The Monster’s Ball

It ain’t that easy,” said Artie Shaw.

The onetime King of Swing’s frustrated cry resonated in the chilly blue-lit air of the Vanity Fair Oscars party as the rich, the powerful and their facilitators rose from their chairs beneath the c avernous tent billowing beside Mortons restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Surrounding them were six eight-by-six-foot projection television screens beaming the dramatically solemn face of actor Kevin Spacey as he asked the audience at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood to honor those who had perished on Sept. 11 by standing for a moment in silence.

The crowd at Mortons-approximately 160 invited guests and members of the magazine’s staff-was miles away from the Kodak Theatre, but they stood, too: talk-show host Oprah Winfrey; media baron Rupert Murdoch; fashion designer Donna Karan and her new beau, Richard Baskin; model Marisa Berenson, whose sister, Berry Berenson, perished on American Airlines Flight 11; ABC newscaster Diane Sawyer; rocker Elvis Costello and his wife, former Pogue Cait O’Riordan; Tonight Show host Jay Leno; Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone; socialite Betsey Bloomingdale; actress Selma Blair; tech mogul Paul Allen; MTV Networks chairman Tom Freston, husband-and-wife actors Warren Beatty and Annette Bening; Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

Mr. Shaw, the World War II*era pop star who quit his bandstand to join the U.S. Navy after Pearl Harbor (as well as the former husband of both Ava Gardner and Lana Turner), tried too, but couldn’t quite make it. Now in his early 90’s, serially married to eight wives, frail and balding, he flailed in his seat until the guests sitting on either side of him helped him to his feet.

The show beneath the tent went on, but Mr. Shaw’s words resonated. Over the course of that star-studded night and the week leading up to it, the glamorous, rakishly confident Hollywood that Mr. Shaw had once symbolized could not seem to rise to its annual task. The Oscars are our State of the Union address-the one we actually watch-told through film clips, jokes, acceptance speeches, and the winks and leers of our elected celebrity Congress. It’s the night that Hollywood focuses all of its power on doing what it does best: laying its hands on what this country is feeling, dressing it up in a giddy, sexed-up package and beaming it to the world.

But this year, as Mr. Shaw said, it wasn’t that easy. Though this nation’s wounds have crusted over, there are still some frightening molten feelings bubbling beneath the surface of this country. And Hollywood just couldn’t seem to deal with them in the context of Oscar night. How could they? An entire continent separated them from the smoke and the grief, but also guilt. As one of the largest exporters of American culture, the studios have fed the hatred that has rained down on us from distant lands.

(When we asked Tom Hanks, the mayor of Hollywood, if the movie industry-since Sept. 11-was more self-conscious about its role as an exporter of American culture, Mr. Hanks replied that, while he was reluctant to make any sweeping statements about the industry, “I’m not absolutely certain it exists at the top echelons of the decision-making process.” But, he said, “at the creative level-directors, writers, actors-yeah, they’ve communicated that they have even more cultural clout than they thought they did.”)

Rather than attempt to reconcile the grief and distress and shame with the giddy topic of the night, the producers of the Academy Awards telecast did an interesting thing. With no hope of ignoring our national tragedy, they decided to both skirt it and, ultimately, localize it. When the evening’s host, master of homogeneity Whoopi Goldberg, descended from the rafters, she could have come down as a helmeted, Kevlared D-boy from Black Hawk Down . Instead, she dropped as a character from the most surreal movie of the year, Moulin Rouge . In her outlandish get-up, Ms. Goldberg joked that she was the original Sexy Beast , but there was no sexing up the beast that lurked in the national consciousness, and so when she referred to “the national tragedy,” she was referring to Mariah Carey.

Parts of the telecast seemed to work like a kind of virus-detection software, sending the unspoken but distinct message that the bad, sad stuff was in New York-a town that, coincidentally, Hollywood loves to hate come Oscar time. The telecast was so long because it was swollen with reminders that our city was where all the shit happened. We got our own moment of silence and our own film montage, which would have been much more pitiful if Woody Allen-who looked, on camera, about 30 years younger than his age-hadn’t turned into one of the true comic highlights of the evening. And when, at the end of the telecast, Ms. Goldberg honored New York’s Fire and Police departments, she did it by giving us her back.

