Lunch: Kathie Lee Holds Court

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We’ve always thought that deconstructing the action in the dining room at Michael’s on any given Wednesday is a bit of an anthropological study of the various Manhattan tribes — media mavens, money men, television talking heads, fashionistas, social swans and the elusive movie stars all staking out their respective territories. Observing these fascinating species of Gothamites in their natural habitat has led me to one conclusion — if you’re sitting at Table One, you’re the leader of the pack. At least for the moment. Television’s comeback kid and newly minted Today show host Kathie Lee Gifford held court today in the top spot with her cohost Hoda Kotb (who worked the room in a fiery red dress like nobody’s business between courses). The mood at the table was downright celebratory as the gang — which included none other than Tony Bennett — gathered to cheer Kathie Lee’s return to morning television and once again raise a glass to the incredible success of Bella thanks to its talented and hard working star Eduardo Verastegui. Always the gentleman, Eduardo stopped by the bar to offer his hellos. He told me he’d just spent all night flying in from Guadalajara where he’d been doing publicity for the film. It took him 3(!) planes just to get here so he could attend a special screening tonight of the little film that could at the Tribeca Grand that his pal Kathie Lee is hosting. What are friends for?

Here’s a rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Tony Bennett, his lovely wife Susan, Eduardo Verastegui, Bella producer Sean Wolfington, Today show producer Brian Balthazar and, we’re told, Kathie Lee’s go-to gal, Christine (we didn’t catch her last name), who was too camera shy to get in the pic Michael’s GM Steve Millington snapped of the gang before they headed out the door.

2. Peter Brown and Lloyd Grove.

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Marie Claire editrix Joanna Coles. I went over to the Mayor’s table to welcome him back from Texas where he’d been visiting with his mom, Dorthadele. It was my first time meeting Joanna, who told me she was a bit “obsessed” with her May cover girl, the tireless Tina Fey. This is the actress-writer’s first-ever magazine cover and comes at a time when she’s hotter than hot. She’s got a new movie, Baby Mama, costarring another funny lady Amy Poehler, opening the Tribeca Film Festival and is back on the small screen in 30 Rock. The good folks at NBC are going to be promoting the Marie Claire cover with one of those pop ups on screen during the show. Talk about synergy! Check out the issue with Tina looking “quite fetching” in a trench coat “showing a little skin…”

4. Howard Rubenstein and we’re told, a man “with lots of information” (whatever that means…)


5. Jonathan Tish, Jeff Stuart and Jane Rosenthal.

6. Francine LeFrak with three gal pals and one dandy gent.

7. Style.com’s Candy Pratts Price and Manolo Blahnik‘s sole man George Malkemus.

8. NBC’s Gabe Pressman, Harold Holzner and The Met’s John O’Keefe.

9. Peggy “Pretty in Pink” Siegal, who was nursing a cold. Get well soon!

11. Men’s Health honcho Dave Zinczenko with Kate White looking every inch the Cosmo gal in her little black dress and leopard belt. How fab!

12. Jaqui Lividini and two fashionistas we didn’t recognize.

14. Stan Shuman.

15. Christy Carpenter and Jim Abernathy.

16. Producer Beverly Camhe and Sean Cassidy (No, not that one).

17. Jonathan Wald.

18. A Mr. Morgan, so we’re told…

19. Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, otherwise known as one of The Real Housewives of New York City. It is me or is Bravo’s goal to have everyone in New York star in at least one reality show?

20. Security guru and frequent Today show guest Bill Stanton with a flashy unidentified gal in zebra stripes and lace up boots. Break out the handcuffs!

21. Peter Price.

22. Tom Curley.

23. Elle’s editor-in-chief Robbie Myers and creative directorJoe Zee. I was happy to see Robbie today having just interviewed her for an upcoming piece for Variety on Elle‘s successful foray into reality television. With Project Runway such a runaway hit having made fashion director Nina Garcia a “personality” and garnering some mainstream exposure for the “world’s largest fashion magazine,” Elle has embarked on a second show due to air some time this summer or fall. Perfect Fitstarring Joe Zee and Anne Slowey will pit a group aspiring fashionistas against each other for a real job at Elle. (Don’t bother trying to audition, production on season one wraps in a few weeks). Sounds like terrific bitchy fun to us! It’s ironic that the real action is happening behind the seams this very minute as Bravo and Lifetime duke it out over who gets to go forward with Runway. There’s also rumors flying that Garcia and Michael Kors have yet to sign on for the next season. Oh the drama! Can you stand it? I can if you can…

24. “Citizen” Nick E. Rubinstein with Karen Blondo.

26. Jason Weisenfeld (partner of Jaqui Lividini).

27. Alexandra Trower who was nice enough to stop by for a chat at the bar. It’s always great to meet anyone who is nice enough to email us with praise for “Lunch.” We’re suckers for compliments! Alexandra is excited about her new job as executive vice president global communications of Estee Lauder. We had a good laugh over the idea that her first order of business should be to increase the size of the type on the base of Lauder’s luxe lipsticks. I have it on good authority that some “over 30” gals find it a bit hard to read the names of their favorite shades without their glasses. Of course, you understand, I’m not speaking from experience… Alexandra takes over for our good friend Sally Susman , who has got a big new job at Pfizer. Congrats ladies!

28. Publisher Weekly‘s Sara Nelson.

Please send comments and corrections to DianeClehane AT mediabistro Dot com and lunch at mediabistro DOT com.

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