Oscar Has A Fly On The Wall

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It Just Isn’t Fair; Without a Certain Magazine Bash, Oscar Parties Lack That Special Vanity

The Washington Post
February 26, 2008
Hank Stuever – Washington Post Staff Writers; William Booth

If nature abhors a vacuum (not that anyone in this town knows what a vacuum is), does Hollywood abhor the absence of a Vanity Fair Oscars party? Oh, stop the whining. So what if it feels like a school night? We’re still crashing, whatever we can, however we can. Party reporters can’t spell “pride.”

The Governors Ball is held in a mall, we discover. It is at the Kodak Theatre, but not in the Kodak Theatre. So there is no valet. Instead the guests arrive by . . . escalator. At the entrance, a rope line of photographers, but no fans, no screaming, no wop-wop of papacopters overhead. We are disoriented.

Inside the ballroom hung with bubble lights, people are sitting at the tables . . . eating. We cannot believe our eyeballs. You do not go to an Oscar party with George Clooney and Diablo Cody to eat. Food. Oh, let’s see, I’ll start with the root vegetables, please. Not on our watch. But wait staff are rushing by holding aloft platters of — we are not hallucinating — baked potatoes. It doesn’t matter that they are Yukons wrapped in gold foil by Wolfgang Puck’s own paws. It’s still wrong.

We are relieved to see that Marion Cotillard is not dining, either, because she is standing there emitting positrons, her Oscar held tight, squealing into a cellphone in French. Talk about the city of angels.

Hello to Jon Stewart, who’s working the room like a U.N. messenger of peace in Chad. Reaching, touching, nodding. Mr. Empathy. We pip: Well done, bro! “I think it was fun — was it?” Stewart says. We have no idea. Perhaps the host can review his performance on YouTube. “No, I don’t think so. No, that won’t happen,” he says. “No.”

We bump into the kid from “Superbad” at the bar, Jonah Hill, and wonder, aren’t you in high school? But apparently, he’s like 24, and is asking the bartender all these detailed questions about his vodka choices. And speaking of children, there are children here. Why? Some of them are running around in little tuxedos. The vibe: your cousin Brian’s wedding. Hey, Uncle Donny, try the ham.

The Reitman Mega Family has commandeered a table in the center of the room; there’s father Ivan “Ghostbusters” Reitman and, hiding somewhere, Jason “Juno” Reitman. Says the elder: “I’ve lost my son.” We do our best Daniel Plainview/Daniel Day-Lewis imitation: “You’ve abandoned your boy. You’ve abandoned your boy.” Ivan looks at us, and he has these wonderful buckteeth, quite the curious beaver, and he says, “What?”

We find Jason down on his knees beside the chair of his Best Original Screenwriter, Diablo Cody, and they’re sharing a very private moment, and while they’re sharing a private moment, we are comfortable staring at the tattoo on her shoulder, which is a pinup girl in a red bikini. We get out a crisp $20 bill and . . .

Blocked by Julian Schnabel. Everywhere we turn. Like a fullback for the MoMA Abstractionists. The painter and the director of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is saying, “I’m always painting. Even when I’m not painting.” We scribble even when we’re not scribbling.

Clooney attends. Crowd parts. His tie is off, shirt open, we’re looking for his girlfriend, Sarah Larson, but where is the shy minx? Schools of pretty women in colored gowns circle The Clooney like hungry reef fish.

Wandering along now, seeking more. Josh Brolin, check. Javier Bardem, check. There is a traffic jam over at the Coen table, which is piled with golden idols, like some kind of altar to Sid Mammon, one of the agents over at Endeavor.

Plenty of room at the bars. No crush. No line. Which isn’t really a good thing, is it? At a good party, you gotta fight for a drink. Here comes DDL express delivery. “Watch out for the Daniel Day- Lewis train!” someone calls out. They’re all holding hands. He is a very angular man. Abe Lincolny, but with earrings. And as he goes by, people pet his arm.

All this is happening in the center of the room while along the walls there is a tremendous munching sound. The platters of spuds are being replaced with rare slabs of Wagyu beef to the many Tables of the Ancients. We’ve found the Country for Old Men. Who are you? Producers and players from Oscars past, in their pastures, grazing contentedly. We’re thinking if you shouted “G-49!” one of them might say “Bingo!”

Way in the back we find, naturally, the writers, hunkering down over their chocolates like naughty schoolboys. And we’re not kidding about the boy part. In their tuxedos, the entire writing staff of “The Daily Show” looks like a gay men’s chorus. Anyway, we buttonhole decades-long veteran Oscar joke-writer Bruce Vilanch, who says he thinks the night went well. Vilanch thinks Stewart made history by inviting Marketa Irglova back to the podium after the orchestra blocked her acceptance speech for her song “Falling Slowly.” “That was a first,” Vilanch says. His other impressions? “I kept thinking, when are some Americans going to win?”

Amy Adams has fantastic shoulders and little teeth.

We go outside to find the restrooms and along the way there’s a sign that reads “SMOKING.” We peek in. There is the coward Casey Affleck and the preacher boy Paul Dano and Viggo Mortensen, who is wrapped in a flag that reads, we think, “Una Passion.” Viggo is still talking up his director, David Cronenberg. Is “Eastern Promises” your favorite film? “I think it is a great, great film, and David Cronenberg — I love him. I think he’s a genius.” It is 10:28 p.m. In years past, we would be idling in the valet line to get into the Vanity Fair party, but at GoBa? They. Are. Serving. Coffee. Swear to God.

At 11:02 we’re following the dead-enders out the door when we spy John Travolta. We have been looking for the Vulcan all night. The hair. We can now confirm: It is like a velvet helmet, like hair, but better, smoother, more protective.

