LOS ANGELES — Producer George Ward is known for his raucous late-night Trivial Pursuit parties. Actress Estella Warren is an avid Scrabble player. Anne Heche and her husband, Coley Laffoon, are backgammon addicts. Call it a kinder, gentler nightlife. These days, L.A.’s social butterflies are passing the summer the old-fashioned way.

Following the rules while juggling a caipirinha and a cigarette is, of course, a little tricky, but nostalgia is bringing Hollywood’s hipsters back to the gaming table. “I love backgammon because it reminds me of my grandmother,” says Shiva Rose McDermott, “and drinking tea in the parlor.” Debra Messing’s grandparents went in for the more active old-time games. “My grandmother used to play shuffleboard while my grandpa played bocci ball,” she says. Besides, “it gives you something else to talk about instead of industry bulls–t,” quips PR consultant Ariana Lambert.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In the name of squeaky-clean fun, promoters Audrey Bernstein and Apple Via even held a summer ping-pong tournament at their weekly Friday night party at Moomba. Meanwhile, at Vine, the bingo cage starts turning the last Saturday of the month, beginning this weekend.

“Rules can be intimidating,” says Selma Blair. “I always get insecure at parties where they have games because I’m afraid I won’t know how to play.” Surely the British ex-pats who gather at Los Feliz hot spot Tangier could teach the actress a backgammon trick or two. Or maybe she could pick up a quick game in the lobby of the Avalon Hotel, where the Lucite set has seen a lot of action lately.

What’s next — arcade games, shuffleboard? The competition could get heated. As Amber Valletta warns, “I play a vicious game of air hockey.”

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