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RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT

Invasion of the Freebie Snatchers!

June 27, 1997|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: While the U.S. government scrambles to explain the strange crash that occurred at Roswell, N.M., 50 years ago, the folks in Hollywood turned out at the saucer-like Cinerama Dome Wednesday night for a little close-encounter conspiracy comedy of their own. The occasion was the premiere of "Men in Black," which stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret government agents in charge of managing the thousands of alien visitations that happen unbeknownst to the workaday world. After the screening, there was a huge bash in the parking lot behind the dome.

Who Was There: Stars from the film included Smith (with Jada Pinkett), Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn and director Barry Sonnenfeld. Among the 1,500 or so other guests were Charles Barkley, Dean Cain, Tia Carrere, Vivica Fox, Gina Gershon, Michael Keaton, Bill Maher, Antonio Sabato Jr., D.B. Sweeney and Mario Van Peebles.

Chow and Motif: A galaxy of buffet tables serving everything from pastas and veggies to sirloin burgers. The party was decorated with set pieces from the film and included a spaceship-like centrifugal ride (best experienced before the burgers), an alien shooting gallery and, most popular, a photo booth where guests could get their picture on a National Enquirer cover.

The Buzz: With an ending that screamed "sequel," many were already speculating about the plot-line for "Men in Black II." "I think they'll pass the shades onto the next generation of Ray-Ban wearers," said Van Peebles, in recognition of the most obvious of the movie's many product placement tie-ins.

Roswell Explained: While almost nobody questioned at the party believed the official version of the events at Roswell, only director Sonnenfeld seemed to have an idea of what actually happened. "Columbia Pictures planted the Roswell incident 50 years ago knowing it would take that long to get the computer special effects graphics up to the point that it is now," he said. "So if anything, I believe that the Roswell incident was a Columbia publicity stunt."

Same Time Next Year? "I seem to be having a little luck with this Fourth of July thing," said Smith, who, last year about this time, was celebrating the release of "Independence Day." "I don't think I'll be doing it next year, but I'm going to give it a couple of more shots before my career is over."

Freebies: Nothing cheap about this one. All guests were issued "Men in Black" regulation shades with case, courtesy of Ray-Ban. While everyone was ordered to wear their shades at all times, only the bartenders seemed to comply. There were also "Men in Black" action figures (one per couple).

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