You wouldn’t guess it from the sheer number of Oscar parties planned around Sunday’s big show, but look closer and you’ll see the effects of the economic recession in the theme and tone of many of this year’s top soirees.
Using terms like “scaled back” and “quieter,” organizers are just as likely to tout the scholarships the parties are benefiting or how green the events are as they are the menu and décor. In some cases both the guest lists and the swag are being pared down.
“This is the industry’s big night and we can do it in a way that is reflective of the hard times going on out there,” says Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the chairperson for the Governors Ball, the celebration immediately following the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22.
But Hollywood being Hollywood, and this being the Academy Awards, the glamour will still be in big supply and the changes will be subtle.
So while 1,500 of Oscar’s closest friends will be enjoying the usual luxuries at the Governors Ball – Moet Champagne, Sterling wine, and a mostly organic menu from Wolfgang Puck – they’ll do it in a subdued atmosphere that Isaacs calls “quiet and Zen-like”. Rather than the usual flower arrangements, guests will be greeted by giant man-made Bonzai trees specially created for the event by Mark’s Garden and listen to tunes spun by KCRW’s Jason Bentley.
After a year off, the legendary Vanity Fair party returns with a considerably smaller invite list and decorations recycled from previous events, while still keeping all the star power. Don’t be surprised if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie make an appearance – for a more intimate affair. It also has a new home this year: Hollywood party mecca Sunset Towers.
At Elton John’s 17th Annual AIDS Foundation Party at the Pacific Design Center, expect to rub elbows with everyone from Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor and R&B musicians like Mary J. Blige.
Other big parties on Oscar night: Fox Searchlight toasts the casts of Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler with a party at ONE Sunset and a First Dibs gifting lounge; Leeza Gibbons and Olivia Newton John, along with music legend David Foster, have teamed up for the Leeza Gibbons Oscar Night at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills; and the 10th Annual Children Uniting Nations Gala will be held at the Beverly Hilton. Meanwhile, AIDS Project Los Angeles will have its Eighth Annual The Envelope Please viewing party hosted by Jennifer Love Hewitt at The Abbey in West Hollywood.
Oscar After Hours
Look for late night and breakfast parties to be buzzing throughout the Hollywood Hills Sunday night from exclusive bashes reportedly hosted by stars like Madonna and Demi Moore, and from industry heavyweights Rick Yorn, Patrick Whitesell, Mike Deluca and Brent Bolthouse.
But the late-night affair that everyone is talking about is the now-annual bash Prince is throwing at an undisclosed location. Can’t get on the list? Don’t fret. The Purple One is filming the event for broadcast on his new Web site: http://www.LotusFlow3r.com.
If you’re not going to the awards, check out the Mercedes Benz viewing and afterparty at the Montage Beverly Hills. Patrick Dempsey and Bridget Moynahan are stopping by to see Samantha Ronson spin.
Film Independent’s 2009 Spirit Awards will celebrate indie films with an awards bash on the beach in Santa Monica, where they can lounge at the Elle “Beach Chic” Green Room and later hit IFC’s Indie Film Celebration at Shutters. The best part for stars? Unlike the Oscars, they can show up in jeans and flip-flops.
Don’t expect a gift bag at DreamWorks Animation CEO and Motion Picture & Television Fund chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg’s “The Night Before Party” by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel to benefit the fund – they are cutting them out this year.
Meanwhile Sony Pictures Classics throws its 2009 Oscar Nominees’ Dinner at Cecconi’s, the former site of Morton’s, which is the Soho House site for this year.
It’s ladies’ night when the nonprofit organization Women in Film and Perrier Jouet host the second annual salute to female nominees in the Bel-Air home of mogul Peter Guber. In addition: benefiting The Art of Elysium is Bally’s Hollywood Domino Party at the Andaz Hotel and the Montblanc pre-Oscar party on the lot at Paramount Pictures. The night also kicks off Hollywood’s elite pre-Oscar parties with soirées hosted by CAA honcho Bryan Lourd and Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel, who is hosting his yearly private dinner for the agency’s nominees including Slumdog director Danny Boyle, and supporting actress nominee Amy Adams.
Australians in Film will honor their own with a party at the Chateau Marmont to be attended by Heath Ledger‘s family from Perth, Australia, and where they will introduce the first recipient of the Heath Ledger Scholarship. And don’t forget about the Irish! They’ll honor Brendan Gleeson, Hyla Queally and Jonathan Rhys Meyers at The Ebell Club of Los Angeles.
Also this night is the Vanity Fair/Dior launch party for the BRANDAID Foundation at Environment Furniture and the Sixth Annual Global Green USA pre-Oscar party benefiting Green Schools at Avalon, where celebs will arrive with a driver for the night in an environmentally friendly Audi Q7 TDI.
• Reporting by JENNIER GARCIA, MARISA LAUDADIO and EUNICE OH