He greeted Barbra Streisand, made sure that Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Kathleen Turner were comfortable, paused to chat with John Huston and bantered briefly with Steve Martin. Irving Paul Lazar, a.k.a. Swifty, a.k.a. Superagent, was living up to his nicknames as he deftly handled the guests at yet another of his star-saturated Academy Awards parties Monday night.
He seems a most unlikely party animal, this tiny, bald and bespectacled, almost-an-octogenarian literary agent. However, for the last quarter decade, Lazar and his wife, Mary, have provided the only constant on a night known for its serendipity--a 200-plus person party chock-full of the famous and real famous (the near-famous need not even apply).
While organizers of the academy-sanctioned Governors Ball struggled to provide star glamour (see accompanying story), the Lazars' party--held once again at Spago--was effortlessly awash in the stuff from the moment it started at 5 p.m.
James Stewart, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Walter Matthau, Jacqueline Bisset, Alexander Godunov, Michael Caine and Glenn Ford were among the crowd watching the Oscars on numerous television sets scattered throughout chef Wolfgang Puck's chic Sunset Strip eatery.
Under the supervision of Barbara Lazaroff (Mrs. Puck), Spago had been transformed into an Oscar-worthy environment: Posters from most of the nominated movies decorated the walls and the centerpiece at each table featured a replica of Oscar, festooned with celluloid strips attached to a gold star that hung above it on a wire pole.
The crowd cheered Anjelica Huston's win and bemoaned hostess Mary Lazar's loss (she was executive producer on the nominated live action short "Graffiti") while munching on duck sausage pizzas, grilled scallops and shrimp and brioches with smoked salmon and goose liver pate.
The real fun started shortly after dinner (salad, crab cakes, pasta primavera and a choice of New England halibut or roast loin of veal) when, seemingly, every other famous name in Hollywood arrived and made the already rarefied atmosphere within the restaurant practically unbreathable.
Among them: Audrey Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Cher, George Hamilton, Sally Field, Sam Shepard (who snuck off with Jessica Lange at one point for some quick smooching near the kitchen), Quincy Jones, Marsha Mason, Richard Dreyfuss, Tom Selleck, Kathleen Turner, Peter Bogdanovich, Lionel Richie, Raquel Welch, Jane Seymour and Rebecca DeMornay.
Entertainment-industry power mongers included 20th Century Fox chieftain Barry Diller (who hobnobbed with past Fox owner Marvin Davis and new owner Rupert Murdoch), Orion Pictures' top gun Mike Medavoy, his Columbia Pictures counterpart Guy McElwaine and Motion Picture Assn. of America President Jack Valenti.
Even non-entertainment industry power brokers were well represented by retailing magnate Prentis Hale (Carter-Hawley-Hale), who attended with his wife, Denise (the former Mrs. Vincent Minnelli), and real-estate developer David Murdoch, who came with Washington gadfly Nancy Dickerson.
Fashion statements were almost incomprehensible here this year. Outfits ranged from belly-baring sarongs to beaded turbans and ostrich-feather headdresses to full-poof, white prom dresses that looked as though they had sprung from parachutes.
The Lazar gala remains a bastion for Hollywood's 35-and-up crowd, although some younger faces joined the party this year. Molly Ringwald materialized with a date around 10:30, looking uncomfortable and nervous. Wham! heartthrob George Michael seemed more at ease as he passed through the crowd, although his white T-shirt and blue cotton blazer didn't quite conform to the Lazars' time-honored black-tie dress code.
"But it's the best I had," Michael said with a grin and a shrug.
The most comfortable of the younger guests seemed to be Gene Kelly's son, Tim, who sat on a flight of stairs with a date, amiably surveying the action.
"These are my dad's friends. These are the people I grew up with," he said. "I feel real comfortable with them."
The most honored guest was unquestionably John Huston, who arrived shortly after the ceremony ended and entertained a steady stream of visitors to his table for the next few hours. Huston, whose emphysema required that he wear a tube around his neck connected to a supply of oxygen, spoke at length with Caine and Shepard. The director, gracious and charming, was first among everyone's stated disappointments about the Oscars (he lost to Sydney Pollack).
While other "Prizzi's Honor" nominees Robert Loggia and William Hickey arrived later in the evening, co-stars Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston never materialized. Ditto for "Out of Africa" winner Pollack, although a disappointed but good-spirited Klaus Maria Brandauer was a late arrival.
Best actor winner William Hurt and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" director Hector Babenco were among the last of the late arrivals.
Shortly before 2 a.m., the indefatigable Lazar turned to Spago first lady Lazaroff and announced, "Well, that's enough for me; don't let anyone else in." And having turned in another flawless performance as Mr. Bash, Lazar went home to bed.