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NEW YORK Los Angeles may be the special event capital of the world on Oscar night, but New York had its own bit of awards hoopla at Entertainment Weekly's eighth annual Academy Awards viewing party at Elaine's, which has come to be the biggest media and entertainment Oscar night party in town.
Coordinated by EW director of event marketing Jackie Stiles and the mag's event staff with help from the Susan Magrino Agency, the party was a mini version of L.A.'s Vanity Fair blowout, with an assortment of celebrities and media biggies. But--as it usually is--getting celebrities to show up was not as simple as spreading out a red carpet and waiting for them to arrive. Celebrity wrangler Lori Levine worked with the mag to get as many notable names as possible to come to the seated dinner.
Before the event, she contacted performers and their managers and PR reps to let them know about the party and the $1,000 worth of loot in its considerable gift bag, including the Trident Teeth Whitening System, Loews movie passes, SkinClinic Day Spa gift certificates, and a specially designed cookie from Eleni's Cookies.
Levine put together a list of mostly television and Broadway folks who could make it--famous and semifamous names like Candace Bushnell, Eddie Cibrian, Deborah Gibson, Michele Lee, Ron Silver, Law & Order's Richard Belzer, Mariska Hargitay and Dann Florek, and just about everyone from the cast of Ed except Ed himself, Tom Cavanagh.
Then at the event itself, Levine and three of the staffers from her company, Flying Television Productions, were on hand to make sure the celebs showed up--and that they were cared for once they got there. Two were stationed outside with clipboards, watching for arriving stars and talking to dispatchers from Clarion Marketing, who coordinated a fleet of 23 new CTS Cadillacs sent to pick up guests. Meanwhile, another staffer wandered between the entrance and the restaurant, taking coats and fetching drinks.
Once the notable names got to the party, Levine ushered them through a tented annex set up outside the restaurant to house about 10 photographers and large black backdrops with silver EW logos. (Overland Entertainment coordinated the entrance area.) The tent also had a television at the check-in table, which showed a similar but much larger scene unfolding across the country--so the celebrities in New York posing for pictures as they arrived at the party could watch other celebrities posing for pictures as they arrived at the awards ceremony in L.A.
Levine's other celeb wrangling duties included handling all sorts of other tasks. She held Sheryl Lee Ralph's fur coat and Louis Vuitton handbag as she posed for photos, chatted up Joey McIntyre's guest as he spoke to a reporter from E!, called out the names of the less-known actors to the photographers--”Jana Marie Hupp, H-U-P-P” (she's on Ed). When David Spade tried to sneak past the photographers, she politely asked him to pose for a minute. At one point she reported to her staffers, “Listen, Naughty by Nature called, and they want to come by after dinner.”
Inside the party, owner Elaine Kaufman held court at the first table inside the door, and plasma screen monitors set up throughout the restaurant showed the proceedings in Hollywood. (Sight Effects set up the screens and made sure the signals were clear from the West Coast all night long.) Musters & Company's centerpieces of red and orange flowers and rich red tablecloths covered the round tables, which were crammed into the restaurant, which is nowhere near as big as its reputation is.
Carefully planned place cards mixed the famous faces with magazine staffers, journalists covering the event and big-time media folks like Time Inc. editor in chief Norman Pearlstine, writer Gay Talese and NBC Entertainment honcho Jeff Zucker. (Sex and the City's Chris Noth and People magazine founding editor Richard Stolley sat at our table, for example).
The invitation called for dinner at 7, but when the Oscar telecast started at 8, many guests weren't even seated yet. The entrees didn't come out until around 9, which probably helped guests pace themselves for such a long night. The menu: A mixed green salad with pecans, sundried cherries and citrus vinaigrette to start, followed by either Chilean sea bass with couscous or an enormous grilled veal chop with roasted vegetables. The night wasn't about the meal, though; it was meant for the New Yorkers to watch the shenanigans of their West Coast counterparts, and to (loudly) chat up the swills sitting around them.
Yet even with so much going on, the magazine reinforced its brand throughout the evening. Cover blowups were placed around the space, so nominees Halle Berry, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman smiled down on guests from perches filled with Kaufman's troves of literary paraphernalia. For dessert, guests got miniature EW magazine covers made of chocolate (from Match Catering and Eventstyles), served with strawberry mousse, blueberries and a .phpberry sauce.
By the time Cirque du Soleil performers were swinging from the rafters of the Kodak Theater on television, the room started to lighten, and the guests trickled out as the telecast wore on, grabbing the heavy gift bag on their way out. By the time Liev Schreiber showed up a little before midnight, Levine was sitting with her staffers at a table near the bar. But she was still on celeb-duty, asking, “Did you see who showed up?”
See the gift bag from this event...
Read our coverage of last year's Academy party in New York...