BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Y’all, we have a problem. Helllllp, we have been trying for a good 12 minutes to get some of the deep-fried macaroni balls everyone else is eating at Vanity Fair’s Oscars after-party. But the first time we tried to stop a waiter in a white dinner jacket it turned out to be Timothée Chalamet, and the second time it turned out to be James Marsden, and now we have to weigh potential embarrassment against macaroni balls, so we’ll try one more time — tap tap tap — and the white-jacketed figure starts to turn, and oh dear, you know what? This particular white material does actually not feel waiter-like at all, does it? Pardon us, Rashida Jones.
Vanity Fair! The Oscars ended two hours ago, so now it’s time for the fancy people to get away from cameras and go to even fancier off-the-record parties — and that is where we are, currently hiding behind Chadwick Boseman so Jones doesn’t see us. We are only pretending to be fancy, standing on Hollywood’s most exclusive square footage, all while secretly taking notes on our iPhone.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? When Adam Rippon was ahead of us in the security line, we did the polite thing and complimented him on his leather S&M harness. “Gosh, thanks!” he said, and then we’d done it. We’d made it inside.
“Inside” is the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, where a red carpet contains every famous person you have ever heard of and where, somewhat incongruously, an all-male a cappella group is performing a vigorous rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl.”
“Yaaaaaas!” screams Emily Blunt as she enters the red carpet and encounters the singing. (Is Emily Blunt an a cappella fan?)
“WOOOOO,” Saoirse Ronan yells as she, too, emerges from the security gantlet and sees the group. (Are . . . are they all a cappella fans?)
“Get a load of these guys!” Dermot Mulroney says in wonder, and — and you know what? Just, no. No, the celebrity level of excitement over a cappella is starting to weird us out; it is time to scoot into the main party, because Jon Voight is now also getting excessively stoked by this rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
We have to be honest: We had worried about the state of the Vanity Fair party. We used to see Harvey Weinstein here; this was his crowd. We once spent 20 minutes eavesdropping on Louis C.K. After the clean sweep of grody Hollywood men, and after celeb-editor Graydon Carter’s retirement last fall, we wondered whether the party would stagger on.
But! Here we are, and here is new editor Radhika Jones — my God, she is tall — and here, in place of the gross men, is best actress Frances McDormand, fresh off her barn-burning acceptance speech about gender inclusion. And, Twitter tells us, even fresher off someone trying to steal her Oscar at the ceremony location. “Don’t put it down again!” she warns the friend holding the statue now, as she slings an arm around Willem Dafoe.
Here, in place of the gross men, is Ronan Farrow, whose New Yorker article about Weinstein helped set off the original purge. He’s holding court for a gaggle of admirers who want to know how he got the story.
“I was very careful about describing a lot of those people,” he is saying. “And by the way, he called me and threatened me,” he is saying. And we realize he is talking about journalism, but because that’s already our day job the conversation is starting to feel very office-partyish, so —
Is that Caitlyn Jenner? Is that Caitlyn and multiple Jenners/Kardashians?
Is that late-night host James Corden, guffawing loudly at a joke whose punchline apparently involved a camel.
Is that Donald Glover tête-à-tête with Janelle Monáe?
This, the natural habitat of the stars, has a way of revealing which ones actually like each other. Which ones are actually excited to sit down together over a bucket of fried chicken, which is a real thing they pass out at this party.
Greta Gerwig and Patricia Clarkson: Friends.
Connie Britton and Aaron Paul: Friends.
Faye Dunaway and someone named Jillian: Friends, we guess, because Dunaway keeps calling, “Where is Jillian!” as devotees come up to her and murmur, “a triumph, a triumph,” about the fact that her best-picture presentation didn’t implode this year.
Kobe Bryant is sitting on a squashy chair with his Oscar for best animated short when a brunette leans over and whispers, “Allison Janney to your right.” She has a tone of voice that makes it sound like this was part of a plan, as if Bryant needed to be alerted if Janney was nearby. He starts to leap up. “Not right now,” the brunette says. “You don’t need to go now.”
But it becomes apparent that Bryant does need to go now, he wants to go now; after less than five seconds of impatiently jiggling his leg, he’s on his feet again. But there are too many people in the way — Mark Hamill is in the way — and Bryant’s eyes search frantically for Janney. When he finally reaches her, he is ecstatic and she is gracious as they bop the heads of their Oscars together.
“More Oscars on the way,” a publicist-type discloses to those within earshot, and the crowd heaves toward the door in anticipation.
Outside, camera shutters click. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting, and — Benjamin Bratt? Boo.
But this is what happens: Spend enough time around the A-list, and you start to become dismissive of the kind of famous people who, if you saw them in the grocery store, you would spend the next four months bragging about it to your friends.
While waiting for the promised influx of Oscars, we journey to the ladies room, where the products are all L’Occitane, and where a nice woman hands us the soap, and that woman is Tiffany Haddish.
“Love your dress,” the woman next to her says.
“I feel grown up,” says the “Girls Trip” star, who has changed into something structured and chartreuse, her third gown of the day.
“You must be on the Bulletproof Diet,” the dress-admirer continues. “You know. Bulletproof Diet? Butter in the coffee?”
“Butter in the coffee? WHAT! That is CRAZY! Butter in the coffee.” Haddish leaves the sink area, still tickled by this recipe, pausing to bellow, “PROSPERITY!” to a group of women waiting in the bathroom line. It makes no sense, but somehow it makes all the sense? Somehow now Haddish and the women are hugging and taking selfies and talking about female friendship?
Because ladies’ powder rooms are places of solidarity and support, even among the rich and famous. Because just outside the restroom, on a velvet couch in the ladies lounge, Emma Watson must be having some sort of crisis of confidence, but a friend is holding Watson’s face in her hands and murmuring, “You are amazing. You are amazing. Your face is so symmetrical.”
Suddenly, in the warm cocoon of the powder room, we want to offer our love and support, too. Prosperity and symmetry for all.
Out of the restroom area, past another white-jacketed waiter — whoops, nope, it’s best original screenplay winner Jordan Peele — and out onto the patio where Patrick Stewart is politely deflecting the slightly overzealous fandom of a woman who “saw ‘Logan’ three times. In the theater. Three times.”
“Thank you,” he murmurs repeatedly, retreating back inside, where he appears delighted to see Mary J. Blige.
Finally, the promised additional Oscars have arrived, in the form of Sam Rockwell and Gary Oldman, but we find we can’t get there, because we are somehow sitting next to Kobe Bryant again, and right in front of us, the sausage of Hollywood is being made:
“We were talking about doing a new movie with an African American superhero,” a business-looking guy pitches. “So if you would like to be a part of that . . .”
“Sure,” Bryant says.
“I could set up a lunch or dinner with Stan Lee.”
“I already took it to Leonardo DiCaprio, and he would like to be a part of it.”
Wait? Is it this easy? Lunch or dinner with Stan Lee? Get Frances McDormand in on that. #InclusionRiders.
Oof. It’s late. Suddenly, the excessive Hollywoodness of it all has worn us down.
Our phone is running out of batteries (#TimesUp!); we can’t take notes much longer (Get Out!).
The big stars have all mostly dispersed anyway, and the waiters are picking up empty glasses. We hear a rumor of an Uber stand. Must find the Uber stand. We approach one of the white-coated waiters for assistance in this matter, and as we get closer the white-coated figure turns to face us, and —
Crap. It’s Laura Dern.