One hour. That's all I had. So obviously I had to lose the shoes.
Sixty precious and specifically designated minutes are allotted to each reporter covering Vanity Fair's storied Oscar party. Sixty minutes in which to spy on the Hollywood elite while not conducting interviews with the party guests under the magazine’s famous "don't speak unless spoken to" party policy that makes time even more precious.
But with so much drama unfolding at the Dolby Theatre after the best picture mix-up — i.e., the biggest flub in Academy Awards history — it was hard to tear myself away to make the 4.7-mile drive to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. So by the time my car entered the lineup of black SUVs waiting to go through a marathon of security checkpoints on Santa Monica Boulevard, it was almost 11 p.m., my allotted hour.
I knew what I needed to do: Forget the slow-moving valet line, ditch my car at a meter and make my way by foot to the party. That meant I was forced to make a decision: Remove my heels and make a run for it, or lose valuable moments inside the biggest bash of the year.
And that is how I found myself sprinting barefoot through Beverly Hills on Sunday night.
Even so, getting in was a feat. Police officers stood on what seemed like every street corner, meant to deter the uninvited from getting even close to the entrance doors. And if you made it to the hallowed gates, you needed a special key to pass — along with my invite, I received a plastic-encased device shaped like a credit card that granted me access to the event.
But once I arrived, barefoot and breathless, I immediately felt special. Human-size red letters spelling out the magazine's name bookended the doors as a mariachi band played and guests made their way down a hallway decorated with black-and-white Old Hollywood photographs before arriving at the red carpet. And you have to walk the carpet; there's no way to bypass the shutterbugs. At this point, I was back in my heels, but still, instead of posing, I opted for the run-and-cover technique.
After checking in with a magazine representative who started running her stopwatch — OK, she didn't have an actual timer, just an iPhone she was looking at nonstop — it was finally time to take in the scene. And after just a few minutes, it’s clear what all the fuss is about. It feels kind of like the best dream ever, one in which every huge star you've ever heard of is in the same room, and you're all eating hamburgers and doughnuts together. Within the first five minutes of entering the party, I saw Jason Statham with his newly pregnant fiance Rosie Huntington-Whitley, "The Office" exes (or not?) Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak, Javier Bardem, Christian Louboutin, Mick Jagger, Mary J. Blige and Adrien Brody.
It was, to say the least, overwhelming. So I decided to take a quick lay of the land, heading past the iconic photo booth to a backroom with a DJ. Here, the room had been filled with small trees and a big dance floor, and people were actually dancing. Heidi Klum, Demi Lovato and Nick and Joe Jonas were all getting down to Blackstreet's "No Diggity."
A few minutes of observation seemed to confirm what many have suspected — every celebrity from every corner of the world just magically knows one another. Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson jamming together to Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)"? Obviously! Jennifer Aniston grabbing LL Cool J by the arm? Of course! New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft posing for photos with Mariah Carey? Old pals!
There were groups of stars hanging together that seemed to make more sense, such as comedians Bill Hader, Adam Scott and Seth Rogen. But then there were mixes that frankly baffled the mind — Kate Hudson hanging with the two Jonas brothers, Sarah Silverman, Martin Short, Kate Beckinsale, Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen. What could a cigar-puffing Nick Jonas possibly be whispering into Short's ear on the smoking deck? The world may never know.
Other conversations were easier to overhear, such as the one between Priyanka Chopra and Kaling.
"I knew what Mindy Kaling stood for from your books and your shows," the "Quantico" star gushed to Kaling, "But seeing it in person? You're everything and more."
"Are you kidding me?" Kaling replied in disbelief, engulfing Chopra in a hug.
Elton John, meanwhile, sat on a couch with spouse David Furnish, fielding endless questions about why he was at the Vanity Fair party instead of his own legendary Oscar-night bash.
"Because it's finished!" he insisted, over and over again.
When you're the singer of "Tiny Dancer," you apparently do not have to order your own food. John's bodyguard — yes, he had one, even though most stars appeared to be flying solo — flagged a server handing out In-N-Out burgers and asked her to deliver a couple to the couple.
"Maybe just one, so they can pick on it," the hulking security dude suggested. "Yeah, give them one to start off with. And can we have the box?"
The In-N-Out gal — dressed in the fast food chain's uniform — retreated to a bar on the patio that was well-stocked with burgers, miniature milk bottles and Coca Cola. Sara Bareilles, who'd performed during the Oscars ceremony, was idling there and stopped fellow musician Auli'i Cravalho as she walked by.
"You did an amazing job," Bareilles told the 6-year-old. "And I love you because you did a costume change. I'm happy for you!"
The clock was nearing midnight, and my time at the event was running out long before anyone embroiled in the "Moonlight"/"La La Land" fiasco had arrived. I inched past Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, who were engaged in some rather frisky PDA against a wall, and checked back in with the magazine's publicist. I was given my marching orders and headed toward the exit behind Reese Witherspoon, who had also removed her heels.
Apparently going barefoot in Beverly Hills is all the rage.
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