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Oscar Parties: Press or Private?

"The Big 3" doesn't refer to American automakers--at least, not in L.A. Instead, they are the major day-of Oscar parties, known to everyone who is invited and virtually everyone else.

The granddaddy is the Governors Ball, the official Academy event, created by long-time producer Sequoia Productions and catered by Wolfgang Puck. Vanity Fair magazine has a lock on Morton's restaurant in West Hollywood, while across the street at the Pacific Design Center, Elton John combines fun with fundraising for AIDS.

Mix celebrities, media and marketing and the result is a powerful party. Hachette Filipacchi Media--publishers of Elle, Premiere, American Photo and Metropolitan Home magazines--created a three-day media-marketing fest. Billed as "celebrity prep headquarters," the event took over "Haven," a Hollywood Hills mansion, for all-day branded gifting and spa opportunities, with parties at night. Event producers Friends in High Places coordinated such mega brands as Cadillac and Revlon to pamper the celebs in logo'd rooms. The HFM magazines will cover their own event. Classic Party Rentals decked out the home's deck with a dramatic clear-top tent complete with elegant chandelier.


But are the paparazzi's flashbulbs getting a little too bright? In a provocative article last week, the L.A. Times said that big, media-filled Oscar parties "are on the wane," being replaced by private events hosted by big-time agents in private homes--no red carpet and no media.

Caterer Joann Roth-Oseary of Someone's in the Kitchen agrees. "Smaller parties are the word," she tells Special Events. "One of the best parties was this year's Foreign Language Film Awards, which takes place two days before the Academy Awards and is relatively intimate as these things go--about 175 to 200--not a cast of thousands invited." She adds, "This year's party was fabulous because we switched gears for the normally more formal and stuffy feel for this event and gave it a hot, Latin-flamenco-fusion feel, with the look, the lighting, the food, and the six-piece flamenco-fusion music."


But Charles Banfield, head of Charles Banfield Productions, says big parties have a big future. "I do know that these smaller private parties have been around for quite a long time for networking and underground meetings prior to and after the awards," he tells Special Events. "They are getting play now because someone from the media managed to break their way into the know."

Banfield says that the Big 3 parties will stay strong. "They are the most attended and will always have the golden residual effect of press coverage the next week, which is what the celebrities go for," he explains. "That, and they know that the events are attended by many heavy-hitters that are not in attendance at the actual Oscars." Underscoring the undying allure of the red carpet, he notes, "This year a new cool trend that is welcomed by the fashion industry is 'costume changes.' [Academy Award winner] Jennifer Hudson wore a total of five different gowns that night."

Indeed, Richard Mooney, head of Kensington Caterers, says the best bash is still the Governors Ball itself. This year's party did away with assigned seating, instead letting its star-studded crowd visit buffets and pick the seating option--sofas, ottomans, stools, etc.--of their choice. [Click here for more detail.] "They took a chance and changed the format," Mooney says. "Bravo!"

Photos by Special Events Magazine

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