Lunch At Michael’s: Special Evening Edition!

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Michael McCarty and his book

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Our weekly Wednesday lunches at 55th & Fifth have always been something of an anthropological study of the various Manhattan media tribes, so we were intrigued by the prospect of observing the natives in their natural habitat roaming free versus being confined by their designated tables when a few hundred of Michael’s regulars descended upon the restaurant to celebrate the publication of Michael McCarty‘s new book titled, not surprisingly, Welcome to Michael’s. In the evening’s alternate universe, Table One was filled with books instead of best-selling authors, some of Manhattan’s best known strivers were happy to cool their heels at the bar and the Garden Room was just as cool as the front room. The always quotable Michael Gross, one of the first guests to arrive, surveyed the SRO crowd and offered this observation when asked about the essence of the eatery’s appeal: “All these people who weren’t cool in high school finally have a cafeteria to go to where they are cool — but they’re still insecure! And you better quote me!” Happy to oblige.

Here’s a rundown of the ‘cool kids’ that finished their homework in time to show up last night:

Harper Collins’ Jane Friedman (who told me she was thrilled to score one of mediabistro’s Golden Boa Awards) circulated with editor David Hirshey who asked this burning question before departing: “Why are the hors d’ouevres so much better than the food at lunch?” We think he was kidding but we’re not touching that one…

‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, still sporting his rugged beard, (“You look so young!” exclaimed Lisa Birnbach when she air-kissed ‘Mayor’ Joe) worked the room like nobody’s business but took time to recount the story about his now legendary lunch with Bill Clinton in 2001 where Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Diane Sawyer were among his guests and how helped make Michael’s the place to be. After a wily New York Post photog sneaked in a snapped a photo of the group, the power spot made headlines all over (even David Letterman talked about it on his show) and, says Joe, that was that. ‘The Mayor’ continues to deliver buzz worthy guests — like last week’s visitor Elizabeth Edwards — to Table One.


Today‘s senior producer Marc Victor arrived with the show’s fourth hour producer Amy Rosenblum. The affable duo who are always game for chat during our Wednesday lunch visits were still buzzing about the obscene phone caller (!?!) that crashed Today‘s conference call earlier in the day announcing the show’s plans to send Matt, Ann and Al to “the ends of the earth” to kick off NBC Universal’s company wide effort to “go green.” (We were on that call and we were blushing!) They were also happy to confirm that despite a published report, Today‘s executive producer Jim Bell isn’t ankling the broadcast to return to his Olympic roots. “I can’t believe how many calls I got when people saw that in the paper,” said Marc. That’s why we quickly got out the real story on TVNewser.

Early arrival Lisa Sharkey told me she’s got “lots of great things to announce about some big books” when we speak later this fall for her So What Do You Do? interview. We can’t wait.

A smiling Victor Neufeld, looking relaxed and happy since his departure from CNN last week, who said, “This is the first time in years that I haven’t woken up with a show to do. Im enjoying myself.” Victor also told me he loved Joy Behar‘s standup act at the Zipper Theatre where she’s doing a benefit for God’s Love We Deliver for the next few Tuesdays.

The ever-popular Terry McDonnell who spent the evening chatting with a host of folks including Michael Fuchs (“He basically invented HBO”), InStyle‘s Charla Lawhon (looking fab in black) and Don Welsh.

Allure‘s Linda Wells (loved the ankle boots!) engaged in a lively conversation with Jesse Kornbluth.

The lady in red: Barbara Taylor Bradford in deep discussion with Joni Evans.

The New York Post‘s Keith Kelly chatting with Publisher’s Weekly‘s Sara Nelson (who had to dash home to help her son with his high school applications). When asked about his favorite Michael’s memories Keith reminisced with me about the first Kelly Gang gathering at the hot spot in honor of Michael Kelly, the beloved editor and first journo killed in Iraq. Keith corralled all his best pals on St. Patrick’s Day a while back to remember the Atlantic Monthly contributor and was touched by observing Michael Kelly’s young sons who were in attendance. “It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time,” said Keith. “Heartbreaking to see these boys and know they were never going to see their father again and heartwarming because all these people were there because they cared.”

Hallmark Television honcho Henry Schleiff making the rounds with his public relations guru Jennifer Geisser. When I told Henry I loved his interview with the New York Observer where he opined that the Michael’s crowd might not be watching his network, but he’s a star in the Midwest, he recounted another exchange in Boston where he’d used the same analogy (“I’m a rock star in DeMoines!”) only to find someone within earshot saying she had a brother who lived there and she was going to vet Henry’s claim carefully. Our money’s on him and we look forward to our own upcoming Q&A with him next month. Always quick with a joke, Henry left us with these parting remarks upon spotting the roasted pig that decorated the buffet banquette in the Garden Room: “I think I dated her sister!”

The social swans were represented by Somers Farkas, writer Amy Fine Collins and a host of well-preserved blondes whose faces we recognized but whose names escaped us.

Better late than never: Our good pal Jonathan Wald and the tuxedo clad duo of Arnold Scaasiand Parker Ladd.

More faces in the crowd: James Brady, Gerry Byrne, CBS spinmeister Gil Schwartz, Cablevision’s Barry Frey, New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia, author Pamela Clarke Keogh (in jeans!), Jack Myers, Leslie Stevens, Barry Landau, Bobby Zarem, Diane Silberstein, Tom Goodman, WNBC-TV’s Felicia Taylor,Esther Newberg and Access Hollywood‘s Michael Lewittes who we spotted lurking around the bar.

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The man of the night with Kim McCarty

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Linda Wells, Michael and Peter Brown

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McCarty and Jane Friedman strike a pose

Photos courtesy of DougGoodman.com

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

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