As this year's Oscar race heats up, there's one guy to beat--Graydon Carter.
No, not that race. We're talking about the race to the Swifty Lazar-like peak of party-giving--hosting the glammest Oscar bash. This year, the competition is particularly brutal. Townies will rock at studio bashes like DreamWorks' and Paramount's joint party at Barnaby's on Fairfax, as well as at the House of Blues, where the Hollywood Stock Exchange and Excite's will leap from the Web for a post-awards celebration.
But there's also a new crop of heat-hungry New Yorkers following the lead of Vanity Fair Editor Carter who are vying for the job of uber-host of the year's uber-party. Carter's predecessor at Vanity Fair, Tina Brown, is hosting her first Oscar do as editor of the upcoming Talk magazine at the Mondrian Hotel on Saturday, the night before parent company Miramax's bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Down Sunset, Chateau Marmont hotelier Andre Balazs is throwing his first awards after-party at his new hotel, the Standard.
But if you feel you must party with Monica Lewinsky, who's on the list, you'd best head south to Morton's, where Vanity Fair will be feting and feeding America's walking magazine covers. Indeed, Morton's has usurped Spago's hold on Oscar party central, a move confirmed this year when Miramax decided not to return to Spago and Elton John moved his annual AIDS benefit to Pagani across the street from Morton's.
"They're hoping for overflow," Carter said dryly.
Oof. Carter is a man with many issues, but today we are concerned with only one--the Hollywood issue. April's 414-page Vanity Fair is the biggest in the magazine's history, and the New York edition is even bigger--it comes exclusively packaged with a 128-page ad supplement produced by Donna Karan.
Pretty nutty for a guy who isn't particularly interested in parties or celebrities.
"What I'm interested in is movies, and I'm interested in the people who make movies, because I love movies," Carter says. "I think that a lot of the smartest people I know are in the movie business out here," says the Canadian-born New Yorker. "But even with all the talent here, you can only make about 10 good movies a year.
"It's hard making good anything, but movies are a big, complex leviathan of a project. There are probably 10 great books written in America each year--10 movies, 10 books that will have any lasting meaning for the next generation."
We are contemplating posterity over lunch at Orso, where the Tom Wolfe-like Carter is back with the living after drinking until 4:30 a.m., a feat only a New Yorker or baby with colic could pull off. Carter is talking about how the magazine's coveted Hollywood covers are going to actors closer to the launch of their careers rather than icons, rising stars like Adrien Brody, Thandie Newton and Reese Witherspoon.
"Once you get over 35, you don't want the culture to change," says the 49-year-old Carter." "You want it to stay exactly the way it was when you were 28. But when you're young, you want the culture to change, and I like the magazine to reflect that."
Hey, kids may make new culture--and happy advertisers, by the way. But grown-ups run slicker magazines and throw parties with better hors d'oeuvres. Carter even ships in hundreds of cases of his favorite wine--which originates in California. "We buy all the Francis Coppola wine that ever comes into New York City, just about."
We know how creative Hollywood accounting can be, so we'll do the math for you. Take one door-stopper magazine, one show-stopper party and you have a guy in New York with some serious clout in L.A.
"I would tell people, 'If you made it big, where would you most like a profile of you to be written?' And a lot of people would say, 'Well, Vanity Fair.' And I said, 'If you fell from such great heights, where would you least like it to be written?' 'Well, Vanity Fair.' "