When I was notified by the Academy that they "would not be able to accommodate" my request to cover "Oscars 2000" in early March, I thought I'd be able to relax and enjoy (suffer through?) "Hollywood's biggest night" at home--a modest pleasure I came to appreciate after the madness of covering the event last year. Alas, my editor at the Eyepiece had another idea--covering the Oscar night party scene. Of course, to really do that subject justice is easier said than done. So is having a really fun time, it seems, if you're a big nobody like yours truly.
After unsuccessful attempts to get cleared for the hotter tickets in town (Vanity Fair, Sir Elton John/In Style, DreamWorks), only two options remained: the annual Night of 100 Stars viewing party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, supporting Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation; and "O2K," the Hollywood Stock Exchange's bash at the House of Blues. The game plan was simple: cover the arrivals at the Beverly Hills Hotel first, then head on over to the HSX party for the rest of the night.
One hundred people may have very well showed up at the Film Foundation event, but it's a real stretch to call all of them stars. Perhaps the most blunt yet appropriate way to describe the event would be "Night of 100 Has-Beens," for this party was--and, apparently, always is--a stunning tribute to faded glory. Among those who showed: Crispin Glover, who hasn't had a notable role since 1987's River's Edge; longtime Let's Make a Deal emcee Monty Hall; once controversial ex-talk show host Morton Downey Jr.; songwriter Paul Williams; former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider; ex-Hill Street Blues star Bruce Weitz; John Saxon; Bo Hopkins; Casey and Jean Kasem; Jack Klugman; Steve Allen and Audrey Meadows; Lorenzo Lamas; Lesley-Anne Down; Judd Nelson; Andrew Dice Clay; Downtown Julie Brown; Shelley Long; Michelle Phillips; Wonder Years big brother Jason Hervey; Married... with Children little brother David Faustino, who looked shockingly aged and haggard in person; former New York Yankee Dave Winfield; and Pat Boone, winner of the Dubious Fashion Statement Award for the night by sporting black vinyl knickers.
But this is an Oscar party, and the event prides itself on attracting a number of former winners and nominees. Included among this group were Mickey Rooney, Richard Dreyfuss, Sally Kirkland, Martin Landau, Robert Forster, James Cromwell, Tony Curtis, Cliff Robertson, Kevin McCarthy, Robert Stack, Maximillian Schell, Peter Fonda, and Dennis Hopper. A handful of younger, more contemporary stars also showed up, adding some variety: Bill Pullman, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Jai White, Jake Busey, Jonathan Taylor Thomas. But there was no question that this bash wasn't exactly the place to be. After putting in cameos of about ten minutes, Hopper and Pantoliano summoned their limousines and went on to presumably bigger and brighter events.
But those of us in the press line didn't have that luxury of escape, and we had to find amusement out of what little was given to us. Stationed directly next to me was a reporter working incognito for Howard Stern's radio show; while the questions he asked were fairly tame for Stern standards, they did push the envelope for an event such like this (for example, one question regarded speculation on Kevin Spacey's sexual orientation), and the reactions of some of the interviewees provided some entertainment. Lamas seemed to take the questions seriously and appeared annoyed, but not as much as Peter Boyle, who went so far as to complain to the publicist in charge. But most people played along--without knowing whom the interviewer was working for, of course--and one actually got the better of him: Dreyfuss, whose quick wit was one step ahead of the interviewer, who ended up getting burned.
Dreyfuss was among the handful of people with whom I was able to converse; I also spoke with Forster, Landau, and Pullman. As interesting as it was to talk to them, the highlights for me came with more obscure guests. When Downtown Julie Brown arrived, I rather quietly uttered her signature catchphrase "wubba wubba wubba," never thinking or really intending that she hear. But she did, and she smiled back at me and said thanks. A brief exchange with the ultracool Soul Train guru Don Cornelius was something special for me, but not nearly as special as my absolute favorite moment--meeting Laura Harring (formerly "Herring"), who starred as Nisa, the Brazilian princess who tried to save her rain forest home by doing the lambada, in one of my all-time favorite bad movies, 1990's The Forbidden Dance (hey, it's time for an anniversary theatrical rerelease). She looked great and was awfully sweet, very graciously posing for pictures. I just wish she'd heard my parting comment: "Show me the lambada!", which was a riff on her signature line in the film ("You want to see the lambada? I'll show you the lambada!").
Not long after Harring showed up, things died down considerably. Perhaps that's because the arrival of the lambada queen signifies the official, drop-dead start time of a big Hollywood party, but more likely the arrival parade had petered out because the Oscar telecast had already begun--and this was, after all, a viewing party. On that note, it was time to move on to the House of Blues and the HSX party.
Theoretically, this should've been when my night went into full swing. Unlike at the Night of 100 Stars, I was attending "O2K" as a guest, not a member of the press. However, that turned out to be less of a privilege than it seemed. During a conversation with the rather cordial ladies at the VIP check-in table, I found out that my ticket wasn't all that special--it was "general admission," meaning I had to stand in an ever-growing line and wait to be admitted into the venue, and once I was in, I didn't have access to the VIP tent. Figuring something is better than nothing, I took my place in line.
