“I find this environment disturbing, as someone who made a film that’s been nominated—because no one is paying attention to the awards,” said producer Hilary Shor, at the Oscar-viewing party at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons on Sunday, Feb. 25. She was seated at a chatty tableful that included self-proclaimed D-list comic Kathy Griffin, Page Six reporters Paula Froelich and Corynne Steindler and Men’s Health editor Dave Zinczenko.
Roughly three-fourths, or over three hours, of the Academy Awards had oozed by and Ms. Shor’s film Children of Men was having a rough night, dissed for best editing and adapted screenplay. In the moments leading up to the cinematography award, her film’s last shot at the gold trophy, the no-nonsense blonde kept both eyes intently fixed on one of the many flat screens in the hotel’s ballroom. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” called out Gwyneth Paltrow, wearing salmon Zac Posen and an asymmetrical curtain of blond hair. Ms. Shor immediately snatched up her cell. “So political, so fucking political,” she hissed into the phone.
“There goes our shot at getting into the Vanity Fair party,” said her friend, a money manager.
Oscar week in L.A. is famous for its luncheons, pre-parties, after-parties and after-after-parties. This year there were more than 40 Oscar-related events—and in some cases, the relationship was pretty tenuous. On Saturday afternoon, following the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, supermarket mogul Ron Burkle hosted a Giorgio Armani fashion show—complete with runway—at his Green Acres estate, attended by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, John Travolta, Katie Holmes, Leonardo DiCaprio and Quincy Jones, among others. There was the must-see Oscar weekend art show at Larry Gagosian’s outpost in Beverly Hills; this year Damien Hirst was the featured artist. And what would Oscar weekend be with out a few politically themed wingdings, like the third annual Global Green Pre-Oscar Party at the Avalon Hollywood? (Really more of a pre-pre-party, as it happened a full five days before the ceremony.)
And then there are the magazine parties, a drunken celebration of the long and queasy marriage between celebrities and journalism. This year GQ, BlackBook and Radar all self-indulged, with Entertainment Weekly, which usually confines its bacchanalia to the East Coast, also honoring Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth at the home of Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith in Hancock Park. “You have to do this kind of stuff as an editor now,” said Mr. Zinczenko, who didn’t throw a party himself but felt compelled to make his presence known throughout the week. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve probably make like 30,000 contacts and inroads,” he said.
“Of course I love all these parties,” said director John Waters, smiling deviously under his trademark pencil-thin mustache at the Spirit awards after-party on Saturday afternoon at the swank Shutters Hotel on the Beach in Santa Monica. “It’s where I’ll find all the stars to my next movie.”
Mr. Waters sticks to a strict schedule every year, he said, lest he be overwhelmed. “I go to Gagosian, I go to Independent Spirit Awards, I go to Vanity Fair and then I get on a plane and get the hell out of here.”
“The Oscars are a fuckin’ celebration of success,” said former winner Cuba Gooding Jr., also in attendance “You know, I have fun at these parties. You gotta do it.” The actor, wearing a nifty bowler hat tipped to the side, was in good spirits.
Is all the gallivanting hard on him? “No, never hard, unless the wife is around, then it gets real hard,” he joked. “No, it was harder when I was nominated. I felt I had an image to uphold. Now I’m just having a good time and I feel blessed to be working.” What about the enormous line of sunburned people desperate to get into Shutters? “You gotta start somewhere,” Mr. Gooding said frankly. “Fuck ’em.”
At the Miramax party Thursday night for The Queen and Venus, director Taylor Hackford (Ray), was enjoying being the “professional escort” for his wife, Helen Mirren. “The Oscars have always been a weird combination of marketing and art,” he said, standing at the Sunset Tower Hotel, where fleshy-lipped Jennifer Garner and her husband, Ben Affleck, were mingling along with Peter O’Toole.
Mr. O’Toole said things had changed since the old days. “Nobody gets as pissed as they used to,” said the actor, enjoying his eighth Oscar nomination for playing a lecherous old boozehound in Venus. “It’s much more boring.”
Three days later, the fans lining Hollywood Boulevard leading up to the Kodak Theatre on Sunday were feeling Mr. Gooding’s “Fuck ’em” attitude in a big way.
