George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey Add Star Power to TIFF's Slightly Scaled-Back Party Scene

Despite some notable absences from the party scene this year—CTV isn't hosting the annual eTalk party on Queen Street, and OneXOne has opted to host a concert and private party rather than a full-scale gala—there are still plenty of V.I.P. events and celebrity lounges taking place during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which kicks off today and runs until Sept. 19.

"We've actually had to turn down requests this year. We have probably had more requests this year than ever before," says George Friedmann, president of the Windsor Arms Hotel. And Barbara Hershenhorn of Party Barbara Co. said although things seemed quiet a few weeks ago, there are "a ton of last-minute" events coming together.

The festival's social scene kicks off tonight with a cocktail reception at the newly renovated Rosewater Supper Club, followed by the presentation of Jon Amiel's film Creation at Roy Thomson Hall. TIFF's official opening night gala, being planned by Party Barbara Co., is expected to attract more than 3,000 guests to the Liberty Grand following the screening.

On Friday, Friedmann is partnering with filmmaker Paul Haggis and an organization called Artists for Peace and Justice to host a fund-raiser for 400 guests at the Windsor Arms Hotel. George Clooney and Ewan McGregor are expected in town Friday to promote The Men Who Stare at Goats, which screens at Roy Thomson Hall that evening. However, the venue for the private after-party is being kept under wraps.

Hello! Canada magazine marks TIFF's opening weekend with a Hello! Hollywood-themed cocktail party at Birks on Bloor Street on Saturday. The event, sponsored by Dove Chocolate, will feature a retrospective of red carpet moments from the pages of the magazine. Holt Renfrew is also hosting a party on Saturday. The retailer, which traditionally throws TIFF events at its flagship store on Bloor is moving off site for the first time this year, taking its "2 Super Models and 1 Hot Band" event to the Burroughes Building on Queen Street West.

Mary J. Blige is set to take the stage at the Kool Haus Saturday for the OneXOne benefit concert. The nonprofit organization, which hosted a gala dinner and concert for 1,200 at Maple Leaf Gardens during TIFF in 2008, will hold a separate dinner at a private home on Sunday evening. Earlier that day, the Canadian Film Centre will welcome about 1,000 guests to its annual barbecue honouring filmmakers on the grounds of the organization's Bayview Avenue headquarters.

Oprah Winfrey's film Precious screens at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday evening, with a pre-film party being held at the Royal Ontario Museum. Tattoo Rock Parlour will play host to Drew Barrymore and her fellow cast members for the Whip It party that same night.

Additional parties planned for the following week include In Style's annual fete at the Windsor Arms, a benefit for amfAR at the Carlu, and the Italian Trade Commission's annual cocktail reception at the MaRS Centre on College Street. Nightclubs around town are also hosting festival events, including Ultra, the site of the Bad Lieutenant after-party with Nicolas Cage on Sept. 15 and the Sarah Ferguson Foundation Launch Party on Sept. 18.

A number of swag lounges will open their doors throughout the Bloor-Yorkville area today. The NKPR-produced IT Lounge takes up residence at the Windsor Arms. Rock-it Promotions hosts the fifth annual Tastemakers Lounge at the Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville. Nikki Beach is taking over the roof lounge at the Park Hyatt. And Smashbox Cosmetics will showcase products in a mobile beauty lounge in a variety of locations, including Charles Street (today and tomorrow), the Shops at Don Mills (Saturday and Sunday), and the intersection of King and Peter streets (Monday through Wednesday).

A series of free public events is scheduled for Yonge-Dundas Square throughout the 10-day festival.

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