For one brief, shining moment Wednesday night, it became all too clear why the name of the magazine is Vanity Fair.
Packed in Spago in West Hollywood eating goat-cheese pizzas, 200-plus rich and famous friends of the publication were faced with pressing questions: Were the low-numbered tables the most prestigious? And did business suits or tuxes correctly follow the invitation's instructions to wear "evening attire"?
And why were they all here, anyway?
Some disclaimed their presence on the party circuit. "I haven't been to one of these things in 30 years," said producer Ray Stark, proclaiming his love for Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. Brown, along with the magazine's publisher Doug Johnson, wore success easily, she looking young and pretty enough to resemble a Seven Sisters grad--with a Brit accent.
But she knows her people. The pre-dinner milling around was crowded and lengthy--no one in this mob was going to sit down until it was figured out which table was uptown, and which was downtown. As Brown explained it in short pre-dessert remarks, the planning of the seating for the party had started during the previous afternoon, going on to the wee hours and "was an incredible slugfest."
The whole party, she said, grew from an idea that it would be "fun to come out to Los Angeles and take a few friends of ours to dinner at Spago." But for some of the magazine's crew of writers, imported from NYC for the week of dinner parties and meetings with advertisers, the Spago bash was the only remaining element of what had once been a plan for a November issue focusing on Hollywood, and, as one author put it, "The issue died, but the party lived on."
A Mix of Types
Quite a mix of medium and heavyweight types were there. "I do know these people," announced maitre d' Bernard Erpicum, and surely there is no tougher party rater. "I do know pretty much everybody here."
That everybody included a very thin Joan Rivers, there with Vanity Fair constant commentator Dominick Dunne (in a business suit, so that settled that question). Also present were 20th Century Fox chief Barry Diller, Orion's Mike Medavoy and wife Patricia, Janet and Freddie de Cordova ("This is just an intimate dinner for friends that I thought I would hold in the back of my car," he said), Joan and Jack Quinn (he explaining to a friend where her table was--"It's a great table. It's at Chasen's"), Patti and Tommy Skouras, Henry and Jayne Berger, Tim and Nancy Vreeland, Tony Thomopoulos and wife Cristina Ferrare, the wonderful Roddy McDowall and Walter and Carol Matthau (she in a Geoffrey Beane--her husband insisting that the only reason he came to the party was that his wife had 1,100 dresses and insisted on wearing some of them out).
McDowall said he was off to this year's Kennedy Center Awards for Special Achievement in the Arts, since one of the honorees is Bette Davis. Matthau said he planned to return for the event since last year he got to say to Ronald Reagan, "I don't dye mine either, Mr. President."
Publicist Warren Cowan approached Fox's Diller, who was wearing a tux, asking if he was "misled, misunderstood or going somewhere afterwards?" The "only thing I feel is angry," said Diller, who had thought the tux was required. Alana Hamilton Stewart announced that she would be his "late date."
Peripatetic party-goer Henry Berger said that in Paris a tux would have been required for such an event. Here, "evening attire means no Reeboks and no T-shirt." Allan ("two 'L's, please") Carr wore a hunk of greenery in his business suit jacket, and Dudley Moore wore a very happy smile as he played piano over the din after dinner.
Super-agent Mike Ovitz and a beaming Judy proudly announced that the 1,200 tickets for the Dec. 8 Saint John's Heart Institute benefit premiere of "Empire of the Sun" were sold out--without even an invitation going into the mail. And one well-known publicist got told it was going to be hard to get him tickets for the Joffrey Ballet's "Le Sacre du Printemps," now sold out.
Lili and Richard Zanuck, at table No. 5 with editor Tina Brown (now you know which numbers were most important) chatted with Dennis Hopper, who, she said, wants to do a movie about the homeless. Fran Stark was away from home in New York, so Betsy Bloomingdale accompanied Ray Stark. She chatted away, leaning over Zanuck to columnist Liz Smith--even though the First Best Friend usually shies away from the press. "Well, I didn't say anything interesting," the gilded Bloomingdale explained.
There was some serious talk--publicist Henry Rogers insisting to publicist Judi Davidson that she could never retire: "In the business we're in, we have to die with our boots on."
But, as Tina Brown told the crowd, "California is always special, Los Angeles in particular. You really understood us before the East Coast . . . Thank you for giving us your ideas, and most of all your glamour."