The following, then, will hopefully act as a guide as to what to expect with your black-tie invite:
ELTON JOHN AIDS FOUNDATION PARTY
Vibe: Doing good while doing the town up
Venue: Pacific Design Center
Upside: Donate enough and you’re invited
Downside: Who wants to spend Oscar night with a big donor from Dubai named Mustafa?
Decor: Eltonesque: think red and pink bouquets with fuchsia Swarovski crystals — these being the subtler design elements
Repast: Fish or lamb shank from Cipriani Hotel
Memorable moment: Last year, Liz Taylor, for her 73rd birthday, blew out the candles on a huge lavender cake.
Swag: A Bangladeshi village with an Ebay account could survive a year on the gift-bag items
Vibe: The only party that matters
Upside: You can say you went to the Vanity Fair Oscar party.
Downside: Negotiations over first-born child’s soul as invite payment can get nasty.
Repast: Minihamburgers, vegetable spring rolls and tuna tartar on wonton chips
Decor: Wall-to-wall moguls — and wannabe moguls
Memorable moment: Ed Limato tossing his drink at Page 6 columnist Richard Johnson; not since the stain on Monica Lewinsky’s dress has so little liquid received so much press
Memorable faux pas: One year Courtney Love tried to sneak in a guest who wasn’t on the list with typically unLovely results.
Swag: You can swipe the Vanity Fair-logo ash trays.
Vibe: The “official” post-Oscar party
Venue: Hollywood & Highland’s ride-the-escalator ballroom
Upside: It’s really the hometown party (Vanity Fair is so New York — and that includes all the provincial shortcomings).
Downside: The hometown crowd can be a bit staid.
Decor: In 2005, the theme was to re-create the opulence of old Hollywood with a contemporary dinner club.
Repast: Wolfgang Puck’s best
Memorable moment: The first year the ballroom was used the emergency lights lit up the place like a supermarket, thus proving that glamour and florescent lighting cannot coexist.
Swag: A small chocolate Oscar
Vibe: Biggest night of the year after the Oscars
Venue: Beverly Hilton
Upside: All the parties under one roof
Downside: Post-9/11 security makes a San Quentin conjugal visit look unsupervised
Repast: All the food is from the hotel kitchen, not necessarily a good thing.
Memorable moment: Prince liked the live band so much at the InStyle party he got up and performed “Purple Rain.”
Swag: No gift bags — except for presenters, who surely desperately need more shampoo
Vibe: Actors loving actors. As Julia Roberts famously remarked after her “Erin Brockovich” win: “If this was a prom, this would be like the best school ever to go to.”
Venue: Shrine Auditorium
Upside: An award from your acting peers
Downside: Peers shmeers, they really want an Oscar.
Repast: Lamb loin with spinach
Memorable moments: Morgan Freeman spontaneously serenading lifetime achievement award recipient James Garner with the “Maverick” theme song
Memorable faux pas: Hilary Swank didn’t wrap up her acceptance speech for “Million Dollar Baby” until her director, Clint Eastwood, urged her to do so from the audience.
Swag: Your program
COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS
Vibe: “It’s the last awards show of the season and there are no cameras so everyone can get royally pissed,” Tim Curry said one year.
Venue: BevHilton or BevWilshire
Emcee: The always soignee Anjelica Huston usually hosts.
Main course: “It’s very basic fare,” says J.L. Pomeroy, of the jLine Group, which produces the show. “It’s a union hotel.”
Memorable moment: Warren Beatty confessing his insecurity that honoree Milena Canonero didn’t offer him the validation he craved on their movies together.
Memorable faux pas: Hosted one year at the nonunion Beverly Hills Hotel
Swag: Last year, attendees received a Swarovski Crystal pendant.
Vibe: Intelligent adults honoring each other
Venue: Century City Plaza Hotel
Emcee: Long-running and long-winded host Carl Reiner
Repast: Surf and turf
Upside: Minimum amount of preening
Downside: Who knew they gave so many awards for commercials?
Memorable moment: In presenting a nomination medallian to Clint Eastwood for “Mystic River,” Sean Penn said he was disappointed by co-presenter Laura Linney’s failure to duplicate Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl stunt: “If anyone deserves a little nipple, It’s Clint Eastwood.”
Memorable faux pas: Clearly confused by the DGA’s practice of handing out plaques to all the nominees, Mike Nichols gave an acceptance speech for 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” before the winner was actually announced. The next year was legit, though; he won for “The Graduate.”
Swag: Traditionally, a tiny metal director’s chair is at each place setting.
INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS
Vibe: The anti-Oscars
Venue: A massive white tent on the Santa Monica beach
Emcee: Eminence gris shlockmeister John Waters
Repast: A light lunch
Memorable moment: Waters doing a screener piracy skit that had him being led offstage in handcuffs by Jack Valenti
Memorable faux pas: Ally Sheedy giving a record-setting nine-minute acceptance speech after winning for “High Art” in 1999. Where’s an orchestra when you need one?
Swag: Like a high-class Sundance bag — Movado watches, IFC-emblazoned items, sunglasses
L.A. FILM CRITICS ASSN. AWARDS
Vibe: Schlubby critics dress up to let their hair down.
Venue: The Park Hyatt in Century City
Emcee: Fearless leader Henry Sheehan
Main course: “We try to offer the best chicken dish we can serve,” says Sheehan.
Memorable moments: In 2003, the group canceled its awards in protest of the MPAA screener ban. This was a bit like Liechtenstein being neutral during WWII — didn’t really affect the conflict much.
Memorable faux pas: In ’94, the show went on, despite the big earthquake. But the table cards were mixed up, so that all the winners were seated toward the back. “I blamed it on the earthquake,” says Sheehan.
Swag: Usually a DVD of the lifetime achievement winner’s works.