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Stars galore at the 2010 Academy Awards Governors Ball

March 8, 2010 | 12:42 pm

Bridges puck "How can the governor have a ball? California's out of money, isn't it?" We definitely heard that crack more than once Sunday at the Academy Awards.

No, sillies, it wasn't Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ball -- rather, it was the official after-party presented annually by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And this Sunday night the 1,500-capacity ballroom, glowing in gentle purple tones, was packed. Definitely a larger turnout than last year, event staff said.

It was good to be Jeff Bridges: Once the best actor winner made it into the party, flashes were popping like mad as he clapped chef Wolfgang Puck on the back and they both smiled broadly for the cameras, talking all the while.

When Bridges was whisked away for more interviews -- glass of water in his hand, though he'd been sipping Champagne during his victory interview backstage -- a pack of photographers floated along in his wake like a train on a diva's gown. He appeared to be enjoying the ocean of congratulations -- can you blame him? -- and was spotted later, out of the crush ... 

 Bullock engraving ... in a close chat and then a warm embrace with Lauren Bacall.

James Cameron, wife Suzy Amis, Sigourney Weaver and the rest of the "Avatar" contingent had better things to do than sit and eat -- Cameron and Amis in particular stayed on their feet talking to tons of friends and admirers well past 11 p.m. Spirits seemed high, and there was no end to the friends and admirers approaching the contingent.

Taylor Lautner, who categorized his presenting duties as "nerve-racking, but also a lot of fun," borrowed a pen to autograph an Oscars program for 14-year-old Lily Marshall, daughter of producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. "We were sitting at the same table," Kennedy said, "and it's her first Oscars, and his first, and finally we thought, 'It's silly not to get him to sign!' ... He autographed 'The Hurt Locker' page." (A coolly delighted Lily, incidentally, looked appropriately sharp beyond her years in a multicolored floor-length frock. Nice choice, kiddo!)

Zoe ball Everyone wanted a piece of best actress Sandra Bullock, who was a classy center of attention. Her focused demeanor did make it clear, though, when she was available and when she was headed somewhere -- for example, to finally get a bite to eat. Again, can you blame her? Husband Jesse James chatted and hung nearby upon their arrival as Bullock talked with the media near the entrance to the event. Maybe this is reading too much into it, but the actress seemed to give off an awed, "Is this really happening to me?" vibe.

Zoe Saldana was among the few Pandorans to relax into her seat, Keith Britton at her side, fluffy purple skirt safely stowed below. Said Britton: "I told her, 'I don't even need to see that dress on you,' " once he saw it on its own, to know it was going to be perfect. Zoe agreed, emphasizing that stylist Petra Flannery knows how to outfit  "the way my soul feels." The actress, a new brand ambassador for Avon, recently spent a couple of days helping in the Dominican Republic (she lived there in her tweens and teens) while trucks were loaded with Avon products and more to take to neighboring Haiti. "I was completely humbled" after participating in the relief effort, she said.

Oprah Back at the abundant dessert buffet full of chocolates and strawberries and fruit-shaped truffles, presented by Puck's exec pastry chef Sherry Yard, Zac Efron nibbled on "a little bit of everything" (though a favorite was the white chocolate truffle platter anchoring a multi-tiered tray. He took time over by the sweets to sign an autograph, then repeated the favor again later, posing for a photo with another fan in the center of the action. 

Also spotted (though hardly the only other names in attendance): "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow, who sat down for a bite to eat; Quentin Tarantino, sharing big hugs with friends; Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King and entourage (Oprah's shorter than you might think, given her larger-than-life presence; Gayle, meanwhile, is quite tall); Tyler Perry wearing a bling-tastic watch that contrasted nicely with his regular-guy demeanor; Jon Cryer, with wife Lisa Joyner, engaged in animated chat at a table in the back right corner; Neil Patrick Harris seated with friends, taking advantage of the beautiful dinner; a quiet Gabourey Sidibe at a primo table near the theoretical dance floor, with "Precious" director Lee Daniels one table over; co-host Steve Martin holding court at his table; a fit-looking Robin Williams making small talk in the center of the room; Forest Whitaker deep in conversation, having pulled up a chair near some pals; Woody Harrelson up on his feet and chowing down, slowly, on a big bowl of pasta; and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa leaving not too early but not too late, holding hands with KTLA reporter Lu Parker.

Then, as the festivities were winding down, youthful chef-in-training Byron Puck posed for pictures with dad Wolfgang at the foot of the ballroom's grand staircase, which led up to the balcony where the Moonglow Orchestra, fronted by singer Rachael Price, performed. Byron had been in the Puck crew that walked out on the red carpet to present the night's delicacies for globally televised inspection. (The whole menu is below, if you're interested.)

"We got to get him trained," said Wolfgang, "so he can take over the whole thing in 20 years!"

-- Christie D'Zurilla

Photos, from top: Jeff Bridges hams it up with Wolfgang Puck; Sandra Bullock gets her Oscar engraved with her name; Zoe Saldana outside the entrance to the Governors Ball; Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry inside the ballroom. Credits: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times, top; Chris Pizzello / Associated Press, bottom three images. Menu photo, below, by Christie D'Zurilla / Los Angeles Times.

 Gov ball menu

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