We’re serving up an extra helping of Lunch this week to bring you the rundown on Michael’s 25th anniversary party at 55th and Fifth last night. At one point, it felt as though all 600 invited guests were there at one time. A few minutes after six o’clock, the steady stream of A-listers had already bottlenecked at the front door, filled the dining room and had migrated to the Garden Room, causing one regular to quip, “Oh so this is what it looks like back here!” Here’s a collection of news and notes we collected as we ricocheted from one cluster of fabulous folks to the next…
I arrived right behind Jann Wenner and his perpetually scruffy son, Gus Wenner, who dutifully waited on the check in line. “Name please?” requested the clipboard-wielding young gal at the door. “Wenner, the two of us,” said Jann, who put an arm around his son and ushered him inside. Right behind him came Bryant Gumbel and his wife, Hilary Gumbel. I’d last seen Hilary at a Michael’s lunch for Cosmo editor-in-chief Kate White a while back when we feted Kate on the occasion of her latest book. “Hilary’s got a book now,” Bryant told me. The book, Unichef, is a collection of international recipes from chefs around the world with proceeds from book sales benefiting UNICEF. Hilary has been a consultant for the U.S. fund of UNICEF for years.
While standing at the bar waiting for our drinks, we got to chatting about the idea of how little has stayed the same (except Michael’s) over the past 25 years. I asked Bryant (who looked better than ever, by the way) what he remembers most about what he was doing 25 years ago. “Hmm… 25 years ago, I was hosting the Today show and covering the Olympics.” When I asked what’s the most important lesson he’s learned during that time, he answered without skipping a beat: “The older you get, the more you realize that life is stupid and not to worry about so much.”
By this time, the place was really filling up as Les Moonves, Cindy Adams, David Lauren, Rikki Klieman, Peggy Siegal, Sharon Bush, Laurie Tisch, Cornelia Guest, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Blythe Danner, Jay McInerney and Anne Hearst arrived. Michael McCarty and his wife, Kim McCarty, greeted each and every person with hugs and kisses. GM Steve Millington was glad-handing like there was no tomorrow. Patrick McMullan himself was there, shooting everything and asking everyone to shout the spelling of their last names into his camera over the din. I bumped into Showtime’s Matt Blank and told him I was encouraging viewers to watch The Affair in my TV recaps, and it’s been something of a tough sell because the show hasn’t exactly delivered based on all the hype — but this week’s episode was a game changer. “I’m three episodes ahead of you and I’m telling you, it’s great. You’re gonna love it,” he promised. All I really want to know is how Alison (Ruth Wilson) goes from a depressed boho townie to a Prada-toting hipster, I told him. Stay tuned.
Across the room, I spotted a bevy of fashionistas: Fern Mallis, Mickey Ateyeh, Amy Fine Collins, Liz Lange and Joanna Coles, among others. Kate Falchi, with whom I lunched a while ago with Mickey and her famous father, Carlos Falchi, came up to say hello and introduce me to her guy, Philippe Danielides. I spotted his mother, Joannie Danielides, deep in conversation with Deb Shriver earlier. “We actually came to Michael’s to introduce our parents to each other,” cooed the lovebirds. “We figured it was the perfect place because the mood is so great.”
As if on cue, Deborah Roberts came up to me to share her own Michael’s anecdote (I guess my notebook gave me away). Husband Al Roker gave me a wave from inside the scrum of fellows he was chatting with. “When we first started dating, Al took me here to impress me. It worked. It sealed the deal.”
Former Miss USA turned real estate broker Julie Hayek sailed by just as Bob Guccione, up visiting from Pennsylvania, told me it’s time for us to have another Michael’s lunch. I introduced him to Susan Silver (who is off to Israel) and Judy Twersky before he was swallowed up by the crowd. And then I chatted with more fancy friends: lifestyle guru Sissy Biggers, freelance style scribe and law student (!) Todd Plummer and documentarian Mary Murphy, who is currently working on “The Making of Peter Pan Live!” for NBC. She also did “The Making of the Sound of Music Live!” Of her current gig, she told me: “Allison Williams is absolutely blowing people away. She’s that good and Christopher Walken (who plays Captain Hook) is a dream.”
More faces in the crowd: Jerry Inzerillo, Carlos Lamadrid, Rachel Glickman, Jill Brooke, Stu Zakim, Ed Adler, Gerry Byrne, Bonnie Fuller, Barry Frey, Adam Platzner, David Sanford, Lewis Stein, Andrew Stein, Dan Abrams, Jerry Della Femina, Judy Licht, Cece Cord, John Hart, Gillian Tett and the list goes on and on.
Charles Grodin, in his requisite black jacket and baseball cap, was seated at one of the few tables left around the room seemingly trying his best to keep people from getting too close. Not that I blame him, but it was a thankless task.
As I made my way to the back, I stopped to chat with Shari Scharfer-Rollins, who was in search of husband, Ed Rollins, and then share some laughs with the three best-dressed guys in the room: Richard Johnson, Randy Jones and Joe Armstrong. I was thrilled to see Randy since he’s been largely MIA at Michael’s since he joined Patriarch Partners and their offices are downtown. “I miss it,” he told me. “But it just takes too long to get up here during lunch.” When I asked him how he thought Condé Nast’s move downtown would affect the Michael’s lunch scene, he said, “I don’t think they were coming all that much lately anyway.” We both agreed Michael’s is much more of a Hearst hangout.
Speaking of Hearst, when I finally got to the Garden Room, I ran into Marie Claire’s editrix Anne Fulenwider, who brought along her soon-to-be ex-assistant Jennifer Heidi, who is joining People. Also spotted: David Patrick Columbia, “The Bar-ettes,” Kira Semler and Vi Huse; Susan Zirinsky, Christy Ferer; and Leslie Stevens, who introduced me to Connie Anne Phillips. Jack Kliger and his wife, Amy Kliger, came over to our table (it had been two hours; I had to sit down!) to tell me that Jack had just bought British Heritage magazine. Cheerio!
With the crowd finally thinning out (and my voice pretty much gone), I headed for the door, where I caught up with writers Phoebe Eaton and Nina Burleigh. Nina penned a thoughtful piece in last week’s New York Observer, asking “Why Don’t More Muslims Denounce Their Co-Religionists’ Barbarism?” which exploded on social media. I asked her if the vitriol had died down at all. Nope. It was much too late to get into all that heavy stuff, so we said our goodnights.
Then I spotted it: an umbrella stand full of the parting gifts for all mavens, moguls and media addicts who turned out for tonight’s soiree. A wooden backscratcher. With the Michael’s logo. Perfect.