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This is Shmooze Season in Hollywood — that frenzied time when back-to-back cocktail parties and dinners are hurriedly mobilized and when all sorts of people, from stars to studio chiefs, suddenly become your best friend.

What accounts for this outburst of conviviality? No, it’s not about Christmas. This is kudo time in Hollywood — the magic moment when Golden Globes, Oscars, critics’ awards and other subspecies of statuettes rain down on the entertainment community.

The rules of the game for artists and other contenders are clear: If you’re idealistic or egomaniacal enough to believe that you can win without benefit of campaigning and hand-shaking, then stay home. If you have any street smarts, however, you’ll be out there on the campaign trail.

To the uninitiated, the flurry of parties and personal appearances may seem stressful, even chaotic. That’s why it’s important that they master the Shmooze Rules as set forth by the industry tradition:

  • If you find yourself talking with someone who looks vaguely like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, it’s probably, in fact, Cruise or Pitt. Everyone turns up during Shmooze Season, so respond with appropriate deference.

  • Though movies dominate the conversation, don’t indulge yourself by criticizing any of them. The person you’re talking to probably directed the movie you’ve just knocked.

  • If the invitation suggests an intimate party at an executive’s house, that means the guest list will be enormous and you’ll find yourself freezing on someone’s lawn. Executives don’t like the unwashed streaming through their sanctum sanctorum.

  • If you happen to bump into a star and someone seems glued to his side, that’s surely his agent, so address them as though they were one. Agents become very protective of their clients at Shmooze Fests.

  • If someone confides to you that he’s just seen the best movie of the year, it’s probably the head of the hedge fund that financed it.

  • If you get lucky and food is served at an event, always assume there will be no place to sit. It’s a perverse rule of Shmooze Season that abundant seating is provided only at parties where no food is at hand.

  • If someone looks like he hasn’t either bathed or been outdoors in weeks, he’s probably a blogger. Yes, even humble bloggers are invited to leave their attics and basements during Shmooze Season.

  • If you depart a party and see there’s a long line waiting for valet parking, turn around and start schmoozing again. During Shmooze Season, a long line signifies that it’s a hot party (at least in the mind of party planners), and there’s no fighting the system.

  • If you feel you’ve run out of trivial tidbits and bilious banter, stay home. You won’t do well on the Shmooze Circuit if you can’t be as boring as the next guy.

Whatever the rules, bear in mind that it’s important to stay upbeat. Some of the parties during Shmooze Season are actually fun. And you may find yourself having a conversation with Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt — or their look-alikes.

Will media devour their own?

Hollywood gets nervous when an important new show runs into casting problems. And such is the case with the presidential election of 2008.

Liberal-leaning voters are eager to get behind the Democratic candidate, but no candidate is front and center. No one, that is, except Hillary Clinton, and media-savvy denizens of the entertainment community are dubious whether anyone can be a front-runner for a long span of time without being torn apart by (you guessed it) the media. Barack Obama won over many believers in early forays to town, but, again, his supporters are nervous about entering the fray too soon.

What all this underscores is simply this: No one is more keenly aware of the destructive, if not nihilistic, behavior of the media than the media community itself. A candidate who offers himself or herself to the presidential process is akin to getting cast in a Mel Gibson movie. Disembowelment is a more likely outcome than victory.