Politics were on the menu at Michael’s today. In the wake of last night’s Democratic debate, we heard plenty of talk about the stark contrast between the tone of the Democratic showdown and the Republican smackdowns. “It’s heartening to know there’s still some civility among some politicians,” observed one media maven who watched the CNN broadcast hosted by Anderson Cooper (who seems to have garnered universal praise for keeping things moving). Another one quipped: “The best part of the whole thing was there was absolutely no sign, at least physically, of Donald Trump.”
I was excited to sit down with longtime Democratic boosters Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman to get their take on the debate. Both have successful, busy careers—Joan is a writer-producer who is currently working on a series of projects in Canada and Robert is co-founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson, a Long Island-based public relations/advertising firm specializing in national and international media relations, branding communications and crisis management. Yet he still somehow manages to devote an incredible amount of time and energy to volunteer on Democratic campaigns. “My focus is my firm, but I’ve always had a great passion for political activism and have been fortunate to have an advocacy role in the Democratic national agenda.” Robert will be traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire for the caucuses.
Joan has hosted several Democratic fundraisers, most recently a swanky shindig in the Hamptons for Anna Throne-Holst, who, if elected, would be Suffolk County’s first ever congresswoman. Robert is a Democratic National Committeeman from New York and an in-demand political commentator who can be regularly seen on all the cable networks as a passionate and articulate (not to mention incredibly well-dressed) spokesperson for his party.
Fresh off this morning’s appearance on MSNBC with Tamron Hall, Robert summed up last night’s debate this way: “It was a turning point for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. [The candidates] demonstrated a great contrast to the Republican debate that looked like an infomercial for anger management therapy. Hillary certainly articulated a message and an agenda that expanded her base and showed presidential stature.” We all agreed she made the right call by eschewing the clichéd red power suit for I-mean-business-black.
When I asked him about Bernie Sanders‘ comments that blew up Twitter, in which he remarked that the American people “are sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton‘s damn emails.” Robert explained Sanders wasn’t giving her a pass. “That was a strategic play to elevate him. The Democratic party has no tolerance for Republican talking points.”
In addition to his spots on MSNBC and CNN, Robert will be sharing more of his insights during the campaign with regular appearances on Megyn Kelly‘s show on Fox News.
As for the other candidates’ performances, Joan observed: “[Martin] O’Malley is running for vice president and Sanders is the new Ralph Nader.”
When lunch arrived we digressed from all the political talk to dish on a whole host of off the record topics (Sorry!) and trade theater reviews. Fresh off her annual trip to London, where she always sees five plays in five days, Joan was raving about Imelda Staunton‘s performance as Mamma Rose in Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre. “She is absolutely amazing and is going win all the awards. She probably won’t do it here because (the producers) are only interested in movie stars.” Closer to home, Joan recommends seeing Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones in The Gin Game on Broadway. “They have to deliver all that dialog and put the right card down at the right time. It’s fabulous.”
By the time our plate of chocolate chip cookies arrived, the conversation had veered back to politics and I had to ask Robert what his thought were on Donald Trump‘s campaign. He had plenty to say. “There’s a big difference between getting hits on Twitter and getting votes and I don’t think Trump understands that.”
Robert also doesn’t believe the publicity-loving mogul is in it for the long haul. “Trump will get out when (the campaign) starts costing him really money,” he said. “So far, he’s only spent about $2 million and that tells me he’s not making a serious investment in organizations needed for the caucuses and primaries.” If he is the last man standing for the Republicans, Robert predicts: “If (Trump) is the nominee, the Democrats will win 35 states.”
While Joan and I both agreed we are truly horrified by fear mongering among some candidates and the reality show spectacle of it all, Robert remains optimistic about the future. “Never underestimate the decency of the American people. No one is going to be elected who wants to deport undocumented workers, who demonizes the gay and lesbian community, denies climate change is real and opposes programs to build the middle class.” Like they say on television, stay tuned.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. PR princess Peggy Siegal presiding over a table full of movers and mavens.
2. Fashionista Mickey Ateyeh
3. Anne Hearst McInerney
4. Jacqui Safra
5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Michael Kramer
7. Du Jour’s Jason Binn, schmoozing with three well-heeled influencers
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia
9. Actress Leesa Rowland
11. Andrew Stein
12. Married Sex author Jesse Kornbluth, who I ‘Lunched’ with last month, with Marshall Cohen and a dark-haired, well-dressed gal.
14. Fifties screen idol Tab Hunter (Damn Yankees). Yes, you read that right. That Tab Hunter. And he looked great!
15. Jerry Moss
16. Euan Rellie and two well-dressed folks we didn’t get to meet
17. Peter Price
18. LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden and her colleague Hannah Arnold. We were saddened to hear Lisa’s husband and partner, LAK PR’s CEO Lloyd Kaplan, who counseled government, business and non-profit leaders over the course of a career that spanned five decades, passed away last month. Our deepest condolences on your loss.
20. Dave Johnson
21. Norah Lawlor, Jennifer Gould Keil and another mystery power gal
23. CBS’ Jared Zerman
24. Martin Pompadur
25. Richard Farley
27. Robert Zimmerman, Joan Gelman and yours truly
29. Bookseller Glenn Horowitz
81. Haspel’s Laurie Haspel Aronson
Faces in the crowd: Sharon Bush walking through the dining room… Producer Beverly Camhe and Bill McCuddy. We wonder what this frequently spotted twosome is up to. Anyone?
We’ll be having ‘Lunch’ in our office next week to gear up for some serious celeb wrangling at The Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars. I’m in charge of the red carpet and since Meryl Streep, Justin Timberlake and Katie Holmes—among others—are expected, I can only take so much fabulousness in one week. See you in two weeks!
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.