Partygoers revel in sumptuous soirees

Dinner, dancing, glitz, glamour all around town

HOLLYWOOD — Once the big show is over, partygoers will eagerly hit several charity galas around town, all in the spirit of giving… and having a new noshes along the way. Two major soirees will serve as bookends close to the epicenter of glitz and glamour: one at an exclusive eatery that’s about to open, the other at a legendary venue that’s near closing its doors.

Elton John will host the ninth annual benefit for his self-named AIDS foundation, which has raised more than $1.5 million on Oscar nights. Sponsored by InStyle magazine, it will be held at Moomba restaurant in West Hollywood, barely a few weeks after it opens.

Cocktails and a sit-down dinner will be served for about 200 guests, while an after-party for up to 450 partygoers will feature special guest performances.

The event serves a dual purpose in raising worldwide awareness of HIV while at the same time celebrating Oscar, says John Scott, the foundation’s executive director.

At the original Spago on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, set to close at the end of March, a charity event for at-risk children will be co-sponsored by Children Uniting Nations, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Los Angeles and Rolling Stone magazines.

About 20 musical acts will perform, including Dave Mason of the rock group Traffic, the brothers Hanson, teen band No Authority and R&B chanteuse Jill Scott. Other invited acts whose attendance could not yet be confirmed include Kid Rock, Destiny’s Child and the Pointer Sisters.

The most anticipated arrival of the night among 500 guests may be President Clinton, whom the chief organizer says expressed a desire to put in an appearance at the fundraiser if his sked permits.

Proceeds from the event will benefit 2,500 children for a community mentoring program Nov. 11 hosted by actor Pierce Brosnan, according to Daphna Edwards Ziman, a scribe, director and producer who co-founded Children Uniting Nations.

Getting the ball rolling

For the sixth time, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will serve delightful delicacies for the Governors Ball, which will immediately follow the awards presentation at the Shrine Exposition Center, adjacent to the auditorium.

“It’s the biggest party of the year,” Puck says.

An edible gold-dusted chocolate Oscar will be served to 1,650 guests at the end of a multicourse, sit-down feast. The scrumptious Bavarian mousse treat will feature a tiny envelope with an inscription of the best film nominees.

Asked what he expected to be the culinary highlight of the evening, Puck elaborates, “For me, what will be exciting is everyone will get the baked potato with caviar, and for the entree people will surf and turf with a medallion of veal and half a roasted lobster.”

Dining and dancing into the wee hours again will be protocol at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ official gala for Oscar winners, nominees, presenters and performers. Entertainment will feature the 36-piece Gregg Fields Orchestra and Leslie Paula, whose 10-piece outfit will spice up the evening with a Latin jazz flavor.

“We’ve had strings for about four or five years,” says composer Alan Bergman, who serves as the ball’s co-chair. “It’s very romantic and conducive to dancing.”

The bandstand will rest on a giant turntable — an idea from the early ’90s that he mentions will be resurrected to heighten the room’s feeling of intimacy.

“It also will work really well with the decor, which is Edwardian and very elegant,” according to Bergman. “The theme pays homage to the history of movie motion.”

Countless other pre- and post-parties are being planned across town, including several studio celebrations.

Once again, the corner of Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard will be the site of the Vanity Fair bash, in its eighth run. After a sit-down dinner for 150 black-tie diners at Morton’s in West Hollywood, the back of the restaurant will be tented to accommodate about 1,200 guests for a late-night celebration.

General manager Pam Morton describes the festivities as an extraordinary event that will feature several Hollywood icons.

Universal Pictures will honor its nominees the night before the Oscars at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills.

“It’s a lot more user-friendly to do it this way,” says Hollace Davids, U’s senior VP of special projects, particularly because partygoers have their hands full with the lengthy kudocast, Governors Ball and after-parties.

DreamWorks plans on having what a spokeswoman calls “a congratulatory nominee party” the night before, though details were unavailable.

Mini-major USA Films is leaning toward throwing a party but also is still formulating plans.

Paramount and 20th Century Fox are not planning parties this year.