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HOLLYWOOD — To outsiders, it may look like every night of the year is a party in Los Angeles, but things really heat up in the week leading up to the Academy Awards. “It’s like Hollywood spring break,” said Quentin Tarantino on Saturday. Except, of course, that it’s work, not holiday.

Almost everyone in the movie industry spends the week out looking for their next gig, their next agent, their next product-placement deal, their next boyfriend. Schmoozing, after all, takes a helluva lot of work. And last week there were plenty of opportunities to do just that: at Brian Grazer’s party for new Paramount chief Brad Grey; at Barry Diller’s exclusive lunch for Graydon Carter, which brought out Mariah Carey, Brett Ratner, Tim Jefferies and Tamara Mellon with new boyfriend Joe Francis (Mellon’s ex-husband, Matthew, was showing off his 23-year-old new gal pal, Noelle Reno, a dead ringer for Sienna Miller, at a swag suite sponsored by W Magazine); at Mr. Chow Thursday night for Larry Gagosian’s dinner for Richard Prince, which, this year, was eclipsed by a party at Tom Ford’s house that attracted Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek, or at supermarket honcho Ron Burkle’s new Oscar party at Koi for which Beyoncé and Jay-Z left the Vanity Fair Oscar party.

“Oscar weekend is always good because everyone’s in town,” explained Jennifer Tilly at Chopard’s post-Oscar party on Sunday. “You get to see all the people who’ve been avoiding you.”

The evening, hosted by Elton John for his AIDS Foundation, featured a live performance by the rock star’s favorite new band, the Scissor Sisters, as well as a throng of young Hollywood up-and-comers such as Erika Christensen, Joss Stone, Taryn Manning and Radha Mitchell, and Elton pals such as Christina Aguilera, Donatella Versace, Hayek and Pamela Anderson.

This story first appeared in the March 1, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The divide between John’s party and the Vanity Fair event down the street, however, provided a good barometer of who’s on the rise in Hollywood right now. As Rachel Bilson snacked on ravioli with Adam Brody at Elton’s party at the Pacific Design Center, Mischa Barton and nearly her entire extended family squeezed into Morton’s for Carter’s glam affair. Even gift bags at the Chopard party were divisive: There were black ones for VIPs and white ones for post-party drop-bys, which, of all things, included a copy of “The Lion King” on DVD.

And, given Tilly’s comment about the week, it was especially difficult to avoid anyone at the notoriously packed function that is the Vanity Fair Oscar party, which may have been good for Tilly, who was invited, but not so simple for others. Tom Cruise posed for pictures with former squeeze Penélope Cruz, who had changed out of her yellow Oscar de la Renta into a green de la Renta; Kirsten Dunst looked like she was back together with Jake Gyllenhaal, and while Natalie Portman got close with a handsome Israeli boy that a publicist called “just a friend,” Orlando Bloom casually greeted former flame Kate Bosworth.

“This is a pretty good date night out,” said Jessica Simpson, stressing that she, indeed, was out on a date with husband Nick Lachey.

Others in the mix included Reese Witherspoon in vintage Azzedine Alaïa; Donald and Melania Trump, who pow-wowed with P. Diddy and Kim Porter; Peter Gallagher, who embraced Jeremy Irons (“See, this is how it all begins,” Gallagher explained of the deal-making that happens over the course of the evening’s networking); Vince Vaughn and Johnny Knoxville, separately on the prowl; Janet Jackson, who hid in a corner; “Desperate Housewives” Eva Longoria and Marcia Cross joined at their disparate hips all night (they will soon be featured on a Vanity Fair cover); Scarlett Johansson, who breezed in with a raven-haired Jared Leto and a posse of goths (“I feel like I can’t breathe,” she said of her tight Roland Mouret dress), and Melanie Griffith, who hobbled in, as she had done on the red carpet, on a cane perfectly accessorized to her Versace gown.

“If I didn’t have a broken foot I’d feel better,” said Griffith of the surgery she had three weeks ago for an injury she sustained a year ago while performing in “Chicago.” But it likely wasn’t covered by worker’s compensation. “I kicked a door. I was mad.”

Zooey Deschanel was in danger of sustaining a similar fate. On her way into the party, the strap of her Manolo sandal came undone, causing two handlers to drop to their knees right in the middle of the doorway. She may have been dizzy from partying at the Kodak Theater with her parents. “It was fun; we had some champagne,” she said. “Now I’m here to have more.”

Similarly in the drink were Cate Blanchett, who unwound at the Duran Duran concert at the Staples Center the night before and relaxed herself by listening to Bob Dylan as she squeezed into her Valentino gown. But after winning her supporting actress nod, it was time to really kick back. “Can I have my champagne now?” she asked, backstage, after doing press interviews.

If there was one person unimpressed by the hullaballoo it was Corrine, Jamie Foxx’s 11-year-old daughter. “Can we go to the big awards?” she asked her dad after he picked up his statuette. “The Nickelodeon ones?” She still has a few years before she needs to find a job.

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