At the Governors Ball, the Academy-hosted soiree that immediately follows the Oscars and gives all the winners a place to drink champagne on the (former) Kodak Theatre premises before they hit the Vanity Fair party, there are two kinds of bars.
There are the ones where bow-tie wearing servers pour glasses of chardonnay and mix cocktails the color of sea coral. And then there’s the Oscar bar, a wood-stained counter where anyone who has just won a coveted statuette can belly up and get his or her name affixed to the base of that trophy.
Christopher Plummer — Oscar winner for “Beginners” and self-described “naughty boy” — pulled up a seat and watched Academy technicians place the proper name plate on to his Academy Award using very thin, small screwdrivers.. (In case you’re wondering, plates with the names of every single nominee are engraved in advance, so that the Oscar “bartenders” only have to choose the right one and affix it appropriately. So Academy Award losers, know this: somewhere there’s a lonely little plaque with your name on it. And according to that plaque, you really did win an Oscar)
But when Meryl Streep swooped in to get her Oscar Streeped, cameras flashed to a seizure-inducing degree to capture the moment. The intensity only increased when Octavia Spencer, supporting actress winner, scooted in right behind her, gave the Iron Lady some hugs and conversed happily with her colleague. (Overheard during this discussion: Spencer asking Streep how well the fabric of her dress — the one that so resembled the shimmer of a well-earned little gold man — breathes.)
Indeed, it was a festive Governors Ball, complete with the usual supper club feel but minus the seated dinner, which made it easier to wind one’s way through the party and spot the stars.
There was Gary Oldman, entrenched in a deep conversation and eating appetizers with an exceedingly tiny fork. Several feet away, “Margin Call” director J.C. Chandor chatted up Jessica Chastain. This was an Oscar party, people, one so classy that even the celebrity sightings — Chastain and Chandor — were alliterative.
Michael Douglas had a whole posse of people around him, presumably not listening to a speech about how greed is good. Viola Davis may have lost to Streep, but she looked perfectly content to be tucking into some food while surrounded by friends, well-wishers and, perhaps, condolence offerers. The whole spirited French team behind “The Artist” also came by to get their multiple Oscars appropriately embossed.
And Billy Crystal, despite what critics online and sniping tweeters may have said about his performance, seemed to be soaking up positive vibes from the many congratulators who circled his table, including former senator and MPAA chair Christopher Dodd.
But when a member of the press approached Mr. Crystal, it was clear he wasn’t up for gabbing.
“I’m Jen Chaney from the Washington Post--,” this reporter began, at which point Crystal stopped making eye contact and implied that he was getting ready to leave. He politely offered a canned statement — “I had a really good time,” he said. “It was a great night for the Academy” — then dashed away as quickly as he could. Harry was not interested in talking to any Sallys. (You know, reporters who write about what happens to other people.)
Other Governors Ball attendees were willing to speak positively on his behalf, however. Attendees like Melissa McCarthy, who, with husband Ben Falcone, was more than happy to talk.
McCarthy said she thought Crystal did a great job, praising him for making the Oscars an entertaining show and “poking fun at people in just the right way.” (Translation: This Oscars was not hosted by Ricky Gervais.)
In fact, the “Bridesmaids” star’s only minor complaint about the whole night was that she, her husband and her parents — who came from Illinois for the ceremony — couldn’t find any room to sway to the Ball’s marquee entertainer, Tony Bennett.
“We went out there to dance, because when in your life will you have a chance to dance to Tony Bennett?” she said. “And everyone was just like--” At this point, McCarthy paused to demonstrate the hordes of party-goers who crowded the stage to take cell phone photos of the man who left his heart in San Francisco.
In another attempt to convey pure Academy class, the crooner was introduced earlier in the evening by James Earl Jones. “Tony, you’re the top!” Jones proclaimed in that earth-moving baritone that never fails to capture attention. When Darth Vader paged Mr. Bennett to the stage, people listened. Then, as McCarthy noted, they get out their smart phones.
But despite the quality entertainment, the impressive guest list and all those carefully prepared Wolfgang Puck souffles and mini-crabcake sandwiches, the Academy cannot control everything that happens at the Governor’s Ball. And by that I mean Sean Young.
Early in the evening, prior to my arrival, Young was apparently placed under citizen’s arrest after what TMZ described as an alleged scuffle between the actress and a security guard.
Apparently, life isn’t all cocktails and Oscar-engraving dreams.
But by the end of the night — after Streep swooped out through a back exit, her longtime friend and Academy Award-winning make-up artist J. Roy Helland tripping over the shimmery gold train of her gown as she went— some people were breathing a happy sigh of relief.
“All is well?” one member of the waitstaff asked Puck near the Oscar bar, where, by 10:45 p.m., all of the trophies had been plated and claimed by their rightful owners.
“All is well,” Puck confirmed.
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