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Posts Tagged ‘Lynn Goldberg’

Sinbad & Family Dish on Their New Reality Show

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It would have been hard to beat the head-spinning scene that I witnessed at Michael’s last Wednesday, but this week came close. A camera crew from WNBC-TV’s LX-TV was on hand filming a segment on celebrity lunch spots as the masters of the universe (Barry Diller) and socialites (Melania Trump, swathed in mink) strolled in and air-kissed their way to their tables. When Amy Rosenblum, the show’s producer, heard I was having lunch with comedy icon Sinbad and his family to talk about their new reality show for WE tv, her ears perked up. “Perfect!” she said. “We’ll come over and borrow him for our segment. ”

Having never met the comedian, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that 10 minutes after the family arrived (right on time!) fresh off their morning at SiriusXM, it felt as if I’d known them all forever. They’re the anti-Osbournes! Named one of the Top 100 Stand-up Comedians of All Time by Comedy Central and a sitcom (A Different World, The Sinbad Show) vet, Sinbad told me the new show, Sinbad: It’s Just Family (premiering April 12 at 10 pm on WE tv) is a marked departure of the bumper crop of dysfunctional family fright fests that populate the reality TV landscape.

“These producers want meltdowns and dramas, but most of the dramas wouldn’t happen if people weren’t shooting their show. Most reality shows have an agenda and you have to understand that. I got about 80 percent of what I wanted. I was the voice of reason. We picked and chose what we wanted to shoot.” Any scenes in the master bedroom were off-limits, he said. “That’s just not respectful.” Instead, the show focuses on his version of family life — his re-marriage to his ex-wife Meredith Adkins and his relationship with his two “grids” (semi-grown kids) Paige and Royce. When he’s not on the road doing stand-up, he’s home keeping things together — his way. “The show is not about some comedian looking for a comeback because I never went away!” he quipped.

I had to ask him what he thought of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice since he appeared on season three of the show. “Donald Trump likes fights. He likes drama,” he told me. “That’s why Meat Loaf and Gary Busey are still around. That’s what people want to watch.” As for his take on his former cast mates: “Brett Michaels was a baby and Sharon Osbourne has the filthiest mouth of any woman I’ve ever met. She faked being sick just so she could miss being project manager for the first three weeks.” He also has choice words for Ozzy Osbourne. “That show they did made him look like a fool. Do you really want people to remember you like that? These people are stars and they don’t really think about how they want to be perceived.”

For their show, Sinbad and the family ”focused on the positive” and shot weeks of 12-14 hour days for six episodes, which was quite an adjustment. “It’s the most time we’ve spent together since the kids were babies,” says Meredith. “We were miked all the time and had to remind ourselves that they were recording everything.”

Royce is a college student studying audio sound engineering, and Paige is an R&B artist (Meredith is her manager) who co-wrote all the songs on her new album, Imperfect Me. Both had to be convinced to do the show at first, but wound up enjoying the experience. Proud Papa says of their TV debut: “He surprised me and she turned out to be quite the daredevil.”  In one episode, Paige convinced the family to try out a trapeze park, and the producers were only too happy to get it all for the show. “That’s what was so great about the show.  If we wanted to do something and the producers thought it was a great idea, they made it happen,” says Paige. “The flip side was we were having family barbecues, and there was someone standing on the driveway handing out releases for our friends to sign. That was a little strange but we got used to it.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Sinbad, his wife Meredith Adkins, daughter Paige, son Royce and yours truly.

2. Project Playlist CEO John Sykes and Brian Bedol

3. Melania Trump and designer Rachel Roy. I was nearly blinded when I happened to look over at The Donald’s better half  and spotted the sparkler on her ring finger. And, yes, she is even more gorgeous in person.

4. Barry Diller

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Lunch: Soledad O’Brien Talks Helping Haiti’s Children

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The media mob was out in force today at Michael’s and we spotted plenty of table hopping between bites. It was fascinating to see all the head honchos make the rounds while checking in with the competition. Who needs to eat anyway?

I was joined today by CNN’s anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, who I’ve known since her days as anchor of Weekend Today, and CNN publicist Van Scott. Since making the move to cable, Soledad, who left NBC in 2003 to anchor the network’s maiden season of American Morning, has gotten plenty of attention for her on-the-ground reporting of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina. It was Soledad’s infamous interview with then FEMA chief Michael Brown that started the public outcry eventually leading to his resignation in September 2005.

After logging in plenty of air miles last year covering major news stories like the earthquake in Haiti, Soledad has unpacked her bags long enough to do a slew of documentaries that are kicking off next month. On May 8, CNN will premiere Rescued, an hour-long look at the plight of Haiti’s children told through the eyes of 6 year-old Cendy Jeune and former child slave Marc Kenson Oliphi. After being in Haiti immediately following the disaster, Soledad tells me she held orphans in her arms whose eyes had seen so much that “they looked old.” The documentary chronicles the lives of the children who are living in the Lighthouse orphanage where rather than being put up for adoption, they are instead taught skills, given an education, and encouraged to be valuable members of society when they “age out” of the orphanage at 18.

