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Party On, Oscar

In the waking dream of Oscar parties: Madonna with Guy Ritchie at the Vanity Fair fete. (Chris Pizzello -- Associated Press)

We would be mortified, but we quickly realize that Anthony wasn't really paying attention to us -- why would he? -- so no harm, no foul, and we are no longer paying attention to him, because J-Lo is rolling hips that could launch a thousand ships and making marital pouty sexy faces. She wants to dance. For the love of God, man, dance with her.

But no. The Latin music sensation denies her.

Stunned, we go to fill our cups. But bump right into Stephen Gaghan.

Screenwriter-director of "Syriana," is that you? Great movie. Didn't exactly understand it. But fantastic, babe, all plot-twisty and Middle-Easty. But Stephen is not having it. "Four and a half years, man. Four and a half years." Of college? What? Then it dawns on us that he is disappointed he did not win for screenplay.

This is upsetting. VF shouldn't be about upsetting. So we feel better when we're suddenly standing next to Paul Haggis in the men's room (did we really follow him in there?) and congratulate the director for his victory for "Crash," and no, Haggis doesn't appear to find it creepy at all that we're having a nice little chat here, side by side. "This is just an amazing, amazing, amazing night," he says. "I just hope I remember it all."

Tell us about it. As the night wears on, our cocktail napkin scribbles become even more cryptic. For example: "Skoll Tall Dog." That one is relatively easy to decode the next morning after a plate of eggs, six cups of coffee and three aspirin. We were chatting up Jeffrey Skoll, the billionaire boy-genius co-founder of eBay who is now a movie-financing mogul, and naturally he introduced us to his stunning and brainy fiancee, who we noted in heels was about a foot taller than Jeffrey. What do you talk about with the fifth-richest Canadian in the world? Your dogs.

But try deciphering this chicken-scratch note to selves: "Hot Salman Hug Bana Smoke." Satanic novelist Salman Rushdie told us he was hot and needed some air but we let him go because we were watching Eric Bana, the top assassin in Steven Spielberg's "Munich," hug Joaquin Phoenix, aka Johnny Cash from "Walk the Line," who really can smoke a cigarette! We mean, the man enjoys it. But didn't seem to be drinking.

Because we are here to report that rumors of Phoenix's weird behavior were not borne out on Oscar night. He couldn't have been more coherent, more civil, more solicitous at the VF fete. When we expressed sympathy for his loss in the Best Actor category, he said no, no, no, don't shed a tear for him. He really enjoyed bonding this year with his fellow nominees -- as opposed to the year he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for "Gladiator" in 2001"when the only person I really ever talked to was Benicio del Toro."

Friendly as can be. Not as friendly was HBO talk show host Bill Maher, who took a timeout from excessive rump-rubbing of his date to huddle with his buds back by the Gents' like some truant schoolboy. Bill's mind just seemed elsewhere.

* * *

Fear not, party people, for we are legion, and we managed to not only be at VF but also up the street and around the corner at Elton, out behind the Pacific Design Center building in West Hollywood. (That would be the 14th annual Elton John Oscar-watching and aftergala, which raises money for AIDS research.) We get past a Tori Spelling/Carmen Electra traffic jam at the p'prazzi pool and have a looksee:

Mrs. David Furnish himself is up on stage at his trademark red piano when we arrive, jamming with John Legend. "Take it slow, take it slow," Legend sings, and we do: meander through the crowds and casually celeb hunt, getting momentarily distracted by the gargantuan food spread -- fried won tons, meats on sticks, dips and spreads, then another long buffet, all chafing dishes, filled with ravioli and eggplant, and then the dessert table with its mousse cups and pistachio torts. Why, this is no afterparty, it's Sizzler!

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