Inside the Vanity Fair Oscar party

Movie stars make their entrance at the post-Oscars bash hosted by magazine editor Graydon Carter in West Hollywood.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 28, 2011; 10:54 AM

HOLLYWOOD - Kevin Spacey is making a run for it. "I'm going to Franco's," he says as swells of velvet and chiffon heave him through the breezeway of the Sunset Tower.

"What about Madonna's?" asks a tuxedo who's being towed the other way.

"Nooo," Spacey says, twisting in the eddy of bodies. "No, that's all the way up Mulholland. It'll be a nightmare."

"LIFE is a nightmare," the guy says, and they both cackle. This is not to suggest that Vanity Fair's Oscar party is nightmarish, though it's as rattling and fleeting as a dream deep into one's REM cycle. Think "Inception," but more bewildering. It's a madhouse, a funhouse of mirrors and topiary, a wax museum come to life, a half-dozen tax brackets and Zip codes away from a really good frat party, where the drinking game is How Many Flutes of Moet Does It Take To Work up the Nerve to Pet Donald Trump's Hair?

Answer: 1.5. (It feels like corn silk.)

Another question: How does one pass the hours between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. at Vanity Fair when one doesn't have a director to corner, or a starlet to seduce, or a powder to snort? One does what most everyone else does: play the world's most opulent, expensive game of musical chairs. Turn and pose and sit here, in the glow of George Hamilton's tan. Turn and pose and sit there, in the shamrock-green shadow of Gayle King's gown (just in case Oprah shows). Someone bid $80,000 at Elton John's party for two tickets to this one. The cost of a top-tier college education - for what? To get elbowed in the ribs by the most skilled crowd-parter in the world: Serena Williams, whose backhand is crippling in a roomful of people who ignore every "Pardon me."

The crowd is extra knotty around a particular booth on the terrace, underneath planet-sized white balloons that change from yellow to green to purple as colored spotlights revolve on the roof. What rank of celebrity commands such commotion?

"It's a cluster[expletive]," mutters a waiter, emerging from the pile, dressed like a naval midshipman and balancing a teetering tray of beverages.

Let's crowbar our way toward that booth, toward the entity ensconced in admirers. And now, a glimpse of the person at the center. She's petite, button-nosed, doe-eyed, with a boyish thatching of short hair flopped over her forehead.

She's Justin Bieber. BIEBER. We should've known. What a kick in the teeth. We were hoping for a Beatty, a Julia, a Mr. Sidney Poitier perhaps, not this ... this ... this haircut. We must seek consolation elsewhere.

Who else commands one of these semi-circle booths along the perimeter of the terrace? The two Janes - Fonda and Lynch - sit shoulder to shoulder (the former's is bare, the latter's is covered by a glittery blazer) in a booth back by the bar. A rakish Paul Rudd captains another, and George Hamilton's tan has the next one over.

But now the tykes from "Glee" are swarming like gnats. There's the bossy belter at the bar. There's the pregnant cheerleader fussing with her shoulder straps. And by the front door, sitting on a padded pew, are the gay kid and the heavy girl, wallflowering, perfectly happy to gab and watch, as if this was an actual high school cafeteria instead of a dolled-up version of one.

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