Lunch: Dishing With The Usual Suspects



The regulars were out in force today at Michael’s as media mavens, moguls and social types were deep in conversation around the jam-packed dining room. Everyone, it seems, had plenty to talk about, including the terrible news of Natasha Richardson’s skiing accident. “I can’t believe it,” one diner told me. “It was sickening to see the coverage last night — especially the premature reports of her death.” The consensus at Michael’s was that there was a lot of irresponsible reporting that seemed more interested in being first than being right. Today, thank goodness, the reports seem more measured and everyone is awaiting an official word from the family. I had the opportunity to meet the talented Ms. Richardson at Michael’s on several occasions last year and she was always utterly gracious and lovely. My thoughts go out to her and her family.

Today I was lunching with Lisa Linden of Linden, Alschuler & Kaplan, Inc. public relations. A tireless gal who is as nice as she is busy. Lisa — who started the firm with Steve Alschuler 16 years ago (Lloyd Kaplan joined three years later)– reports that despite the gloomy economic climate, business is on solid ground. It’s no wonder. The principals bring a wealth of experience to their clients, having toiled in a host of positions including stints in city and state government (Lisa and Steve both served at various times as press secretary to Senator Roy Goodman and later worked together at Rubenstein; Lloyd was chief of staff at City Hall during the financial crisis in the early 70s). Lisa was also a consultant to the Clinton/Gore ’96 campaign. These days, the firm counts top tier real estate companies like Brookfield and The Plaza as clients, as well as an impressive list of “major” law firms, fashion brands (Sigrid Olsen) and nonprofits including City Meals on Wheels and The Broadway League.

During these perilous economic times, one of the things that keeps Lisa and her staff so busy is crisis management: “We’re living in unprecedented times,” Lisa told me. “There is no industry that has not been hit with a crisis.” And, counsels this public relations powerhouse, even those companies that are not dealing with disaster per se should think twice about scaling back their public relations efforts. “This is not the time to pull back,” she says. “While it is a time of crisis, it is also a time of tremendous opportunity to move messages. The media is happy to report positive stories and people are happy to read them. There is so much negativity. Companies should look for what is good and get the word out because that resonates now more than ever.” Amen to that!

And, one more thing, Lisa was thrilled to break the news to me exclusively that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former governor George Pataki and New York State’s new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will be the speakers at this year’s fundraising gala for The New York League of Conservation Voters (she’s co-chair of the board) scheduled for May 28 at Chelsea Piers.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Somers Farkas, Francine LeFrak and two other well-heeled gals

2. Mike Medavoy and a dark-haired gent we didn’t recognize

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Jon Burnham. Joe told me he’s off to Texas to visit mom. Thanks, Joe, for telling me about the terrific mention in Liz Smith’s column last week on about our weekly ‘Lunch’ assignations. Have a safe trip to Texas and see you in two weeks.

4. Martin Dunn and Steven Rubenstein.

5. Stan Shuman and Dan Doctoroff

6. The ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer

7. Ann Rapp

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Brooke Hayward

9. Lisa Linden and yours truly

11. Washington Post‘s Richard M. Cohen

12. Linda Janklow with her son Luke and her adorable grandson, who seemed to be enjoying his burger and fries…

14. Oenophile Jack Kliger. Cheers!

15. My good pal Tony Hoyt, returning to his regular perch after a long absence to dine with Lisa Benenson, former editor-in-chief of now-shuttered Hallmark Magazine. When I stopped by the table to say hello to the cheerful duo, Lisa joked that she was having another ‘sympathy lunch’ with a friend who was gamely trying to cheer her up. But the lady isn’t in need of any morale boosting, thank you. Says Lisa with a smile: “I was at a lunch for the National Magazine Awards the other day, and I was surrounded by four other people who were in the same boat.’ Distinguished company indeed. Lisa, who looked divine and chic in black, isn’t letting this temporary setback cloud her perpetually sunny disposition. “I got home the other day at three o’clock and thought to myself, ‘This spring I’m going to get to plant flowers!’ It’s the little things these days, folks…

16. Nielsen’s media mogul Gerry Byrne with Mesa’s money man Mark Patricof. Gerry also made the scene at last night’s Kelly Gang gathering which was, we hear, SRO. Among the other revelers was Michael’s own GM Steve Milington, who got things off to a rousing start by playing a little guitar for the crowd. You didn’t know there was an inner rock star lurking beneath Steve’s get-it-done, always efficient business persona, did you? Well, now you do…

17. Micki Ateyeh and a blonde gal we didn’t know…

18. Bill Ackerman

19. Bottega Veneta’s style guru Tomas Maier

20. Christie Hefner (toting a folder from the Columbia Journalism Review) with an unidentified serious-looking fellow

21. Aaron Sigmond

22. Lisa de Kooning

24. Bill Ford

25. Jon Galantic

26. Bonnie Fuller and Tom Morrissey. I chatted with Bonnie on the way out and commended her on her tireless — and witty — Tweets. She agreed that it was yet one other thing to keep up with in her nonstop life but told me, that it’s a great way to “build the brand.” So take that all you Twitter naysayers. You can’t fight technology — or underestimate the public’s interest in moment-to-moment commentary on celebrities’ lives — so get with the program, or else!

27. More editrix Lesley Jane Seymour, Sex & The City scribe Candace Bushnell, and two other Gotham gals we couldn’t quite place…

28. Brian Terkelsen

29. Richard Linde

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