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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Puris’

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: 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: Town & Country‘s Pamela Fiori & The Getaway Gang

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It seemed only fitting that our lunch today was with Pamela Fiori, whose new book from Assouline, In The Spirit of Capri, celebrates the ultimate getaway spot. While the regulars in the dining room traded air kisses and vacation itineraries, the Town & Country editrix, along with Hearst public relations director Nathan Christopher, chatted with me over heirloom tomato salads about how this beautiful book (with tons of exquisite photos) came to be. Pamela, whose love of travel has taken her to every glamorous port of call imaginable, says the book happened by accident. A longtime fan of Capri, she suggested to Prosper Assouline and his wife Martine that they feature the divine destination in one of the house’s signature illustrated tomes. The publisher told Pamela, ‘I’m sending you a contract!’ That was that, she says. “I wanted him to do the book, but I didn’t mean for me to write it.” It became a weekend project for the busy Hearst editor, and the book debuted this month, brimming with fabulous photos including images of a barefoot Jackie O strolling through the streets with Valentino and shots of actress Marisa Berenson at the peak of her beauty in the ’60s. A launch party is planned for September 4 on Capri, hosted by Diego Della Valle and Tomino Cacace, owner of the Capri Palace. I’m packing as we speak…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Pamela Fiori, Nathan Christopher and yours truly

2. Paul Schaeffer, who sipped a virgin Bloody Mary while he waited for his pal, Law & Order’s SVU‘s Richard Belzer, to arrive.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, looking crisp and cool in his summer linens, with Kathie Berlin. Joe is fresh off his yearly visit to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camp, where he was camp counselor to a cabin of 10-year-old cancer patients. “These kids are so amazing,” Joe told me. “When you see what they’re going through you, realize all the stuff we worry about around here doesn’t mean anything.” Indeed.

4. Esther Newberg, who arrived toting Patricia Cornwall‘s latest (“A New York Times bestseller!”) and a gentleman we didn’t recognize

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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: Happy Birthday, Cathie Black!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Evander Holyfield by a day, but there was plenty of action to keep our attention in Michael’s jam-packed dining room today. Between the surprise birthday party for Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black on Table One, a smattering of fashionistas, and the bumper crop of beauty industry bigwigs holding court here and there, I suspect there was a fair share of business being done between bites of Cobb Salad. I noticed another interesting trend from my usual perch at the bar: This crowd really likes their cocktails. “For some reason, we are doing a lot of different drinks today,” said my friend Melinda, the bartender. Besides serving up some Shirley Temples, Melinda poured Pernod, Bellinis and Danish Murrays (That’s Aquavit and Bloody Mary mix). One diner who sat down promptly at noon ordered a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks straight away. It beats iced tea, I guess. Bottoms up!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black celebrating with a table full of media mavens (and plenty of presents!), including Harper’s Bazaar publisher Valerie Salembier and power players Jeannette Chang (long time, no see!), Michael Clinton, Ellen Levine and Donna Lagani.

2. Peter Brown, Paige Peterson and a handsome young gent.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and George Stevens. I was thrilled to see the mayor at his regular perch after his recent trip to Austin, where he’s joined the board of his alma mater, the University of Texas. (He got both his law and journalism degrees there.) Joe was staying with his good pal Lance Armstrong, who, he told me, will be competing in this year’s Tour de France and saddling up for the major ‘Tour’ race in Italy. Lance has completely “bounced back” from his shattered collarbone, reports Joe. Just thought you’d like to know…

4. Leonard Lauder and two well-dressed gals we didn’t recognize …

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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: Bill Bradley, Norman Pearlstine & The Media Mavens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s a lo-cal edition of lunch today. We’re chalking it up to near Spring-like weather (I don’t know about you, but I’m burning my winter coat when we finally have two days over 60) and plenty of recent rumblings about companies tightening the reins on expense accounts. What’s a media maven to do? You’ve still gotta eat. And if there’s business to be done — or you’re looking for your next big thing — Michael’s is still the place to be to connect with the power brokers that aren’t chained to their desks. Today, besides the regulars, the crowd was sprinkled with a liberal (no pun intended) dose of media mavens and business types with a former senator (Bill Bradley) thrown in for good measure. The mood in the dining room was a bit low-key, but I’m guessing there was still plenty of deals being struck over those burgers.

