A hundred or so of L.A.'s celebrity intelligentsia turned out Thursday evening at the Chateau Marmont for one of those sophisticated events more closely associated with that overcrowded metropolis on the other coast.
It was a "literary salon" featuring Wallace Shawn reading from his latest play, "The Designated Mourner." This dark tale of physical and cultural death, which was a critical success in London and will soon be released as a feature film, was directed by David Hare and stars Mike Nichols, Miranda Richardson and David de Keyser in the film and stage versions.
"This party is 98% a surprise to me," said Shawn, an Obie Award-winning playwright who, however, is most familiar to the public as the screenwriter and star of the cult film "My Dinner With Andre."
"I thought it was more of a reading, and it turns out to be an enormous event," he said of the party, which was hosted by Buzz magazine. Shawn admirers on hand included Steve Buscemi, Carol Kane, Julianne Moore, Julie Haggerty, Rosanna Arquette, director Amy Heckerling and author Bruce Wagner as well as enough character actors and TV show supporting cast members to keep the crowd buzzing with, "There's that guy from . . . " and "Wasn't she that girl on . . . ?"
After an hour or so of mingling and schmoozing in the Marmont's front court and lobby (the party, by the way, was an easy crash), munching on Patina-catered hors d'oeuvres and sipping Absolut cocktails, most of the guests crowded into the lobby's "living room" for Shawn's 20-minute reading. The script was easily adapted to a reading since the characters address the audience directly, most of the time in soliloquies.
"I thought it was great, very gothic. Perfect for a literary reading," said Wagner, who once hosted a performance of an earlier Shawn play, "The Fever," at his apartment.
"Brilliant," said Kane.
"Exquisite," raved Moore.
Arquette griped that, "I didn't appreciate the few people who were out there talking during the reading. Why were they out there drinking and laughing and being so disrespectful?"
Before leaving, Buscemi, Arquette and others bought copies of "The Designated Mourner" from the Book Soup table and lined up for Shawn's signature.
"Oh, yeah," said Shawn as the party was breaking up. "I'm planning to live off this evening the way a camel lives off what he had at the last oasis."