There are moments on Golden Globe night when the Beverly Hilton shimmers with so many impeccably styled beings, most of them vaguely familiar, that it feels like a pop culture way station or one of those fall-asleep-on-the-couch dreams after watching too much satellite TV.
On Sunday night, the hotel is a bit like Disneyland in that it houses a collection of themed villages that, for all the time and money spent to individualize each one, feel pretty much the same. This year, HBO, Miramax, Focus Features/NBC Universal, InStyle/Warner Bros. and Fox Searchlight each commandeered space to celebrate their victories and, hopefully, lure the greatest number of A-list guests.
Miramax's tribe gathered in a parking lot outside Trader Vic's that was transformed by a golden "light-through-the-trees" effect to resemble a sort of Sherwood Forest with heat lamps and a plastic tent. The crowd parted for Mick Jagger, who is so much shorter than that strut would suggest. There were tables reserved for Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett. An "Extra" crew cornered Globe winner Natalie Portman, hungry for a sound bite. "I haven't eaten yet," she told them.
Across the room, a natural barrier formed around a trio of ethereal Australian women: Nicole Kidman, her sister Antonia and Naomi Watts.
It was not yet 9 when two Beverly Hills police officers stormed the party, ruffling a whole gaggle of self-important execs suddenly barred from the tent. The forest was reaching capacity. Kidman, Watts and Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein disappeared behind a curtain, on to hipper climes.
Upstairs in Fox Searchlight's domain, guests sipped cocktails on an eighth-floor balcony and admired a glittering view of Beverly Hills that, as one guest noted, belonged in a Michael Mann film. People were relaxed -- Oliver Platt was wearing leopard-print slippers, for example. "Sideways" star Paul Giamatti and co-writer Jim Taylor stood outside to take in the balmy night, but instead cracked jokes about the hovering police helicopters and the wafting kitchen smells. Of the awards, Giamatti told a reporter, "I never expect to win anything myself" -- he didn't -- "I'm relieved it's over."
On the way to the next village, "Desperate Housewife" and Globe winner Teri Hatcher swished through the lobby with an entourage of cameras just as Kevin Connolly, who is on HBO's "Entourage," trailed Nicky Hilton, who is famous for cultivating entourages.
There was a brief but scary moment in the lobby when three of the hotel's five parties were shut down by the Beverly Hills Fire Department due to overcrowding, sending scores of perturbed guests to seek solace at Gift Bag Redemption. But that passed after an awkward 20 minutes and once again everyone had somewhere to go.
Past the adoring hordes, past the elevators, past the phalanx of firefighters rushing this way and that, was a long narrow hallway that led to a fork in the road. One path went to a Focus Features-NBC/Universal gathering that was shrouded in crushed blue velvet and beckoned with good sushi, ice cream and the sounds of Snoop Dogg. Down the other path was the InStyle/Warner Bros. party, a fantasy of dangling crystal, lime and purple decor, clear plastic furniture and a group of loud media swarming Joan and Melissa Rivers. Three publicists, just out of the women's earshot, watched them pose and conjured up some karma.
"Those cheek implants are so bizarre," said one. "Why won't she smile?" asked another. "She's had a lot of work done very recently," said the third.
It was that point in the evening -- nearing 11 o'clock -- when the stilettos were really starting to bite and even the feigned smiles had faded. So perhaps this was just exhaustion talking. Or maybe it was a sort of correction, a way for the cult of celebrity to preserve itself. During awards season, after all, there's no room for nonbelievers.