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Spotlight shift

Glitzy post-Oscar bashes still draw Hollywood's elite, but under-the-radar parties are gaining cachet.

February 21, 2007|Elizabeth Snead | Special to The Times

EVERYONE knows about the Governors Ball and the A-list Vanity Fair bash. And everyone who isn't anyone watches coverage of celebs arriving at these post-parties on their high-def, 42-inch plasma screens. Yawn.

But the coolest Oscar parties are the semi-secret ones held in the days and nights leading up to the Oscars. These less-public, no-red-carpet, media-free agency soirees for agents, managers, studio honchos and stars are routinely held at private homes on Oscar weekend. If you are an A-lister, you probably already know about most of them. And if you don't, well, you probably aren't invited.

These days the famous and powerful do perfunctory pit stops at the big public parties, pose for a few photos and then flee to the more sedate bashes away from the prying eyes of the media and slathering sponsors. Even the freewheeling Golden Globes are going that way.

While all the media coverage was focused on the WB/In Style party and the Paramount/DreamWorks fete at last month's Globes, the big stars actually left those parties quickly and ended up at either Bryan Lourd's Creative Artists Agency gathering or Prince's private party high in a Beverly Hilton penthouse. That trend is set to continue for this year's Oscar celebrations.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday February 23, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 62 words Type of Material: Correction
Oscar parties: An article about the latest Oscar parties for celebrities in Wednesday's edition of The Envelope misspelled director Alfonso Cuaron's last name as Curon and referred to his film "Children of Men" as "City of Men." Also, a caption with the article said that the Vanity Fair party is held annually at Morton's in Beverly Hills. Morton's is in West Hollywood.

The Sunday day-of parties are still the big three: the academy's Governors Ball, Vanity Fair and Elton John's annual AIDS Foundation bash (with James Blunt performing).

But no studios are throwing congratulatory bashes. No post-parties are planned for Paramount, New Line, Fox/Searchlight, Universal/Focus, Disney/Buena Vista or Picturehouse.

On the down low this year, Warner Bros. is hosting a nominees dinner at the Hotel Bel-Air on Friday. About 250 guests are invited, so expect the big guns, such as Martin Scorsese, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Ed Zwick. But don't expect cameras. The exclusive event is media-free.

Of course, these lower-key industry insider parties have been going on forever, but many are gaining on the big, media-friendly events.

Industry observers are saying Jeffrey Katzenberg's Motion Picture & Television Fund "Night Before" party on Saturday is now more popular than Vanity Fair's Sunday bash at Morton's. Why? No red carpet. No nosy media. No gown or tux necessary. And you can avoid the gaze of Vanity Fair's new live party webcam.

Even studio pre-parties are on the wane. Along with the Warners party this Friday, there was a party on Feb. 7 at Simon's L.A. in the Sofitel, celebrating the nominations for "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "City of Men" director Alfonso Curon, and "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo del Toro. But that's about it.

Meanwhile, there are more options than ever for those who want to see and be seen (in private) before the big night.

The new addition to the bunch is Giorgio Armani's fete at Ron Burkle's Green Acres Estate in Beverly Hills on Saturday. The Champagne reception and exclusive showing of his new Armani Prive couture line will no doubt have a very special audience that probably will include Victoria and David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony and Armani's faithful fashion fans, such as George Clooney, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty.

Speaking of fashion, Barry Diller and wife Diane von Furstenberg will host a private luncheon at their home on Saturday afternoon.

And London-based fragrance and skin care mogul Jo Malone is doing a cocktail party Thursday for Miramax's nominated "The Queen" and "Venus" at the Sunset Tower Hotel on the Terrace overlooking Hollywood. Expect to see the indefatigable front-runner Helen Mirren and the irrepressible dark horse Peter O'Toole at this private fete.

Then there are The Night Before and Friday night's agency parties thrown by ICM's Ed Limato, CAA's Lourd and Endeavor's Ari Emanuel. Each of these is a friends- and clients-only event at the agents' homes.

Even the 79th annual Governors Ball immediately after the telecast will be following the new low-key trend. The formerly formal assigned-table dining has been scrapped in favor of a Tuscan-style buffet with casual seating that will include sofas, banquettes and lounge areas as well as stand-up tables and bars. So will nominees have to serve themselves? If they want to. Wolfgang Puck's open-kitchen feel (seen at Cut and Spago) will feature 14 interactive kitchens and chefs cooking for -- and in front of -- the guests.

Doubtless, Oscar winners may have enough studio minions to fetch them food. And there will be 800 servers. But some giddy winners may want to try their hand at juggling an Oscar and a plate of pasta, sushi or tapas.

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INVITATION ONLY

With big, media-filled Oscar parties on the wane, the following is a list of this year's more prominent private events.

Katzenberg's bash

What: Jeffrey Katzenberg's annual Night Before party benefiting the Motion Picture & Television Fund

Where: The Beverly Hills Hotel

When: Saturday

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