LOVE IN BLOOM?

ORLANDO BLOOM and PENELOPE CRUZ—who've been spotted together frequently in the past five months—made sure to avoid any overt PDA during the flurry of pre-Oscar events. But there was no denying the flirtation at the Global Green USA party on Feb. 21, when the actor spent nearly an hour whispering in her ear. (The pair even held hands under the table.) The next night, Bloom beelined for Cruz upon his arrival at Beverly Hills's Soho House, warmly greeting her before moving on to play pool with OLIVIER MARTINEZ. And to cap off the week, Bloom danced suggestively to "Let Me Clear My Throat" at PRINCE's A-list Oscars afterparty at Teddy's—earning a giggle and round of applause from the nearby Cruz.

SUPERHERO SOIRÉE

Heroes star ALI LARTER is no party girl. "She never has birthday parties," says a pal. "But this year she had a lot to celebrate." Like, say, her hit TV show and supportive costars—including MILO VENTIMIGLIA and ADRIAN PASDAR—who helped ring in her 31st at Social Hollywood on Feb. 24. As the Moët & Chandon champagne-sipping, Godiva-nibbling star told guests as she blew out the candles, "It's a nice time of life."

FAST TAKES

It was an A-list pow-wow at the Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge on Feb. 23 when JENNIFER ANISTON sat at a table with OPRAH WINFREY and JERRY SEINFELD. Nearby, NATALIE PORTMAN held court in the back room while AL PACINO and pals hung on the patio.

At ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Oscar party (hosted by ANTONIO BANDERAS and MELANIE GRIFFITH), LUDACRIS says he briefed AL GORE on "what's going on in the hood." The onetime veep's response? Suggesting the rapper write a song about global warming.

Hold the phone! NAOMI CAMPBELL and actor TERRENCE HOWARD appeared to be on a "cute date" at Mr. Chow Beverly Hills on Feb. 22, says a fellow diner. "He listened intently to all she had to say."