The Elton John AIDS Foundation fund-raiser Monday night at Maple Drive restaurant in Beverly Hills looks to be the hot new kid on the block among Oscar night parties. All the right names are behind it and it's a good cause. Tickets are going for from $150 each to $5,000 for a table for eight.
Among those on the host committee are Richard Gere, Meg Ryan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Herb Ritts and syndicator Michael King. Jack Nicholson is involved. Honorary chair is Elton John. Expected to attend are Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Denzel Washington.
This one may become a tradition. However, the first party the stars will hit is the Academy's Governors Ball, which has the drawing power of proximity: It's in a tent outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where the ceremonies take place.
The ball wasn't always the primo party. It used to be at the Beverly Hilton until the academy realized it couldn't prevent all the starriest guests from being sucked into other parties between downtown and Beverly Hills. Especially one: agent Irving (Swifty) Lazar's traditional viewing party and after-party at Spago, still the most coveted Oscar night invitation.
The Governors Ball has a high joy level. The winners have just left the Pavilion. Everyone they know in show business is complimenting them. They're slowly realizing their place in history is secure. As in their obit, which will begin, "Oscar-winning . . . "
People are flying--a mix of adrenaline, fear and relief. Actors who would no more give you the time of day will now offer to come over and wax your car.
Win or lose, you have to go to this one.
Swiftly to Swifty's
So, you've won an Oscar. You're a legend. What does a legend do after the Governors Ball? You get in the limo and cry, "Take me to Swifty's!"
This is still the place to be. As with most viewing parties, Swifty Lazar's is two events: a TV-fixated seated dinner for 161 and an after-party reception for an additional 150 or so.
The Oscar-viewing party is a much older crowd, many of whom have been the 86-year-old Lazar's friends and clients for years--Don Rickles, Marvin and Barbara Davis, Larry McMurtry, Rupert Murdoch, Freddy De Cordova, Walter Cronkite and Paloma Picasso. Madonna was there last year.
After eating, most of the older crowd leaves. In about an hour, the second crowd arrives. Everyone is in Spago's front room, and you can't turn around without bumping into someone incredibly famous.
Last year's guests included Jack Palance, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Juliette Lewis and Brad Pitt, Ben Kingsley, Sharon Stone, Liza Minnelli, and Demi Moore at a table with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
An international bon vivant once said there are really only a dozen legendary parties each year. One of them is given by a Saudi prince in Portugal, another is in Cannes, and Swifty's Oscar night is another. If you can go, you do.