A Regis & Kathie Lee Reunion, Plus Harold Ford Jr., Carl Bernstein and Star Jones

I love it when Michael’s is firing on all cyclinders. After a nasty bug kept me away from 55th Street last week, it was good to see the dining room jam packed with celebs of all stripes. Everywhere you looked there was a famous face — Kathie Lee Giffordwas first on the scene and did double duty. She had a glass of wine at the bar with Eduardo Verastegui and then joined the party celebrating Charlene Nederlander’s birthday in the dining room. Between bites, she caught up with her former co-host  Regis Philbin, who was today’s most popular celeb among the high-wattage crowd and was nice enough to pose for a whole lot of pictures.

While waiting for my lunch date, I chatted with my Greenwich neighbor Kathie Lee about her kids (son Cody Gifford is graduating from USC Film School and Cassidy Gifford is graduating from high school). We both agreed that kids today are under more pressure than ever before and are being buried under mountains of homework (my first grader gets an hour’s worth every night). Kathie Lee told me her honor student daughter has passed up numerous opportunities to pursue her love of acting in order to keep her grades up in school.  But Kathie Lee has always made a practice of taking her kids out of school when there was an opportunity to experience something not found in books.  “I think that’s so important for kids. Some of the most important things I learned as a child I learned outside the classroom.  We’re not letting kids be kids.” I couldn’t agree more.

When Kathie Lee went off to join her pals, I watched the dining room fill up with plenty of boldface names, including Harold Ford Jr., Star Jones and late arrival Carl Bernstein. I grabbed Harold before he sat down to lunch to ask him what he thought of the heat the president is getting from his opponents for his secret trip to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden. “I think the race will pivot on the issues of the economy and jobs,” he told me. “But I’m all for defining what the ten year plan with Afghanistan will be. If there’s one thing that both republicans and democrats agree on it’s getting out of Afghanistan. If the media wants to blow up one issue, that should be it.”

Eduardo Verastegui, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin

I was joined today by Bernard Clair, one of Manhattan’s most sought after divorce lawyers among the one percenters. Bernard grew up on Long Island, attended Adelphi University on an athletic scholarship, and graduated from St. John’s University School of Law. Bernard and his law partner penned what came to be regarded as the definitive book on the legal issues facing couples who decide to live together, Love Pact.  In a bit of fortuitous timing,  Bernard met famed matrimonial attorney Marvin Mitchelson whose claim to fame at that moment was creating ‘palimony’ and found himself handling the Mitchelson’s New York based cases by the ripe old age of 30.   Bernard, who has consistently been named one of the city’s “Best Lawyers” by New York magazine, has handled plenty of headline-making cases, representingCarolyne Roehm, Georgette Mosbacher and Jocelyn Wildenstein (aka The Cat Lady) when their marriages imploded.

There’s been so much talk about celebrity hookups and uncouplings lately that I hardly knew where to start, so I decided to jump in with deconstructing the upcoming Brangelina nuptials. “I’m sure there’s a 500-page pre-nup,” Bernard speculated, “which makes sense when there’s 1,200 kids in the mix. I have no doubt in the world that the timing for the wedding will depend on when the prenup is executed.” On the Kim KardashianKris Humphries 72-day publicity stunt wedding, Bernard offered this: “She’s not necessarily upset it’s being held up because of his claim of fraud that he was bamboozled. It’s keeping her name in the papers.” As for the hapless basketballer’s hopes of getting his $2 million ring back, he can forget it. “You never get the engagement ring back.” Oh, well. Better luck next time.

In this 24-7 media age, there are a whole new set of issues when it comes to celebrity divorces, Bernard told me. Namely, the unwanted attention these cases draw to the children of high-powered couples. “Most courtrooms are open to the public. The idea is Jeffersonian, but divorce law was not part of Thomas Jefferson’s ideals. Today, the open courtroom brings kids into the fray, because the media covers every aspect of these cases and that includes kids. Everything is grist for the mill.” Bernard’s suggestion for a legal remedy: “I think we should revisit the idea of closed courtrooms for the most contentious divorce cases.”

Bernard, who grew up seeing a steady stream of stars come and go in his childhood home in Manhasset, (Dad was a writer on The Howdy Doody Show!  and Bernard hasfond memories of seeing television icons like Rod Serling in his living room), says there’s no question that celebrities get special treatment in the courtroom. “They do treat the high-profile people different than the civilians,” he explained. “Celebrities go to the head of the line; clerks tend to help them more because they want to talk to them. And, when there’s issues to discuss like visitation, a celebrity might get a half hour to talk about whether 3 pm or 3:15 is the best time, but a judge isn’t going to give a civilian the same amount of time to talk about things that are important to them.” See, Us Weekly is wrong. The stars are definitely not like us.

