Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington and a Socialite Celebration

1003_mockup.gifWe were so disappointed to hear we missed Alec Baldwin by a day. A little birdie told me Manhattan’s most famous newlywed was in an extremely good mood yesterday as he dined with a mystery gal with a British accent (Attention Andrea Peyser!). Here’s another tasty tidbit about the 30 Rock star: He is apparently not done with Twitter as he tweeted about the dessert sent to him by Michael’s GM Steve Millington congratulating him on his headline-making nuputials. I just thought you’d like to know.

Now, on to today’s crowd. This being the last few weeks before everyone takes off for their cottages in the Hamptons and family compounds in Maine, Michael’s was chock full of A-listers, including Barbara Walters, Arianna Huffington and a squadron of social types. I was joined today by Marianne Howatson and Kendell Cronstromand we had plenty to talk about. I’ve known Mariane since her days at Conde Nast where she was publisher of Travel & Leisure and Self. She then went on to be group publisher of Gruner+Jahr. These days, she is CEO and publication director of three gorgeous shelter books: Connecticut Cottages & GardensHamptons Cottages & Gardens and the company’s newest edition, New York Cottages & Gardens which launched in March.

Marianne bought the books in 2009 because she says, “I was in love with the magazines.” And, it seems, she’s not alone. “Every house I go into in the Hamptons, the magazine is right there on the table. It’s wonderful to see.” The appeal of the books lies in their “sense of place” and the feeling of “intimacy” that connects the reader to its design-focused content, explained Marianne. The books’ affluent, passionate readers with a median household income of $880,000 and the company’s event-driven marketing efforts have made it the advertising vehicle for luxe lifestyle brands, like Hermes, Scalamandre, ligne roset and roche bobois.  NYC &G, with  Kendell at the helm, has been so well received that Marianne decided to up the print run by 25 percent, increase the frequency from five to six times a year, and sell the book on the newsstand for $5.95. In the era of the $12 print subscription, Marianne’s asking price of $99.95 for all three titles is truly a vote of confidence for the future.

Marianne Howatson, Kendell Cronstrom and Diane Clehane

It’s clear that Marianne has set the bar high on all fronts. This year, the stellar roster of events the company has sponsored is truly impressive. In Connecticut, its Innovation in Design Awards have been recognizing the area’s leading architects and designers for six years. The magazine also sponsored the Red Cross Ball and created Pink Aid, a brilliant initiative to raise money for breast cancer awareness in partnership with Mitchell’s of Westport. The luncheon features a collection of pink chairs artfully adorned by a host of designers which line the front row at a fashion show of a top designer. Guests pay $1,000 to sit in the chairs and afterwards they are available for sale. Last year’s event raised $330,000 for area hospitals. This year’s event is scheduled for October 4 and will feature a Ralph Lauren fashion show. CTC&G Editor D.J. Carey has also redesigned the book’s logo for September which, explains Marianne, will “open up” the cover, giving it an airy, more modern feel.

In the Hamptons, HC &Gs‘ July 1 cover has a stunning shot of Cindy Sherman in her most shocking incarnation: nearly unrecognizable with a fresh face and  wearing white jeans at home in Sag Habor. The book had an impressive presence at Art Hamptons two weeks ago where its all-white VIP tent sponsored by ligne roset boasted a Jackson Pollock exhibition. In August, the pub is one of the elite sponsors of The Hampton Classic where Kendell will judge a design competition to select the most to-die-for tables in the VIP tents on the final weekend. HC&G also launched its own Innovation in Design Awards in East Hampton two years ago. Whew!

Having begun his career at Vanity Fair as assistant to executive editor Wayne Lawson, Kendell tells me he was always drawn to shelter magazines. His love affair with design began back in childhood when he loved to roam around looking at the beautiful architecture of the homes in his Minneapolis neighborhood. Having had stints at Elle Decor with Marian McEvoy (“My training ground”) and InStyle, he developed an unerring eye for what’s chic, new and next in interior design, and his sleek, authoritative editorial style is a eclectic mix of traditional and modern design. With readers who are “comfortable and confident” about design, he’s got to aim high. For NYC& G, he’s endeavoring to feature the best in interior design from New York and the Hudson Valley in all forms from “the cottage with a babbling brook” to an “art-filled apartment in UN Plaza” to a “whitewashed loft in Cobble Hill.” He tells me, “The possibilities are endless.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  Happy Birthday Prudence Inzerillo! In attendance: Barbara Walters (Loved the fishnets!), Deb Grubman, Hilary Gumbel and a gaggle of social swans who, I’m guessing, didn’t eat a bite of the gorgeous birthday cake adorned with lush fondant flowers at the center of the table.

2. Arianna Huffington with AOL’s Jolie Hunt

3.  Fox News’ Bill Hemmer and agent Wayne Kabak

4. Agent Esther Newberg

5.  Arthur Rankin

6. Seeing double: Peter Lyden and his identical twin brother, renown children’s cancer specialist Dr. David Lyden, lunching with Debra Black. I’ve known Peter since his days as director of development for Montefiore Hospital back in the nineties (he’s now at the American Museum of Natural History), and I had no idea he was a twin. Imagine my surprise when I said hello to David thinking it was Peter. Even their voices are the same! I can’t imagine the trouble they must have caused as kids. Hilarious!

7. Marianne Howatson, Kendell Cronstrom and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and my pal, producer Joan Gelman

9. Rubenstein’s Susie Arons

10. Neal Boulton and Galavante CEO and editor in chief Christine Drinan. When I stopped by their table to chat, Neal, who I first met in this very dining room, introduced me to his new partner on his latest project. Christine described Galavante to me as a new travel magazine for “the working jet set.” (Don’t you just love that tagline?) Neal has come on board as corporate development editor; it’s his 33rd periodical relaunch project. His mission: to move the site to its 2.0 version and launch its first iPad magazine. This dynamic duo is off to an auspicious start. Christine, whose impressive financial cred includes her experience at Blackstone, tells me they have inked a deal with American Express, the credit card company’s first digital partnership for its corporate and small business card division. Says Neal, “It’s going to be a periodical with an amazing valuation.” Well done!

11. Kevin O’Malley

12. Uber agent Rob Weisbach

14. Jerry Inzerillo (yes, Prudence’s husband)

15. Steve Cohen, formerly of The Early Show, and politico Ed Rollins

16. Kevin Crotty

81. Barry Frey, enjoying a father daughter lunch with his lovely daughter Gabrielle Frey

17. Judy Price

18. Revered lensman Harry Benson in his summer seersucker

19. My pals, legendary comedy scribe Susan Silver (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and publicist Judy Twersky

20. Sherrie Westin

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher

25. George Sheanshang

26. Tech guru Shelly Palmer

27. PR maven Susan Blond

28 Tres chic: Pat Malone of Christian Dior

29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein

30. The Central Park Conservancy’s Gillian Miniter

Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.