Once upon a time, parties were fun, fun, fun. Now a great many glitzy, glamorous gatherings are simply business.
Last week, paparazzi and personalities, publicists and prima donnas got to parade their stuff for two "product parties"--one razzle-dazzle night celebrating the fifth anniversary of USA Today, the other a more sedate but equally seductive event selling the new line of fragrances marketed as Elizabeth Taylor's Passion.
Neither of the two was a benefit for any charity--so they were strictly commercial comings together in which "the usual star suspects" were rounded up to add sparkle.
The McPaper party Thursday night at the Culver Studios was billed as "L.A.'s Top 500 names." Ah, not quite--but on hand were a couple dozen stars, such as Angie Dickinson, Loretta Young, Gene Kelly, Julio Iglesias, Sidney Poitier, Harry Hamlin, Charlton Heston, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Wagner and Jill St. John.
Also there were film execs like Barry Diller, Tony Thomopoulous, Sherry Lansing, Bud Yorkin, Richard and Lili Zanuck and assorted famous faces, including Phyllis George and her husband, former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown. Several of the brand-name invitees made the event into a "stop-by." As one explained, "It's a 10-minute party."
The hoi polloi stayed to eat the extraordinary food prepared by Along Came Mary and listen to speeches from Allen H. Neuharth, founder of USA Today and chairman of the Gannett Co., and Grant Tinker, president of Gannett Entertainment Group--as Neuharth said, since Tinker was unemployed from his stint at NBC, "the least we could do is put a roof over his head."
The USC Marching Band provided the Olympics-style oomph L.A. has come to expect. Liberty Weekend and Olympics impresario David Wolper grinned and nodded his approval as the helmeted Trojans boomed by. (Wolper is doing the final looping on his mini-series, "Napoleon and Josephine," but was juggling his schedule so that star Jacqueline Bisset could be part of the Santa Fe Film Festival tribute to the late John Huston next week.)
For many, being back at what was once the David Selznick Studios--with the Tara-like signature building that was his logo--brought back memories. "Miss Loretta Young," show-stopping in a white satin suit and turban, explained that she had shot the first year of her TV series here, and since the studio contained an airplane interior, one old hand said that any airplane movie or TV show had probably been shot inside.
There was the chance for everyone to have a picture taken with an enormous blow-up of USA Today. And even some shop talk, as John Curley, president and CEO of Gannett, said the enormous jump in circulation and readership meant that people who used to buy the paper once or twice a week, now buy it three or four times a week, whether they are at home or on the road.
As guests left, each got a copy of "The Making of McPaper."
The next night, guests got a bag with La Liz's beautiful likeness on it--and a bottle of Passion, which she herself describes as "Oriental floral." (Older fans, like May Co. veep James Waterson, recalled her once-deep affection for Jungle Gardenia.)
The party, at the reportedly just-sold estate of Herbalife president Mark Hughes, allowed the violet-eyed, violet-gowned Taylor to mingle with a small coterie of pals--Hollywood Park's Marje Everett, Wagner and St. John, Stephanie Powers and Roddy McDowall, Shera and Peter Falk, and Ed Asner--while pushing her product and making the perfume-industry people gloriously happy. (Asner, well-known for his politicking against contra funding, said he hadn't been told about the same night Countdown '87 concert benefiting anti-contra action.)
Waves of Press
There were three kinds of press coverage permitted. There were outside-the-gates paparazzi, there were down-the-driveway reporters and photographers held behind a rope, and there were some press inside. Taylor sat with star friends as department-store execs, distributors and fashion-industry others made their introductions and were perhaps photographed with The Star or wandered around, past the massive table of crab claws and shrimp, topped with a gigantic ice-sculpture bottle of Passion.
"What do you want me to say?" the ever-charming Wagner asked a reporter from Us magazine. "Say something memorable," she pleaded. Then down to the tennis court for dinner and dancing, as couples like Robinson's Bob and Sue Mettler whipped by. Bill Jones of Carousel International was charged with putting together the parties across the country. He sat over his luscious tortellini and yummy pizza-dough rolls as Shera Denise Falk tore apart the white flowers dripping from the tall mirrored vases, explaining that her view was blocked. At the same table, Red Buttons told funny stories and his wife, Alicia, sang a few lines from "La Boheme."