“This is the thing our town does best,” said a beaming Rita Wilson, standing on the lawn at Barry Diller’s backyard barbecue Saturday afternoon. “The cars look shinier, the flowers are better, the weather gets nicer. I love it.”
Her husband, Tom Hanks, was in England making an HBO miniseries, but planned to be back in time for the ceremony. This year, though, Wilson said they would be eating Chinese takeout with the kids while they watched the Oscars on TV.
For Wilson and most of Hollywood, by the time the stars rolled up the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium last night, it had already been one hell of a party week. Events were piled on top of events, and everyone was exhausted.
It all began on Monday when designer Ennio Capasa opened his Costume National store on Melrose, kicking off a mad round of fashion-Hollywood socializing, as Christina Ricci, Herb Ritts, Bijou Phillips and a slew of stylists popped in. The same night, was packing Skybar with a young crowd homing in on the perceived hipness of the dot-com scene. And on Tuesday, it was a choice between Asprey and Garrard’s elegant dinner party at the Hotel Bel-Air and’s bash at Quixote soundstage, where John Bartlett, Shalom Harlow, China Chow, Guy Oseary and Jamie Tarses mingled with go-go dancers in fishnet tights.
Tuesday night there was dinner and dancing with Linda Wells at an Indochine-Allure party and a Vanity Fair-Zegna Sport benefit party for Cedars-Sinai at Zegna’s Rodeo Drive boutique. Sly Stallone and Dennis Quaid comprised the celebrity quotient, but the space was so crowded that Barbara Davis had her elaborate diamond clip wrenched off twice in the throng.
“People are very honest here,” she said, tucking the returned pin in her purse. After that, it was more diamonds as the Harry Winston company hosted a small dinner party for friends and stylists at Spago.
By Thursday the town was almost out of control — and so was the fashion-world rumor that cash payoffs of up to $50,000 were being offered to stylists by designers desperate to get a top star into a dress. Of course, stories like this one have been swirling around for years. Fashion houses are fabled to have offered everything from mortgage payments to free liposuction. Some of the tales are no doubt true, but no one in Hollywood is going to confirm them.
The traffic Thursday night between West L.A. and Beverly Hills was gridlock. The first stop of the night was the Diamond Information Center party at L’Ermitage, where Philip Bloch received a gift of a tennis bracelet.
“I’ve wanted one for years,” Bloch crowed. “I hinted, hinted and hinted, and finally they heard me.”
Then there was the Gagosian Gallery’s star-studded opening for Cindy Sherman.
“I’m busy photographing a campaign. I’ve barely noticed it’s Oscar week,” said Gucci’s Tom Ford, ducking into the gallery before heading off for dinner at Rita Wilson’s.
After the opening, Steve Martin hosted a dinner at nearby Mr. Chow, where Chloe Sevigny, Mike Figgis, LL Cool J, Elle Macpherson and Robin Williams packed the booths.
“I can only take the ambience for so long before I have to go for a walk around the block,” said Martin, heading for the door.
Some Gagosian guests, including Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera and Sevigny, traveled between Mr. Chow and the party that Wendy Goldberg threw for Michael Caine at Ago.
“L.A. has the rap of boring, boring, boring,” said Goldberg. “Well, L.A.’s waking up.”
“That’s what I love about this week,” added Dominick Dunne. “Party to party.”
Caine’s wife, Shakira, and daughters Dominique and Natasha, were with him.
“It’ll be a time of enormous anxiety about frocks,” he said.
A huge sign suspended over the bar announced “Shakira and Michael’s Cider House,” and the crowd rolled in: Tobey Maguire (“My son,” cried Caine, hugging him), Mica and Ahmet Ertegun, Sumner Redstone, Dylan McDermottand Jerry Bruckheimer among them.
Much later, Amanda Goldberg, Maguire and Lauren Holly made their separate ways south to Atlantic restaurant, where producers Chris Lee and Christopher Ciccone gave their annual pre-Oscar bash — this year with “American Beauty” producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks. Mena Suvari palled around with Wes Bentley, and a blond, pony-tailed Gwyneth Paltrow — who drove herself to the party and parked her own car — waited on the wrong side of the velvet rope for ten minutes with Maguire, Kevin Spacey and the Back Street Boys’ Kevin Richardson. (Stephen Dorff darted inside when the goons weren’t looking.)
