— DIANE CLEHANE
They were dining and dishing like it was 2006 today at Michael’s. When I mentioned to one of the regulars that I hadn’t seen the dining room jam packed with so many power lunchers in a long time, he summed up the scene this way: “People are tired of waiting for the official word that we’re out of the woods so they’re trying to act as if we are. In some ways, it’s working.” In other words, denial is the new black.
A few weeks back, my friend Robert Zimmerman introduced me to Melanie Brandman, founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, and Diana Biederman, managing director of Blackbird PR. I chatted briefly with the two public relations mavens and today we had our own ‘Michael’s lunch.’ Melanie started her all-female agency in 2000 after serving as vice president of corporate affairs for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in London where she headed worldwide PR for over 3,000 properties in 100 countries. Today, at the helm of her own agency, she specializes in luxury hotels and lifestyle brands and represents top-tier clients including Qantas Airways, Orient-Express Hotels & Resorts, as well as her former employer. As you might imagine, she’s logged “millions of air miles” on the job and in just the past six months alone has visited India, Morocco, and Barbados multiple times. She recently hosted a group of lucky travel writers on a six-night sojourn aboard the uber luxurious Maharajas’ Express, which travels from Delhi to Kolkata. “Absolutely the best way to see India,” says Melanie. I’ll bet.
Last year, Melanie launched Blackbird PR, a lifestyle subsidiary of The Brandman Agency, and asked Diana, who had been working as public relations director of ’21’ Club for eight years, to head up the company. Of the spin-off Melanie says: “It was a natural progression, because we do a lot of work within the lifestyle divisions of our travel clients. I wanted to keep Brandman as a separate entity.” Things are off to a good start with clients like VOS Selections, whose handcrafted artisanal wines are the brainchild of Victor O. Schwartz and Ray Griffiths Fine Jewelry.
Melanie also tells me she just opened an office in Los Angeles so she could “get more business out of Asia” and squeeze in a few more trips back home to see the family in Australia. Where does she find the time?
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Hotshot Hollywood attorney and producer Freddie Gershon with legendary Oscar winning songwriters (“The Way We Were“) Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
2. Peter Brown
3. Howard Rubenstein
4. Allen & Co.’s Stanley Shuman
5. Herb Siegel and Frank Gifford. Our own Donya Blaze and Alex Alvarez spotted Kathie Lee Gifford, Frank’s better half, at Monday’s Matrix Awards.
6. The Early Show: ‘The Imber Gang’ minus one: Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer. We hear Jerry Della Femina is ‘stuck in Europe.’ Take two: Law & Order SVU‘s Richard Belzer and Hollywood casting queen Bonnie Timmermann.
7. Melanie Brandman, Diana Biederman, and yours truly
8. Lucianne Goldberg (Check out her site to see what she’s been up to) and her communications director Bonnie Dudley (looking better than ever) celebrating their April birthdays. Cheers!
9. Alson Capital’s Neil Barsky and Stephen Swid
11. Steven Rubenstein
12. Wayne Kabak
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew with politico David Gergen.
15. Randy Jones, the always dapper Worth founder whose best accessory is his winning smile, and the magazine’s general manager Alison Parks.
16. Citigroup’s Lisa Caputo
17. Bob Schieffer with an equally distinguished looking gent.
18. Jeffrey Katzenberg, looking downright collegiate in his v-neck sweater and jeans.
19. Michael Wildish
20. Paula Zahn, whose Discovery ID show On The Case with Paula Zahn is hotter than ever.
21. Fidelis Global Enterprise’s Gerry Byrne
23. Fox TV’s CEO Jack Abernathy
24. Viacom’s Richard Bressler
25. John Moncure
26. Kerzner International’s Jerry Inzerillo
27. Tina Brown and Lisa Pomerantz
28. James Schwab
30. Elizabeth Harrison (loved that amazing necklace!) with an equally stylish gal. I got a chance to chat with Elizabeth when she stopped by our table on her way out. I first met the publicity princess in the early nineties through her partner Lara Shriftman. Together, they helped catapult the Hollywood-fashion connection into the pop cultural stratosphere. And, despite the fickle nature of the fashion PR biz, she has always managed to stay on top. Elizabeth says she’s busier than ever these days and that the current climate on Seventh Avenue is “getting better.” Here’s hoping.
Faces in the crowd: my good pals, ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse, enjoying their monthly champagne lunch at the bar … Mary Ann Liebert, publisher of the Westchester WAG, in the Garden Room.
Please send comments and corrections to DianeClehane AT mediabistro Dot com and lunch at mediabistro DOT com.