Lunch: David Gergen to Dems — Cut Out ‘The Nastiness’ — Or Else!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When we arrived at Michael’s, at first blush the squadron of suits and celeb-free dining room (Okay, Kathie Lee was there) told us it would be a somewhat staid lunch today. Then things got interesting when David Gergen walked into the dining room — and was ushered to the Garden Room. Take that all you wannabees! Power is where you find it!

I’ve long considered Mr. Gergen, currently a professor Harvard’s John F. Kennedy’s School of Government who moonlights as CNN’s senior political analyst, the voice of reason among the increasingly hysterical Greek chorus that is covering the battle between Hillary and Obama as if they were reviewing a long running soap opera. (I know, but still…) The formidable (and tall!) Mr. Gergen graciously stopped to talk to me at length at the bar after I made a beeline for him as he waited for the crowd to thin at the stairs by the exit. So when is Hillary going to throw in the towel? I asked. “She wants to stay in it,” he said. “At least until there’s a resolution about Florida and Michigan.” When asked about the prospect of any possible permutation that might give her nomination, the pundit who appeared on CNN last night, offered this assessment: “He’s far enough ahead, but there could be some acknowledgment of her position that would not strip him of the nomination.” Translation: “Not a full seating of the delegates at the convention. No Florida super delegates.” And what of the reports of Obama possibly helping to repay Hillary’s $20 million campaign debt if he gets the nod? “Some of those around him would like to see him help her with her finances.” Interesting. But, he offered, the law prohibits direct payback. Instead, said Mr. Gergen, “He could hold fundraisers.” Just imagine: Hill, Bill, Michelle and Barack — arms linked together waving to the crowd. Unimaginable now but come mid June, who knows?

Mr. Gergen, who knows his way around the White House having served under Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, cautions the two camps better kiss and make up come June or suffer the consequences. “The level of nastiness has been ratcheting up. Claims of ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ are being talked about more now. The Republicans would like nothing more for this fight to go right to the convention.” As would, we’re guessing, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert and Keith Olbermann.

Between plenty of air kissing and glad handing, I was lunching at the bar today with my longtime pal Susan Ashbrook, executive vice president of Film Fashion, the first — and premiere — Hollywood ‘matchmaking’ agency that has been pairing up fashion companies with celebrities since 1994. Susan has toiled in that other minefield of fragile but huge egos otherwise known as Hollywood — long before every C-lister and reality “star” became cover worthy to the Us Weeklys and InTouchs of the world. She counts Alber Elbaz, Lavin and bling broker Chopard as clients (just to name two on the long and illustrious list). She was in town this week from Los Angeles to talk to some Gotham fashionistas about this and that. She and I had some laughs over our salads while we traded red carpet horror stories from Oscars past. Having both witnessed some pretty horrendous behavior from the most glittering stars in Hollywood and their petulant stylists (If you think you know who we’re talking about email me and we can dish!), we both agreed that Cannes has eclipsed the Oscars as the fashion event of the season — at least this year. “This year the Oscars were so boring,” said Susan. “Cannes has really taken over. It’s 12 days of red carpet so there are so many opportunities for the stars to dress and look fabulous and there is a spirit about the event that makes it truly exciting and spontaneous. That’s something the Oscars seems to have lost.”

Oh, the perils of being fabulous!

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. “The Boys Who Lunch” — Jeff Schneider of ABC News, Patrick Reilly of Sirius, Portfolio‘s Jeff Bercovici, MPA’s Howard Polskin, Matthew Hiltzik, Matthew Traub and Matthew Frankel of The Weinstein Company. The guys invited Kent Brownridge to join them today. Another regular, Showtime’s Stu Zakim, was absent today — he’s in New Orleans at The Cable Show.

2. Ed Victor and a handsome gent we didn’t recognize.

3. Ed Blier.

4. John Sykes and, we’re told, Peter Flanagan.


5. The always dapper Leonard Lauder with the lovely and tireless Evelyn and some pals.

6. Today’s BFF’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb with Kathie’s go-to gal Christine and another blonde gal we’ve not yet met. Kathie Lee and I had a lengthy and candid chat for this week’s So What Do You Do? interview. If you want to hear what she thinks about Katie Couric, Silda Spitzer among other things, check it out.

7. Steve Abramson.

8. Author & social swan Kelly Killoren Bensimon with two pals. I must admit, I find her completely self-absorbed column for Page Six The Magazine strangely compelling. One of Kelly’s lunch dates, we’re told, has penned a roman a clef about Martha Stewart that’s due out any minute. I can’t wait, can you?

9. My good pal public relations maven Leslie Stevens with Diana Waldron, vice president of global marketing for Tom Ford Beauty. This dynamic duo, who has known each other “forever” since Diana’s days at Coty Prestige Fragrance and Leslie was doing publicity for the brands, stopped to chat with me for a while at the bar. Great seeing you both!

11. Glamour editrix Cindi Leive (sporting a tres chic new shorter ‘do — Love it!) and recently departed Parenting editor Janet Chan. A little birdy told us that Janet’s doing a full slate of lunches and breakfasts with a whole host of editorial bigwigs. For the moment, though, Janet is happily toiling as an editorial consultant and teaching NYU’s master’s degree program in publishing. We’re betting we’ll be seeing Janet’s name at the top of another masthead sooner rather than later …

12. Maureen Reidy, and, we’re told, Peter Eldridge.

14. Herb Allen and another gent.

15. Gerry Byrne.

16. Richard Rubenstein.

17. Jason Weisenfeld.

18. Soetheby’s Jamie Niven.

20. Jaqui Lividini and Nancy Murray.

21. Quest’s Chris Meigher and lady who looked to us to have spent her fair share of the season in Palm Beach …

22. Sean Cassidy.

23. Emily Landau.

24. Nick E. Rubinstein.

25. Tom Goodman, who introduced me to his guest, marketing guru James Harman. Nice to meet you. Glad to hear Tom got so many calls about last week’s mention in ‘Lunch’ of his work on the Museum at Bethel Woods. Thanks for letting us know… we’re suckers for compliments.

26. Carlos Lamadrid.

To all our faithful ‘Lunch’ readers: I love your emails (keep ’em coming!) and hearing your thoughts on the column when you see me at Michael’s. Would love it if you’d take two minutes and weigh in on our ‘Comments’ section. Enjoy the long holiday weekend and see you next Wednesday. Cheers!

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

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