Imagine a wedding reception without food, music or champagne, and you get an inkling of how a lot of Hollywood would view the Academy Awards without the Vanity Fair party. But Hollywood will no longer have to imagine it. The party is off.
In sympathy with striking writers, Vanity Fair magazine has canceled its annual multimillion-dollar must-attend party. There are other Oscar parties, but this is the one that has come to rival the main event for a cast of above-the-title stars, assorted billionaires and several hundred of their closest friends.
Someone cruising through last year's party could have seen Oprah Winfrey chatting with John Travolta, Ellen DeGeneres with Sacha Baron Cohen, or Martin Scorsese with John Singleton.
The editor of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, said Tuesday that canceling was the right thing to do, whether or not there was a breakthrough in talks between the Writers Guild of America and production companies before the Oscar ceremony Feb. 24.
"A magazine like Vanity Fair is a group of writers and artists, and we are in solidarity with the writers and artists out there," Carter said. "Whether the strike is over or not, there are a lot of bruised feelings. I don't think it's appropriate for a big magazine from the East to come in and pretend nothing happened."
He added, "There will be something sort of liberating about ordering Chinese food and watching the Oscars in bed."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pledged that the Oscars will go on, and it has asked the writers not to picket given recent progress in contract talks. But the guild insists that it will picket, and if it does, many stars are expected to skip the event rather than cross a picket line.
Vanity Fair's invitation-only party - it would have been the 15th - was to begin with dinner for 170 people during the ceremony at Craft restaurant in Century City, Carter said, and continue into the early morning with 650 to 700 people.
For the stars, arrival at the party offers the second red carpet walk of the day, complete with cameras. Many women change gowns between the Oscars and the party.
"The Vanity Fair party is the crown jewel," said publicist Leslee Dart, who has several clients up for awards. "It's the party everybody wants to go to. At 1 and 2 in the morning, it's still going on strong. I started getting calls a month ago from people saying, 'Can you help me get into the Vanity Fair party?' "