Oscars: Inside Vanity Fair’s Starry Afterparty Where A-Listers Waited in Line and Justin Bieber Wore a Blanket
By Chris Gardner,2023-03-14
There’s a scene in Clueless that finds Alicia Silverstone’s Cher fielding a surprise phone call from her father, Mel Horowitz, played by the late and great Dan Hedaya, who wants her home immediately. “I expect you to walk in this door in 20 minutes,” he demands, a tall order considering Cher is a party in the Valley and far from home in the 90210. “Everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes.”
That line manages to sneak its way into many L.A. conversations, and it was perhaps never more true than during the crush of the early pandemic when streets were fairly empty and freeways more so. Those days are done and the city is more congested than ever, especially on an Oscar weekend like the one we just had with a dizzying number of parties . Things are so back to normal that people everywhere were saying it felt like “the before times,” as in 2020.
One of the marquee events remains Vanity Fair’s starry Sunday night gathering, hosted by editor-in-chief Radhika Jones at a custom structure next to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. To be clear, there were no traffic issues en route to the afterparty — unless we’re counting the security guard who insulted this reporter’s Toyota Prius by noting that it’s “a low rent car to be driving to this kind of party” — it was only upon arriving did the gravity of the situation present itself courtesy of much more lovable security official. Quick, somebody warn Mel Horowitz. “It will take you 30 minutes to get to the red carpet from here,” the gentleman explained to a line teeming with celebrities, filmmakers, supermodels and ( gasp! ) Oscar nominees who arrived empty-handed. “Would anyone like to bypass the red carpet and go straight into the party?”
He might as well have asked for a show of hands for anyone currently on Ozempic. To borrow another Clueless line: “ As if! ” It was dead quiet save for one brave actress who shouldered the responsibility of answering for everyone. “Hell, no!” shouted Girls star Jemima Kirke, in between drags of a cigarette and while surrounded by the likes of Riz Ahmed (also a Girls alum) and pop stars Troye Sivan and Charli XCX. Ahmed, already in possession of an Oscar, wrapped up a FaceTime call and focused his attention on the massive queue by exclaiming, “This is a whole situation.”
That it was. Being forced to wait in line is one thing but being asked to skip the red carpet is another. The opportunity to make a cameo on Vanity Fair’s iconic red carpet — like the Oscars, this one isn’t red but instead of champagne, VF rolls out 125 feet of “sapphire blue” set against an illuminated 10-foot high photo backdrop wall — an opportunity bold-faced names don’t easily pass up. Especially if there’s skin to show, relationships to debut, fashion contracts to fulfill or a new project to promote. It’s a party!
Ahmed didn’t put up with the situation for long as he and a gaggle of male pals cut the queue and moved to the front, passing nominated stars like Hong Chau, Kerry Condon, Paul Dano and Paul Mescal who patiently waited their turns. Also sticking it out were presenter Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale, Alessandra Ambrosio (in a barely there get-up) and Pose star Michaela Jae Rodriguez who came ready to, well, pose after helping Elton John raise $9 million at his Oscar party down the way.
She also arrived with her manners. Suddenly there was a commotion near the back of the line and a crush of guests arrived clutching Oscars and it didn’t take long to recognize the gang from Everything Everywhere All at Once , including directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, producer Jonathan Wang and Harry Shum Jr. There were many more, enough to fill a party bus on which they blasted Queen’s “We Are the Champions” on the way over.
Rodriguez was the first reveler in line to graciously step back, open up a path and literally play usher with her arms and welcome them along. “Oscar winners come through,” she said as Kwan, Scheinert and Wang passed. They offered up gratitude and Scheinert an admission. “I am just going where people tell me to go but I just hope there’s a bathroom in there because I really have to go,” Scheinert said.
Meanwhile, Kirke, still waiting to land on the step-and-repeat, seemed to be enjoying the wait by catching up with fellow actors, including nominated Austin Butler who arrived arm-in-arm with Kaia Gerber. Kirke relayed the “situation” to Butler who explained that he encountered a similar scenario at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards. “I wish I could be that person to skip the red carpet,” Kirke told a Saint Laurent-clad Butler, “but I’m not.”
It was far less of a situation for anyone holding an Oscar. Or if you played Lydia Tár. Cate Blanchett, flanked by her longtime CAA rep Hylda Queally, floated her way to the front of the line, trailed by her director Todd Field, a slew of publicists and Salma Hayek.
“You’re a God,” White Lotus star Sabrina Impacciatore said to Blanchett as she brushed by, proving that she was the opposite of unfazed by the scene. While some tried to keep a low-profile as they leap-frogged ahead, the same can’t be said for all. An older woman, sporting a gray bob haircut and flowy skirt, shouted at the waiting stars, “I need you all to move to clear a path!”
Impacciatore didn’t quite hear the orders and immediately jump, so the woman brushed her aside so that Warner Bros. Discover boss David Zaslav could pass through. If he recognized her as one of the stars of an Emmy Award-winning phenomenon from his own company at HBO Max, it didn’t show.
