Cynthia McFadden, Gayle King and Blythe Danner at the Bar


School is back in session! The faithful have returned to Michael’s and the place was buzzing with activity as the media mavens, talking heads and social swells sailed into the dining room. Table One (Cynthia McFadden, Lesley Stahl and a host of other power gals) was the center of gravity, while the rest of the dining room was a tasty mix of spinmeisters (Gil Schwartz),  fashionistas (Julie Macklowe) and literary types (Long time no see, David Hirshey).

I was joined today by two of the stars of Bravo’s Gallery Girls, the freshman reality series chronicling the professional lives of seven ambitious New York gals toiling in the “cutthroat environment” (according to the show’s press release) of the New York City art world.  Oh, the pressure! Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez are not your average Bravo-lebrities. The two gorgeous — and tall! — young women were downright earnest in describing their experience as twentysomethings in the city and their commitment to their careers. ” I don’t like drama. I’m pretty even keeled,” Kerri told me. “I think I have an inspiring story. I’ve built this little life for myself that shows if you work hard and are passionate about it, you can do it.” As for Claudia, she wants to concentrate more on “philanthropic” works in the coming years. Not exactly a page out of Nene Leaks’ handbook.

Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch
Kerri Lisa, Claudia Martinez, Diane Clehane and Julia Nietsch

Having filmed the series over the course of four months last year, both Kerri and Claudia agree it’s a bit difficult watching themselves now on the show. “I can’t even listen to myself on my answering machine,” Kerri told me. “It’s interesting, because you rarely get the chance to see yourself the way other people might see you,” said Claudia. Even if the producers went for the most Bravo-esque snippets of otherwise everyday scenarios, she continued, “I said everything and did everything they showed and I’m comfortable with that.”

Kerri, who grew up on Long Island and graduated from Syracuse University in 2009, says the series showed just “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to how hard the cast works in real life. Unlike some of the other women on the show, Kerri didn’t know anyone from the cast and was pretty much on her own when it came to dealing with the rest of the women. “I didn’t trust anyone in the beginning and still don’t,” she told me. Having gone to college fully expecting to follow in the footsteps of her family members that work in investment banking, Kerri told me her eyes were opened to other possibilities during college internships in public relations and at a luxury concierge service.  She changed her major to entrepreneurship and landed in the art world. “I want to work for myself s0meday.” Doesn’t everybody?

Claudia, who hails from Flossmoor, Illinois, has always been drawn to art. While studying at Sarah Lawrence she did a number of internships in the city including one at the famed Larry Gagosian gallery. Her latest venture is End of Century, a hip boutique and gallery space on the Lower East Side. Being on the show, says Claudia, has “increased foot traffic” for the space. She says when she graduated in 2010, the art market had “bottomed out” and it was those college internships which gave her the edge over the competiton. “They taught me about real life while still in school.”

Still, say the women, some of the criticism from the art world about the show has stung. “There has been some backlash. We are real women who are working hard,” says Claudia. “We’re not these spoiled rich girls driving around the suburbs in expensive cars. We’re out there making a living.” Would they sign up for season two should Bravo want to continue? Claudia told me, “I’ll see where I am” before deciding. As for Kerri, she’s game and hoping that if there is a second season, she can “have more fun” and “let more of my personality come through.”  On the subject of the fickle finger of reality show stardom, just as the women were musing on their future with the show, an unabashed fan stopped by our table to gush about her favorite Gallery Girls. “I love your show,”  she told them. Turning to Kerri she said, “You’re much prettier in person!” Then she offered this assessment of Claudia: “You’re gorgeous!” The season finale airs October 1.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1.  Some serious power lunchers: ABC News’ Cynthia McFadden, CBS This Morning‘s Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell,  More magazine editrix Lesley Jane Seymour and 60 Minutes‘ Lesley Stahl.  

2. Accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh and two well-dressed gents

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Warren Hoge. No visit to Michael’s is ever complete for me without a stop at the Mayor’s regular table, because he’s always introducing me to fascinating people I might not otherwise get to meet. Today, I was thrilled to chat with Warren, having read so many of the incredible stories he wrote during his 32-year tenure at The New York Times. He is now senior adviser for external relations for the International Peace Institute. The revered journalist and I got into a serious chat about the British royals. I vividly remember Warren’s inexhaustible coverage of Princess Diana‘s death and referred to many of his stories when I wrote my first book, Diana The Secrets of Her Style.

“I was over there when it happened, and I got the call saying Princess Diana was injured in a car crash and could possibly be dead,” he told me. Although covering one of the biggest celebrities of the modern age seemed like a bit of a departure for a foreign correspondent, Warren told me it was one of his more memorable professional experiences. “The British royals are important because of their relationship with the United States, and Diana was truly an iconic figure,” surmised Warren, who has also written extensively on Prince Charles. The conversation then turned to another charismatic figure, Bill Clinton. The three of us all agreed that the former president stole the show at the Democratic National Convention and agree with President Barack Obama‘s assessment that, if elected, he has a cabinet post for him: ‘Secretary of ‘Splaining Stuff.’ Indeed.

4. Sony Pictures’ Steve Mosko; Act Two: wine importer Jacques Azoulay with a dark-haired beauty we didn’t recognize. Could there be any truth to the rumors that his romance with New York Housewife LuAnn De Lesseps is on the rocks? Does the path of true love ever really run smooth?

5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman

6. ‘The Imber Gang:’ Dr. Gerald Imber (Loved the bow tie!), Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer

7. Bravo’s Julia Nietsch, Gallery Girls‘ Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez, and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and Emila Saint Armand

9.  CNBC’s Ron Insana

10. My pal playwright, Jill Brooke

11. MediaLink’s Wenda Millard and AOL’s Jolie Hunt, rocking an all-black look.

12. New York Post media man Keith Kelly with, so we’re told, Lori Rosen and another fellow

14. G III Apparel’s Morris Goldfarb

15. HarperCollins’ David Hirshey with Gil Schwartz (aka ‘Stanley Bing’). David (Long time no see!) tells me they were discussing Gil’s next book which, says David, should be called ‘Tri-coastal’ since the CBS spinmeister splits his time between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Just thought you’d like to know.

16. UBS’ Areyeh Bourkoff

81. Fashionista Julie Macklowe with former Real Housewife of New York City party planner Jennifer Gilbert. We loved Jennifer during her brief stint on the Bravo series but suspect she was a one-season wonder because she just didn’t have sharp enough claws. Meow!

17.’s Larry Kirshbaum

18. Sam Haskell

20. Uber agent Rob Weisbach and author of The Manny, Holly Peterson

21. Scalamandre’s president, the sartorially splendid Steve Stolman, with Jim Brodsky, president of Sharp Communications.

22. Nancy Murray

23.  Stu Cantor

24. Lina Kutsovskaya

25. Niche Media’s Jim Smith

26. Dream Water co-founder Adam Platzner who, we hear, is now CEO of Connectives

27. Janet Goldsmith

29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein (loved those fabulous new glasses!)

Faces in the crowd: Proprietor Michael McCarty’s wife Kim McCarty with Blythe Danner (yes, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom), enjoying scallops at the bar. And presiding over all the ‘back to school’ festivities: GM Steve Millington, who is more popular than ever thanks to his other gig as general manager of the Green Room for The New York Jets. Steve handles it all for the A-list crowd during the Sunday home games where hedgies and celebs watch the game in style while dining on fab food.  Sure beats loafing at home with a Domino’s pizza. See you next week!

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