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If you like your stars up close and personal, some of them oozing glamour from every perfumed pore, the place to be on Oscar night was the dazzling Vanity Fair party at Morton’s. This is the splashy, exclusive blowout that Vanity Fair’s urbane editor, Graydon Carter, hosts every year. And provided you are invited — Graydon rules the list with a red pencil and an iron fist in an iron glove — you may rub elbows (or whatever is handy) with the glitterati of Hollywood, famous movie stars, directors, producers, writers, social types, the lot. What must have been 300 photographers waited outside the restaurant to capture these hemi-semi-demi immortals. Morton’s in Hollywood is always a well-known restaurant, but on the night Vanity Fair takes over, it becomes a giant production with a dinner for 150 guests and a party later for the after-dinner flock.

There was no doubt that it was Vanity Fair that was giving the party. You had to be blind not to see the 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high Vanity Fair topiary lettering covering the facade and the VF logo on practically everything else. As Mr. Carter may be the most famous smoking advocate in the universe, there were custom-made pink and blue lighters at every place setting, ashtrays and match strikers, custom silver and gold-tipped cigarettes, everything with a VF mark on it except the Asprey silver napkin rings and beautiful tightly bunched pale green roses centering the tables. Morton’s chef, Lorenzo Roman, fed the multitudes (is 150 a multitude?) steak, crab cakes, wild mushroom risotto, key lime tartlets, fine California wines and Veuve Clicquot champagne. Even the cookies were stenciled with the Vanity Fair March Hollywood cover and lollipops — yes, lollipops — featured each of the beautiful actresses on the cover. Would I exaggerate?

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The vast space behind the restaurant, normally a parking lot, was transformed for the night into a beautifully lit room furnished with comfortable banquettes, chairs and tables and an enormous bar that went on forever. All of this was made possible by Patrick Woodroffe, the famous lighting designer.

This is where the after-dinner guests and stars from the awards flooded in and where Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger, all ravishing, dominated the room. These three stars, among the most brilliant actresses on the screen today, know exactly how to respond to their fans, many of whom are meeting them for the first time. With charm. They are the un-diva divas of the movies, thank God. And long may they reign.

Once again, the Oscar goes to the clothes. The designers, the dresses and the stars that parade them up and down the red carpet provide the real drama and glamour on the long, long night that actually starts in the afternoon and seems endless. The movies, already plugged, flogged and critiqued, take a backseat to the jewels, hair, makeup and cleavage on what passes for today’s film icons, real and imagined. Joan Rivers on TV, blazing in several million dollars worth of Harry Winston diamonds, provided the evening’s only cliff-hangers because no one, not even Joan, knows what she might do or say next.

Nicole Kidman, shimmering in a sea-green stunner by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and Renée Zellweger, in a drop-dead chic, creamy, satin confection by Carolina Herrera, epitomized haute couture in a way no one else can touch. Even the sprinkling of top models, including Linda Evangelista, in a gold Dior gown that failed to flatter, and Helena Christensen, in a violet-caped affair by Alessandro Dell’Acqua, paled in comparison. Hollywood’s top stars have learned to make their way up and down the red carpet in a manner that can make even supermodels a bit jealous. Almost all the top stars dragged elegant little trains on their dresses that looked just right.

Standing out in a crowded field were a sun-kissed Charlize Theron in a silver Gucci, Jennifer Garner in vintage organza Valentino, Angelina Jolie in a dramatic Mark Bouwer gown with a descending neckline, Liv Tyler in a black Givenchy, Naomi Watts in a golden strapless number and Zeta-Jones in a red, sexy Versace. A blonder Julia Roberts looked better than ever in a beautiful champagne-colored Armani that gathered at the waist (and spurred gossip that she might be pregnant). Heath Ledger also started this kind of “is she, isn’t she” gossip when he kept patting Naomi Watts’ tummy. Let’s be kind for the moment and not mention Diane Keaton’s outfit (will she never stop channeling Annie Hall?) and Uma Thurman’s getup à la Heidi in the hills of Switzerland. Even the best dressed can sometimes stumble.

But to get off the carpet and back to the VF dinner, everywhere you looked you saw the likes of Diane Sawyer; Gwen Stefani; Donna Karan; studio chief Sherry Lansing; the Gore sisters, Karenna Schiff and Kristen; Faith Hill and Tim McGraw; Betsy and Michael Kaiser; Marina Cicogna; Jackie Collins, whose next novel is “Hollywood Divorces”; Anne and Kirk Douglas, who is now writing his next book; Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson; Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller; media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi; Steve Martin; Nan Kempner; Sue and Donald Newhouse (Sue and Nan wore the same black-and-white Chanel and wouldn’t you know, were seated back-to-back); Betsy Bloomingdale in vintage Dior; Hannah Pakula; Mica and Ahmet Ertegun; Denise Hale and Oscar de la Renta; the delectable Anna Scott in Armani (she was Graydon’s date); Anderson Cooper of the CNN Coopers; Kenneth Jay Lane; mogul Sumner Redstone and his wife, Paula; Wendy Stark; General Tommy Franks and his wife, Cathy; Nicky Haslam, the Brit wit with fiery red hair (for now); Ron Perelman and Ellen Barkin; Ricky Martin; Michael Douglas; Cornelia Guest (more about this showstopper in Friday’s column); Matthew Perry; the Terry Semels; Connie Wald; Jacqueline Bisset, and last but not least, Carter himself, tailored by Anderson and Sheppard.

Because class will tell, far and away the most elegant couple of the night were Canadian billionaire Galen Weston and his stunning wife, Hilary, in bare white satin. Impeccable.

Among the best-dressed men were Tom Ford, of course, and Reinaldo Herrera, of course, of course. As for George Hamilton, he was a treat, the Mr. Dapper of the evening, tailored to a T from perfect hair to perfect tan to perfect pumps. So maybe Cary Grant isn’t dead after all. “Here, George,” said Lynn Wyatt, of the best-dressed Wyatts, as a silver tray was being passed. “Take this cosmopolitan. It goes perfectly with the rest of you.” In her vintage Yves Saint Laurent satin and velvet couture, Lynn could have used one herself. (Friday, on to Elton John.)

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