I was lunching today with my pal Brian Balthazar, HGTV’s director of programming. Brian and I met at Michael’s when he was working as supervising producer of Today‘s fourth hour with those chatty gals Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Now that Brian is getting up at a far more civilized hour, he’s got time for things besides television, including doing stand-up (His next gig is on April 15 at Comix). His new-ish job at HGTV is keeping him plenty busy, though, overseeing 18 shows with some great new projects in the works, including programming that will offer viewers an up close and personal look at celebrity homes. Brian also tells me he’s retooling the network’s popular House Hunters series to inject a bit “more reality” into the show and reflect more of what buyers are going through during these recessionary times. Still, though, there’s plenty of escapism (Thank God!) on offer. “During tough times, people really like to see beautiful homes and be inspired. There’s a voyeuristic quality to real estate that people love.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Laurie Tisch and a table full of pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Kerry Kennedy and James Wolfensohn, former head of The World Bank. Second seating: producers Jon Hart and Fred Zollo

4. Steve Rubenstein and Norman Pearlstine

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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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Lunch: Jane Fonda & Jerry Seinfeld — That’s Entertainment!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

It’s always those random celebrity sightings at Michael’s that make my weekly Wednesday visits much more fun. Today certainly didn’t disappoint. When a little birdie told me Jerry Seinfeld would be holding court on table one today, I knew I was in for it. When he strolled in sporting a baseball cap and jeans, it seemed he was trying to keep a low profile, but as soon as he opened his mouth, every head in the vicinity swiveled in his direction. He pretended not to notice and took a quick look around the dining room before settling in at table one with Trident Media’s Dan Strone. I’m thinking Jerry’s got another book in the offing. If not, he might have gotten an idea for one by the time lunch was over — every time I glanced his way, I got the distinct impression he was gathering material. He looked more than a little amused at the scene as the rest of the crowd strained to check him out on the sly. Across the room, Jane Fonda (who made her second appearance of the week) also opted for a low profile, hiding behind her shades for much of her lunch with Pat Mitchell — then the gals ducked out early. But not before my pal Beverly Camhe got a chance to chat with Jane about a possible appearance at the Center for Peace in Berlin. Then, the tireless Bev joined me at the bar and gave me the scoop on the hit of the Hamptons Film Festival (she’s on the advisory board) — the new documentary from two Australian filmmakers on Dominick Dunne. Bev reports that Dominick flew in just for the premiere and was “very moved” by the film. “He was thrilled,” says Bev. “He was nervous beforehand because it was an act of faith since he didn’t know these guys. It turned out great and everyone loved it.” We’re thrilled for Nick. Congrats!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Jerry Seinfeld and Trident Media’s Dan Strone

2. Peter Brown, Frank Bowling and pals

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Sotheby’s Jamie Niven

4. Arnold Scaasi (who felt compelled to prune the bountiful fall arrangement behind his table before sitting down), Parker Ladd and a gal named Judy, so we’re told …

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Lunch: Joy Behar, Star Jones & Another Sarah Palin Doppelganger

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— DIANE CLEHANE

What recession? The joint was jumping at Michael’s today. Media mavens, television types and fashionistas were still trying to digest the week’s head spinning events but, in true New York style, weren’t letting a worldwide tanking economy get in the way of a good time. There was plenty of buzz about last night’s debate — a few folks in the dining room today watched the whole thing go down at Denise Rich‘s house. The verdict: Obama won and will win.

The ‘other side of the aisle’ was more than represented when Loreal Sherman, Michael’s tireless and terrific maitre d’, launched into a dead-on imitation of Gov. Sarah Palin for departing diners Joy Behar and CNN’s Jon Klein. Ducking inside the coat closet after donning some clear square framed glasses and using the door as her debate podium, Loreal had the gathering crowd in stitches as she improvised a performance of Palin’s indelible one-liners from her debate with Joe Biden last week. Afterwards, when I told her I marveled at her ability to do spontaneous stand-up, Loreal confessed she’s a professionally trained performer who once sang at Carnegie Hall. Memo to Tina Fey: You can’t be everywhere, so if you’re ever in need of a stand-in (who even looks like you!) Loreal is your girl. You know where to find her.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Star Jones, who called minutes before noon after “a really important meeting” for a table for herself and her entourage. The mood was pretty upbeat (we overheard Star cracking some Sarah Palin jokes) and there was wine all around. When I asked the usually chatty Star about what she was dishing about with her pals, she slipped on her shades and said, “Business, Business,” before sauntering out with nary a look in Joy Behar’s direction.

2. CBS spinmeister Gil Schwartz (who is always smart enough to make his reservation for Wednesday!) with Madison Square Garden’s human resource honcho John D. Moran.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong sporting his Obama button — and talking (what else?) politics — with Cynthia Brill and major democratic booster Maureen White.

4. New York’s First Lady Michelle Paterson with Alexa Eaton and Debbie Bancroft. Word is Mrs. Paterson is “not pleased” with New York magazine’s cover story on her husband. Well, we’ll say this, the cover line “David Paterson Didn’t Ask For This” was perfect.

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