Even before Miramax’s Shakespeare in Love wrested the Best Picture Oscar from DreamWorks’ Saving Private Ryan in 1999, the Academy Awards sweepstakes has been, in no small part, about New York’s insurgency in Hollywood’s domain and the chasm between the two coastal cultures. This year, that chasm felt unbridgeable. The Oscar campaigns were brutal and filled with finger-pointing. Yet the song remained the same, even if the singers were different. According to the Los Angeles Times , the Oscar publicity consultant for Universal’s A Beautiful Mind , which was co-financed by DreamWorks, was Tony Angellotti, the publicist who helped engineer the Oscar campaign for Shakespeare in Love .

In the days leading up to the Oscar telecast, Hollywood seemed to have abandoned any attempt at presenting a united front. The makeup was off, the daggers were out, and it was every woman for herself as Julia Roberts proved when, during her time at the podium, she tried to diss last year’s Oscar musical director Bill Conti for trying to play her off the stage; instead, Ms. Roberts ended up giving Reuben, Reuben star Tom Conti a poke in the eye. (Well, it was the first time we’d heard his name in quite a while.) Then the skinny white chick tried to co-opt the august and eloquent Sidney Poitier’s Oscar moment by announcing that she’d kissed the actor. Last we saw Ms. Roberts, she was hanging on Denzel Washington at the backstage photo op. Next year the academy should make her do those silly John Cameron Swayze newscaster bits that ran throughout the telecast. Donald Sutherland, get a new agent!

That hard-ass mentality was broached in a pretty remarkable piece of psychodrama at Miramax’s annual Oscars-eve party at the Mondrian Hotel. For years, the skit had been given at the majestic Regent Beverly Wilshire, the most grandly potted-palmed of Hollywood hotels, where Warren Beatty once kept his apartment. Now it’s at the Mondrian, before a group of studio executives that included Universal’s chairman Stacey Snider and C.O.O. Ron Meyer and Fox’s international president Jim Gianopoulos, as well as actors Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Neve Campbell, and directors Peter Jackson, Robert Altman and Baz Luhrmann.

For the last few years, Miramax has built the party around a series of skits that lampoon their films as well as the Oscar competition. For this year’s finale, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg donned gladiator costumes and underwent anger-management counseling at the hands of Ms. Snider, who was played by actress Christina Applegate.

Seconds into the one-act, Mr. Katzenberg removed his silly helmet, revealing a take-no-prisoners close haircut. Then he and Mr. Weinstein snorted and fidgeted onstage like two mismatched bulls as they ran through some eye-opening dialogue.

“First it was Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love , and now it’s all this backbiting about A Beautiful Mind !” Ms. Applegate (as Ms. Snider) told the two men.

“I swear on the life of my driver, I never said any of it,” Mr. Weinstein said to a big raucous cheer. “But Nash was gay wasn’t he?”

“Hey. Looking at you in that outfit, you oughta know,” Mr. Katzenberg told Mr. Weinstein, before reminding him: “I bought your company.”

“Yeah. In 1993 with Michael Eisner’s money,” Mr. Weinstein said.

“Lucky for you, back then he still had some,” Mr. Katzenberg retorted.

“Not that you ever saw any of it,” Mr. Weinstein said, referring to Mr. Katzenberg’s much publicized suit against his former boss, Mr. Eisner.

“Does it turn you on, when he talks dirty like that?” Mr. Katzenberg asked Ms. Applegate-as-Snider.

“Jeffrey, if you’re looking for a three-way, call Barry Diller.” “Ooooooh,” the crowd belched.

Then the two men broke the third wall. “Barry, I begged him to take that out. Honest to God, I begged him,” Mr. Katzenberg said to no one in particular.

“Michael, Jeffrey made me put that line in, I swear,” Mr. Weinstein said.

“Enough,” Ms. Applegate-as-Snider yelled. “Now look. This isn’t about you …. This meeting is about me. This weekend is about me. The Academy Awards are about me. It is all about me.”

Explaining that she was the daughter of a child psychologist and a marriage counselor, Ms. Snider’s doppelgŠ nger said she was going to use some of their therapeutic techniques. She asked the two executives to cuddle teddy bears.

“I don’t understand,” Mr. Katzenberg said. “We’re not married.”