Speaking of family, at that moment, the cast of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans arrived together, including Judd Hirsch and Gabriel LaBelle. The latter, who plays a young Spielberg in the film, introduced his mother to guests in the line while Hirsch must’ve felt like he had to apologize for cutting in front. “I’m innocent,” he explained, later asking Rodriguez what she’s working on and if she could get him a job on the second season of the Apple TV+ comedy Loot opposite Maya Rudolph.
The crowd may have felt like they hit the jackpot as the blue carpet finally revealed itself. After 30 minutes, the entrance was finally in sight. Even still, Antonio Banderas had enough and rushed past the photographers without waiting for his picture to be taken. Curiously, the bold move drew a big applause from those still waiting. “Everybody here thinks they are somebody,” hissed one reveler. Without getting too philosophical — isn’t everyone somebody? — it is important to find out who is the most important body in the room. When THR polled several guests, the same answer kept getting repeated: Justin Bieber.
Even with Jeff Bezos, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, WME’s Patrick Whitesell and Richard Weitz, TV’s man of the moment (and the internet’s boyfriend) Pedro Pascal, pop superstars Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Halsey and Shawn Mendes, Oscar winners like Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Ruth E. Carter in the place, the Biebs had the buzz. “He looks sullen,” reported one attendee. “And he’s wearing a blanket.”
It should also be noted that aside from being warm and cozy, Bieber was among those who did, in fact, skip the carpet and head straight into the party. (So did Megan Fox sans Machine Gun Kelly.) His wife, Hailey Bieber, did hit the blue carpet for pictures as did model pals like Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigova, Amber Valletta and more.
There were no carpet photos of Mendes with rumored girlfriend Sabrina Carpenter but they appeared to be very much a couple inside the party as THR spotted them side-by-side for much of the evening. He even introduced Carpenter to fellow singer Giveon near the neon lights that spelled Vanity Fair . Directly in front of them, the Everything Everywhere All at Once team had already set up shop at a section of tables where Wang was munching on an In-N-Out burger, a Vanity Fair party staple, that was delivered by servers who truly seemed to be everywhere all at once inside the party.
Inside the central round DJ booth and bar, presented by Richard Mille, there were only a handful of people close to 12 midnight, not a good sign for a dance floor that just last year hosted hundreds while Will Smith, fresh from slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, danced up a storm to some of his biggest rap hits. While not good or bad, the energy at this year’s Vanity Fair party was noticeably different, perhaps a bit more mellow than in previous years. The night also had steep competition on the afterparty circuit due to events hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce, Guy Oseary and Madonna, and best picture winners A24.
Elsewhere Darren Aronofsky fist bumped Universal chief Donna Langley after catching up with Paul Mescal; Academy president Janet Yang smoked cigarettes on the patio near the pizza bar (with dough by Evan Funke); Heidi Klum and husband Tom Kaulitz snacked on slices before sharing a smoke; “It Boy” model Evan Mock took photos in the courtyard; Zooey Deschanel walked around barefoot while clutching her glittering shoes in one hand and a burger in the other; producer Jamie Patricof had an animated conversation with Super Bowl champ Travis Kelce (among the many superstar athletes at the party like Russell Westbrook, Odell Beckham Jr., Draymond Green, Rich Paul and Russell Wilson); Seth Rogen, Aziz Ansari and Andrew Garfield huddled for a lengthy conversation; Noah Centineo took a break from chatting with a solo Megan Fox to offer a “hi, baby” to Lana Condor, his To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before co-star; and James Corden joined the chorus of revelers who wished James Martin a happy birthday. (A member of the Oscar winning team from An Irish Goodbye , Martin turned 31 on Sunday and received a serenade from the Dolby Theatre audience.)
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there she was. Cher herself, Alicia Silverstone, strutted through the courtyard trailing designer BFF Christian Siriano, who recently recreated her yellow tartan plaid suit for a Super Bowl commercial . OK, so you’re probably totally bugging and thinking, is this, like, a Noxema commercial? But no, it’s real life and almost time to face reality and head home.
As the clock inched closer to 1:30 a.m., the DJ hit play on a remix of The White Lotus theme song. The show’s stars Impacciatore, Adam DiMarco, Beatrice Granno and Simona Tabasco were still there, in one corner or another, for sure. “I think that’s our cue to leave,” said a guest, and it sounded sensible enough to head toward the door. Billie Eilish happened to be leaving then, too, holding hands with Jesse Rutherford. Before they made it to the line of waiting SUVs, actress Eiza Gonzalez shouted a compliment to Eilish, “I wore your perfume today! I wore your perfume today! I sprayed it all over my titties!”
Eilish laughed and the subject quickly turned to the next destination of the night. Host Jimmy Kimmel appeared to be calling it a quits as he waited for his ride next to wife Molly McInerney. Michelle Yeoh and her manager David Unger hopped on a party bus and said they were heading to A24’s bash at Soho House while Usher exited in favor of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Gold Party. Yeoh’s Oscar nominated co-star Stephanie Hsu stood near the center of the sidewalk with a huge smile. Having changed from the pink strapless Valentino gown she wore to the Oscars into a sparkly silver minidress, Hsu confirmed the night was still young by saying, “I’m just getting started.”
Here’s to hoping that wherever she went, it only took 20 minutes.