It was clearly a transformative experience for Soledad, herself a mother of four. She told me, “The best way to help Haiti is to help the children of Haiti help Haiti.” She’s planning on returning to the region next month with her 9 year-old daughter Sophia in tow. “My kids really want to do something to help. We’re going to ‘adopt a community’ and do what we can.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The lovely Pat Schoenfeld, in a chic red topper and matching loafers, with a few close pals.

2. Cablevision’s president Tad Smith

3. Sony Pictures’ Steve Mosko

4. Steve Rubenstein and William Lauder

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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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It’s Spin City for Moguls & Machers at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The flacks were certainly out in full force today at Michael’s. It seemed anyone who was (or represents) anyone was out and about with something to spin. Well, at least it’s a sign that life goes on in Manhattan no matter how bleak New York magazine says our financial future is. Although a pesky stomach bug kept me away last week, we hear things were really hopping with Michael Douglas holding court on Table One. (He’s in town filming the sequel to Wall Street, in case you haven’t heard.) Seems the Oscar-winning actor enjoyed several bottles of wine with a table full of ‘masters of the universe’ — no doubt asking these insiders how his character, Gordon Gekko, would handle the new world order in the financial district.

I was lunching today with a real media powerhouse, Debbie Phillips, who has turned her career as a work-life coach into a bonafide cottage industry. In 2003, Debbie founded “Women on Fire,” an organization whose mission she describes as “helping women achieve their dreams and desires.” (She hates the outdated term ‘networking’.) Having been a journalist, politico, and television producer for decades, Debbie brings plenty to the table. Among her many accomplishments: She was the first female press secretary in Ohio government, having worked for Governor Dick Celeste in the ’80s. When Debbie “stepped out of the swirl,” she somehow found herself coaching clients on life and career strategies before the now burgeoning industry even had a name. Although most of her clients by the mid-’90s were men, she saw her business take off in 2000 after deciding to focus on the needs of women. These days, the company’s multi-media platform encompasses books, CDs and DVDs as well as biannual seminars, which she calls “tea parties,”in New York. She also holds events in Ohio, Michigan, and Boston. These members-only gatherings, says Debbie, are designed to get women of different backgrounds talking about their accomplishments and goals in a “judgment-free zone” and serve as a much needed dose of empowerment to get things going. Sounds like a great idea to us.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. My pal Stu Zakim, who recently left his perch as Showtime’s spinmeister, presiding over a “boy’s lunch” with ABC News’ Jeffrey Schneider, Tony Fox of Comedy Central, Patrick Reilly of Sirius Radio, publicist Peter Himler, Jeff Bercovici who is writing for AOL verticals these days, flack Matthew Hiltzik, and Matt Frankel, formerly of AOL. Stu told me the guys had gathered to “celebrate” Arnie Huberman who passed away earlier this summer.

2. Steve Rubenstein

3. Publicity maven Maury Rogoff, Oprah.com writer Jill Brooke , and Fox 5′s Rosanna Scotto.

4. Richard Rubenstein

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Lunch: Charlie Rose, Fern Mallis & Tina Brown

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Forget about the summer doldrums: Even though the sun’s not shining today, Michael’s was hot, hot, hot and so jam-packed I could barely get a bite in edgewise as I tried to keep up with the air-kissing action in the dining room. Despite the dreadful weather (and its dampening effect on rental prices in the Hamptons — we can’t relate but maybe we can score a bargain for August), the usual suspects were on the scene and downright chipper to mix and mingle with fellow media mavens.

I was thrilled to be lunching with my good pals Lisa Silhanek (who knows everyone) and IMG’s Fern Mallis who, when she’s not running New York Fashion Week, moonlights as a guest judge on Bravo’s The Fashion Show with Isaac Mizrahi. We were joined by two charming and enterprising entrepreneurs, Fermin Perez and Carlos Lorenzo of Global Events, a worldwide event production company. The guys are producing the Spanish Mile in SoHo tomorrow night, where 1500 fashionistas are expected to tour all the Spanish-themed and owned businesses in the neighborhood. Fern is acting as ‘ambassador’ for the evening’s festivities. Where does she find the time?

