Stars & bars

An insider's guide to the art and science of schmoozing at kudofests

In Robert Altman’s “The Player,” studio comer Larry Levy tells rival Griffin Mill they can get together right after his AA meeting.

“Larry, I didn’t realize you had a drinking problem,” says Mill.

“Well, I don’t really,” says Levy over the car speaker phone, “but that’s where all the deals are being made these days.”

During awards season, there’s no need to fake your way through the 12 Steps just to get prime face time with power players. Nature is on your side, because even the great and powerful become the hungry and thirsty — and yes, crave nicotine — after an hour or two as a captive audience at these black-tie affairs. So here’s a handy guide to tracking down and chatting up at kudofests.

The awards season clock starts on … well, it’s already ticking. If you’re a multihyphenate, you could find yourself spending a lot of time at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City.

The hotel hosts BAFTA-LA’s Britannia Awards Nov. 2, followed by the Producers Guild Jan. 20, the Directors Guild Feb. 3 and the Writers Guild Feb. 11. During the ceremonies at the Hyatt, your best bet for a “random” encounter with someone interesting is out front, as the nearest smoking area is by valet parking.

On Jan. 15, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. hosts the Golden Globes in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton. The event is a sit-down dinner, but the food’s served early: 4 p.m. to accommodate primetime on the East Coast. There’s a bar at the back of the room that is relocated to a side alcove during the show proper. But it’s the International Terrace, a 20-foot-by-50-foot patio balcony, that serves as a smoking area. It overlooks the pool and after-parties below, and gives you a good shot at catching the likes of Johnny Depp or Scarlett Johansson.

The Globes and the SAG Awards are both heavy on star power, as they are the two big events that honor both TV and movie thesps. The SAG Awards, Jan. 28 at the Shrine, must boast the best green room on the planet, if you can get there. Champagne and antipasto are served during the two-hour ceremony, followed by a gala informal buffet dinner afterward in a tent outside. At first, most people choose to stay in the auditorium and table-hop during commercial breaks, but look for the audience to thin out steadily over the course of the evening as people slip out to smoke by the bathrooms or get an early start on the People magazine party next door.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are held the Saturday morning before the Oscars (Feb. 24 this season), literally on the beach in Santa Monica — “in a big-ass tent right in the parking lot where skateboarding was born as a rebel sport in the ’70s,” in the words of filmmaker Allison Anders. There are bars everywhere; the show is televised live (without commercial breaks) in adjacent tents for press and industry who can’t get inside the big top, and everyone shares the same honey wagons and ocean view.

Finally, there’s the night of nights: the Oscars, Feb. 25 at the Kodak Theater. There are lobby bars open throughout the show on each of the five levels, with TV screens on a five-second delay to monitor the proceedings and smart attendants with clipboards if you overstay your bathroom break (which you will).

You’re more likely to bump into the major luminaries at the first-floor lobby bar than on the upper levels. Settle for a quick once-through at the Governors Ball afterward, since for every half-hour you wait to go to the valet, you lose two hours at a party somewhere else, as the city shuts down from celebrity gridlock.

Not a bad metaphor for awards season in general. Plan your route early.

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