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The Other Oscar Party

November 12, 2000|MARK EHRMAN

The occasion: The Fourth Annual Evening of Champions dinner and award ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton to benefit the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation.

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The tale of the tape: "In the script they called me a heavyweight performer," announces the evening's hostess, Access Hollywood's Nancy O'Dell. "Now, I know that's a compliment in boxing . . . " Thus begins a marathon of speeches and video footage extolling multi-division championship boxer Oscar De La Hoya and his East L.A. youth center, which offers at-risk kids boxing programs and fitness training. With per-plate prices averaging $1,000, the dinner offers many a brush with hombres suaves such as De La Hoya, performer Marc Anthony, Jose Navarro of South-Central (who fought as a flyweight during the Sydney Olympics) and Jimmy Smits. A curiously large number of speakers make reference to history's great military campaigns. Robert Towne finds the Battle of Hastings particularly apropos. Andy Garcia takes everyone back to--no, not "Godfather III"--Hannibal and the Second Punic War. "This is not like the Oscars, where they play a song and you gotta leave," he says. "I have a lot of things to say." Shaquille O'Neal, thankfully, keeps it brief. "I'm not much for words," he notes. "I attended LSU. Learn Slow University."

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At ringside: "I had an opportunity to meet some of the kids and take pictures with them," says WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie, 4-for-4 in recent benefit-attendance stats. "I'm from L.A., too, and it's a great opportunity to reach the kids." The bash brings out Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Salma Hayek, Buzz Aldrin, Erin Brockovich and the LAPD's Bernard Parks, who crosses into the less-tumultuous Beverly Hills precinct for the occasion. "We're very supportive of Oscar and think it's a very positive image he gives in the community," the chief says. Indeed, following Marc Anthony's set, when celebs abandon the hall for the safety of backstage, the fighter still remains. "Boxing has really given me the stamina for this," De La Hoya says, patiently indulging the crush of snapshot and autograph seekers. "I feel like I can go another 15 or 20 rounds."

What's The Score?

CELEB QUOTIENT: Other than glittering spectators Warren and Annette, most of the heavy-hitters in attendance were either giving or receiving awards.

WOW FACTOR: Who hasn't seen enough of Ricky and Enrique, anyway?

CHOW LINE: Rack of lamb in mushroom sauce, followed by a dessert plate topped with a white chocolate De La Hoya Foundation logo. A gastronomic TKO.

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