“I know, you’re just …. ” The noise in the crowd made it hard to hear, but it sure sounded like Ms. Applegate said “fuck buddies.” Or maybe it was “butt buddies.” Either way, she has got to be one of the bravest actresses on this earth.

Again, the crowd made a noise that sounded like they’d been collectively socked in the gut.

Mr. Weinstein kept going. “Jeffrey, weren’t you married to Keanu Reeves?” he said, a reference to an old spate of spurious rumors that romantically linked Mr. Katzenberg’s DreamWorks partner, David Geffen, to the Matrix star.

“That wasn’t me,” Mr. Katzenberg replied. “That was the other guy.”

The crowd roared. Actor Kevin Pollak, who recently appeared in Miramax’s Project Greenlight series on HBO and has let the world know that he regrets it, saw a reporter taking notes on the skit. “Are you getting all of this?” he said. At one point, Mr. Katzenberg even said to his co-star: “Harvey, blow me.”

The two men eventually settled their differences and professed love for one another, but as they walked backstage, the audience soon learned that the skit was not over. “I think they believed us,” said Mr. Katzenberg. “Yeah, it’s a good message,” said Mr. Weinstein. “Peace in the kingdom.”

Though it was couched in humor, the message was clear: It ain’t that easy making movies. And before the weekend was out, Miramax would know that better than anyone.

The only semblance of that old Hollywood razzle-dazzle could be found at the Vanity Fair party on March 24. But even there, adjustments had been made to fit the tenor of times. Security has always been retentively tight at this event, but this year new heights were scaled. Invitees were issued a laminated pass bearing their name that they had to show at a series of checkpoints manned by stone-faced cops and headset-wearing facilitators. And before anyone could bask in the artificial light and adulation produced by 45 camera crews, they had to pass through a metal detector and photographer Ron Galella.

Once inside the door, guests were greeted by-an empty room. In past years, the dinner portion of the event had been held in Mortons dining room proper, which was later cleared of tables for the after-party. But this year, the dinner guests were seated in the tent which had been pitched adjacent to the restaurant. The guests included Star Wars creator George Lucas, author Salman Rushdie and his girlfriend with the Episode One name, Padma Lakshmi, producer Joel Silver, Paramount Studios chief Sherry Lansing, producer Robert Evans, model Cheryl Tiegs, who has been linked as of late to Vanity Fair ‘s Mr. Carter, and professional hobnobber Fran Lebowitz, who two days earlier had accompanied Mr. Carter and his children to Disneyland. Mr. Carter declined to elaborate upon the trip, though he did say that Ms. Lebowitz “loves children.” And free trips.

Mr. Carter and his crew had strived for a more intimate soirŽe this year, trying to insure that no more than 1,000 guests were at Mortons at any one time. There was also no live band this year or a separate dance floor, though a D.J. did provide an eclectic musical soundtrack for the evening, including at one point the themes from Taxi and Hill Street Blues . According to Vanity Fair sources, the DJ also played a few selections from a boxed set called Your Dad: The Soundtrack , a collection of 225 of Mr. Carter’s favorite songs, including a lot of Ink Spots and George and Ira Gershwin songs, as well as the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.” Mr. Carter had the CD’s custom-made and packaged-replete, he said, with a picture of him as a five-year-old-as Christmas gifts for his children.

When asked if he had scaled back because of the post*Sept. 11 mood or because he simply wanted to throw a smaller party, Mr. Carter said: “A bit of both.” Mr. Carter was, after all, the man who declared death of irony in the aftermath of Sept. 11, although on Sept. 25 he said: “That may have been a premature statement.”

“I wanted to make the party a little smaller and the dinner a little smaller,” he said. “It wasn’t subdued or anything like that because things here are back to normal.”

Well, almost. As they always do, the movie stars, pop stars and masters of the executive suite came in such numbers that anyone standing among them begins to feel numb to fame. The sight of Janet Jackson, wearing a crochet bikini top and a pair of pants that made her look like the most beautiful refrigerator repairwoman on earth, begins to appear normal, attainable even-like riding in one of those NASA planes that can simulate weightlessness for a few precious moments.

Yet, though the stars came, they seemed-with the exception of Sharon Stone and her husband Phil Bronstein-to be muting their charisma, as if they were unsure of how much fun they were allowed to be seen having. As Cameron Diaz put it when we asked if Hollywood was more or less fun than it was a year ago: “We’re holding steady,” she said. “It’s pretty much the same players, the same scenery, the same story.”

