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Lunch: Captain Picard, I Presume?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Between the heinous weather that has us nursing what must be walking pneumonia, a deadly dull award season (Does anybody really care about the Oscars without the parties?) and some mind-numbingly bad television we’ve been forced to endure (What the hell happened to Nip/Tuck?), we were yearning for some excitement today at 55th & Fifth. Alas, there was nary a bold-face name in sight. Except for a delightfully random celebrity sighting — Patrick Stewart, looking quite collegiate in a grey crewneck sweater — we loved you in A Christmas Carol! — things were pretty much business as usual in the dining room. The staff, though, was abuzz that none other than Captain Picard had landed in the dining room.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Showtime’s Stu Zakim hosting his “bi-monthly guy’s lunch.” In attendance: ABC’s Jeff Schneider, recruiter Arnie Huberman, SIRIUS’ Patrick Riley and Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici. I congratulated Jeff on tapping into the zeitgeist in yesterday’s Mixed Media column where he reported on the tipping point that seems to indicate some — but clearly not all — in the media seem to be having a (slight) attack of conscience when it comes to reporting 24/7 on the sad spectacle of Britney Spears’ alleged mental illness. Jeff emailed the editors of the celebrity weeklies to weigh in on the subject but only People‘s managing editor Larry Hackett responded. Larrys take: the whole thing has Day of The Locust feel to it, but in the unlikely event the media did back off, it’s “presumptuous” to assume the fallen pop star would finally start to get well. I agree. (Full disclosure: I am a People contributor). Interestingly, there’s also a piece in today’s USA Today that reports — duh! — “Britney’s collapse: Media not helping.” The collective sense among journos that cover celebrities and the business of celebrity that this story is going to end badly is palpable. The question is: how will those that have been the beneficiaries of the Britney media bonanza cover the final chapter of this tale? Us Weekly reported last month that AP has already written Spears’ obit. Remember when Princess Diana died and George Clooney held a press conference to blame the tabloid media for her death? Is there anyone besides Heidi Klum, who has said that Brit can come and live with her and Seal until she gets her life together, that can actually do anything to alter Spears’ collision course with tabloid infamy before its too late? George, are you busy?

2. Producer Jon Hart, who predicts a “low key” Oscars on Sunday, with two business-types we didn’t recognize …

3. Katherine Oliver celebrating her birthday with a table full of pals including Lisa Dallos and Chris Taylor.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld & Candia Fisher.


5. Francine LeFrak (looking tres chic in brown leather) and Robert Frank, author of Richistan.

6. Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Gerry Imber & the gang …

7. Designer-turned-do-gooder Steven Stolman in from Palm Beach with Lifetime exec. Frank Rico.

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia & Debbie Bancroft.

9. Felicia Taylor and Sherri Rollins.

11. Bobby Friedman & Ed Adler.

12. Hillary Clinton‘s ears must have been burning: Anna Quindlen and Lisa Caputo.

14. Deborah Grubman.

15. Literary lions Ed Victor & Jonathan Burnham.

16. Jonathan Wald.

17. Judy Price.

18. Lew Korman.

20. Mickey Ateyeh.

21. Men’s Health honcho Dave Zinczenko, with the magazine’s design director Joe Heroun, who was responsible for the original design of Best Life and has overseen the book’s last three redesigns, toasting the success of the January issue. Dave tells us that even with the cover price going from $4.50 to $5.00, the magazine had its best January ever. Congrats!

22. Patrick Stewart & a young doppelgänger. We wanted to go up and chat with the baritone-voiced thespian about his latest gig as Macbeth at BAM but he didn’t look like he was much in the mood for a chat …

23. Jordan Rangel.

24. Our good pal Nick E. Rubinstein. (Thanks for the cab!)

25. Lynn Hirshberg & two pals.

26. David Corvo.

27. UTA’s Jared Moses, so we’re told — welcome to the neighborhood!

29. Pamela Keogh & Hearst’s publicity maven Deb Shriver.

Faces in the crowd: Bulldog Reporter’s vice president/ group publisher Fay Shapiro enjoying a glass of champagne with two gents in the lounge before lunching in The Garden Room and Larry Leighton with a trio of lovely ladies including Thuy Tranthi, formerly of Pink and Celine, artist Emily Cheng and a lovely young mystery gal …

Please send comments and corrections to DianeClehane AT mediabistro Dot com and lunch at mediabistro DOT com.

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