A shorthand way of looking at Oscar night’s top two events is geographic: The Governors Ball is for the hometown crowd; Vanity Fair is for out-of-towners.
The Ball is all about the Academy. Sure, the nominees and winners drop by, but the core is the membership. The upside is this roots the Ball in reality — no small feat on Oscar night. If you’re at the Ball, you belong. These are all members of the same club.
The downside is the Oscars are a lot more glamorous than the AMPAS membership. Let’s just say, there are more sound mixing engineers at the Ball than at any other party in town.
Vanity Fair gets a jaw-dropping pack of what a celeb mag would call bold-face names in one room. The spectrum runs from actors to politicians without including Paris Hilton. It’s hard to imagine a more diverse group of the rich, famous and powerful gathering annually in one room.
But ultimately, they’re all rich, famous and powerful strangers. Maybe this is an exotic way for them to meet once a year, but it’s not like they’re all friends or have worked together. In fact it’s more likely they’ve sued each other.
If the Ball is about colleagues meeting, then Vanity Fair is about the elite checking each other out.
A distant third on the list is the Elton John AIDS Foundation fund-raiser. The upside to this is it raises money for a good cause; the downside is if you donate enough money you’re in. There are times when you can look around the room and think: These people must have paid to get in, which is not something that crosses one’s mind at Vanity Fair.
The Governors Ball
Where: Hollywood & Highland’s ballroom
When: Whenever the kudocast ends
Who: Half the crowd that sits through the telecast
Backstory: This has always been Oscar’s family affair, though in recent years the budget has grown: AMPAS reports on its taxes that the event costs close to $1 mil.
Vanity Fair’s Oscar party
When: Roughly 150 come for a dinner/viewing party, the rest after the show.
Who: An East Coast magazine editor’s idea of important people
Backstory: When Swifty Lazar’s legendary party went to the grave with him, Vanity Fair took the slot. It’s been a winner since day one.
Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party
Where: The Pacific Design Center
When: Some dine and view with Sir Elton, the rest come post-telecast.
Who: Stars and donors
Backstory: Plenty of charities have tried (and usually failed) to make money off Oscar night, but Sir Elton has been the most persistent. This is the granddaddy of award show-related philanthropy.
Night of 100 Stars
Where: Beverly Hills Hotel
When: While the Oscars are on the air
Who: A surreal collection of the aging famous with accompanying gawkers
Backstory: A couple years ago, there was a touch of scandal to the event over money and donations to the Film Foundation. The Night and the FF now go their separate ways.
Children Uniting Nations fund-raiser
Where: The Fonda Theater
When: Viewing and post-telecast
Who: The philanthropic, but little star power
Backstory: One of the smaller charities using Oscar as a fund-raising hook. Not a major event, but a nice way for supporters to gather.