It was the usual head-spinning scene at Michael’s today as the decibel level rose to epic levels in every corner of the dining room throughout lunch. But all was tranquil (at least for the moment) when I arrived shortly before noon. There, I was greeted with the sight of two minions from Bonnie Fuller’s office at Hollywoodlife.com who were arranging seating cards and ordering Pellegrino for Bonnie’s monthly schmoozefest. The power gals-in-training stayed just long enough to change into their high heels and shepherd the overflowing group of media mavens and social swans (and Dylan Lauren!) into the lounge for a round of air kissing before they finally settled into their perch in the bay window at Table One. Oh, to be young and ambitious.
I was joined today by two of my favorite Michael’s regulars who I met, of course, in the dining room many moons ago: producer and Democratic booster Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman, founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson Long Island’s leading public relations and marketing firm, who somehow also finds time to appear on CNN, Fox and MSNBC as a political commentator. On-air (and in conversation, of course) Robert offers well reasoned arguments against the extremists on both sides. “Too much attention focuses on being quotable, not credible. Too many commentators operate in a fact-free environment. Ann Coulter has become the Larry Flynt of political literature. Both live in a world of exploitation and filth,” said the Democratic National Committeeman (now in his 13th year in the position). Come on Robert, tell us how you really feel.
I always look forward to our bi-annual Michael’s lunches because besides being two of the nicest — and funniest people in the room — Joan and Robert can always be counted on for some tasty dish on what’s really going on in any number of social, business and political circles in New York.
While some of the juiciest dish is off the record, we did cover a lot of ground on the current political scene. I had to ask Robert what he thought of the two biggest headaches plaguing the Obama administration that are getting plenty of media coverage. On the Obamacare website woes, Robert offered this: “If it were up to my Republican friends, we would have given up on NASA, Social Security and Medicare because each of them had difficult launches. Medicare took six years to establish after President Roosevelt it signed into law. The website will be fixed. The bigger issue will be if people are getting a better deal in terms of cost and coverage. That will determine the future of Obamacare and, to a large extent, Obama’s legacy.” As for the “Spy vs. Spy” story: “The typical talking points that this is business as usual doesn’t hold up. We are gathering an unprecedented amount of intelligence. The Snowden episode tells us (our intelligence) is not secure and the president saying, “I don’t know.” This is undermining our relationship with our allies at a critical time and threatening international trade agreements.” When it came to next week’s mayoral race, we all agreed to disagree about the candidates. Joan championed front runner Bill de Blasio’s “humanity” as one of his strongest assets. We’ll know soon enough.
We also managed to trade reviews on our favorite films of the year. We all agreed that while Gravity was good, it’s just a wee bit overrated. (Sorry, Sandy and George). The opening sequence made Robert woozy and the near-silent screenplay was a bit wanting for Joan and me. “Young people want all that technical razzle dazzle. I want a good script,” said Joan. We all agreed that Enough Said, starring Julia Louis Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini was a terrific, grown-up picture. Joan’s pick for the year’s top film is Twelve Years a Slave. “It’s a milestone in film,” she said. “It’s a very tough film to watch, but it’s brilliant and should be shown in every high school in America.”
Then it was back to business. These days, Joan is keeping busy with a top secret (for now) new television project in Toronto. Robert is celebrating his firm’s 24th anniversary. Having started his company in his apartment in Great Neck representing local Long Island clients, Zimmerman/Edelson now counts Lockheed Martin, Canon USA, Hostra University as well as municipalities and other educational clients. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. “It’s been quite a journey.” Congrats!
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller and Penske Media Vice Chair Gerry Byrne with Dylan Lauren (founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar and daughter of Ralph), Ann Dexter Jones, VH1’s Keshia Williams, WME’s Julianne Wurm, The Wendy Williams Show‘s Liza Persky, New York Times’ digital editor Leslie Kaufman, Carla Ruben, PIX11’s Marcia Parris, Kimberly Yarnell of Macys and Tresemme’s Kathryn Fernandez.
2. Discovery ID’s Henry Schleiff
3. Walter Isaacson with, we’re told, a bigwig from United Airlines
4. Barry Diller and producer Scott Rudin
5. Charlie Rose and former NBC News honcho Steve Cappus, who told our Chris Ariens earlier this week he’s enjoying spending time on his latest project: getting YES inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Everybody needs a hobby.
6. Dr. Gerald Imber (loved the bow tie!), Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Michael Kramer
7. Joan Gelman, Robert Zimmerman and yours truly
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Maria Cooper Janis. A little birdie told me Maria is the daughter of none other than screen legend Gary Cooper. Imagine that.
9. Star Jones, rocking some funky curly locks and a rocker chic all-black ensemble with Piers Morgan Tonight’s executive producer Jonathan Wald
10. Noo Yawker Jill Zarin with an equally animated and talkative pal. Bethenny, we feel your pain.
11. Accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh
12. PR princess (and newly minted real estate broker) Catherine Saxton with Platinum Properties’ Khashy Eyn and Danny Hedaya and real estate mogul Hormoz Sabet and Michelle Fine.
14. Simon & Schuster Alice Mayhew and the Metropolitan Museum’s Harold Holzer
16. United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky
17. Peter Price
18. Herb Allen
19. Christy Ferer
20. Jaqui Safra
21. Kelly and Jeff Langberg
22. Michael Kempner
23. The Wall Street Journal’s David Sanford and Lewis Stein who brought along David’s WSJ colleague Carrie Dolan. Nice to meet you!
24. Ad man Martin Puris
25. PR potentate Tom Goodman
27. Jolie Hunt presiding over a table full of pals
28. Glen Horowitz
29. Susan Blond
30. Gannett’s Maryam Banikarim
81. PR maven Lisa Linden (Long time no see!) and Eric Gioia
Faces in the crowd: TV Guide Magazine now official CEO Jack Kliger who finally assumed the title of the job he’s been doing for quite awhile. Congrats!
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.