I didn't expect to have that place as long as I did. I was at least another 30 minutes before I was given a lovely blue wristband (as opposed to the silver VIP one) and was let into the event area. After passing by a check-in table, a few strategically placed heatng lamps, a shiny new sports car on prominent display, and maneuvering through a wide walkway lined with monitors showing the Oscar telecast, I made my way into the main House of Blues building. Not surprisingly, it was packed with people who were seated or (mostly) standing around, eating, watching the show, or (mostly) drinking. As the big Burt Bacharach-led tribute to movie music played on the big screen placed on the club stage, I had my taste of the event's dismayingly limited food menu: some spicy rice, a noodle dish, and tuna.
After that far-from-filling "meal" (if it could be called that), it was time for some exploring. A survey of the rest of the club area yielded little in the way of the truly eye-opening. The main upstairs area, which is largely filled with booth seating, had some computers set up for Web browsing (this was, after all, a party thrown by a 'Net company). The people up here, however, seemed less interested in computers than in gabbing with others. But their mingling was nothing compared to what was going on in the men's room (which, despite being barely bigger than some walk-in closets, featured an attendant who dutifully poured soap in the hands of everyone who went to the sink): a guy, followed by a girl, followed by another girl emerged from the restroom's sole stall after an impatient person in line knocked on the door. This being L.A., no one gave this occurrence a second thought--make that no one except my Detroit-raised editor at Eyepiece.com, Sumir, who could not stop talking about the ménage for the remainder of the night.
The general admission pass offered one more than mere access to the main club. There were other attractions as well--though, from the looks of it, very few people were aware of their existence. Excite's spacious computer/cigar lounge was sparsely populated throughout the night; the company's adjoining coffee bar, palm reader center, and tattoo parlor were visited by even fewer people. Excite reps tried to entice guests into their area by roaming about the entire site and giving out free fortune cookies (all of which bore the same fortune: something to the effect of "You will have good luck"), cigars, matchbooks, and cigar cutters, but the tactic didn't seem to work.
Once I had surveyed the entire area opened to me, it became a struggle to find something interesting to see and do. Every now and again I'd peer over the gate that separated the haves and the have-nots, gazing at the red carpet walkway, which was embedded with monitors that showed the flickering image of flames. Based on the people I did see on the carpet (Joe Pantoliano, Jerry O'Connell), perhaps what went on in that silver tent wasn't such a swinging affair--the loud swing band notwithstanding.
After a brief run-in with someone who actually recognized me on sight (Screamwriter Kevin Williamson, who was on his way out--to a more happening spot, no doubt), I decided to quit my wandering and give my feet a rest, taking a seat by a monitor to watch the last few awards being handed out. Not too long after the telecast was over--and after party host Rob Schneider appeared onscreen to give a final update on the goings-on--Moby took the stage to spin some records for an hour; his set was broadcast on the network of monitors. Seeing more than a few people on the dance floor rendered even more rhythmless by the influence of alcohol made for some slightly amusing viewing. At least for a while; before long I was back to marking time before the main entertainment began--a performance by Earth, Wind and Fire.
When their set began, I went back into the main club area, and parked myself not too far from the door. I had grown up on EWF's stuff, so it was indeed a treat to see them live. While their performance wasn't nearly on the level of spectacle as their famously flamboyant concerts during their '70s-'80s heyday, they did try to offer something more, namely the troupe of dancers who actually displayed some classical training as they moved to the music (read: they did more than just shake their asses).
This performance being the main drawing card of the night, I did spot some recognizable faces in the crowd. Jake Busey could be seen en route to the restroom (without, it must be said, any women in tow); I shared a hello with Adam Carolla, who had been covering the event for Politically Incorrect; and, for a few particularly freaky moments, an out-of-it-looking Leif Garrett stood not too far away from me, every so often looking blankly at me. It was as if I was witnessing the follow-up to his Behind the Music episode happen right before my eyes. But the trophy for freakiness--in the other, completely different meaning--went to a nearby couple who found naughty uses for the red glowsticks that were being passed out and thrown around the room.
The EWF set did its job in energizing the crowd, but it wasn't without some disappointments. They didn't perform one of my favorite songs of theirs, "That's the Way of the World"; they never came back for an encore; and hopes that, as part of his post-Oscar victory tour, Phil Collins would join EWF lead singer Philip Bailey for a rendition of their '80s hit "Easy Lover" remained just that. The announcement that Moby would soon return to the stage served as a cue for mostly everyone in the club to leave--myself included.
I emerged from the club to find that the once-exclusive VIP tent was now open for everyone's business. Of course, by this time (around 1:00AM), things were officially dead there. The equipment for the now-gone swing band was being packed up, and most of the few remaining stragglers lounged on the sofas situated in the corners of the tent. There was one celebrity still there, basking in the glow of being the remaining one: a strikingly svelte Anna Nicole Smith, who, I must say, looks better than she has in a long time. She obviously relished the attention, making a big production of each one of her actions; for example, drinking an Evian bottle was a display of careful choreography, her head tilted just so, knees bent slightly, arm at a precise angle. Quite a sight to behold. But it wasn't quite as startling as how she greeted me: while Sumir, who asked for a photo, was given a handshake by Miss Smith, she went the extra mile with me--putting her arm out for a hug. Strange.
After that surreal experience, it seemed to be about time to call it a wrap, and a few steps outside of the tent came the night's final celebrity run-in: an exchange of pleasantries and a photo with Lance Bass and Joey Fatone, two of the least popular members of the current Billboard chart kings, *NSYNC. Needless to say, that moment did not come close to comparing with meeting the lambada queen earlier in the evening.
72nd Annual Academy Award Winners
Inside the Nomination Announcement
Nomination Announcement Memorabilia
Michael's Oscar Follies 2000/© Michael Dequina