (the family leaves for the desert tomorrow). Knock ‘em dead, Bette!

2. Peter Brown.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and yours truly. The Mayor was the subject of a glowing New York Times piece last week which bore more than a passing resemblance to this column. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn’t it?

4. Phil Smith and agent extraordinaire Ron Konecky.

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