“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in 20 years of coming,” Adrien Brody, the Oscar-winning actor, remarked on Sunday night at Vanity Fair’s annual Oscars party. “I had genuine discussions with people about politics, life, and art.”
For the first time in years, meaningful dialogue was all but inevitable at this annual gathering of business giants. The biggest cause for this was Will Smith hitting Chris Rock onstage, which was a train catastrophe in itself.
Since Tina Brown, a former Vanity Fair editor, dreamed of a party that would dethrone Swifty Lazar’s Academy Awards wingding, it has been almost 40 years since she came up with the concept. Ms. Brown noted in her published diaries that Mr. Lazar not only understood how to rope in the stars, but he also knew how to rope in the masses. In addition, he cultivated a “menagerie” of animals that either attended on his terms or did not attend at all.
In the case of a celebrity of Mr. Smith’s status acting inappropriately in public, it is more than just a source of clucking editorials and viral memes to be concerned about. A challenge to the fantasy of show-business kumbaya, to put it another way. After all, this year’s Vanity Fair party had a feel of a celebrity campfire circle, which was appropriate given its location. Other Oscar parties, such as the one hosted by Madonna and Guy Oseary, may be more personal and exclusive, but nothing compares to the Vanity Fair party in terms of sheer number of boldface names.
And so, for a few late-night hours, in a series of tents, gardens, and outdoor lounges at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, some of the world’s most famous people mingled, danced, drank, and smoked (mostly weed), proving once again what a great leveller fame can be. In Hollywood, it is a commonly acknowledged truism that once you reach a certain degree of celebrity, everyone becomes your closest buddy.
In order to enter the sanctum, invited visitors had to walk through a series of security checkpoints (where negative PCR test results were necessary) and a blue carpet lined with photographers who were yelling at them. Billie Eilish, Pedro Almodóvar, and Jessica Chastain (who wore an emerald-green Gucci gown that was inspired by Ariel from “The Little Mermaid”) were then whisked away to a private studio where photographer Mark Seliger captured their formal pictures for the magazine.
Others proceeded immediately into the main party area, where cameras, phones, and other recording devices had been rigorously prohibited due to the strong prohibition on photography. People were surprised to find themselves breaking the no-phone rule to catch such dramatic situations as Kathy Hilton dancing with Marjorie Gubelmann, aka DJ Mad Marj, or Bill Murray donning a jaunty hat and dancing by himself in the middle of the dance floor.
Even if they had stayed until after midnight, they would have seen Will Smith, who seemed unconcerned about the issue he had just sparked and who was joined by his wife and children and shimmying to the song “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
They would have also grabbed Serena Williams, who was towering above the throng in a silver minidress, and Zendaya, who was standing near a potted palm tree and engaged in discussion with Timothée Chalamet, both of whom were surrounded by a nimbus of marijuana smoke exhaled by a friend of theirs.
In addition to Jason Bateman and Kevin Bacon engaged in a bro-hug, they would have seen Jon Hamm alone near the men’s room, looking as wistful as a pound puppy; Kristen Stewart floating past in a floor-length black lace dress; and Zo Kravitz chain smoking Marlboros, among other things.
The most prominent were expected to work the red carpet and do a few of glad-handing circuits before slipping out of the party to attend another, which was apparently better.
Midnight was traditionally considered to be the witching hour. There was a more congenial atmosphere this time around, which was understandable given the circumstances. It has taken its toll on the celebrity crowd after two years of absence.
It was easy to forget that there was ever a time when people were socially segregated, as Georgina Chapman, the fashion designer, observed as partygoers pressed up against each other so tightly on their way to one of the tequila bars that it was easy to forget that there was ever a time when people were socially segregated.