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July 17, 1989|JEANNINE STEIN

The Scene: Premiere of "When Harry Met Sally . . . ," the new Rob Reiner-directed romantic comedy from Castle Rock Entertainment (released by Columbia) that's sure to be the feel-good movie of the summer. A packed screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills preceded the packed party at the Beverly Hilton (travel time between the two points was a half-hour) where guests immediately dove for the lavish buffet dinner and listened to live big band jazz. Headlining the party, a benefit for Comic Relief, was the young, much-hyped jazz guy Harry Connick Jr., who appears on the film's sound track. While the studios were pleased with the spillover turnout, cramming 1,700 people into the Hilton's ballroom has the unfortunate side effect of making sweat break out on the upper lip.

The Buzz: After a glut of action-adventure pics, the audience seemed grateful for a film that didn't involve semi-automatic weapon fire or decapitations.

Who Was There: The movie cast and crew included director Reiner, star Billy Crystal (co-star Meg Ryan was filming in Hawaii), writer Nora Ephron; also Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Richard Lewis, Charlton Heston, Robert Townsend, Rick Ducommun, O.J. Simpson, Scott Baio, Lesley Ann Warren, Shelly Long, Bud Cort, Carol Kane, John Larroquette, Alan Rachins and Joanna Frank, Judd Nelson, Shari Belafonte, Gary Owens, Fred Silverman, Garry Marshall, Ron Perlman, party planner Sharon Sacks (she gave the room a Manhattan feel with a skyline backdrop) and Comic Relief founder and president Bob Zmuda, who was very pleased at the $42,000 raised, which will be turned over to the L.A. Homeless Healthcare Project.

Quoted: Reiner's new bride, photographer Michele Singer, sweetly admitted she wasn't used to being asked for quotes. "I don't know if I should be the one quoted," she said. "I've never really done this before." Singer was reassured that the Quote Police wouldn't arrest her.

Dress Mode: A mix of everything, from baggy shorts and sneakers to the disco-ready look of capri leggings and tight-fitting tops. There was the usual sea of suits (light gray and khaki for the summer months, but let's not forget those Armani retro ties) and a smattering of "dinner dresses." Anyone dressing in lightweight clothes was envied.

The Food: The Beverly Hilton catered up a storm, including smoked salmon, caviar, pasta, Mexican food, crepes suzette and Caesar salad. Shelly Long knows how to operate at these things; she politely asked a publicist, "Can you show me the way to the caviar?"

Entertainment: The crowd continued to turbo-schmooze while the band played, but when Connick came out, Reiner persuaded them to listen. "Find a seat, find a piece of floor, a lap, whatever," he implored the audience. Most of the guests had never heard of Connick, and when he appeared on stage his youthful face caused one woman to squeal, "He must be 12!"

Triumphs: A good film buoys the spirits, and it was felt at this bash. People wanted to stay despite the heat, the hassle-rich drive from the screening to the hotel, the fanny-bumping crowd and the late hour.

Glitches: The screening was accidentally overbooked, and the overflow wasn't entirely happy with the situation. It was quickly remedied with passes to another screening and the promise of dinner at the Hilton, which about 70 people attended. The promise of food is always a good consolation prize.

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