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Lunch: Valerie Bertinelli Weighs In

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— DIANE CLEHANE

As much as we love our bird’s eye perch from the bar, it’s always a treat when we’re invited to dine in the grown up section — especially when the scene is as head-spinning as it was today. Hallmark Channel’s senior vice president Jen Geisser and her power publicist Jaime Saberito made room for me at the table at a luncheon hosted by their fearless leader the consummate showman Henry Schleiff and attended by a tasty stew of bold-faced names and top executives from UNICEF that made for one interesting afternoon of Cobb salads and conversation. Henry, newly ensconced on UNICEF’s board, brought the group to together to kick off the TAP project during ‘World Water Week’ (March 16-22). The initiative was created to raise funds and awareness by asking NYC diners at select eateries around town to forego their Fiji water for good old NYC tap water and donate what they would have spent on it to help fund clean water for kids around the world. And, yes, Michael’s is participating.

The reigning queen of the celebrity diet wars Valerie Bertinelli (A 40-pound weight loss thanks to Jenny Craig!) was the guest of honor (arriving with her boyfriend Tom Vitale) having made one movie for the network with another one in the works — Mrs. Washington Goes to Smith (Catchy title!). The still adorable actress and newly minted best-selling author was busy signing books for everyone (Henry thinks of everything!) but still made time to chat with me. Her big news — her book, Losing It — And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at Time will debut at No. 1 on this week’s New York Times‘ list. “I’m so thrilled — it’s on my son’s 17th birthday and I dedicated the book to him,” she says. “I couldn’t be more blessed.” Val (we’re on a first name basis now) also confided that she’s hot on starting another book and already has an idea that’s bound to strike a chord. “I’d like to write something like Divorce & Children: Love Your Child More Than You Hate Your Ex. The list is long when one considers who might benefit from such a tome. For now, at least, it appears Silda Spitzer won’t be needing it but we’re not closing the book on that one just yet.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The white wine was flowing in celebration of Linda Fairstein‘s latest book, Killer Heat with a table full of gals that know a little something about the subject. In attendance: Cosmo editrix Kate White, super agent Esther Newberg, former Law & Order SVU star Stephanie March, Lesley Stahl (I promise to keep my eye out for that 60 Minutes watch!) and Cynthia Lufkin (Congrats on being named The American Cancer Society’s Mother of the Year!)

2. Bobby Zarem and a Jake Gyllenhaal doppelganger.

3. Mayor Joe Armstrong who has been traveling far and wide hard at work on his upcoming book with some lovely looking ladies. Welcome back Joe, we missed you!


4. Jonathan Tisch and a mystery man …

5. Dominick Dunne, who introduced me to his guest the very distinguished-looking Frank Langella. (I know I’m dating myself, but I loved him as Dracula!) I’m thrilled that my tireless good pal Mr. Dunne was kind enough to do an interview with me for our “So What Do You Do?” interview series. It will be out next month — and take my word for it — you won’t want to miss it!

6. Henry Schleiff, Jen Geisser, UNICEF’S president Caryl Stern and senior VP Cynthia McCaffrey and Crown Media board member and cable pioneer Herb Granath. I was seated next to one of my all-time favorite models Dayle Haddon who now toils in a multitude of arenas. Besides having written two fabulous beauty books and toiled as the face of several cosmetic brands (I’m partial L’Oreal), Dayle somehow finds time to work as an ambassador to UNICEF. She recently traveled to Darfur and plans another trip at the end of April. She’s written about her experience in the new issue of Glamour. Dayle is passionate about visiting countries in need, getting to know it’s people and really doing something. “When you get to a certain age, your thoughts automatically turn to service,” she said. “It’s the best way to stay engaged and connected to the world.” I also got to chat with another fascinating attendee, Kerry Kennedy, who is a great pal of Henry’s. She’s got her own book coming out this fall from Random House. Kerry is tackling what is sure to be a controversial subject in Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Changes in the Church & The Quest For Meaning.” Nancy Pelosi and Bill Maher are among those folks featured.

7. Men’s Health‘s dapper Dave Zinczenko and Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell. When I asked Jim about those persistent rumors about Kathie Lee Gifford joining Today as a host of the show’s estrogen-fueled fourth hour, he good naturedly joked, “I think I’ve heard of her …” Then added teasingly, “No news yet.” We know we’ll be your first call when there’s anything to announce, right?

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and some very distinguished-looking guests.

9. GCI’s Marc Rosen.

10. Francine LeFrak, who was kind enough to introduce me to her companion, Brent D. Glass, director of the Smithsonian. Francine was most enthusiastic in telling me about all the big doings planned for the museum while Brent marveled over today’s frenetic lunch crowd. A different kind of ‘tribe’ to observe in their natural habitat, eh, Brent?

11. Bobby Friedman.

14. The late arriving Luke Janklow and a very tan man who looked to me to be passing the time reviewing a worked over manuscript.

15. CBS spinmeister Gil Schwartz and Charles Grodinwho stopped by our table to say his hellos.

16. Nick Verbitski.

17. The always affable Walter Sabo with Reese Schoenfeld.

18. A bespectacled Mike Ovitz deep in conversation with his guests.

20. Kitty Kelley wearing a power red suit and looking positively gleeful over something while dishing with an elegant strawberry blonde …

21. Producer Beverly Camhe and some gents.

22. The formidable — but always friendly fashionista Fern Mallis. (Okay, it’s a lot of alliteration — what can I say?)

23. Dan Halpern..

24. Langford Films’ Chuck Pfeiffer.

25. Jerry Della Femina and Andrew Greenberg. Where was the rest of the gang?

26. Scott Donaton.

27. Public relations maven Leslie Stevens and “the Elle girls.”

28. David Adler.

29. Lisa Dallos and some gents.

30. Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s Joe Marciano.

Faces in the crowd: The dynamic duo of Kira Semler & Vi Huse enjoying their regular girl’s lunch at the bar. See you next time!

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

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