Gotham partygoers go on defensive

WSJ's poll was party pooper, gripe guests

NEW YORK — The buzz at this year’s Oscar parties in New York was centered mostly on the results of the controversial poll of 356 Academy members that the Wall Street Journal ran Friday, a move that Gotham’s partygoers said took the fun out of this year’s show.

“It isn’t the most exciting Oscar year to begin with, and the Wall Street Journal poll didn’t help things,” griped one guest at Entertainment Weekly’s sixth an-nual party at Elaine’s.

Across town at Le Cirque, where the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences’ East Coast contingent gathered for its official New York party, the mood was somewhat defensive. Most insisted that it hadn’t been they who spoke to the Journal.

Most demurred when asked to identify their picks, claiming to have done the same when WSJ pollsters came calling. While admitting her curiosity concerning the poll’s results, voting member Tina Louise said, “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.” Jane Powell agreed. “We’re not supposed to talk about it,” she said.

Among the others gathered under Le Cirque’s green and gold-leaf ceiling were thesps Dina Merrill, Rita Gam, Ruth Warrick; past supporting actress nominee Sylvia Miles; past supporting actress winners Celeste Holm and Rita Moreno (who undoubtedly was as surprised as anyone to see a clip of Billy Crystal as her co-star in “Westside Story”); and AMPAS New York events committee chair and co-chair Arthur Manson and Arlene Dahl.

Gabriel Byrne took in the Oscarcast at Elaine’s. He was pulling for the underdog in the best actor category. “Denzel Washington was great and Kevin Spacey is a friend of mine,” he said. “But to tell you the truth, I am rooting for Richard Farnsworth.”

Pregnant event

Some of the more statuesque of the New York partygoers were to be found at the EW bash, including Mpule Kwelagobe, Miss Universe 1999, and not one but two hugely pregnant supermodels, the Euro duo of Vendela and Frederique (both of whom dispensed with surnames long ago).

Hosting the festivities at Elaine’s were EW editor-in-chief Norm Pearlstine and wife Nancy Friday, and among their guests were George Plimpton, Grammys producer Pierre Cosette, Shirley Knight, Aida Turturro and Showtime topper Matthew C. Blank.

Across town at the Russian Tea Room, the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival’s fete drew a sizable crowd including Spalding Gray and Kim Catrall, all of whom watched the ceremony on large monitors throughout the cavernous restaurant.

Gray said he came out mostly to watch the newly renovated, always baroque Tea Room — whose perf he called “a little overdone.”