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Limo? Yep. Tux? Yep. Party? Hmmm. : Swifty's Gone and So Is His Legendary Oscar Soiree. What's a Player to Do?

March 03, 1994|JANE GALBRAITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the first time in eight years, not to be invited to Spago on Oscar night will be no big deal. No worry, then, for being in the out crowd because even the in crowd will have to find somewhere else to party.

The official word is that the Spago celebrity owners, chef Wolfgang Puck and restaurant designer wife, Barbara Lazaroff, have closed their famous West Hollywood eatery on this night only, as kind of a memorial to another duo that helped put their restaurant on the map--agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar and his wife, Mary. Lazar was a widower at last year's soiree; last December, Lazar died.

"In tribute to our dear and devoted friends, Irving and Mary Lazar, two truly remarkable individuals, Spago . . . will remain dark this year," said a funeral announcement-style advertisement--ringed by a heavy black border--the owners took out recently in a Hollywood trade paper. The 66th Annual Academy Awards are on March 21.

The Lazars, most acknowledge, drew le plus ultra of Hollywood on this night--Swifty's clients, mixed with an assortment of industry heavyweights and late-arriving stars--and quickly turned the annual bash into a paparazzi's dream event and a staple live shot for the 11 p.m. news.

The announcement put to rest rumors that someone else would be sought to sub for Swifty as Oscar-night host, but not speculation that no one could be found to do the honors.

Even Puck himself is hazy on details why the decision to close was made relatively late: "We were torn between doing it and not doing it. . . . At the end, we were thinking this person or not this person . . . and we decided it would not be the way Irving would do it, so that was it."

Did he approach the Marvin Davises or Gregory Pecks or Michael Ovitz or either of the Douglases--Kirk and Michael--and get rejected, as has been said? Puck says no. Did they or other wanna-be hosts approach him? He wouldn't name names. Surely, cost wasn't the issue ($20,000 to start, including dinner for about 120, plus several thousand dollars more at evening's end when all the empty bubbly bottles from the standing-room-only crowd of 300 are counted up.)

But sources said Ovitz was approached. At least one actor's agent forwarded an inquiry to his client asking if he were interested in taking over the Spago party, but was told the actor couldn't because "he'd be out of town." Investment mogul Marvin Davis apparently didn't want to--Puck was catering the Davis' daughter's wedding the weekend before.

What's also true, is that by that time, le plus ultra were already jockeying to get themselves on the invite list for the Oscar party at Morton's, famous for its Monday-Night-at-Morton's Hollywood crowd.

The co-hosts at the new Morton's (it moved across the street in January) are producer Steve Tisch, a Morton's regular, and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. The guest list has been likened to those seen each month in the pages of the magazine--including denizens of Hollywood, Washington and the New York literary and financial worlds, spokespersons for both men said.

Those who have already RSVP'd are James Carville and Mary Matalin, Dominick Dunne, David Geffen, David Hockney, Si Newhouse and Ron Perelman, plus several Oscar show presenters, including best actor nominee Tom Hanks and emcee Whoopi Goldberg. Whether Olympic silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan will make it is unknown, though Tisch bought the rights to her story last week and seemed jazzed to have an occasion in which to introduce her around.

But if Tisch describes his cozy arrangement made with Carter as "like a good marriage" of West and East glitterati, the opposite could be said for organizers of two different Oscar-night AIDS benefits.

According to Keith Malone, communications coordinator for Los Angeles-based AIDS Health Care Foundation, which is hosting its fifth annual fund-raiser at the Directors Guild of America, Elton John for the second year has broken a "cardinal rule" by throwing his own AIDS benefit the same night at Maple Drive restaurant.

"(To complain to the press) makes us look like whiners. We've always had a good sell-out crowd, but this damages us in the level of celebrities who come to our event," Malone said. For $150- and $250-tickets, the estimated 400 to 500 attendees at the AHCF function will be entertained by actor-playwright Harvey Fierstein.

John's party to raise money for the Atlanta-based Elton John AIDS Foundation, at $250 a head or $5,000 a table, with a capacity of 200, is heavy with celebrity honorary chairpersons like Hanks (his nominated role is for the first mainstream Hollywood AIDS-themed movie, "Philadelphia"), Alec Baldwin, Jane Fonda, Bonnie Raitt and Neil Young (whose "Philadelphia" is up for best song).

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