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Kudos crasher: Oscars Governors Ball

February 23, 2009 |  9:07 am

Sealheidi "Be careful. We had a few incidents on these stairs," an Oscars official warned guests climbing up the seven-step flight into the Governors Ball. Women in long trains and four-inch heels stumbled to heed his warning even as the crowd stampeded toward the hall, desperate after a long show for, if nothing else, a solid meal a la Oscar’s culinary MC, Wolfgang Puck.

Those who could not wait to find their tables before breaking their ceremony-long fast were pleased to find just outside the ballroom a little pit stop seafood buffet featuring lobster and sushi. “They were very smart to give us food before dinner,” said presenter Seth Rogen while stocking up.

Rogen’s girlfriend, Lauren Miller, resplendent in a red gown, told what must be an all-too-familiar tale of woe for Oscar ladies. "I was in the bathroom," she said. "Looking at myself in the mirror, and I was thinking, 'I look really cute in this dress,' when over my shoulder I see Heidi Klum walk in in a red dress … ."

At one table on the outer reaches, Russian director Konstantin Bronzit, nominated for his short film "Lavotory-Lovestory," took in the crowd, which swelled as a band played soft jazz standards, nibbling at Puck’s opening gambit, “Asian vegetable salad with Maine lobster, caviar and ginger soy vinaigrette and pumpkin coconut soup.” Asked how this night affected his career back home, Bronzit responded, “Not very much, really. I get to do some interviews, but nothing special happens."

On the floor, a critical mass was forming around the tables occupied by Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" team. Nancy Utley, Searchlight’s COO, awaiting her director and producer’s arrival from their post-victory news conference, gushed, "This is so joyful. We've always wanted to have a best picture. We came close with 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Juno,' but now we’ve done it."

Across the table, "Slumdog's" screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, ate his "slow-braised Asian-spiced short rib with spring vegtable risotto" while admiring the little gold man standing on the table in front of him. Beaufoy recalled his last visit, being nominated for "The Full Monty" the year "Titanic" swept the show, and said this night was definitely much better.

"This is the most famous piece of sculpture in the Western World. Everyone knows this statue. It's amazing to have one." Beaufoy also showed off the envelope containing the name of the best picture winner, which he had snagged from his producer. "I'm holding it hostage. I'll let him have it back for $10,000," he said.

At the next table, "Slumdog" star Dev Patel spent the evening sitting between the children who played his character as a boy and little Latika in the film. While Adrien Brody attempted to chat up his fetching co-star, Freida Pinto, he played airplane games with slices of pizza, feeding them to the kids.

As photographers circled to capture the supernaturally charming moment, in the aisle behind them, Robert Pattinson, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, for perhaps the first time in years, slid by the photographers' pack and out the door unnoticed.

Standing nearby, Anil Kapoor, who portrays the film's game-show host, seemed overcome by the moment. "Around the world, everybody makes films, and everyone who does dreams of coming to the Academy Awards, to the Governors Ball and winning best picture. And here” he gestures to the room, "here we are."

For the adventurous few who journeyed down the tunnel beneath the bandstand, there was a discovery that is the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of -- a chocolate buffet. In his finest tour de force, Puck had pulled together a spread of chocolate crepes with whipped cream, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate macaroons, a chocolate fountain with strawberries for dipping. Filling her plate, Tina Fey seemed overwhelmed and for once at a loss for a quip.

An hour or so after the show's end, guests began to move on -- heading to the next wave of parties. Calling out to a friend as she left, Anne Hathaway yelled, "I would have thanked you! I swear!"

-- Richard Rushfield

(Photo by Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

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