“Not a single celebrity rolled down their window,” complained a schoolteacher who’d been waiting on that hallowed street for five hours. (That might have had something to do with the demonstrators 50 yards away wielding enormous “Hollywood Loves Hell and Degenerates” sign.)
Security was the order of the day. And police had introduced a new exercise for the ride up, a labyrinth of cement blockades. “It’s a like an obstacle course for limousines,” said After Innocence producer Jessica Sanders, peering out the window of her car.
By 10:30 p.m., the crowd had reassembled along Melrose outside Morton’s for the Vanity Fair party. In the press pen along the red carpet here, celebrities hammed it up for the paparazzi and talked to reporters at length about everything from dieting secrets—George Hamilton avoids bread!—to the “craziest questions” they’ve been asked throughout what is basically a glorified press tour.
The Observer asked Quincy Jones what he felt about political content of the Oscars that evening.
“Oh, who cares about that?” he said. “But you can’t avoid it.”
“Hello, Vanity Fair,” huffed a disgruntled and uncomfortable-looking Elton John. He had come from his own annual party, which he’d cut short this year and positioned perfectly—just down the block—so that guests could filter to where the real action was happening.
This year, a new group joined the winners and nominees, producers and agents, pop stars and music moguls under the enormous, specially constructed white tent in the Morton’s parking lot: New York socialites!
“Hell yeah, we’re representing,” chirped Tinsley Mortimer. Around midnight she and fellow socialite Fabiola Beracasa were the only ones on the tiles dancing crazy-wild-super-fun style. “This is only my second time in L.A., it’s so great,” Ms. Mortimer said. “We got a driver ’cause I don’t even know where the hell I am right now.”
Smiles bloomed, conversation flowed freely, odd juxtapositions abounded. “Did you see that video of Britney Spears shaving her head?” The Observer overheard Al Gore ask a fellow reveler. “God bless her, I hope it helps.”
John Travolta passed by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs on the way to where Oprah Winfrey had set up camp, in the back corner of the room. He stopped in his tracks and Mr. Combs stopped what he was doing—talking about his custom-made gray-and-black shawl-collared tuxedo—and the two began a discourse in the celebrity style of gang-signing.
“I love you,” mouthed Mr. Travolta, whose beautiful wife Kelly Preston was behind him, and whose weave has seen better days.
“No, I love you,” Mr. Combs mouthed back.
Or were they saying “olive juice”?
“This acting is hard,” said Mr. Combs, returning to his conversation with Daily News gossip columnist George Rush. “I have a lot of respect for these guys, I’m humbled to be in their presence.”
Was Mr. Combs going to bring back his “Vote or Die” campaign, The Observer wondered.
“Yeah,” he said, looking over at Mr. Gore in the midst of a crush of celebrities including Mr. DiCaprio. “Why not?”
Around 2 a.m., Ms. Beracasa, festively clad in vintage Chanel, was planning her departure to the next event, Endeavor agents Patrick Whitesell and Rick Yorn’s after-after-party.
“You’re leaving?” she said, sidling up to producer Damon Dash. “O.K., great. Let’s go together so we can be photographed,” she purred.
Getting to the agent’s all-night rager in the Hollywood Hills involved first stopping at a checkpoint at the bar Privilege, to pick up a wrist bands and directions, or hop the shuttle.
The sprawling modern white house sat atop the hill overlooking Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles. It was packed with famous faces.
There was a dance floor upstairs and an enormous tent outside, under which revelers feasted on fresh-made waffles and eggs and beer.
Here was James Blunt dancing with an attractive blonde. “I want to dance with a real rock star,” she told The Observer later.
And there was Djimon Hounsou snuggling up to Cameron Diaz. “Oh, she’s gonna get some Black Snake Moan tonight,” hooted Vanity Fair writer George Wayne. Now Kid Rock and Brandon Davis were taking a little walk to another room, alone.
At around 4, Mr. Hounsou ran over to a bathroom, whose toilet was overflowing with toilet paper, punctuated by a black thong. “It’s sick, man,” he said. “But I’ve got to piss.”
It was like all of Oscar week: a big silly party.