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Inside Vanity Fair's Oscar Bash

While we were checking out the Entertainment Weekly Oscar party here in New York, two reporters from The Los Angeles Times were putting together a great behind-the-scenes report on the biggest party in L.A.--Vanity Fair's big Oscar bash at Morton's, hosted by editor Graydon Carter. Some details from Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug's in-depth story:

THE LOOK: "On this year's awards night, Morton's vine-covered stucco exterior disappears behind a 20-foot-tall scrim of backlit muslin," the reporters write. "The words 'Vanity Fair,' projected on the material in blues and reds swirled and looped on the fabric, transform the structure into a giant ad." Inside, the dining room's wicker and palms were out, creating an open, airy space, while a few booths lined the walls. A bar was backlit in warm tones.

In another room, special guests invited for dinner sat around 17 tables for 10 to watch the Oscar telecast on several large television screens. After dinner, the tables were removed, and the only furniture was 20- and 30-foot-long curving sofas that lined the wall, along with small Plexiglas coffee tables, and a few tall tables with flowers. A DJ spun on a topiary-covered elevated platform.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Event producer Sara Marks heads up the party, as well as Vanity Fair's events in Cannes and London. Planning for the famous party starts in early fall. "By November, the party's core planners--its producer, architect, lighting designer and on-site supervisor--have begun to fly between offices in London and New York, exchanging ideas, hatching plans and drawing up the designs that turn a 4,000-square-foot restaurant that usually seats 190 into an 11,000-square-foot fantasy backdrop lighted by Patrick Woodroffe, who also does work for the Rolling Stones and Queen Elizabeth II...By late February, the details have been agreed upon: Glass bricks imported from London. Dutch tulips flown in from the Netherlands. Lighters and ashtrays embossed with the Vanity Fair logo, commemorating Oscar night." Basil Walter creates the look of the party each year.

The staff sets up a "war room" at the Beverly Hills Hotel a couple of weeks before the party, where they coordinate the work of a team grows to several hundred people, including construction and video companies, florists, on-site seamstresses, the restaurant staff, security and the city of West Hollywood. Marks posts an 8-foot-long schedule on the war room wall. And a construction trailer parked at Morton's serves as a "field office."

Work inside Morton's doesn't start until the Friday before the Sunday night party, after the last diners leave the restaurant just before midnight. Next: "Workers take sledgehammers to the back wall to create a 20-foot square entrance to the 7,000-square-foot tent that rises over the parking lot behind the building. Woodroffe's intricate lighting systems for the interior and facade are erected. Curtains are sewn on site. Undulating 20- and 30-foot white couches are arranged."

THE PRICE TAG: Two party planners estimated the tab at $800,000, without including the salaries of the core staff, the cost of flying in support staffers from New York, or the price of relocating the restaurant's neighbors to hotels for the night. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also charges an estimated $33,500 for overtime paid to 39 officers for crowd and traffic control, and the city of West Hollywood picks up $9,100 for permits and the use of parking meters. That would make the total go over $1 million. But Carter says its less than $1 million.

Posted 03.27.02

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