The Academy Awards aren’t over when the best picture winner is announced--not by a long shot. The night is still young, the crowd is all dressed up and there are lots of places to go.
Parties are a tradition of Oscar night, where winners can celebrate, losers can talk about how much it meant to be nominated and everyone can have another shot at being seen.
The biggest and the best of tonight’s parties are a tossup between the Academy Board of Governors Ball and the annual fete thrown by literary agent Irving Lazar and his wife, Mary, at Spago. Among the also-rans, the El Rescate benefit, in its second year, has already garnered a reputation for luring Hollywood’s younger, hipper crowd of actors. There also are parties for the “real people” who don’t mind worshiping Oscar from afar.
The official Academy Awards party is the Board of Governors Ball--official, but not always well-attended. When the awards were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the party at the Beverly Hilton, guests had to shuttle to Beverly Hills in their limos, losing precious partying time and creating massive traffic jams.
As a result, some guests would ditch the party altogether, or make a brief appearance and then leave for home or other galas.
That problem was solved last year when the Oscars and the Governors Ball moved to the Shrine Auditorium. Held there again this year, the Shrine’s cavernous exhibition hall (measuring about 100 by 250 feet) will be transformed into a glamour palace complete with flower trees and a revolving orchestra. If the 1,600 guests can refrain from table-hopping they’ll dine on a three-course gourmet meal.
“This has finally become a real celebration of the town and the industry,” said Allan Carr, producer of both the telecast and the party. But don’t look to Carr for last-minute tickets; it’s up to the academy to decide who gets to attend (nominees, of course, are automatically invited) and Carr has already been begged to death.
The Shrine’s drafty halls are not prime party locations; one of L.A.'s well-known hosts co-chaired a benefit there for 600 people last year, and said that draping one of the rooms for the gala cost $100,000.
Even Carr said the Shrine “wouldn’t be my favorite place to have a party. But,” he added, “we once did a party for Truman Capote in a jail. And if we can do a jail, we can do this.”
Carr also squashed rumors that he wanted the new and improved Governors Ball to upstage another Oscar night tradition--the Irving Lazar bash at Spago.
“We are not competitive,” he insisted, adding that he will “dance and dine” at the Governors Ball and then go to Lazar’s afterward.
“The competition was just press news,” he said. “This is a wonderful treat for the people who are nominated, and then they can go on to wherever else. This is the way great open houses are too.”
Old Hollywood Glamour
The show’s theme of old Hollywood glamour will carry through to the Governors Ball, which has red, white and gold as its theme colors, said production designer Ray Klausen.
“I think it’s kind of like decorating a Bavarian hangar,” he said, describing the Shrine’s accommodations. “But it’s become wonderfully glamorous and handsome.”
The Flower Council of Holland has donated thousands of various types of flowers, some of which are being used to create flower trees that will accent the room.
The flowers will be red and white to match the 5,000 yards of red and white chiffon being used to drape the walls. In the center of the room will be the band, joined by three giant Oscar statues. They’ll be revolving under a tent of more red and white chiffon.
“This is my sixth Oscar, and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” Klausen said. “This year is the granddaddy of them all.”
But Oscar partygoers do not live by decorations alone.
“If you could only know the details that are involved in this,” said Terri Aronson of the Santa Monica-based Ambrosia Caterers, which will do the Oscars for the second year in a row.
“We have to coordinate the staff, we have to have some place for them to park and then shuttle them over. A lot of the liquor is donated, and these companies want their bottles to be on the bar. They want the creme de la creme to see it. The rental sheet is 40 pages. You know how much glassware is involved?”
A Lavish Meal
Despite the complications, Ambrosia will feed about 1,700 guests a meal so lavish that it took all of 15 minutes to explain it.
The starter course (“Designed,” Aronson said, “so people can sit down at different times and the food won’t get soggy and cold”) is a composed salad of poached salmon and arugula roulade, served with yellow and green French beans and sliced mango, all atop a bed of baby spring greens. Creamy honey-lime vinaigrette dressing will be served in a lemon carved to look like a tulip.
Guests will have their choice of entree. Veal Oscar 61 (in honor of the 61st Academy Award show) consists of veal scaloppini with fresh white asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked provolone, served with a reduced wine sauce.
And because there are “some very health-conscious people out there,” there also is a free-range chicken breast grilled over alder wood, “which gives more of a hickory-smoked flavor,” said Aronson. That’s to be served on a bed of sauteed wild mushrooms.
Then there are the crisp potato baskets.
Two thousand, to be exact, made of shredded potatoes, put together by hand and stuffed with pomme souffle and topped with a fresh sprig of lavender.
“Our chef is, like, ready to commit suicide, because in making these you have to allow for breakage,” Aronson said. “So we have to do over 2,000 of them.”
Work of Art
Dessert, titled “The Sampler,” includes Chambord ice cream, petits fours, a ginger mint tartlette and gold raspberries with vanilla bean creme a l’anglaise.