Another scene, the Elton John party, held in Taj Mahal-size tents outside Pacific Design Center off Melrose. Ever the pessimists, we gird ourselves for letdown.

It’s the 16th year Sir Elton has done this, and good on him. People donate thousands of dollars to the Elton John AIDS Foundation (a record $5.1 million was raised this year, organizers said) and for that they get seats at the dinner and they watch the Oscar telecast. Later, the guest list expands and there’s a concert featuring Elton on piano and assorted guests on everything else. There’s always an auction — Sharon Stone this year donated her black ’74 Corvette — way to make room in the garage! Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have custom-designed pairs of sparkly Chopard sunglasses. Yours, for a song!

A publicist leads us past the scrum of photographers, who stare at us with what Eric Carmen called “Hungry Eyes.” We brace for the worst, only to get in and find . . . fun! Strong drinks! Patty Hearst!

She’s sitting with her BFF, John Waters. We are immediately moved to tell Patty and John about a funny coincidence: In college, we did term papers on each of you. We did one on Patty for our “Women in American History” class, and one on John for a mass media class.

“That’s very sweet, thank you,” Waters says, “but neither one of us went to college.”

Patty nods.

“Well,” we say, deciding to gnaw a bit on our own foot, “Patty started college, but was sort of taken away from college.”

Oops. Pardon us. And that, friends, is how not to get the ball rolling.

Elton is onstage, and the giant TV screens keep showing us his banger-sausage fingers working their magic on the ivories. It’s louder than loud. He’s singing “I’m Still Standing” with Jake Shears, the lead singer of Scissor Sisters who was all the rage (a few years ago). Shears is wearing a radioactive yellow suit, perhaps worried about not being noticed. Next, better, Mary J. Blige, who joins Elton on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

We plop down on a sofa and are suddenly aware of being watched by a tiny man in a white suit — hey, that’s Prince. Hello, Lovesexy. He’s with three women and a few security guards — a bevy and heavies. He nods along politely to the music. Um, shouldn’t he be at his own pad, getting ready for the private after-party he always throws? We know “Atonement” star James McAvoy is going . . . shouldn’t the Purple One be popping some Trader Joe’s in the oven, lighting candles in the powder room? He must. He gives the signal and the group leaves, the minute Elton’s concert is over.

But the party here goes on . . . and on . . . longer than Elton has ever gone. Harrison Ford is at an empty table with Quincy Jones. People keep coming up to Ford to shake his hand and tell them how much they love him. He smiles and nods, languidly, sweetly. He saves fast moves for the action movies. He’s happily slow, while his partner, Calista Flockhart, ventures around the room, stopping to gab with Heidi Klum.

(Heidi has changed, from the bright red Galliano she wore to the Oscars and donated to charity, into a shimmery silver number cut down to here and up to there. How and where does this happen? Why don’t they auction off the opportunity to be in that limo while the changing occurs?)

Cotillard arrives with her Best Actress Oscar and still more French people around her. She’s still crying. We lean in and say: Buck up, mon petite fleur! Do it for the love of your country. She looks puzzled — “eh?” — and then she is pushed toward a sweaty Sir Elton himself.

Simon Cowell is at the bar, perfectly pleasant, in a slate-blue sport coat and a white shirt unbuttoned to his . . . it does not appear buttoned at all. It just disappears into his pants. Guys: Do not go out like this. We’re for buttons.

That’s about it, we think, reaching for a tiny grilled mascarpone sandwich and a side of truffle fries, only to be blocked by . . . Tim Allen?

The night wears on. Every conversation goes like this: Where next? Whose house? Who’s invited? The answer keeps coming back: shrug. What is this thing called privacy? These “private” parties? What are these places the stars keep referring to as “my house” or “Guy Oseary’s house” or “Prince’s house”? Do they mean those places you see pictures of in magazines? Those places written up in real estate ads as “perfect for entertaining”?

VVIPs went to a Harvey Weinstein party at the terribly, terribly private SoHo House temporary location in West Hollywood. (The SoHo House is a members-only London club with a New York location. Clubs are the new biospheres. Soon, the SoHo House will open permanently in L.A. and, according to the Image section of the Los Angeles Times, the initial membership will be limited to between 500 and 1,000 people. What’s next? Cloisters?)

So people went to Prince’s house. People went to whatever Madonna threw together. They went where their good friend Clooney told them he’d be, later. No, after later. Later than later. Even on Monday afternoon, we imagine people are still being driven to even more private parties, parties we haven’t even read about on Nikki Finke’s blog. Now they’re at pretend parties, and you still are not invited.

There’s a grab for the gift bags now at Elton, a little after midnight. It’s the endo, Friendo — even though Amy Adams just got here, followed not too far behind by Amy Ryan.

The bag contains a tin of chocolates, a candle, a Chopard pen, some Patricia Wexler line filler for lips and eyes, and some C.O. Bigelow body wash. You’d think it was filled with Sid Mammon, judging by the crush. We head for the hedge-lined tunnel marked “EXIT.”

Ross the Intern, that nelly roving reporter from “The Tonight Show,” is out here, really scrounging, kinda cute in his tuxedo with the frilly ’70s-prom shirt. They wouldn’t let him in the front door, so he’s working the valet line, “and I’m stunned they haven’t arrested me.” People are more interested in Ross than they are all those “Bourne Ultimatum” sound guys, who are leaving with actual Oscar statuettes.

It’s that sort of night. Even the sheriff’s deputy seems bored. “I usually work Vanity Fair.”

Brother, you said it.

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