LOS ANGELES—“If this was New York, we’d say, ‘Get the fuck out of here’—but you can’t do that here,” said Jack Cabasso. “I’m flying out tonight, and I can’t wait to get home.”
It was the day before the Oscars, at the Beverly Hilton, and Mr. Cabasso, the executive V.P. of Mario Badescu, wasn’t taking crap—especially from a drunk blonde claiming to be Depeche Mode’s stylist. She had swooped in and grabbed a bright green gift bag filled with skin-care products. He made her return it. “I’ve already given away $30,000 worth of product, and she’s not getting any,” said Mr. Cabasso. The woman came back in the room just to scream at him.
In the public and private spaces of Los Angeles in the week before the Academy Awards, the veneer of on-ness wore thin so very quickly.
Over in the Stuart Weitzman suite at the Hilton that same day, the designer’s publicists, Roger and Lynn Neal, were closing up shop when a woman swept in with two dresses in garment bags. “This is for the Elton John party tomorrow and then Paul Haggis’ party on Monday,” she said. “Are you dressing someone?” asked Ms. Neal. “No, it’s for me,” the woman replied. “I’m Jenny McShane. I was in Crash.”
Well, not according to IMDb.com she wasn’t. Ms. Neal asked: “What’s your shoe size?” “Nine,” Ms. McShane replied. “Sorry, we’re all out of nines and 10’s,” Ms. Neal said. “We’ve only got fives and 11’s.” Ah, the brush-off.
Earlier that week, Estée Lauder’s private spa was set up in a penthouse at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The young and handsome Dr. Jay Calvert would have done anything short of surgery. “I have to do a face-lift tomorrow,” Dr. Calvert said. “It was already scheduled, and there was nothing I could do. But I’ll be back here on Wednesday. Or come to the office anytime you want anything done,” he said.
Because, yes, at the 15 or so beauty suites around town, even Botox and Restylane were being offered, all gratis. The Platinum Guild International suite at the Mondrian, loaded up with $12 million worth of jewelry and a menu of top-tier beauty services—along with sandwiches and pasta salad from Asia de Cuba downstairs—sent chauffeur-driven Jaguars to pick up guests.
Tuesday night, the parties started in earnest. At the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, held at the Beverly Hills Post Office, a familiar-yet-out-of-place face took the red carpet. “Sasha! Sasha!” the photographers screamed.
Olympic skater Sasha Cohen wore her silver medal, a black empire cocktail dress and a publicist. “I just got back from Turin last night at 11 p.m.,” Ms. Cohen said. “I love the attention of the media and Hollywood.” By the end of the week, she might even have gotten her fill.
Over at the GM Ten bash—a giant tent in a parking lot in Hollywood—the guest list was closed. But the gates were swiftly opened when Paris Hilton arrived with an entourage of eight, including her sister Nicky. “Is it cold out?” Ms. Hilton asked loudly to no one in particular. It was 52 degrees.
Wednesday at the Four Seasons, Kwiat, the New York–based diamond purveyor, hosted an early-evening cocktail party.
Marcia Gay Harden was there, requesting a glass of red wine from a solicitous server. She gave advice learned during her Oscar-week experience two years ago with Mystic River, when she was seven months pregnant. “You’ve got to just throw your head back and know you’re steering the boat. Enjoy, don’t judge, and have a great time. There are lots of parties, and it can be overwhelming, but you have to pick and choose,” Ms. Harden said. “The most challenging thing is finding the right gown, and navigating in four-inch high heels. I’ve been four times, and it’s fun and wonderful.”
This year, she would be watching from Elaine’s.
Shaye Strager, who does style on WCBS, was also in from New York. She said she came out with $16 million worth of jewels, mostly men’s watches, for her celebrity clients. She wore a huge antique citrine ring with rose-cut diamonds from Seven.
“I always dress Denzel and Pauletta,” Ms. Strager said, referring to the Washingtons, and meaning she supplies them with jewelry. “But I met Philip Seymour Hoffman on the plane on the way out, and now I’m setting up an appointment with him on Saturday. He was in first class, but I met his sister and some of his other family in coach, and she said she would hook it up for me. I didn’t want to be too pushy and set it up then, but she told me to call her and she’ll tell me where he’s staying.”
Thursday was the biggest party night of the week until Oscars. The Estée Lauder cocktail, the Stuart Weitzman dinner at Christie’s, the L.A. Confidential gig at the Skybar, an Italian bash, the Tinseltown to Gotham party at the RegBevWil ballroom, plus an event hosted by a bona fide Oscar nominee, Charlize Theron.
That night in the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel ballroom, 600 guests were dancing. Word was that Lauryn Hill would perform, but instead there was a performance by Shanice. And then there was a tussle for gift bags.
“It was a feeding frenzy. Greedy, greedy, greedy; crazy, crazy, crazy,” said Jane Ubell-Meyer, president and C.E.O. of Madison & Mulholland, the gift-bag company who put together the products.
Another party upstairs had such a tight invite list and door policy that hardly anyone could enjoy the Zino Platinum cigars and open bars at the newly opened GM Penthouse, in the 1920’s-era front building of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Occupied for three decades by Caroline Ahmanson until her death last year, the penthouse is a 4,000-square-foot space with a huge wraparound terrace.
