Lunch: Barbara Walters, Barry Diller & Dana Perino

I’m glad I got to Michael’s early today because by 12:30 they were literally lining up outside the front door to get in the joint. Even the Garden Room (Siberia to the uninitiated) was SRO. The groups of wannabe diners at the bar and in the lounge were enviously eyeing the tables occupied by the famous and fabulous in the front room as they dined and dished without notice. Who says there’s no class system in America?
Ah, but you know better, and so do the regulars who, despite hurricane winds and the worst traffic we’ve seen all year, found their way to their power perches to see and be seen by Gotham’s glitterati. Perception is reality these days and from where I sat, it’s business as usual for these folks. We spotted Michael Fuchs working the room like nobody’s business, shaking hands with Matt Blank, Jon Tisch and an assortment of moguls who crossed his path. Others, such as Barry Diller, were riveted to the conversation at their own table. Working on some killer deal, no doubt.
I made my way around the jam-packed dining room to check in with my pals. I needed the breathing room since it was elbow to elbow at the bar, and I was seated across from a gleeful foursome who were celebrating something over a few beers. (See, despite what you’ve been reading not everything is gloom and doom). I was happy to stop and chat with Men’s Health honcho David Zinczenko and his former public relations man (and brand new dad to seven-week-old son Benjamin!) Jon Hammond. Jon, who also worked for Conde Nast Traveler, now works for the NBA as senior director of community and player programs communications. Somehow, the three of us got into a lively discussion about the merits of Twitter. “All my guys are doing it,” says Jon of the NBA players he’s working with. I shared that in working on an upcoming story for Variety, I’ve discovered that some pretty high-level folks are saying it’s an effective way “to build a brand.” David, who never misses a thing, had a brainstorm within seconds of hearing our cases for using Twitter professionally. Look for Men’s Health to have its own Twitter feed in the not-too-distant future where readers can join in the conversation about things like the magazine’s highly popular “Eat This, Not That” franchise. Dave also gave me some scoop about some changes afoot in the next issue of Men’s Health: Fans of recently shuttered Best Life (we loved it!) will be happy to hear that, according to Dave, “the best elements of Best Life are being incorporated” into Men’s Health. Makes sense to us. And, Best Life‘s former editor, Stephen Perrine, is now heading up the newly created position of overseeing books from Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines. Congrats!
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. A smiling Barry Diller and a bespectacled gent we didn’t recognize…
2. Jonathan Tisch and a dark-haired beauty. Jon had a big hello for Hoda Kotb when he spotted her across the room.
3. Showtime’s main man Matt Blank
4. Barbara Walters deep in conversation with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gal pal Diana Taylor

5. Herb Siegel
6. Early birds: Hoda Kotb and her Chanel-clad friend Sunny Luciani. The two gals were the first to arrive today, so I had a chance to chat with them about this and that. Where was Hoda’s Today show co-host? (The gals always lunch together on Wednesday and take in a Broadway show afterward…) Hoda tells me she’s running around promoting her new book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg: Life & Other Calamities (Ballantine) hither and yon. Speaking of books, I gave Hoda a copy of my pal Pamela Keogh’s fun read, What Would Audrey Do?, now out in paperback. Hoda, who is as nice as they come, promptly walked over to Pamela’s table to thank her. Maybe there’s an appearance on Today‘s fourth hour in Pamela’s future. Just happy to help, ladies…