Of course there were moments of genuine emotion, as when Halle Berry won a trophy for Best Actress. Ms. Winfrey reacted to the news by standing at her table and pumping her fist into the air. Guests closer to her said Ms. Winfrey was crying and trembling at the news and didn’t stop until well after Denzel Washington had won his Best Actor Oscar.

“This is history,” said Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley, who along with actress Angela Bassett was among those who stood when Ms. Berry and Mr. Washington won their statuettes. Over his tuxedo, he wore a colorful iron cross on a long striped ribbon. It was, he said, the Commander of the British Empire medal that designer John Galliano had given him after being knighted by the Queen.

“It’s been a long, continuous prayer to get here,” Mr. Talley said. He looked genuinely moved.

And yet for all the good vibes that the Academy had created by giving Mr. Poitier, Ms. Berry and Mr. Washington Oscars, there seemed to be a bit of sublimation going on. Instead of resolving the feelings that Sept. 11 had created in the entertainment industry, the Academy had sewn up a problem that, quite frankly, should have been fixed decades ago. But the genuine poignancy of the moment made it easy to forget, for a few moments, the worries of these times-especially in the first few seconds of Ms. Berry’s 20-megaton freak-out. As she carried on, it was interesting to watch cynicism battle sincerity in the synthesized, controlled environment of the Vanity Fair tent. While half the guests seemed to be dabbing their eyes, the other half were rolling them.

But there was the feeling that something had changed. Take Michael Bay, the director of Pearl Harbor , a movie that treated Pearl Harbor as if it were a Gap ad. Asked if he could direct a war movie freighted with that much innocence in a post-Sept. 11 world, Mr. Bay looked slightly perturbed. “I don’t think that’s a fair question,” he said. “It’s hard to go back.”

Still, Mr. Bay acknowledged that the “the world has changed” and that “I want to do something edgy.” Among his next projects are I Am Legend , a last-man-on-earth story that, he said, will star Will Smith. “It asks the question `why do you want to preserve humanity'” even when there might not be any other humans around. And Mr. Bay said that “the reason Will and I like it, is because after Sept. 11, we found ourselves thinking what if someone blows up the East or West coast?”

The second the Oscar telecast was over, an elite team of staffers descended upon the tent to pull down canvas partitions that hid curvy couches and to roll away tables. Elvis Costello’s bossy wife-what do you expect, she used to be a Pogue-instructed her husband where to wait for her while she went to the restroom. At Mortons bar, spiky-haired Storytelling star Selma Blair, who’s twice been on Vanity Fair ‘s Hollywood issue cover, stood fielding compliments for her red spider web Versace dress which left very little to the imagination. “I am wearing underwear,” Ms. Blair assured The Observer . “I’m not that kind of girl.”

Ms. Blair had been seated next to Robert Evans at the dinner and she declared herself smitten. “Bobby Evans and I are getting married,” she said. No doubt fueling Ms. Blair’s ardor was her trip the previous Monday to Mr. Evans’ Woodland Drive home where Mr. Carter had been conducting small screenings of the documentary he produced about the former head of Paramount, The Kid Stays In the Picture , the name of Mr. Evans’ autobiography.

On March 21, The Observer had been permitted to attend one of those screenings, which began with drinks on the lush grounds of Mr. Evans’ home, just feet from the pool young Ali McGraw once threw herself into, marking the beginning of her love affair with Mr. Evans. In attendance were A Beautiful Mind producer Brian Grazer, actor Matthew Perry, who came in a pair of snow-white tennis shorts, Kate Driver, sister of Minnie, a producer of the documentary, and director David O. Russell. After Mr. Evans’ bowtied manservant passed out baby potatoes stuffed with generous dollops of caviar and sour cream, Mr. Carter had ambled out of the house in jeans looking like he owned the place, followed by the real owner, deeply tanned and wearing a black blazer over a white knit top with a zippered collar.

They had led the guests into Mr. Evans’ comfortably posh screening room-the one in which the producer suffered a major stroke while pitching a film to director Wes Craven-where each moviegoer found a small silver lunchbox filled with candy and emblazoned on with the movie’s title and one of Mr. Evans’ maxims: “Royalty fades. Infamy stays.”

