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  Oscars coverage

  After the Ceremonies, All Decked Out in Tinseltown

By William Booth
and Sharon Waxman

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 23, 1999

LOS ANGELES – Oh, gentle reader, we thought we had learned our little lesson in humility last year, but it is like champagne. The mind says no. But the gorgeous barkeep at Morton's pops another one of those big green bottles of Veuve Cliquot, and we find ourselves pressed as close as mating flounders between Cate Blanchett and Liv Tyler, and we think, okay, just one more glass.

As Dorothy told the cowardly lion: Courage!

And so it went at this year's bubbly round of post-Oscar fetes around Tinseltown, when the stars, and Tom Arnold too, came out to play.

First stop on the tour was, of course, the annual affair held by the magazine that is starting to resemble the Hollywood Yellow Pages, still teetering on her Manolo Blahnik high heels after all these years, Vanity Fair. The line of limos stretched for blocks outside the glossy party at Morton's, and so we slipped our aging wreck into a compromising position (and what is a parking ticket from those hard-working meter maids in West Hollywood but an item on our expense account?), and in we whisked.

Well, not quite.

First, there were our instructions:

1. Don't touch.

2. Don't stare.

3. Don't write anything down.

Why? Because note-taking is gauche!

And so we got around that little obstacle by cowering in a restroom stall scribbling away on toilet paper like Dustin Hoffman in "All the President's Men." That's class!

Who's that pounding on the door?

A producer's pregnant wife.

But Drew Barrymore is ready to head into the gents' room, too, so crowded is the ladies', and she is cute as a button, and as nice as she could be when she says, theatrically, could you please please please hurry up in there.

As soon as Adalberto Alvarez and his band, straight from Havana, lit into their first salsa, Madonna, the material girl from Miami, is on the dance floor sizzling like a Cuban pork chop.

There's Fran Lebowitz, inhaling deeply, working her way, with ironic disdain, through a carton of cigarettes, while we chat up Chris Rock.

"Chris, loved it when you called Elia Kazan a rat!"

Long stare from Mister Rock.

Finally, he explains, "It was just a joke."


The other material girl, Miss Monica Lewinsky, is greeting a long line of supplicants, who in essence, assure her that the road of life is long and she still has got plenty of gas in her tank, and blah, blah, blah.

Ellen Barkin is freezing nearby, as we are in what appears to be a large elegant drafty tent.

"Brrrrrrr," Ellen purrs.

And we think: meow. A tux jacket is offered. Ellen admits that is the gesture of real gentleperson, but she apparently does not wear strange little men's apparel.

But she loved Monica!

Yes, indeed, everybody said Monica was a smash. But this is, after all, Hollywood, where if we fed Gwyneth Paltrow nothing but suet for a month she'd still be a size 2 (and Miss Paltrow radiated megawattage at the Vanity Fair fest), so we did feel a lump in our throats for Monica, struggling as she has over the years with the weight thing. I mean here comes Pamela Anderson, and she's a big girl, too, but in a different way.

Between nibbles of crab balls and white pizza, Colin Powell is debriefing Warren Beatty, while Daryl Hannah looks a bit lost in space beside Patrick Stewart, the clean-shaven head of the Starship Enterprise.

Couples? It's Valentine's Day. Goldie Hawn arm in arm with Kurt Russell, Ellen DeGeneres clinging to Anne Heche (and who wouldn't, we mean, if we were gay).

DreamWorks mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg was cozying up to Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein. Kiss and make up, boys, after the fierce pre-Oscar duel between "Shakespeare in Love" and "Saving Private Ryan."

All good things must end, but before we leave Morton's we seek out Vanity Fair's avuncular father figure and editor Graydon Carter, and then it's really hail fellow well met time. The guy loves us! More champagne and smokes for everybody.

Then: The cone of True Access descends upon us and we are invited to accompany Mister Carter to the Miramax bash over at the Beverly Hills Hotel. So it's into Carter's big black chauffeured sport utility vehicle, and we're whisked away into the night.

Miramax is cooking after midnight and we're there. This formerly small, independent studio snagged 10 little golden bald men Sunday night, so we know this is going to be a happy place. Quentin Tarantino (tuxless) is sneaking in the back, Illeana Douglas is posing in the front (gray satin sheath dress – tres elegante) and there are globs of celebrities climbing all over one another in between.

An annoyed (and isn't a diva always just a bit) Whitney Houston flicks a hair out of her face as she sweeps past the phalanx of security at the entrance to the Polo Lounge. And inside: There's Nicolas Cage at the center of one celebrity pod. Ryan Phillippe huddles with fiancee Reese Witherspoon. Roger Ebert is in a heated discussion with producer Lawrence Bender and fuzzy-faced Oscar joke writer Bruce Vilanch, who by coincidence just sold a screenplay to Miramax.

