After the final "And the Oscar goes to …" has been uttered, the show really begins.
That's when the season-ticket holders to fame fan out to any number of postparties, and where the behemoth of these fetes continues to be Vanity Fair's. A shindig where Robert Altman continues to live (for what else can you call it but Altmanesque the hum of intermingling tribes, and rustle of egos, that is this party?), it's where all the taxonomies of celebrity can be observed.
Last year, over several elbow-to-elbow hours, I found myself inside gawking at, among others, Valentino, Buzz Aldrin, Jennifer Lawrence, Rupert Murdoch, Jackie Collins, Salma Hayek and French-mogul hubby François-Henri Pinault, gallery lord Larry Gagosian, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, Naomi Campbell … and that nice biddy who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey.
And when I say "gawk," I mean just that, for this is the one party it would be impolite not to stare. (To date, the most successful crasher to this party was the one intrepid hack from Star magazine who arrived with a plus-one pig on a leash, the year Babe was nominated. The imposter swine: his ticket in!)
"It's sort of like Vanity Fair Live." That's how the pomp has been described by its host Graydon Carter – the magazine's Canada-cannonballed editor-in-chief. An exceptional mix-and-match in which there is no VIP room – the whole place is a VIP room, and everyone mingles – the party-architecture is that of a vintage nightclub, like New York's legendary Stork Club. Giant topiaries greet one at the entrance. Waiters with drinks do a never-ceasing ballet.
A dinner/Oscar-viewing is held earlier in the eve for a smaller concentration. Deals are struck. Romances are born. One might see Monica Lewinsky hitting it off with Ian McKellan, or Pulitzer prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin fan-girling over Bradley Cooper, or even Ellen Barkin meeting both future husband and future ex-husband Ron Perelman, the Revlon chief. Tom Cruise has made it to the bash with both Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes – the revelry a living mosaic for our times.
This year, the event has been the subject of additional conjecture, for it has a new locale. Held now for many years at the Sunset Tower Hotel, it's switching things up by moving into an especially designed space at 8680 Sunset Blvd., in West Hollywood. Presumably, space was the issue. I trust that the driver for Jared Leto – one of the expected statuette shoo-ins – has the new co-ordinates.
And while this particular bash continues to be the best bet to observe people in gowns and tuxes putting their fangs into buns – L.A.'s famous In-N-Out burgers are there for the imbibing – it's merely a crescendo in a full concerto of parties. The hoopla, as I've witnessed, begins days before, Oscar week unfolding almost like an Indian Wedding – this year's must-RSVPs include the annual Essence magazine luncheon held to honour black women in Hollywood (Hollywood's new It girl, Lupita Nyong'o: done deal); a non-plebian book launch happening at the Chateau Marmont for Annie Leibovitz's new giant Taschen tome; a glitzy-enough benefit for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (hosted by Colin Farrell); an Armani affair for Martin Scorsese; a women in film cocktail, hosted by Perrier-Jouët Champagne and MAC (see: Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, etc.); and any array of parties hosted by studios, agencies and consulates. So many parties that, by the time the stars start spilling out toward Ryan Seacrest on Sunday's red carpet, one wonders how more of them haven't shrivelled up from enforced smiling.
Going head-to-head with the Vanity Fair glam-a-thon on Oscar night itself? The traditional Governors Ball (a liturgical event, postceremony, where Wolfgang Puck is set to celebrate his 20th year as house chef) and the de rigueur Elton John AIDS Foundation viewing party (expect a Kardashian, or deux). And for those in the market for a nightcap after their nightcap, there is, again, Madonna's after-after-party. It's sponsored by Gucci, and taking place at her home. An Oscar in your hand may get you in.