But, look, there’s a familiar face—someone from 24, whose arc has ended as Walt Cummings, the President’s chief of staff, who betrayed America to the terrorists and then hanged himself. As a result, the actor, John Allen Nelson, is now duking it out for pilot season.
“I’m working on a pilot right now called Vanishing. It’s about a Senator whose wife disappears, and I play the lead. I hope it gets picked up,” said Mr. Nelson.
Over in the heavily guarded Platinum Guild suite at the Mondrian, a beaming Brittany Murphy was being interviewed by blogger Perez Hilton. “I hosted this really cool event the other night,” Mr. Hilton said. “You should have come. It was the Moods of Norway fashion show.”
“This is such a crazy week,” Ms. Murphy said wisely. “There’s so much going on, but I’m happy to be here.”
Later, at the Diamond Lounge at the Petersen Automotive Museum—where the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in 1997—there was Sasha Cohen, dressed in a hot pink warm-up suit, cheerfully accumulating goodies from Von Dutch. Now she had her own camera crew and a producer, as she had become a special correspondent for Inside Edition.
“What other good suites have you been to?” she asked another guest she’d seen around at the events. “There’s one called the Luxury, or the Luxe, or something.”
“There’s the Luxury Lounge at the Peninsula,” said the guest, “but I didn’t make it over there, and there’s another one at the Luxe.”
“Have you been to the Estée Lauder suite?” Ms. Cohen asked. “I hear they were giving away free Manolo Blahniks!”
“Well, they are,” said the guest, “but they’re only for nominees.”
“We have to go,” Ms. Cohen’s producer said. “We have a show to do.”
Speaking of the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive, Geena Davis made an appearance there a bit later, wearing a brown hoodie and brown tennis shoes, her hair pulled back.
The day before, her stylist had given a $5,000 gift certificate to a hotel in Cabo San Lucas. But when she heard that celebrities were getting a $15,000 gift certificate if they showed up at the suite, she promised to bring in Ms. Davis. The gift was for four nights in an oceanfront suite, spa treatments, a bottle of Cristal, a five-course wine-paired dinner and a yacht tour.
“They were so excited about this,” said the hotel’s publicist. “Her manager kept calling today to make sure we were still here.”
“Geena’s manager called?” asked a bystander.
“Yes, yes. Several times,” said the publicist. “It’s so great. We’re thrilled. We told her stylist about it yesterday. We are so glad she’s actually here. This is so wonderful.”
Ms. Davis was posing for pictures nearby. And soon she is off for four nights in Cabo.
The Global Green party Friday night at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre in Hollywood was anything but earthy and egalitarian—even if you pulled up in a planet-loving hybrid, valet parking would only take cars belonging to those on a V.I.P. list. The only food in sight was Clif Bars—given out only if one purchased a $20 raffle ticket. The outdoor smoking area was barely larger than a prison cell.
Puffing away in the brisk night air were New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff and Michael Aston, the lead singer of Gene Loves Jezebel.
“I remember Gene Loves Jezebel,” said Mr. LeDuff. “They were cool. What nationality are you?”
“I’m Welsh,” said Mr. Aston, “but I’ve lived in L.A. for years. That’s what happens when you have a wife and four kids. We played last week in London.”
“Are you an American citizen then?” Mr. LeDuff asked.
“No,” said Mr. Aston, “and I won’t become one as long as George Bush is President. I hear you have to pose for your picture with a picture of him in the background, and I won’t do it.”
“Well, I used to live in Alaska in a treehouse with my wife,” said Mr. LeDuff. “She’s here. Amy. She does red-carpet stuff for In Touch.”
“My wife’s a writer,” said Mr. Aston. “It’s shocking how little they pay. A few hundred bucks for a story in the L.A. Times. The people who are at the touchstone of our culture, the writers, making starvation wages. I told her not to do it anymore. It’s not worth her time.”
Mr. LeDuff borrowed The Transom’s camera to take pictures of his rear.
On Oscar night itself, Norby Walters’ 16th Annual Night of 100 Stars black-tie Oscar-dinner gala was at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “Ernest!” cried the photogs on the carpet. “Mr. Borgnine!” they pleaded.
“Do you have any advice for the ladies, sexually, in Hollywood?” asked an Australian radioman.
“I’ve always said to the young ladies to be careful sexually,” Mr. Borgnine said.
“What are you up to now?”
“I finished four pictures last year and have three more this year.”
Then Mr. Borgnine stopped for an Asian television crew.
“Did you know you have a big fan base in China?” the female reporter asked.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to go to China,” Mr. Borgnine said.
“Do you have anything to say to our audience?”
“Stay well,” Mr. Borgnine said.
There at the Beverly Hills Hotel, at the bitter end of Oscar week, came a bit of realness. Out on the patio, actress Tracy Scoggins, of Dallas and The Colbys fame, glowed in an emerald green beaded gown. She chatted with an admirer.
