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The Big Show Before the Big Show

December 16, 1996|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Saturday's astounding premiere by Hollywood Pictures and Cinergi for "Evita" at the Shrine Auditorium. This was hands-down the film debut/spectacle/media circus of the decade. It combined "Gone With the Wind" event showmanship with O.J. trial press coverage.

The First Sight: A bedlam of police, limos, Kleig lights, anti-fur demonstrators, 100 film crews, 1,800 fans (Madonnistas?) in 30-foot-high bleachers waving white handkerchiefs embossed with the words "Don't cry for me." There were dozens of bright red, 20-foot banners with Evita in gold lettering. It reminded most guests of Academy Awards night. One guest said, "It looks like a mix of the Olympics and Chairman Mao's birthday."

Who Was There: The film's stars, Madonna, with Carlos Leon, and Antonio Banderas, with Melanie Griffith; director Alan Parker; producer Andy Vajna; plus 4,200 guests (1,300 invited to the party) including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gabriel Byrne, Jennifer Tilly, Glenn Close, James Woods, Grace Jones, Marisa Tomei, David Hasselhoff, Russ Thyret, Lou Pitt and studio execs Joe Roth, Dick Cook and Rob Moore.

The Audience: The crowd was a rare gathering of movie and record industry tribes. Studio exec Lynda Keeler said the way to tell them apart is, "Film people have better cleavage. Music people just have more of it."

The Party: The Shrine's adjacent hall was done up by CES as Cafe Ta-Ba-Ris, a '40s Buenas Aires nightclub. There were 16 tango dancers, a 14-piece band playing period music, and vast buffets offering Argentine specialties. With massive red drapes covering the stone walls and a vaulted ceiling bathed in golden lights, it was like being inside Eva Peron's coffin.

Dress Mode: Black-tie. Lots of Armani, very little Evita-style apparel, except on Madonna who wore a pink velvet suit and something that looked like a bird on her head. Most of the fashion cognoscenti didn't think the film would generate a dress-like-Peron tsunami because, as one said, "Who wants to look like they're the wife of an Argentine dictator?"

The Buzz: It helps if you're a Madonna fan. As one guest said of her, Eva Peron and the movie, "You either buy into the cult or you don't." There was much praise for director Parker.

Quoted: "To tell a story with just images and music, from a creative point of view, that's the challenge," said Parker. "You're trying to communicate in a different way. Not rely on the spoken word. And when you do that, and when it works, you definitely take film somewhere else."

Overheard: "I kept thinking of 'Cop Rock.' "

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