lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgWe missed Jane Fonda by a day. Today’s lunch crowd was lacking the star power we’ve come to expect on our weekly visits so while we were disappointed our usual perch at the bar had been usurped by an unidentified exec, we didn’t miss much from our less than stellar seat a few stools down. We were, though, happy to spot our pal Jack Kliger. Lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane chatted up the Hachette honcho about the latest celebrity implosion that’s got everyone buzzing — the Rosie O’Donnell trainwreck that left the station at Monday’s Matrix Awards and crashed and burned with today’s surprise announcement that she is leaving The View in mid-June due to a reported contract dispute.

Kliger was among the stunned crowd of media elite that had to suffer through O’Donnell’s profane performance as emcee of the event that had her soon to be ex-boss Barbara Walters laying her face in her hands from her seat on the dais alongside such luminaries as Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington. “It was absolutely disgusting,” he said, adding that the editors from Woman’s Day and other Hachette books at his table were equally sickened by the comedian’s performance. The veteran magazine executive, who knows a thing or two about working with celebrities (remember George?), says it was O’Donnell’s ill-fated stint helming her own magazine was the “turning point” against launching further titles with stars moonlighting as editors. “We’ve learned that you can cover celebrities without giving celebrities their own magazine.” For every Oprah, says Kliger, there are scores of over-inflated egos and Hollywood headcases that are deluded into thinking they can run a magazine. “I was getting at least a proposal week,” he recalls of those days when O’Donnell was still masquerading as “The Queen of Nice.” Everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Jane Pauley(“she was talking to everyone”) was interested in adding the title of editor-in-chief to their resumes — with no personal investment, of course, he recalls. Long before the 2,000 attendees of Matrix witnessed what seemed like O’Donnell’s latest effort at career suicide, Kliger told fellow publishing bigwigs they were crazy to tie their bottom line to the star. “She’s a time bomb.” No kidding.

The rest of the crowd:

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