“It’s basically a work of art in itself,” Aronson said.
“Because of who is at this party, there is just a certain drama,” Aronson added, “a certain intensity, and I’m just now starting to feel it. By Wednesday I’ll be wrecked. You’re walking around on adrenaline.”
Across town at Spago, another Hollywood gathering will be watching the show on monitors at the Lazars’ annual Oscar bash.
But this may be the first year that the literary agent arrives late to his own party.
Blame producer Carr--he wanted to put Lazar in the Oscar show, a first for the lively superagent.
“He’s a legend,” Carr said. “He’s as much a legend as the Cocoanut Grove (a site for an early Oscars show).”
“I think it’s going to be the best party we’ve had,” Lazar said. “There’s a greater feeling of fun than I’ve ever had before. There are so many new people who are going to be here (after the telecast), new blood. Allan Carr is such a great showman, and he’s having about 40 people present the awards, up from about 20.”
A Party in Waves
Lazar’s Oscar night bash was held at the Bistro in Beverly Hills before moving to Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in 1985.
This party happens in waves. The first group arrives around 5 for cocktails. At 6, everyone is seated for dinner, and TV monitors are placed around the room so guests can watch the telecast. And don’t even try to get up to schmooze--Lazar seriously frowns upon chatting it up with your neighbors until the broadcast is over.
The second wave arrives after the telecast, with those who have dropped in at the Governors Ball arriving last.
Lazar has put the kibosh on pigging out. “We’re serving less food,” he said emphatically. “We want people to go on diets, keep healthy. That’s the program. Keep Hollywood healthy. Just caviar and champagne. That’s the kind of diet we’ll give them.”
The guest list is said to include Placido Domingo, Paloma Picasso, Pia Lindstrom, Merv Griffin, Ali MacGraw, Jimmy Stewart, Jeff, Beau and Lloyd Bridges, Michael Caine, Glenn Close, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers, Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hanks, Gene Hackman, Carolina Herrera, Gregory Peck, Louis Malle and Candice Bergen, Walter Matthau, Lucille Ball and Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer.
Rarely are Oscar parties combined with charity benefits, but even that’s changing. El Rescate is having its second annual Academy Award party fund-raiser at the nightclub Vertigo (in its new downtown location), hoping to raise $60,000 to aid Central American refugees in the L.A. area. The 8-year-old organization offers legal, social, human rights, education and advocacy services to individuals and families from El Salvador and Guatemala.
Hip and Happening
Last year, the party, held at Le Mondrian in West Hollywood, drew Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Esai Morales, Rosanna Arquette, Rob Lowe and Daryl Hannah; earning it a reputation as Oscar night’s hip, happening party.
This year’s celebrity host committee--not all promised to attend--includes Edward James Olmos, Susan Sarandon, Gregory Hines, Richard Gere, Marlee Matlin, Gibson, Glover, Anne Archer, Lou Diamond Phillips and Jane Fonda.
“This is a way for people in the entertainment industry to celebrate what they do and honor their friends and colleagues while honoring their political interests too,” said El Rescate’s executive director, Lauren McMahon. “It’s not just kind of a mindless evening of patting each other on the back. At the same time you can remember people who are less fortunate. I think it’s a real strong way for people to say we’re proud of what we do for a living but we like to tie that in with what we do with our private time.”
Television station KMEX has donated big-screen monitors and television sets, and during the broadcast guests also will view documentary footage about the refugees “so people will really have a clear sense of what the issues are really about; not in a heavy-handed way, but just so you know where your check is going.”
Tickets are $100 per person in advance ($150 at the door) and there will be a no-host bar and a free dinner buffet, plus live entertainment after the show. McMahon emphasized that no one will be comped tickets and the party is almost entirely underwritten.
Le Mondrian also is hosting an Oscar party fund-raiser; this one to benefit the Better World Society. That’s a Ted Turner-founded organization that uses television to foster international awareness and focus on issues of global impact.
The viewing party is being put together by Michael Bass and Jonathan Michaels, and is partially underwritten. Co-chairs for the event are Milton Berle, son Billy, and Robert Mitchum and his granddaughter, Carrie.
Tickets are $500, and about 20 area restaurants (including Citrus, Il Giardino and Ed Debevic’s) are providing the food. Circuit City has loaned television monitors, and video cameras will be catching guests as they enter.
Acting students and other industry professionals will gather at the Actors Center, a training and theater complex in Studio City, for an invitation-only viewing party.
“We are joining en masse to celebrate our profession,” said Margery Chachkin, general manager. “There will be agents and managers and casting directors here, as well as actors.”
City Restaurant is hosting a viewing party, sponsored by L.A. Style magazine and emceed by actor/comedian Taylor Negron (“Punchline”). The $25 ticket price includes hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and champagne, and a chance to win prizes (a weekend in San Francisco, designer clothes, Lakers tickets) if you correctly guess the Oscar winners in 23 categories.