Isn't that Gwyneth Paltrow's "good friend" Ben Affleck? He's got an arm snaked round Mariah Carey – a fullback bodyguard just behind her – who is cuddling up nicely.

By now there's no room to move, no room to reach for the chicken empanadas. A massive display of whole smoked salmon sits untouched. Waiters offer, "A chocolate?" No thanks. Who wants to eat anyway? There is mad smoking everywhere. Hysterical dishing and – oh, here's Dame Judi Dench trying to squeeze through the wall of flesh, black jackets and tiny square sunglasses. She is squired by Rupert Everett, looking right at home.

We reach the white-hot celebrity epicenter of this party on the central courtyard of the Polo Lounge. Here air-kissing is unnecessary since there is full body contact in every direction. Chris Rock (didn't we just meet him?) is bear-hugging Michael Keaton, whose hair is shorn short (or maybe he's going bald). He's talking about the response to the honorary Oscar for director Elia Kazan, who tattled on former friends during the McCarthy era.

"All I know is that Spielberg didn't stand up, so I know I did the right thing," Rock is shouting, a grin plastered on his face. "I'm right by him." It's situational ethics like this that made this town great!

Roberta Armani, a niece of Giorgio, squirms through the throng. There's a cadaverous Tori Spelling with blood-red hair. Kevin Costner is perched on the outer rim of this power circle, between his girlfriend and his daughter Anne. They are watching the Oscars – again – on a monitor. Guess they don't know anybody.

And here's poor Roberto Benigni – the true star of the evening, who won two Oscars and would've won another if they'd had a fan appreciation statuette – looking a bit dazed. He wades through the crowd of well-wishers, holding wife (and co-star) Nicoletta Braschi's hand, not recognizing anyone anymore, well past drowning in his oceans of gratitude. "Basta cosi," he would say if asked, but mostly just mutters, "Tenka you, tenka you . . ."

"Rushmore" creator Wes Anderson is hiding in a far room, behind thick glasses, a preppy jacket and a slow glass of champagne. He's 29 and evidently not used to this much star power. He's being chatted up by a newly signed writer for Tina Brown's Miramax-funded magazine, Talk.

Meanwhile a couple of Beverly Hills miles away, an air of listless ennui hangs over the masses of calla lilies and suspended carpets of glistening wheat-grass at the DreamWorks-Paramount party. It's at a place called Barnaby's, and there, yes, is Steven Spielberg clutching his Oscar in one hand and wife Kate Capshaw in the other. It's his lonely Oscar for directing a landmark film nominated 11 times (well, okay, they won a few for sound and cinematography). Everybody expected "Saving Private Ryan" to win Best Picture. We feel his pain. But we can hardly call this a victory party.

Spielberg is smiling, but marketing chief Terry Press, who was in charge of the Oscar campaign, has that pale, haunted look of too-much-stress-not-enough-statues. Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg – according to the sour grapes gossip circulating about – looks even shorter this evening. Over at the dessert table, laden with apricot mousse in chocolate half-shells and massive red strawberries, DreamWorks publicist Mitch Kreindel sighs. "It was classic middlebrow," he declares of the academy's choice for Best Picture. "You know what this just shows? The academy is not – he pauses for the right word – "stretchable."

"I hated 'Shakespeare in Love.' I walked out," says an over-excited Julie Delpy, wearing a half-million dollars' worth of loaned diamonds – choker, earrings, eyeball-size rock on finger. She tried the choker on her cat before the show. She's also wearing a strapless A-line black lace dress and sky-high Chanel shoes. The actress confesses unabashedly, "I never got why the movie was so great."

Holly Hunter, bleached blond hair shorn short, totters after her Oscar-winning boyfriend Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg's cinematographer. "Janusz!" she screams from across the room. "Wait for me!"

Indeed, wait for us. We know it's over when the line for valet parking is more crowded than the party.

Meanwhile, at the wannabe party thrown by the Internet companies Excite and HSX Entertainment at the House of Blues on Sunset Avenue, Oscar partiers were being turned away in droves after the fire marshal declared capacity had been reached.

And the night wore on.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse "the Body" Ventura found a quiet table from which to hold court – no mean feat in a lounge where nearly every chair or couch seemed to be draped with a tipsy beauty in a clinging gown. For the known and unknown alike it was closing time; Dan Aykroyd was standing by the door talking to the security guards who were trying to clear out stragglers. The top had melted off the Absolut ice sculpture, leaving something that looked like a giant frozen body part. No one quite wanted to leave – the rumors were that Nick Cage was on his way.

Staff writer Cassandra Stern contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post

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