I just had to ask Fern how her fledgling career as a reality show star was going. “It’s been great,” she says. Incidentally, Fern wears her own clothes on the show (seems she’s been getting emails from fans inquiring about her wardrobe). On Friday, Fern and the gang will be shooting the second to last episode at Cipriani downtown, where six finalists will stage a runway show before a full house (word is those plucky Housewives from New Jersey and New York will be there). Then, America will have 24 hours to vote on a winner, who’ll be announced on the season finale next month. Stay tuned!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Charlie Rose and pals

2. Jim Wiatt

3. Town & Country’s Pamela Fiori with a striking silver-haired gal and a gent who looked so familiar, but we just couldn’t place him…

4. Cosmo editrix Kate White (Long time no see!) with Linda Fairstein, who arrived sporting ‘Cy Vance for DA’ buttons on both lapels of her jacket. Linda (who hates Kindle, by the way — “I’m an old fashioned book person”) tells all about what it takes to churn out a book a year (she’s written 11!) and how the Internet is marketing Mecca for aspiring writers everywhere in the latest installment of mediabistro.com’s So What Do You Do? series.

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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: Barry Diller (on a Vespa!), Harvey Weinstein & Judge Judy

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Maybe it was because it finally stopped raining for five minutes, but the power-lunchers were out in force today at Michael’s. There was a crowd gathering in the lounge before noon waiting for tables. Of course, most of the regulars breezed in at their appointed hours, making sure they had plenty of time for glad-handing before settling in for some serious dish. Harvey Weinstein and Barry Diller did their fair share of hand shaking before getting down to business at separate tables.

I was lunching today with public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden and Tom O’Brien, president and general manager of WNBC. Tom had plenty to talk about, since these days it seems you can’t go anywhere without an NBC star beaming out from a TV set in a growing number of spots. Look for that to continue, says Tom. With the newscasts on WNBC-TV, the fledgling lifestyle channel New York Nonstop (now in 5 million homes), NBCNewYork.com and Taxi TV (in 5,500 cabs and growing), “We have the ability to get our content out across multiple platforms and reach people at any time of the day,” says Tom. Now the network has gone underground with their latest digital out-of-home effort, NBC in Transit, with video of news and NBC Universal entertainment programming broadcast on PATH trains between NYC and New Jersey. “We’re excited about this new way to reach an audience who isn’t waiting for news. It’s another great way for keeping people informed.” Coming soon: more televisions on the platform in Newark. Stay tuned…

I told Tom I have a particular soft spot for those adorable spots with Jimmy Fallon and that cuddly bear cub that seem to be playing in every taxi I’m in. “He’s doing very well,” reports Tom, who says Conan O’Brien‘s new show is set to debut June 1 and there will be an announcement about Jay Leno‘s new primetime show in two weeks. We’re all ears…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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

2. My new pal Susan Silver, Abby Ellin of The New York Times and Judy Twersky

3. Andrew Stein and a mystery gent…

4. Barry Diller and an unidentified young fellow. Here’s a fun fact: Barry is a mogul on the move. I happened to catch him suiting up for a quick getaway after lunch as he slipped into a windbreaker and donned a helmet and sunglasses before revving up his Vespa and disappearing into midtown traffic.

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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: 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: Tom Brokaw Holds Court; Jane Friedman Works The Room

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— DIANE CLEHANE

‘Tis the season to be lunching, and the usual A-list suspects were out in force today with plenty of glad-handing and air kissing all around. Maybe it’s because this is (mercifully) the last full week of work for the year or perhaps it’s just because everyone is tired of all the doom and gloom. (There’s plenty of time for that in January, anyway.) We were happy to talk about something other than layoffs for the afternoon and set off to ask about people’s holiday plans. I wanted to ask former Harper Collins president Jane Friedman what she wanted from Santa, but she was too busy working the room like nobody’s business. Proprietor Michael McCarty, who has plenty to be grateful for, says the whole clan is going to Los Angeles for the holidays. His parents are coming in from Kittery, Maine and his wife Kim’s parents are coming from London. “It’s great because we all get along.” I caught up with Tom Brokaw while we waited to get our coats on the way out, and asked him what he was wishing for this holiday. “Survival,” he said with a bemused smile. A sentiment no doubt echoed by one and all. Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Tom Brokaw and Meredith Brokaw with Toni Goodale and her hubby

2. Jack Rovner (he’s Bon Jovi‘s manager in case you were wondering) with another hip-looking fellow…

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and gossip guru Richard Johnson. The prince of Page Six promised he’d talk with us for an upcoming ‘So What Do You Do?’ We’re calling you January 2…

4. Barbara Walters, looking resplendent in red (loved that Chanel tote!) with Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s lady love Diana Taylor. Barbara stopped to chat with me at the bar and I was pleased to hear my recent interview with her longtime executive producer Bill Geddie had made the rounds at the office. I told Barbara that I loved that Bill described their relationship with the ladies of The View as one where he was the ‘mommy’ and Barbara acted more as the ‘daddy’ disciplinarian. “We’re like an old married couple,” she laughed.

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