Diane Clehane and Bernard Clair

When it comes to folks who are just plain rich, it comes down to the advantages that the “moneyed” spouse has over the soon-to-be ex. “The non-moneyed spouse is more dependent on the legal system for justice.” The lesson here: Hire the best divorce attorney you can afford.

As for those news reports in recent years of an increase in the number of couples staying together because it’s too expensive to split up in a recession, Bernard is not buying it. “It’s a very personal decision,” he said. “But mostly I see clients who, when they catch their husband or wife with someone, can’t live with that and want out regardless of their financial situation.”

And the scariest of all celebrity divorces are not those involving A-list actors or athletes; it’s those headline making spilts involving a straying politician (Mark Sanford comes to mind) that can go completely nuclear. “The fear of exposure is a lot less for celebrities than it is for politicians,” explained Bernard, “because with a politician it can really ruin a career.” But at the end of the day, when it comes to divorce, “Nobody comes out smiling. When you’re divorcing it’s like doing a delicate operation with a sledgehammer and a saw.” Ouch.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. & 2. Eva Mohr and Kathie Lee Gifford (plus, one of the biggest collections of Chanel suits I’ve seen in one place), celebrating Charlene Nederlander’s birthday. Best wishes!

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Betty Sue Flowers, the former director of the LBJ library and lady love for former Senator Bill Bradley. Joe tells me he’s about to take off for his native Texas to deliver some commencement addresses. First stop: Trinty University. Brilliant!

4. Henry Schleiff and Regis Philbin. A little birdie told me Reege got a call from his wife, Joy, during lunch to tell him his pal David Letterman was looking for him and wanted to invite him to come on tonight’s show. The man is in demand!

6. Fox News’ Eric Shawn

7. The lovely Joan Jakobson and pals

8. A Fox 5 reunion: ex-colleagues and longtime pals Lynn White and Penny Crone

9. Star Jones, rocking a chic black and white ensemble with a well-dressed gal we didn’t get to meet

10. Isaac Mizrahi and legendary model Carmen Dell Orefice, who is still rocking the catwalk at 80. We salute you!

11. Producer Desiree Gruber (Mrs. Kyle Maclachlan) and UBS’ Aryeh Bourkoff

14. TV titans Matt Blank of Showtime and former HBO head Michael Fuchs

15. Agent Ed Victor, looking dapper in his navy window pane plaid suit, with Carl Bernstein. When I went over to say hello to these literary lions and inquire if they might be dishing about a new book from Carl, the gents were mum on details except to say that there is “always” something new in the offing. “Watch this space for more news,” Ed told me. Will do.

16. Bernard Clair, Lisa Linden and yours truly

81. Estee Lauder’s Alexandra Trower

17. Father and son Alan Patricof and Mark Patricof

18. Would love to have been a fly on the wall for this one: media multi-tasker extraordinaire Jack Kliger (he’s Alpha Media’s executive chairman and TV Guide‘s acting CEO) and Bob Guccione, Jr. Bob tells me he’s cooking up several new projects. With Jack as a lunch date, this goes without saying, no?

20. My pal, producer Joan Gelman, and Joan Hamburg

21.  Quest‘s Chris Meigher and two elegant looking gals we didn’t recognize

23. Harold Ford, Jr. and George Ackert

24. Ad man Martin Puris (It was Martin who christened BMW “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” in case you didn’t know). I wonder what he thought of the eyebrow-raising scene in this week’s Mad Men? We’re still traumatized for poor Sally.

25. Hudson Yard Real Estate’s Jay Cross

26. Attorney Michael Kassan

27. Lucianne Goldberg, Bonnie Dudley and two other power gals who must have had plenty to celebrate judging by the wine and martinis being hoisted over lunch. Cheers!

28. Dan Neely

29. Steve Blacker

Faces in the crowd: The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein who temporarily admitted a female pal into their boys club for today’s lunch in the Garden Room … Us Weekly‘s fashion maven Sasha Charnin Morrison (long time, no see!) and Michael McCarty‘s wife, Kim McCarty, chatting with friends at the bar. See you next week!

Please send comments and corrections to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.