“I told my date the only one I would leave her for is you,” he said. “Wow, Tracy Scoggins. Can I get a picture of us together? Here, I have a miniature Oscar with me. Let’s pose with this.” His date took the picture.
“I played Aaron Carter’s mom on Popstar,” Ms. Scoggins said. “It made me want to go home and log onto invitro.com.”
“I used to be a mortgage broker, but I came here about six weeks ago to be an actor,” the man said. “I also used to be a liquor salesman.”
“I was one of your biggest customers,” Ms. Scoggins said.
Jimmy in the Valley
“We were kicked out of our theater,” said a weary-looking Jimmy Kimmel, late on Oscar night. His show’s writers were juggling limes, and he sat near them on a beat-up couch in the basement of the El Portal Theatre, an old vaudeville house in seamy San Fernando Valley.
Normally, Mr. Kimmel’s five-night-a-week workplace is the glitzy El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood—right across the street from the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars.
“It’s one of the reasons we wanted to do the show in that theater,” Mr. Kimmel said. He had just wrapped taping on his first-ever post-Oscars Show, and had traded in his suit and tie for a bright red Lacoste jacket, jeans and socks. “We thought that on Oscar night we’d literally be waving big stars—like, ‘Hey, Jack Nicholson, come over here!’ And he would come right over to the theater. But the truth is, [the Oscar show] has a security area, and apparently our show and our staff does not meet security standards, so they kicked us out of our own theater. It’s crazy. We spent almost a million dollars moving our show five miles away.”
In a way, the El Portal was a fitting venue for what was quintessentially an anti-Oscar event. Mr. Kimmel’s guests on the show—Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Knoxville—ensured that there would be no stuffy self-seriousness or rambling thank-you speeches, but rather zany, circuitous antics and maybe a few fart jokes.
Seemingly immune to stress or anxiety, Mr. Kimmel said that as of Friday morning, no guests had yet been booked for his post-Oscar show.
“It just so happened that on Friday at about 6, Johnny sent me an e-mail, and I said, ‘Hey, do you want to come on the show on Sunday?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, O.K.,’ and I was like, ‘Thank God!’ And then Quentin said he would do it, and he’s been on the show a bunch of times, and those two know each other, so it kinda worked out perfectly.”
When Mr. Tarantino was asked about his biggest Oscar memory—he won Best Screenplay for Pulp Fiction in 1995—he told of how an intoxicated Courtney Love had attempted to use his golden statuette to clobber Mr. Tarantino’s dining partner, the journalist Lynn Hirschberg, who’d penned a famously scathing piece about Ms. Love in Vanity Fair.
“Basically, the adults are in the dining room, and we’re the kids in the kitchen,” Mr. Kimmel told his television audience earlier in the night. Still, Mr. Kimmel’s show, which debuted in 2003, averages 1.6 million viewers—and on Sunday, it pulled in 4.4 million.
But, like a kid, Mr. Kimmel hadn’t been invited to the Oscars, or to any of the pre-and post-show preening parties, such as the Governor’s Ball, or the Vanity Fair gala—where Mr. Tarantino headed after taping his segment—or the Chateau Marmont, where Lions Gate and the Crash crew toasted their upset victory.
“Oh, no, I was invited to one,” Mr. Kimmel said. “The Night of 100 Stars—the one that, like, Ned Beatty and Annette Funicello go to, if she’s still alive. It’s just a party some of the older people go to. I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway. I feel stupid going to those things.”
Not even an 11 o’clock shift at Vanity Fair?
“No, I definitely wasn’t invited to that one,” Mr. Kimmel said, crinkling his eyes. “I think I was invited to the Highlights magazine party at Chuck E. Cheese or something.”
Mr. Kimmel’s only brush with the awards season was on Saturday, when his girlfriend, the comedian Sarah Silverman, hosted the Independent Spirit Awards.
“It seemed much looser,” Mr. Kimmel said of the event. “It’s on the beach in a tent. And Sarah was really funny. I get more nervous for her when she does something than if I’m doing it myself. Sarah!” he bellowed, not moving or looking up. “ Saaarah!”
Ms. Silverman bounced over. She wore a long, navy trench coat, cargo pants, a blue scarf and purple Converse sneakers. She planted Mr. Kimmel a quick kiss, sat herself down on his lap and smiled a wide, precocious smile.
“It was fun. It was good!” She asked Mr. Kimmel his opinion of her hosting performance. “Wasn’t it good?”
“Yeah,” Mr. Kimmel said, affectionately stroking her pony-tailed hair. “It’s always funny to see what celebrities laugh about jokes about them, and which don’t. George Clooney had a very good sense of humor, and Matt Dillon—you know, he was distracted, or upset.”
Ms. Silverman scrunched up her nose. She picked a wayward particle off Mr. Kimmel’s jacket. “I think he was just thinking of something else. Although the camera is set right on you. You see that there’s a camera right there.”
Ms. Silverman had filmed her concert film Jesus Is Magic in this very theater. She lowered her voice to a husky drawl. “God, it’s so great to be back at the El Portal.” She slapped her hand against a concrete wall. “I didn’t realize how much I missed this girl,” she said.