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— DIANE CLEHANE

Maybe it was the gorgeous pre-Memorial Day weather, but the mood in the dining room at Michael’s today was noticeably upbeat. The usual suspects were out in force, and it seems everyone has caught a whiff of the optimism in the air. A welcome change, to say the least.

I was lunching today with Linda Gaunt, who I first met during her days as EVP of communications for Giorgio Armani: She was nice enough to provide me with an original sketch of a dress Mr. Armani had designed for Princess Diana that she never got to wear. I used it in the forward of my book, Diana: The Secrets of Her Style, and it is one of my favorite images from its pages. Since launching her own firm on Madison Avenue five years ago, Linda Gaunt Communications, Linda has amassed an impressive roster of clients, including Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, Versace, and The Whitney — and she just signed Hanro and Chantelle. Her results-oriented approach to PR has done wonders for her luxury fashion and lifestyle clients. Rather than sit back and wait for what happens next, says Linda, it is a critical time for companies to get smart about public relations and go after market share with “a targeted approach that really understands what the consumer wants and give them a reason to buy.” Sounds like good advice to us…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Leslee Dart, Vanity Fair scribe Leslie Bennetts and Mary Alice Williams

2. The always dashing Henry Schleiff and Kerry Kennedy, who told me she is so excited about the online auction that’s going on now through May 28 for The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Kerry has assembled a stellar list of lots for bidding, including a meet-and-greet with Oprah Winfrey and a day during Fashion Week with Vogue‘s man about town Andre Leon Talley. The money raised goes to aid the work being done on behalf of those in need in many areas including the Gulf Coast and in Darfur.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, George Farias and Fox News’ Monica Crowley (loved the necklace!) Seems the Mayor felt like he needed some fortification since he was lunching with two staunch Republicans, so he brought along an Obama bobblehead doll (which was a dead ringer for the president, by the way) and placed him squarely on the table for support. It definitely got our attention! I was glad I stopped by to say hello to the talkative trio who was dining early because Monica had to be back at the studio and on air this afternoon. Did you know that she is a team member of the Council on Foreign Relations? Now you do … George, who is always such a gentleman, had some good dish to share: He told me Nancy Reagan will be making a rare appearance at the Capitol on June 3 for the unveiling of a statue of President Reagan. Mark your calendars!

4. Barbara Walters (all in red!) and ABC Daytime head Brian Frons dishing about one ‘hot topic’ or another, I’m sure…

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