From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Shortly before 2 a.m. on March 26, some eight hours after pulling off the night's biggest upset by winning Best Supporting Actress, Pollock's Marcia Gay Harden arrived at Vanity Fair's annual Oscars party with a new man on her arm. Or, to be precise, clasped in her hand. Whenever another winner passed her carrying a gold statuette, Harden cried, "Ooh, an Oscar! Kiss, kiss!" The Oscars' lips would meet with a metallic clink.

Air kisses, meanwhile, were flying around Hollywood like joyriding Gulfstream jets. Following the telecast, the stars pounded the party circuit, forming some odd constellations along the way. Elton John's ninth annual awards bash at the restaurant Moomba, cohosted with IN STYLE magazine and benefitting John's AIDS foundation, found Elizabeth Hurley making the rounds with—huh?—Pamela Anderson. ("Come on, darling," Hurley said, beckoning Anderson to follow.) And during Vanity Fair's gathering at Mortons restaurant, Julia Roberts said the heck with the long ladies' room queue and joined the startled gents, who welcomed her with applause.

Even nonmingling has special meaning on Oscar night. Attending the same party, an apparently solo Sean "Puffy" Combs and ex-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez (accompanied by her new boyfriend, dancer Cris Judd) passed within a few feet without acknowledging each other. Combs, recently acquitted on gun-possession charges, still managed to have fun. "The bar's open," he shouted to fellow Alisters within earshot.

As it traditionally does, the evening kicked off at the Board of Governors Ball at the Shrine Auditorium, where 1,750 Academy members and friends noshed on chef Wolfgang Puck's roasted veal "Oscar" with sweet Maine lobster and asparagus. "It was dinner for a thousand equal in glamor to the night itself," Tom Hanks, seated with wife Rita Wilson, said with a mock British accent. Across the room, Traffic's Michael Douglas, beaming over the movie's four wins, offered a champagne toast, to his table. His wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, allowed herself the smallest pat on the back. "I walked onstage without falling over," she said. "That was pretty cool." Over at Moomba, Ben Stiller, escorting his wife, actress Christine Taylor, would have welcomed some stumbling space. "I've been to like 15 parties," he said, "and there's no room." He could only throw his hands up in mock exasperation when security guards told him he'd have to stand on line to get onto the dance floor, already packed so tight that Hanks, Allison Janney, Kevin Spacey and Bridget Fonda and her boyfriend, Dwight Yoakam, could barely gyrate to classic disco hits.

Eventually Stiller also penetrated the celebrity throng at the Vanity Fair shindig, where The Practice's Lara Flynn Boyle could be found one minute urging Jennifer Lopez to sample the miniature crab cakes—Boyle wolfed down five—and the next exchanging "I love you"s with Calista Flockhart. Best Supporting Actor Benicio Del Toro, congratulated by Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black), kissed her hand and pinched her cheek. Best Actress winner Roberts, hand in hand with boyfriend Benjamin Bratt, confessed that she'd already forgotten most of her frenetic acceptance speech. "I was just asking about it in the car," she said. Right after the Awards, she called her mom. "She was just screaming," said Roberts. "We're very happy."

And what about Best Actor Russell Crowe? A no-show at all the major festivities, he arrived at DreamWorks' modest bash at Dominick's restaurant and headed straight for the back room.

Victorious, a gladiator no longer needs the crowd.

Michelle Tauber, Tom Gliatto, Galina Espinoza, Dan Jewel, Michael A. Lipton, Samantha Miller, Mike Neill, Susan Pocharski, Lisa Russell, Susan Schindehette, Kyle Smith, Alex Tresniowski and Constance White

Karen Bates, Karen Brailsford, Mark Dagostino, Alison Gee, Mary Green, Julie Jordan, Marisa Laudadio, N.F. Mendoza, Frank Swertlow, Pamela Warrick and Ulrica Wihlborg in Los Angeles; KC Baker and Aaron T. Smith in New York City; Eileen Finan in London; and Peter Mikelbank in Paris

  • Contributors:
  • Karen Bates,
  • Karen Brailsford,
  • Mark Dagostino,
  • Alison Gee,
  • Mary Green,
  • Julie Jordan,
  • Marisa Laudadio,
  • N.F. Mendoza,
  • Frank Swertlow,
  • Pamela Warrick,
  • Ulrica Wihlborg,
  • KC Baker,
  • Aaron T. Smith,
  • Eileen Finan,
  • Peter Mikelbank.