Maguire had been listed on some of the week’s dot-com party guest lists, but he confessed that technology puzzled him.
“The world’s racing, and I’m just doing my yoga and hanging out,” he said.
Friday brought more frenzy: Artisan Entertainment’s party at Quixote Studios, where Gus Gus played, and USA Films’ event at the Hollywood club Blue.
New York journalists at the USA party were complaining about the lack of stars, but that’s because they were at ICM agent Ed Limato’s legendary party, which snagged Winona Ryder, Mel Gibson, Matt Damon, Courtney Love and Michael Caine.
The big news at Ed’s: Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow were all over each other, looking like a couple again.
By Saturday afternoon, people were banging into walls, and the only antidote to sleep deprivation — other than sleep — was the clean air and sun of the barbecue hosted by Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller for Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter at Diller’s Beverly Hills house.
“I’m running on fumes at this stage,” Carter said.
The atmosphere was more July 4 than Oscar Weekend. Tiny girls skipped around the lawn in party dresses, and Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Sherry Lansing, Barry Levinson, Shirley MacLaine, Dylan McDermott and a parcel of other moguls and stars table-hopped in the sunshine.
“The great thing about this is there are no stakes — everyone’s easy,” said Diller, spooning up a mouthful of strawberry-rhubarb cobbler.
While Diller hosted the big guns, Oscar’s beachiest and typically most laid-back event, the Independent Spirit Awards, crackled in its Santa Monica tent. Chloe Sevigny and Hilary Swank snatched awards for “Boys Don’t Cry” — as well as unofficial best-dressed honors, both looking like silent movie stars. Hilary wore a dark Alberta Ferretti chiffon tea dress, and Chloe chose a Celine silk paisley halter dress and pin-striped jacket.
John Waters was wearing Yohji Yamamoto with Comme des Garcons shoes. “And Gap underwear,” he said, “as if there weren’t enough commerce going on here.”
Also milling about the crowd were Michael Stipe, Julianne Moore, David Lynch, Reese Witherspoon, David O. Russell, Terence Stamp, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley and Harvey Keitel.
Then it was on to the “Boys Don’t Cry” party at Shutters on the Beach, where Sevigny’s mom showed up swathed in Pucci. Next was the BAFTA tea, a bit further down the beach at Loew’s Hotel, where Kevin Spacey paid a surprise visit.
The actor then made a mad rush to get from BAFTA to Miramax’s pre-Oscar party, which started at 5:30 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Its campy skits and stellar crowd (this year: Ben, Matt, Gwyneth, Judi Dench, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, Michael Caine, Meryl Streep and Lasse Halstrom) has made the party an A-plus ticket.
Spacey, a Dreamworks employee visiting from the enemy camp, was called on to play the Charlize Theron role in “The Cider House Rules” opposite Anthony Minghella in Tobey Maguire’s part.
“This is the worst moment of my life,” he said, wearing an old dress and blond wig and planting a wet one on Minghella. The highlight was when Jude Law jumped onstage and performed a rousing version of the Italian jazz-age song “L’Americano,” from “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
The party always ends early so that everyone can catch up on lost sleep before the big day. Everyone, that is, but Leonardo DiCaprio, who had models Gisele Bundchen, Carmen Kass, May Anderson and Angella Lindvall dancing at his house until 6 a.m.
If you only made your way to one Oscar-week party this year, you’d do what Elizabeth Taylor did. She turned up at Donatella Versace’s and Ingrid Sischy’s intimate birthday dinner for Elton John Saturday night. Lynn Wyatt had flown in all the way from Texas, “just to show us all how glamorous she is,” said Elton, and Elizabeth Hurley, Tom Ford, Michael Stipe, Andre Balasz, Sheryl Crow and Charlize Theron all sang along when the birthday boy’s enormous white-chocolate cake came out of the kitchen.
Taylor said she hadn’t been out in a year, but here she was comparing diamonds with the newly engaged Courtney Love and laughing the night away in a candlelit hall off the garden of the Chateau Marmont. And even in a room full of rock stars, no one knows her rocks like La Liz.

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