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MISSION: IMPECCABLE
"I'm going to show her off," said Tom Cruise, who escorted his wife, Katie Holmes, to the VF fete at Mortons restaurant. A day earlier, at the Giorgio Armani Privé fashion show, new mom Holmes couldn't help but gush about the couple's 10-month-old daughter Suri. "She's doing really, really well. She's a beautiful little girl. Right now we do a lot of walking around. She loves just being outside."

Vanity Fair Party

Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Hudson puckered up for cameras before entering the bash. And what did she think of the new man in her life—Oscar? "It's heavy!"

The night was still young for Penélope Cruz and Madonna, who later reconnected at Prince's after-afterparty at Teddy's. They hugged before the Material Mom and husband Guy Ritchie called it a night at 3:15 a.m.

Well-wishers such as Jamie Foxx showered the night's Queen with congratulations. "It's been a long journey here," said Mirren. When she returned to London two days later, employees at Heathrow Airport's baggage claim area gave her a standing ovation.

The best part of the night for Kelly Preston? "Forest winning!" Whitaker seconded that emotion as he showed off his statuette with (from left) hotelier Jerry Inzerillo, Diddy, Preston and her husband, John Travolta. Earlier that day, Whitaker and wife Keisha hosted a small pre-awards party at their home for family, friends and their glam squad, including Phillip Bloch. The couple gave each person a personalized mini Oscar and a "Team Whitaker" T-shirt.

Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres and girlfriend Portia de Rossi arrived with their own paparazzo: DeGeneres's mom, Betty.

Meryl Streep had a wicked time hanging out with Nicole Kidman (who stuck close to husband Keith Urban for much of the night), Mary J. Blige and Oprah Winfrey. Said Blige: "This is the party!"

InStyle Party

Diagnosis? Romance. Grey's Anatomy's Kate Walsh and Brothers & Sisters star Dave Annable stepped out as a couple at the viewing party.

Stars such as Sara Ramirez and Masi Oka gathered at nightspot Area to take in the telecast.

Governors Ball

HAPPY TUNE
"This is the only naked man that will ever be in my bedroom," declared Best Song winner Melissa Etheridge (with partner Tammy Lynn Michaels and Steven Spielberg) of her Oscar.

"It was an overwhelming moment for me," Martin Scorsese (with his wife, Helen Morris, and The Departed star Leonardo DiCaprio) said of finally winning the Best Director Oscar after seven nominations. Next challenge: Where will he put it? "On the second floor of my house."

Pre-Oscar nerves? Not for Clint Eastwood. On the morning of the big show, "I sleep in until 11," said Eastwood (left, with his Letters from Iwo Jima leading man Ken Watanabe). Above: Nominees, presenters and stars mingled under greenery-draped pergolas and filled up on chef Wolfgang Puck's all-organic buffet in the Hollywood & Highland complex's Grand Ballroom.

Elton John AIDS Foundation

IDOL MOMENT
Simon Cowell yukked it up with Elton John at the singer's 15th annual Oscar bash, which featured a live auction. Guests got to bid on everything from a five-day stay at the Versace family's Lake Como villa (which went for $160,000) to a soccer lesson with David Beckham (sold to two bidders for $125,000). The event, cosponsored by Chopard, Audi and VH1, took in $4.2 million for AIDS research.

"I want everyone to have fun and be comfortable and really have a night to remember," said John (at his table with, from left, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and Crow's onetime boyfriend Kid Rock). Bon Jovi proved to be an eclectic schmoozer, mingling with Diddy and guest auctioneer Sharon Stone.

Victoria Beckham (in Azzedine Alaïa) hung out with Kelly Osbourne (who opted for Carolina Herrera). "I thought about putting pajamas on underneath so I could go home and crawl into bed easier," said Osbourne. "But I didn't."

Elton and his partner, David Furnish, "are so dear to me because they're relentless about raising money for AIDS research," said Sharon Stone (with Cheryl Tiegs).

Oscars After Midnight

HIGH STAKES
Amber Tamblyn, hitting a blackjack table with pal Jason Ritter, was ready to roll at the party cohosted by PEOPLE and producer Phil Maloof. The night's big winner? ER star Mekhi Phifer, who scored a $50,000 donation in his name to the charity YouthAIDS.

Isaiah Washington spent the evening playing cards and puffing cigars with pal Phifer and shared a laugh with Lindsay Lohan. The actress came with her mom, Dina, sipped an energy drink and was on time for work the next morning on the set of I Know Who Killed Me.

Chad Lowe found a match in his girlfriend, producer Kim Painter. Says a guest: "She held her own with the boys at the blackjack table."

Guests such as Tyra Banks, Sara Ramirez and Lance Bass relaxed in luxury at a mansion overlooking L.A. Among the post-Oscar perks? Free back and foot massages.