Sitting there in their leopard and zebra print bean bag chairs, the guests watched the story of Mr. Evans’ love affair with film-and not just any films , Rosemary’s Baby , Love Story and The Godfather -Ms. MacGraw, and later, cocaine, it was quite easy to understand the siren call of Hollywood.

And wondering if it had gotten to Mr. Carter. In addition to The Kid Stays In the Picture , he was a producer of the documentary about the Sept. 11 attacks that appeared on CBS on March 10. Mr. Carter, already at work on a second documentary, the subject of which he wouldn’t divulge, called the confluence of his producing events “slightly accidental.” Mr. Carter’s boss, CondŽ Nast owner S.I. Newhouse has seen the documentary, and Mr. Carter said: “He appreciated it.”

And what of recent speculation that Mr. Newhouse was not happy that the editor of one of the jewels in his magazine crown was moonlighting as a producer? “Nothing,” Mr. Carter said, meaning that Mr. Newhouse had not said anything to him about it.

Show business is, if anything, infectious. Back at the Vanity Fair party, two beefy men grinned at each other with huge salesmen’s smiles. “Can you believe this is our business,” one said to the other. As the evening progressed, the celebrity contingent loosened up a bit, but never quite reached the giddy heights of years past. Some people didn’t even seem in the Oscar spirit at all, such as Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner, who were invited to Vanity Fair ‘s dinner, but apparently didn’t read the invitation close enough to notice. They showed up later in the evening to offer their apologies. Their daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow watched them arrive via one of the television sets in the tent, then went running to greet them as revelers jumped out of the way of the black blob-like train of her dress.

” Daddddyyyyy! ” she squealed upon seeing Mr. Paltrow.

In the passageway that connected Mortons with the tent, Warren Beatty spied Oprah. “Oprah!” he yelled. “Oprah!” making The Observer wish that Uma Thurman was in the vicinity. Best Actress winner Jennifer Connelly was playing it much cooler in the middle of the tent. When we asked the actress if there was a better natural high than winning an Oscar, she gave a us sly smile and said: “It doesn’t suck.”

Slowly, as the night wore on and alcohol sunk in, the tensions evaporated. Gotham magazine publisher Jason Binn ran at producer Joel Silver like he was a tackling dummy and, upon impact, yelled “Joel!” which did not seem to please Mr. Silver. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch and his wife rocked to the D.J. with Mr. Murdoch’s fellow countrywoman, Nicole Kidman. But later in the evening when we asked Ms. Kidman what her year under the microscope had taught her, she shrugged her shoulders, gave us a look that said, “You silly person” and told us: “I’m going to get something to eat. “

And at one point during the evening, media mogul Ted Turner came barreling through the crowd with a woman in tow. Did you see Mr. Murdoch, The Observer asked him? “Yes,” Mr. Turner replied.

Did you say hello to him?

“Yes,” Mr. Turner said, picking up speed.

Have you two patched things up, we asked.

“No,” Mr. Turner said before disappearing into the crowd where Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, natty in a suit, stood with a cell phone glued to his ear. Dancing rarely seemed to happen en masse, and usually it occurred to weird songs. The Grease theme and another song from that soundtrack, “You’re the One that I Want” brought them onto the dance floor, suggesting that the jaded Hollywood crowd longed for more innocent time. Actress Helen Hunt and Creative Artists Agent Steven Huvane did the Hustle to a James Brown tune. Mr. Rushdie and Ms. Lakshmi let their freak flags fly. And actress Juliette Lewis and her actress friend Sherri Rose got down and later, Ms. Lewis did the huck-a-buck with Minnie Driver. Even the Olson twins, Mary Kate and Ashley did some gyrating in their matching Versace black lace dresses. Amazingly, the girls had actually paid for the things. “We got a percent off,” said Ashley.

Back in Mortons proper, Ryan O’Neal was sitting at a banquette that included a graying Allen Grubman. At a banquette closer to the bar, Paul McCartney sat with former Electric Light Orchestra front man Jeff Lynne, sparking fears that there might be yet another incarnation of the Traveling Wilburys.

