Just from Jolson – Oscar 2005 Party Roundup
By Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn
|The new breed of Oscar viewing mega-parties have matured to the point that they challenge the Academy Awards themselves as a destination on Hollywood’s biggest night. Many actors and filmmakers of all rank passed on the hassles of getting tickets to the relatively small Kodak Theatre and the Governor’s Ball official after-party this year and , instead, opted for alternative black-tie, red carpet events that provide almost as much glamour, media exposure and schmooze value.“These parties are a lot more fun,” said Academy Award nominee James Cromwell (“Babe,” “I, Robot”), who is an Academy member and could get tickets if he cared to. Speaking from the Night of 100 Stars party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he said “It’s all your friends, all the people who have been at the Oscars over the years. When you are actually at the Oscars, you have just enough hope to be miserable.”
One viewing party is now the hottest event after the Academy Awards ceremony itself. Elton John started his viewing party as a place for his mostly-music pals to go to on Oscar night and benefit his AIDS Foundation. His after-party used to get thin as guests left for Vanity Fair and other parties. Now his viewing party costs $2500 a ticket if you can get one, and his after-party is considered the best around. After all, this year Sir Elton performed, as well as the Scissor Sisters.
Guests at Sir Elton’s soiree this year at the Pacific Design Center included Elizabeth Taylor, Salma Hayek, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Duran Duran, Christina Aguilera, and Ben Kingsley. And you just gotta love a party that throws the following group in the same room together: Al Roker, the Hilton sisters, John Waters, Sharon Osbourne and Beck. They feasted on sea bass and lamb at tables decorated with hot-pink Swarovski crystals glued on pink plastic balls.
As for the famed Vanity Fair party, several veteran party hoppers felt it has lost some of its sheen. “This party may have run its course,” one well-known actress said. “They keep their velvet rope so tight that it strangles all the fun and no one gets in. It’s done, though it will run on vapors for a few years.” A few folks managed to squeeze in though; we saw Paris Hilton, Marc Canton and Warren Beatty with Annette Benning.One of the best parties was the relatively new Celebration of Artistic Freedom bash at Robert DeNiro’s Ago restaurant. The charity gala, hosted by the city and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, was considered elegant, yet not pretentious. It attracted some serious names like Al Pacino and Martin and Charlie Sheen. Supposedly Leo di Caprio and Harrison Ford were coming, but we did not get a chance to see them before moving on. Best of all, most folks seemed to be more interested in dancing and drinking than googling names of people they just met on their smartphones, as you saw industry-types doing at other parties. The event benefited Amnesty International and the ACLU, so you can imagine the spirited political conversations that went on, actually a bit refreshing after the often mindless Hollywood chit-chat elsewhere.
All three of the above parties were in West Hollywood, which could now be called “Oscar Alley.” Also in the immediate neighborhood was AIDS Project LA’s party at the Abbey and Children Uniting Nations at the Factory. While it technically made them all walking distance, try asking an actress, or any woman in high heels and evening gown to walk five blocks. But that was the only alternative for party hoppers: closed streets, special parking lanes and hour-long valet waits made driving from event to event impossible, even with a limo. We spoke with the city manager for West Hollywood, one of the sponsors of the Ago party. He proudly noted that a press release had been released that no parking tickets would be issued that night, even for permit only areas. However with five 1000-plus parties within blocks, street parking was as scarce as fur at a PETA rally and he had no reply when it was pointed out that it was a Sunday anyway — when West Hollywood does not enforce parking.
Easier to reach was Norby Walter’s Night of 100 Stars at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which lived up to its name this year. In fact there were over 200 stars, mostly B and B-plus if you had to categorize, but as noted, everyone wants to put on their dancing shoes this special night. Among them were James Woods and Sean Young , but definitely not together, as well as, Cynthia Basinet, Elle MacPherson, Joan Severance, Larry Hagman, Lorenzo Lamas, Gary Busey and Edward Furlong.
Claiming the music industry crowd was the Children Uniting Nations Party at the Factory. Performers included Wycleff Jean, Chaka Khan, Rueben Stoddard and Greek superstar tenor Mario Frangoulis , with folks like Babyface and Paula Abdul in attendance. But they never really got the post-award actors as fire marshals shut the place down due to over capacity. In fact , Best Actor winner Jamie Foxx had to be cut off at the pass before he arrived so he wouldn’t have an awkward time at the crazed front door scene.
Part of the success of the alternative parties it is that actors feel, or their agents tell them, that if they are not a mega-star or nominated that year, they should not show at the Kodak even if they can wrangle the ducats. They don’t get much coverage and people wonder why they are there. Yet they are not about to sit home on Hollywood’s hottest evening when red carpet and photographers abound. More importantly , they get to schmooze with studio heads, producers and agents in a great social atmosphere.And imagine being one of the top TV stars: Emmys on the mantelpiece, ratings through the roof and A-list attention whenever you go out. No way are you going to stay home on such an electric evening. So parties like Night of 100 Stars sprung up originally catering to them and now attract celebrities from all mediums.
The best part is that you can get in to almost any one of these parties even if you are not Tom Cruise. They all have charity tie-ins and do sell tickets. Dinner, viewing seats (and of course, the goodie bag) for the various parties run into the thousands. However, entrance for just the after-parties can be downright affordable, even on an actor’s budget: the best deal this year being the Ago after-party running just $125. So start saving your money and we will see you at the Oscar parties in 2006!