After three hours of the longest-ever Oscars show, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant could take no more. Their Best Original Score presenting duties done, the pair made a run for it, slipping out of the Kodak Theatre, tiptoeing across an empty courtyard—pausing only when Bullock’s heel got caught on the hem of her Valentino dress—and diving into the back of their chauffeured limo before heading off to the Vanity Fair party at Mortons a few miles away.
Who could blame them? When the show ended 90 minutes later at nearly 10 p.m. L.A. time, the award-weary had their beautiful minds muddled by their baying stomachs. “I’m ready to eat!” declared Faith Hill as she left the theater, fresh from performing Best Song nominee “There You’ll Be,” from Pearl Harbor. “I am so hungry!”
She wasn’t alone. “It’s a long awards show,” said first-time attendee Kirsten Dunst. “Next time I’ll remember to pack a picnic.”
Hill, Dunst and the rest of the fashionably famished 1,650 guests swarmed into the Board of Governors Ball, held two flights up from the theater in a fifth-floor ballroom in the new Oscar complex. Waylaid briefly by a power snafu that turned on the ballroom’s fluorescent emergency lights—”I don’t want to go in there with that bright light shining on me,” presenter Marcia Gay Harden complained—celebs eventually made their way to gold-draped tables set with white candles, orchids and goldfish swimming in large square bowls. Perhaps mindful of the ravenous masses, the menu jokingly noted, “The Governors request that guests not consume the goldfish. They have been promised to local elementary schools.”
Instead partygoers turned to other sea life, nibbling on spicy tuna tartare, shrimp tempura and sesame-crusted salmon, as well as vegetable samosas and Szechwan-style New York steak, all courtesy of Spagomeister Wolfgang Puck. Two by two the stars swept in: Julia Roberts chatting with Samuel L. Jackson; Josh Hartnett cuddling girlfriend Ellen Fenster; an aloof Jennifer Lopez huddling with husband Cris Judd; Nastassja Kinski on the arm of Best Supporting Actor nominee Jon Voight.
Even Russell Crowe seemed contented. With his arm protectively around Australian girlfriend Danielle Spencer most of the night, the Best Actor nominee drank water and white wine at a table with his Oscar-toting Beautiful Mind mates Jennifer Connelly and Ron Howard before retreating to a smaller party he hosted at his hotel.
In fact, eating (and drinking) and running is the custom at the Governors Ball, what with so many places to go and people to be seen with. “I’m ready to stay out a little longer,” said Emily Watson, who followed her Gosford Park director, Robert Altman, to another soiree. “The night is young!”
More like middle-aged over at Vanity Fair’s party at Mortons in Los Angeles. Stars like Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett and Warren Beatty had started to arrive at the dimly lit restaurant five hours earlier to watch the Oscars on televisions while dining on avocado and endive salad, striped bass with Italian couscous and frozen cheesecake with raspberry coulis, (When Halle Berry won the Best Actress prize, a sobbing Winfrey jumped to her feet and cheered.) Jay Leno, for one, knew this was the place to be. “They give out free meals here,” he quipped before heading home to “go write jokes” for the following night’s Tonight Show. “At the others you just get hors d’oeuvres.”
Mortons also provided a smorgasbord of star sightings. Nicole Kidman may not have won an Oscar, but she did make a new Friend. A starry-eyed David Schwimmer made her acquaintance: “Hi, I’m David, nice to meet you.” While whispering with her parents, Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner, presenter Gwyneth Paltrow spotted her Royal Tenenbaums costar Owen Wilson and stopped him for a hug. Paltrow’s sometime beau—Owen’s brother Luke—brought his mom, Laura, to the bash and later greeted Paltrow with an embrace. Meanwhile Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks danced themselves giddy to the ’70s tunes played by a deejay—outdone only by Cameron Diaz, who puffed on a cigarette while grooving to the disco anthem “I Will Survive.” Across the room a solo Ben Stiller (his wife, Christine Taylor, expecting their first child this month, stayed home) knelt at a booth for a tête-à-tête with Ryan O’Neal, who countered rumors of his failing health with “I’m doing just fine.”
Limos shuttled revelers between Mortons and the Elton John AIDS Foundation party, cohosted by IN STYLE, at the nightclub Moomba several blocks away. (No small luxury for those who’d spent the evening sipping bubbly or prancing around in stiletto heels.) Inside Kevin Spacey played paparazzo with his digital camera while heavy security kept most of the real media—and the 1,000 guests—away from stars like Sting, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Ricky Martin, Mel Gibson and Paul McCartney, who were ail squeezed into the VIP room.
No party was complete without Berry, who was so overwhelmed by well-wishers after the show that she didn’t get to sit down and eat at the Governors Ball until midnight. By the time she drifted into Moomba at 1 a.m. on the arm of musician hubby Eric Benét, she showed no signs of slowing down. “We’re going to party,” Berry had vowed earlier in the evening. “Probably until noon tomorrow you’ll see us on the streets driving around!”
Written by: Michelle Tauber, Julie K.L. Dam, Chuck Arnold, Galina Espinoza, Susan Horsburgh, Michael A. Lipton, Jason Lynch, Samantha Miller, Susan Schindehette, Sophfronia Scott, Alex Tresniowski and Jennifer Wulff
Reported by: Carrie Bell, Rachel Biermann, Alexis Chiu, Ruth Andrew Ellenson, Robyn Flans, Alison Singh Gee, Teena Hammond, Julie Jordan, Marisa Laudadio, Dana Meltzer and Ulrica Wihlborg in Los Angeles; K.C. Baker; Rachel Felder and Caroline Howard in New York; Liz Corcoran in London