Just a few feet away, Janet Jackson and her entourage made their way to the door, only to be intercepted by a pudgy, leering Don Johnson who gave the pop star a big squeeze. Ms. Jackson seemed most interested in USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein who told Ms. Jackson: “We’ve got to do a film together,” before invoking the name of Barry Diller. Mr. Greenstein then got pulled away, and Ms. Jackson seemed genuinely bereft.

It was at least 1 a.m. when Mr. Howard and Mr. Grazer took their victory lap around Mortons

“Did you win something?” Ben Stiller said to the slight, spiky-haired Mr. Grazer whose Oscar seemed to weigh as much as its owner. “Here take it,” Mr. Grazer said.

At around 2 a.m., the power in the tent went out, twice during “Lady Marmalade.” ” Voulez vous coucher avec moi! ” screamed a male voice a capella. You could tell who the agents were in the crowd: they were brandishing lighters. Although magazine staffers say the outage was not intentional, many guests took it as a sign that it was time to skedaddle. Others took it as a sign to try to pair off with some hot young thing. At the bar at the rear of the tent, director Ed Burns and actor Owen Wilson seemed to be vying for the attention of model Esther Ca–adas who wore a sheer floral skirt slit up to her nether regions and it seemed a matching thong. And Ms. Ca–adas was loving it.

A little farther down the line, actor Mel Gibson seemed to be conferring with the inner ear of Sports Illustrated swimsuit Issue model Audrey Quock. Earlier in the evening, Ms. Quock, who’s a real Asian beauty, drew the attention of actor Mickey Rourke, even though Mr. Rourke seemed to have actress Daryl Hannah in tow. And in perhaps the scariest matchup of the evening, Friends star David Schwimmer paired off with AmŽlie star Address Tautou, raising concerns that they might produce a mime with hangdog eyes.

When the lights went on at 2:15, Mr. Gibson was still at the bar with Ms. Quock.

Outside, among the crowd of celebrities waiting for their cars, Salman Rushdie, pursued for years by the nation of Islam, seemed to find some sanctity on Melrose Avenue. He wrapped his arms around Padma Lakshmi.

“I’ve got to stand here and wait for the car when I didn’t fucking want to take it in the first place,” said Mr. Rushdie. He snuggled Ms. Lakshmi in his arms in the chill Los Angeles air.

And across town at the Peninsula Hotel, the mood at Miramax’s small, exclusive after party in the ground-floor Veranda room was understandably subdued. The Weinstein brothers had been virtually shut out of the major Oscars derby, with only Iris co-star Jim Broadbent winning for Best Male Supporting Actor. But Harvey Weinstein roamed the suite looking disheveled, but relatively calm and chatting up the guests. Mr. McCartney had stopped by, as had Ms. Thurman and her husband Ethan Hawke. In the Bedroom director Todd Field was lounging on one of the large sofas that were arranged around the room. So was E/R star Goran Visnjic.

In the past, Mr. Weinstein has provided The Observer with a post-mortem of the Oscar festivities. But this year, he kept his comments brief and delivered them through his spokesman Matthew Hiltzik. “He was really happy for Jeffrey,” Mr. Hiltzik said, referring to Mr. Weinstein’s skitmate, Mr. Katzenberg, whose studio had taken home Oscars for Shrek and had co-financed A Beautiful Mind . “He’s doubly proud for Jeffrey.”

And Mr. Hiltzik added: “It proves again that the films and the performances really speak for themselves.”

Shortly after 3 a.m., the lights went on in the Veranda room. But Sir Ian McKellen was not through having fun. If there was any justice in the world, Mr. McKellen would have gotten the Oscar for his portrayal of Frankenstein director James Whale in 1998’s Gods and Monsters , but he had been denied then, and on March 24 he was denied for his portrayal of the Wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings .

But Mr. McKellen did not look the least bit melancholy as he and his slim-hipped, long-haired boyfriend Nick Cuthell-who had gotten one of the money shots on ABC Sunday night, showing the United States and its cultural recipients around the world what a really good-looking boyfriend should look like-swayed together near the breakfast buffet to the D.J.’s last songs. The two men seemed oblivious to the outside world, to the guests leaving the party, to the bartenders packing up. Outside the stars shone weakly in the cold Los Angeles night. The air smelled of night-blooming jasmine. Inside, the two men embraced tenderly and danced away the remains of the day, as if they were the last men on earth.