Smile! Here comes the inaugural Crest Whitestrips Style Awards.

We lost count at 58 photographers going nutso in a hailstorm of shutter clicks behind the velvet ropes at the "red carpet" at the Beverly Hills Hotel ("Sigourney, love, over your shoulder, turn, nice, nice, nice . . ."). The occasion honored the stylists, makeup artists, designers, hair people and spray-on tanners who, as mistress of ceremonies Sharon Stone put it, are "the geniuses and magicians" who trowel the Dermablend and bronzer onto the million-dollar clothes racks known as Charlize Theron, Sarah Jessica Parker and Julianne Moore.

"I'm older than dirt," said a giddy, interestingly free-associating Stone at the podium, "and you've made me look younger than dirt."

Hooray for Hollywood. Stone went on to say (and we usually love Sharon for her wit) that Joan Crawford's shoulder pads made her neck look "too short" and that Gary Cooper wore his pants "too high."

Of course those were the fashion plates of yesteryear. So forget them. In this summery lull between awards seasons -- way beyond the Oscars but before the Emmys -- the fine folks at Procter & Gamble decided to pimp their dental product by saluting the behind-the-curtain metrosexuals and fashionistas who do the dirty work to get the celebrities ready for the glossy magazines, premieres, commercial and fashion shoots, and real red carpets of 2004.

"The hottest afternoon in Hollywood," so pronounced Ayman Ismail, P&G's (and we're not making this up) "General Manager of Global Whitening." "We feel it's long overdue to celebrate the people who make the stars look like stars."

It being awards downtime, and this being an awards show for fashion servants, the celeb-vibe was decidedly 40-wattage. As presenters, there were Sigourney Weaver, always class, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (very indie hot from "Secretary"), and someone named Sarah Wynter (we Googled her, she was on the TV show "24") and the singer/poet/actress Jewel, who came with her rodeo-riding live-in boyfriend, Ty Murray, who wore a cowboy hat and the tightest Wrangler jeans imaginable, which drew many an appreciating glance across the gender gap.

Preshow, outside: We chatted up George Blodwell, nominated for Best Men's Fashion Stylist, who did Sir Ben Kingsley for the Oscars (he wore Helmut Lang). Blodwell himself was dressed in a kind of homage to Johnny Cash and Keith Richards, a man in black, with a skull pendant around his neck.

He was rubbing his cheeks, which is what one does, we learned, to circulate the blood flow to eliminate sleep bloat. "If I would've gotten up earlier, my face would've gone down," he said with a sigh. We liked him immensely. Because he was actually a little bit nervous, even though he has styled more than 170 celebrities, by his count. He was awaiting his dawdling publicist to walk him down the red carpet, but his friend and stylist Liza Jane Likins suggested several restorative glasses of champagne instead.

Damn good idea. In the reception pit, we learned more about Mystic Tan, which is something that celebrities and the monied elite have sprayed upon their bodies from heel-to-head to give them that porno-star glow-sheen. (Another fashion tip: Blodwell said you should always put little cups on your finger and toe tips before they spray the Mystic Tan on, unless you want your nails to be orange for a month.)

We met Louis Verdad, a hot clothes designer from Los Angeles, who like many in attendance here commented on what he hopes is the increasing attention garnered by L.A. fashion against the giants of New York, Paris and Milan. "We're building up a team, we're growing, we're getting known and respected," said Verdad, who sported a kind of Napoleon haircut, tres chic. He liked our tie.

The actual awards show started way late, but we caught some of the action. Best Makeup Artist went to Pati Dubroff, who has done Naomi Watts's skin at Screen Actors Guild Awards and others. At the podium, Dubroff said, "It's nice for us to be the bride and not always the bridesmaid."

Blodwell did not win for Best Men's Fashion Stylist. It went to Samantha McMillen, who primped Johnny Depp for the Oscar red carpet.

By the way: The judges included several people who actually didn't show up (the event had been postponed due to Ronald Reagan's death, out of respect) such as Elizabeth Stewart, a creative director and stylist at the New York Times, Matthew Rolston, now photographer and director who Stone said introduced the world to the $600 haircut, and Carlotta Jacobson, formerly of Harper's Bazaar and now head of an outfit called "Cosmetic Executive Women."

Finally, for Best Women's Fashion Stylist, the award went to Jessica Paster, who appears to have done everyone for this past Hollywood awards season (Cate Blanchett, Kim Cattrall, Evan Rachel Wood, Allison Janney). She stood on the stage, dressed in black, a bit plump (we have to say, and God bless her for it) and announced: "Thank you all for allowing me to play Barbies all the time."

From this correspondent, no tears, but close.

Kate Beckinsale won Best Smile in Hollywood at the Crest Whitestrips awards.Pati Dubroff, left, winner for best makeup artist, Chris McMillan, best hairstylist, and Jessica Paster, best women's fashion stylist, smile for the ubiquitous cameras at the Crest Whitestrips Style Awards.