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First Stop on the Post-Awards Tour: the Governor’s Ball

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Whoopi Goldberg had definite party plans as she walked into the Academy Awards before the ceremony Monday night. “I’m probably going to go out and celebrate in my car,” said the two-time Oscar nominee.

Not so fast. Four hours later, the Whoopster was this year’s best supporting actress, and she joined other big winners like Kevin Costner, Jeremy Irons and Kathy Bates at the Governor’s Ball, the official celebration thrown by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

(There were half a dozen worthy Oscar parties around town this year, including rumors of a Kevin Costner bash so private that invitees had to telephone after the show to find out the secret location.)

The Governor’s Ball used to be the party of last resort, but since the Academy began holding it at the site of the Oscars, it’s become a must stop for the major stars. They fueled the sit-down dinner with star power, if not organization.

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There was a lot to see, like last year’s best actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, at his table with Sinead O’Connor, who was wearing a red scarf over her trademark scalp stubble. One woman asked the question on everybody’s mind: “Hey, what is Sinead O’Connor doing at an award show?”

Then there was a power pod: Tom Cruise, Rob Reiner, Jon Bon Jovi and Barry Levinson, who were later joined by Dustin Hoffman, inspiring photographic frenzy. Hoffman was in a jovial mood, hugging everyone in sight, using the party-favor perfume for after-shave and eating asparagus spears with his fingers. (Look it up: Hoffman’s asparagus habits are proper etiquette.)

Giant Oscar replicas loomed over the center of the room; a dance band rotated around them on a turntable. If that effect was something out of a Busby Berkeley movie, the rest of the decor was strictly modern--miles of neon, mammoth lasers, black-and-white blowups of classic movie posters and waiters of both sexes clad in black unisex turtlenecks with Day-Glo cummerbunds.

Glenn Close was definite about her favorite Oscar moment: “It had to be when Jeremy Irons won,” she said, referring to her co-star in “Reversal of Fortune.”

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Best-actress winner Kathy Bates was an oasis of calm amid the celebration. “I had psyched myself up that someone else was going to win,” said Bates. “Now I’m going to take some time off and plan my wedding.” Bates is marrying fiance Tony Campisi this summer.

Also at the ball were Oscar host Billy Crystal, Academy President Karl Malden, Oscar producer Gil Cates, and nominees Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Lorraine Bracco, Mary McDonnell and Richard Harris.

Plus: Barbra Streisand, Sophia Loren, Bob Hope, Jodie Foster, Jessica Tandy, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere with Cindy Crawford, Danny Aiello, Chevy Chase, Harvey Keitel, Ron Silver, Robert Wuhl and Christian Slater.

And there were a few political party animals, including Gray Davis, Dianne Feinstein, and Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife, Gayle. Feinstein and Wilson at the same party? That’s why they call it the Governor’s Ball.

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