WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — If you’re curious about the big difference between Oscar night’s two main after-parties, the Governors Ball and the Vanity Fair party, consider this:
The buzzy happening at the Governors Ball, the academy’s official dinner/party just an escalator ride up from the Dolby Theatre, comes when Cate Blanchett walks in with her best actress Oscar for “Blue Jasmine,” and actresses Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both nominated for “August: Osage County,” greet her inside the entrance, and the three of them chat and hug while other ball-goers take pictures with their phones and “Dallas Buyers Club” best actor winner Matthew McConaughey exits past the group, another cluster trailing him.
The Vanity Fair party, traditionally the evening’s most sought-after ticket, is where Mickey Rooney, 93, and Martin Landau, 85, are together leaning way back on a sofa beneath speakers blasting, just blasting, Madonna’s “Holiday” while Stevie Nicks, who later will introduce herself to ice-dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, chats with Bill Murray, who later will be singing along to the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” (“hey-ay-ay-ay!”) and the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” (“Shake it up baby now!”) in a circle that includes “12 Years a Slave” best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o.
Before breaking away to talk to Nicks, Murray also has a bit more to say about the late Harold Ramis, his six-time collaborator to whom he paid tribute while presenting the cinematography trophy.
“I still can’t wrap my head around it,” he says in reference to Ramis’ death a week ago.
The Governors Ball feels like an extension of the Oscars, the large room populated largely by people who sat through and perhaps participated in the ceremony. Look over here, and Spike Lee is congratulating “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen while John Legend sings a piano ballad version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” from the stage. Look over there, and “Dallas Buyers Club” supporting actor winner Jared Leto is sitting at a table spiking hors d’oeuvres with his fork, his new statuette standing beside his plate.
Before Blanchett’s entrance Roberts and Streep sit with Bette Midler at a large booth. After that long show, pretty much everyone is ready for a bite to eat.
Standing near the entrance are five members of Arcade Fire, including Will Butler, who co-wrote the nominated score to “Her.” They’re one of the hottest bands around, but they’re not getting swarmed here.
“12 Years a Slave” best actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor walks past on his way out the door, but first a woman grabs his arm and says, “You should’ve won.” He smiles.
The Vanity Fair party takes place in a new location this year, moving from the Sunset Tower Hotel to an elaborate party space erected in a parking lot about a half mile west on Sunset Boulevard. The party feels bigger because the main room is larger and boomier, though there’s also a nice outdoor space with a hillside view (this is where the smokers gather, though there’s a distinct pot smell in the main room for a while) as well as a smaller rotunda that’s very crowded early on and provides the loungey vibe for those still around after 2 a.m.
When that round room is still packed, Joliet native Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation” and his wife, Megan Mullally, try to navigate their way through it, Mullally suggesting they make one go-‘round before they vamoose. Do they come to such parties often.
“Not if I can help it,” Offerman says before “Fruitvale Station” star Michael B. Jordan introduces himself, and they have a mutually admiring visit.
“Shameless” actress Emmy Rossum says she loves filming in Chicago, as the Showtime series did last month, even when the weather is lousy. “I like the vibe of the town,” she says. “It’s so friendly.”
Laura Dern is leading her nominated father Bruce (“Nebraska”) through the big room. After wrapping him in a happy, congratulatory embrace, nominated director David O. Russell (“American Hustle”) takes victorious “Her” screenwriter Spike Jonze by the hand and pulls him to another area.
Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, a veteran of these parties, is happy with the new location. “It’s not the space; it’s the people,” he says.
I ask Oscar-clutching “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley why, as numerous folks pointed out on Twitter and elsewhere, he and McQueen didn’t thank each other in their acceptance speeches. Ridley says he simply didn’t have time but that he’s happy with everyone who made the movie, as he’d expressed the previous day during his longer, emotional Spirit Awards speech. McQueen supposedly is at this party as well, but I don’t see him.
Dave Grohl talks with Jason Sudeikis and his pregnant fiancé Olivia Wilde, with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, who’s biting into one of the In-N-Out burgers being passed around, nearby. Grohl, by the way, says he still thinks of album sequences in terms of two-sided records.
Julie Delpy talks with Jonah Hill. Ellen Page talks with Jason Bateman. Bill Maher talks with Anne Hathaway. Rosario Dawson says hello to Don Rickles.
Oscars are being carried around, passed around. Two women who might be models pose for phone photos on the carpet with an Oscar. Whose Oscar is it?
“I don’t know,” one of them says.
The music is mostly disco, but when Lorde’s “Royals” comes on, a seated Darlene Love starts moving to the beat.
Around 2 a.m. a random woman declares, “I need to sober up, so I must eat.”
By this time the round room is turning into a kind of an after-after-party, with several of the “Gravity” winners and their Oscars there, as well as Nyong’o and Murray and some of the “20 Feet from Stardom” crowd. When winning “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron enters, the room bursts into applause.
He’s a walking receiving line, having been accepting congratulations all night, and he’s beaming. But Cuaron also is ready for the lengthy Oscar season to be over. He’s got two kids back home in London waiting to be driven to school.
“I can’t wait to get back to my school runs,” he says. “I miss life.”