Lunch: Dishing on the Oscars & Obama



As I’ve been reporting for weeks, it was SRO at Michael’s today as the movers and shakers, undeterred by the unsettling economic news, were out in full force plotting their next big move — or looking for a safe place to land. On the menu today: plenty of talk about President Barack Obama’s speech last night and the Oscars. There was a strong consensus that one was a big winner, while the other got surprisingly mixed reviews. While everyone in the audience on Oscar night thought Hugh Jackman killed, plenty of folks here were less than impressed. “Movie people don’t like Broadway,” sniped one Hollywood insider. “And it was too Broadway.” Okay then…

Everyone I talked to about President Obama’s speech felt his oratory skills are nothing short of amazing and that he struck just the right tone where he basically told us its time to pay the piper and think of our children’s future. Personally, I was impressed at his unflappable ability to mix his formal and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks with ease — and he didn’t even blink when he forgot to follow protocol and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduce him. She had to stop him mid-sentence, but he never faltered. Talk about cool under pressure. But here’s what wowed the women in the dining room — his affectionate introduction of the First Lady Michelle Obama and her mouthing, ‘I love you’ back to her smitten husband. “They’re marriage is obviously hot,” one divorcee told me. I’m telling you, no one wants to admit it, but that’s what people are really talking about.

As for the president’s remarks, “Inspirational but realistic,” is how one media summed things up. Others were scratching their heads asking why Wall Street wasn’t feeling the same way. More than one person said, “With everyone feeling a little bit hopeful, I don’t get why the market is down.” (It had dropped by more than 100 points by lunch). A question for the ages, no doubt.

On a much lighter note, I asked the always dapper Dr. Gerald Imber what he thought of the Botox-ed beauties on Oscar’s red carpet. But this plastic surgeon to the stars never cuts and tells — “I didn’t watch,” he confessed. He laughed when I asked him why he’d pass up the chance to admire his handiwork and did offer his assessment on why movie stars make better plastic surgery patients than mere mortals: “They come in with headshots saying, ‘I’ve changed a little here, I want to fix this here.’ They know what they want. There’s no whining.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Here’s a fun fact: A little birdie told me that Andy wrote the screenplay for Blazing Saddles. Now you know…

2. Hallmark honcho Henry Schleiff with two other well-dressed fellows

3. No one puts a lunch together like ‘The Mayor’: Joe Armstrong, Glamour editrix Cindi Leive, George Stevens and Kerry Kennedy. I was thrilled to meet George (who was sporting a very patriotic red, white and blue shirt and tie ensemble). He’s the man behind the television broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors and the amazing broadcast of the concert on the Mall in celebration of President Obama’s inauguration. Kerry and I met once before at a lunch given by Henry Schleiff in this very dining room, where we talked about her then yet-to-published book, Being Catholic Now. I was so fascinated by her interviews with the likes of Bill Maher and Gabriel Byrne (who spoke about being abused by a priest) that I got through the terrific tome twice. Today the conversation was all about how stirring and inspirational the group found the president’s speech last night. “It made me proud to be an American,” Kerry told me. And we both totally melted over the young school girl who was seated next to the First Lady having written to the White House looking for aid for her school, which is in a serious state of disrepair. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Kerry. She wasn’t the only one…

4. An early-arriving Matt Blank who chatted with Joe and I before The New Yorker‘s David Remnick and Lisa Hughes joined Showtime’s head honcho for lunch. I was happy to reconnect with Lisa. Way back when, she was my sales rep at Self when I was the marketing honcho for a fashion company. I knew then that Lisa was destined for big things at Conde Nast, and she’s risen through the ranks like the pro she is. Well done and congrats!

5. Stan Shuman and a dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize…

6. Producer Jon Hart (who got the warmest of warm welcomes from the staff) and a few fellows, including Jeff Sine and Patric Smith

7. Fox 5’s greatest asset Rosanna Scotto and Jill Brooke, who was channeling Michelle Obama in her sleeveless shift and cool, oversized jewelry. I met Jill, who offers some terrific insights on her Web site,, through Page Six’s Richard Johnson a few weeks back. We had a great chat about this new ‘Gig Economy’ (a term Tina Brown cleverly coined in a post for The Daily Beast some weeks ago). “It’s the new normal,” says Jill. We know exactly what you mean…

8. We marveled at New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia’s graceful moves as he shoehorned himself into his seat at his table with three lovely ladies (All blonde, of course)

9. Public relations powerhouse Lisa Linden with the president of WNBC TV, Tom O’Brien. I was happy to meet Tom today and talk about all the big things he’s got going on over at 30 Rock. He told me he’s just days away from unveiling a digital channel and is exploring all kinds of new possibilities to bring WNBC to viewers. “We’re everywhere, you can’t escape us,” he joked. I told him I have finally relented and now watch those broadcasts in the back of taxis — and have actually found them helpful. “What else are you going to look at? After you check out the guy’s license, you can look out the window but that’s it.” Seems the overall feedback on taxi TV has been good, so we’re in for a lot more.

11. Sara Sims

12. Jerry Inzerillo

14. Ed Victor and Random House’s Julie Grau (who can be credited with helping the kitchen create a new specialty — the vegan chopped salad). I asked Ed how things were going with the book from Fugee’s producer John Forte, who Ed lunched with a few Wednesdays ago. “He’s just sent me the outline,” Ed told me. “He’s really a fascinating guy.”

15. Miki Ateyeh with two gal pals.

16. Peggy Siegal, who looked like she was having a working lunch as she pored over some papers with two young, blonde industry types…

17. New York‘s Larry Burstein

18. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald with Conde Nast’s David Carey. I stopped by to say hello to my friend Jon and introduce myself to fellow Scarsdalian David (I’ve seen him often at my other favorite watering hole, The Scarsdale Metro Restaurant, in Scarsdale). When not lunching with Manhattan’s A-list, David has two sets of twins to keep him busy. The mind reels…

19. Hampton Sheet publisher Joan Jeddell

20. Glamour gals Alexandra Trower and Lois Chiles

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher

22. Chris Napolitano

23. Michael Kasan with his son

24. Laurie Bodor

25. Tom Moore

26. Debbie Bancroft

27. I was happy to see my friend Stephen Perrine out and about now that he’s finished his new book, Defining Moments (Rodale) out in May. The multi-tasking editor of Best Life, who has Jay Z on the cover of his latest issue, was dining with an impossibly chic trio from Cartier. He introduced me to the company’s charming CEO Frederic de Narp and assistant vice president of press relations Nicole Ehrbar and Blair Bartell. Talked turned to the Oscars as it did a lot today and Frederic told me the house dressed best actress nominee Anne Hathaway who glittered in their jewels that were the perfect complement to her shimmering Armani Prive gown. We both agreed we’re well rid of those Oscar days of yore when bling brokers threw diamonds on everyone and anyone which turned the red carpet into a Vegas sideshow. “It is all about relationships,” Frederic told me before adding, “If you ever need something from Cartier … ” I’m holding on to his card, for sure.

28. Lisa Caputo

80. Francine LeFrak

29. Victor Garvey30. Sherry Rollins

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