Halle Berry took Faye Dunaway by the shoulders.
“I have to know,” Berry said, her ringlets bobbing, in the center of the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at 12:15 a.m. Monday. “I have to know.”
Dunaway, resplendent in white, answered darkly: “Warren is right, is all I’ll tell you.”
There had been an envelope, and Warren Beatty opened it, and inside was a card, and the card said “La La Land,” and so Dunaway did, too. And then, “Moonlight.”
“It gave me hope,” said Fran Lebowitz, the acerbic Manhattan literary gadfly, on the terrace about three hours after that historic showbiz catastrophe, as the A-list drank away the searing awkwardness.
“That we could wake up tomorrow morning,” Lebowitz said, “and Hillary Clinton will be president.”
Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. The dreamers were dumbfounded here at the headquarters of the liberal coastal Hollywood conspiracy: the 23rd annual Vanity Fair Oscar Party, hosted by Graydon Carter and held in a makeshift space connecting the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the garden of Beverly Hills City Hall.
“They coulda stopped the show,” said a blue-tuxed Matt Damon at the north end of the party.
“So what happened?” Disney chief executive Bob Iger asked Dunaway on the south end.
“My congratulations to black people across America,” said Bill Maher, emerging from the men’s room. “They won, and they kicked the white people in the balls on the way to it.”
But life goes on, and so did the party. Out front on Santa Monica Boulevard, Salma Hayek stepped out of her limo and raced into the arms of the mariachi band stationed by the entrance to the party. They broke into “Sabor a Mí.”
“That’s my night,” violinist Jose Ballin said afterward, reviewing photographic evidence that he serenaded Hayek. “I can die a happy man.”
City of stars, all crammed into one location for a few hours once a year. There was the usual firing squad of photographers, followed by a vast glass-enclosed room with a bar as long as a tennis court, heaped with white hydrangeas and serving Dom Pérignon and Grey Goose. It was inevitable, at a time and place like this, to accidentally elbow Mick Jagger in the ribs, and to inadvertently put your nose into Caitlyn Jenner’s cleavage.
Keep going through the main room and you’d end up in a circular lounge, under a fabric-draped oculus with a mirrored chandelier, on a wooden dance floor with gold inlay. The music was better than in years past. Two of the three Jonas Brothers were dancing to INXS. Heidi Klum joined for reggae.
Outside, past a 30-foot wall of windows, the tiered terrace and the deliverance of tobacco. The Spanish Revival tower of City Hall was lit purple, then rose, then orange. Thin shafts of light wiped the overcast sky. “I’m finishing writing a book,” said Patricia Arquette, a fur of unknown origin keeping her shoulders from the snappy night air. “And I just turned down a TV series. It really is a critical time.”
It really was. It was the fifth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. Donald Trump was president. A movie about a gay black man won best picture.
“I’m surprised it wasn’t more political,” said “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, nominated this year for the documentary “13th.” She was sitting under the undulating 80-foot-long chandelier made of LED lights and fabric panels.
Would she have let loose if she had won?
“I was ready,” she said.
Now for balance: Kelsey Grammer! A conservative in the foxhole. Here he came with his wife, fresh off a conversation with Freida Pinto. What wisdom could he pass along from working with liberals for so long?
“Give it time,” Grammer said. “You needn’t rush to judgment.”
And Megyn Kelly! “How many jokes at the Democrats’ expense?” said the erstwhile Fox News anchor, headed for an outside bar. “Not one. They missed a real opportunity with bringing in those people off the bus. Put one of them in a ‘Make America Great Again’ shirt. Show someone who is not represented by Meryl Streep.”
Passing by: Mac-and-cheese bites. Pistachio macarons. Mandarin jellies. Small containers of golden french fries from Bouchon. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Anjelica Huston sashay through a crowd as “No Diggity” plays.
Around 1 a.m., things got a little freaky. Amy Adams and her husband were dancing to Tupac, dancing real close — eyes locked, smiling, as if they were the only two people on this or any other planet. Then David Bowie.
Let’s sway under the moonlight.
This serious moonlight.
The “Moonlight” crowd was here; the “La La Land” folks appeared not to be. Only Emma Stone came through, and on the early side at that. People kept whispering in director Barry Jenkins’s ear. One of the visual-effects winners accidentally abandoned his Oscar at the bar. There was a moment when it looked as though Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, might start dancing to Drake (but didn’t).
And then Viola Davis arrived in a brilliant white pantsuit with a scoop neck and what looked like gold sneakers. She was radiant and tired. Everyone flocked to her. She hugged the wall. She gripped her husband’s hand and her Oscar. They scooched their way to the bar, trying to be invisible. The husband drove toward a glass of water and handed it to Davis, who tilted her head back and savored each gulp as though she’d been in the desert.
Then it was after 2 a.m. and Isabelle Huppert was dancing to George Michael. The song was “Everything She Wants,” and there was a lot of hopping and hitching.
Dev Patel and Katie Couric took a selfie.
Ricky Martin held the door for us.
Quincy Jones was listing at a 30-degree angle on one of the settees.
This was the only venue in existence where Lin-Manuel Miranda had to search around for 30 seconds for someone to talk to.
Carrie Fisher was there — in spirit, or rather, in a quotation engraved on Zippo lighters given out as favors: “As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don’t.” Light your Marlboro, in memoriam.
Michael Shannon was wearing a pin on his lapel that said “NO!” Surely some liberal cause, alongside all those ACLU ribbons. What does it mean?
“It’s just ‘no,’ ” Shannon said.
No to everything?
“Yeah, just ‘no,’ ” he said, and at this point, after this night, it sounded like a winning platform.