There was a major surprise for guests arriving at the Governors Ball on Sunday: no assigned seating.
“People want to mingle,” said Academy prexy Sid Ganis. “They don’t want to be hung up at tables.”
And mingle they did. Gone were the days when the studios had the main tables by the entryway and the talent gravitated as though pulled by powerful magnets. Now there were unassigned sofas and lounge areas. If the ball were a painting, it went from being a Rembrandt to a Jackson Pollock.
“We’re very democratic now at the Academy,” said board member Mark Johnson as he ate from a buffet.
And speaking of democratic with a capital “D,” surely the most visible guest was former veep Al Gore, who seemed to have adapted deftly to the Left Coast lifestyle.
Asked if he preferred L.A. over D.C. socializing, Gore said, “I don’t think I remember any event in Washington that was catered by Wolfgang Puck.”
The tribe of filmmakers who worked on “The Departed” stood out as the most easily identifiable part of the crowd. Martin Scorsese arrived late, and they all waited.
Brad Grey said what struck him was how “genuinely happy” Scorsese was to win. Producer Graham King said all he could think of while approaching the stage was “Am I going to make a fool of myself?” And screenwriter William Monahan felt relieved.
“I tend to be in shock during these things because I can’t have a cigarette,” the scribe said.
While the kudocast was on, Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter hosted his annual Morton’s viewing dinner with the likes of Barry Diller, Larry Page, Rupert Murdoch, Tom Freston and David Geffen.
The after-party was its usual raucous self — and if things got too wild, the West Hollywood authorities had parked their Bomb Squad truck directly across the street.
“How’s that for an omen,” Jonathan Dolgen said, as his limo pulled up near the bombmobile.
Fortunately, the party helmer David Steinberg called “the college of cardinals for Jews,” was secure,and just inside Gore was hugging Howard Stringer; Bob Iger was chatting with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and Peter O’Toole was being asked if he’d come back for a ninth try at an Oscar.
“If I’m invited, of course,” said O’Toole.
The Brit thesp was one of the livelier partiers. At one point, he was dancing with a Latina a third his age. Someone asked who he was dancing with, and the answer was: “Whoever he wants.”
O’Toole’s elegant moves were interrupted by Leonardo DiCaprio, who had his friend take their picture together.
As for Oscar’s own fiesta, producer Laura Ziskin said she “wanted to overcome award fatigue by making it more of a party.”
Asked what he thought of the show, Harvey Weinstein said, “It’s all good.”
Told that didn’t sound like the old Harvey, he replied: “I’ve become born again.”
Down the block at the Pacific Design Center, Elton John and partner David Furnish were playing host to nearly 700 guests at the 15th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation party.
Diddy, Jon Bon Jovi and event co-chair Sharon Stone seemed to be guests of honor as they were seated at the host’s table in the room’s center.
Dinner was followed by an auction and included a chance to play soccer for a day with L.A.’s newest star, David Beckham, and an invitation to John’s very exclusive 60th birthday party in New York.
Stone, who took the auction mic and never let go, was feeling quite comfortable in the spotlight, even after a few drinks. “I was sitting at a table with P. Diddy and Jon Bon Jovi, and I got a little messed up,” said the thesp.
Afterward, John was joined onstage by Grammy-winner James Blunt and his four-piece band, with the high point being “Tiny Dancer” duet that got the crowd singing along.
By the end of the night, there were long lines for the bathroom and even longer lines to pick up those all-important swag bags. There was no after-party this year, and by 11:30 John had made his way over to Vanity Fair.
Jeff Sneider contributed to this report.
For pics from the infamous Vanity Fair Oscar bash, click here.