02/05/1996 at 01:00 AM EST
ALAS, TIME WAS WHEN EVEN THE TAMEST awards show could guarantee at least a few getups to guffaw over: Cher's feathered headdresses, Barbra Streisand's barely concealed backside, anything worn by Anna Nicole Smith
. But that was before old-fashioned elegance swept though Hollywood, a now familiar trend that helped turn the 53rd annual Golden Globe Awards into a startling display of good taste. Jodie Foster was resplendent in a Donna Karan stretch bodice and crinkled metallic pouf skirt; Angela Bassett shimmered in silvery lace by Escada; To Die For
's Nicole Kidman
, who took home a trophy for best actress in a comedy, topped off her ice-blue Isaac Mizrahi with a classic upswept coif; and Jennifer Aniston
chose a creamy frock by Calvin Klein. With nary a snicker-worthy hairdo or hemline in sight, even the most outrageously tressed star, The Nanny
's Fran Drescher, managed the impossible by looking springlike with a bouquet of fresh flowers on her noggin.
In fact, as an uncharacteristically chill wind blew across the rain-soaked red carpet leading into the Beverly Hilton, the only fashion flubs were accidental. The pant-cuffs on the neatly tailored tuxedos worn by presenter Tom Hanks, Sean Connery (winner of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement) and Nicolas Cage (best actor in a drama for Leaving Las Vegas
) were drenched by the time they took their seats, while the women's mostly neutral-toned silk confections were decorated with water stains. Alicia Silverstone's mother hiked up the hem of the Clueless
star's velvet Armani coat to keep it dry. Opting for shelter over publicity, Susan Sarandon, shivering in a black sleeveless Richard Tyler gown, raced by the assembled paparazzi. "Sorry, but I'm freezing," she apologized.
The soggy climate didn't dampen the upbeat dinner and ceremony, long considered to be more fun than the Oscars—and, lately, almost as respectable. Once the laughingstock of awards shows (the members of the sponsoring Hollywood Foreign Press Association were once described as "people who would cross the Alps for a hot dog"), the Golden Globes seems to have finally arrived. With more celeb attendees each year—both TV and film stars are honored—the show has evolved into a hot ticket, thanks to its knack for predicting Oscar winners. In the past 16 years, the Globes presaged 12 best picture winners, 12 best actors and 14 best actresses. "There is a good deal of respect for choices that are made here," said Paramount chairman Sherry Lansing. With Oscar nominations due Feb. 1, she added, "it is the best chance to see and be seen."
Even some among the mix of stars were dazzled by the high-wattage crowd. "I was in line and said hi to Tom Cruise
," announced Ellen DeGeneres. "I was thinking, 'He doesn't even know who I am,' when I heard him lean over to Nicole and tell her." In the spirit of what presenter Angela Lansbury called the ceremony's relaxed atmosphere, the celebs were anything but stiff. Most deserving of an award for emotional outbursts: Paul Sorvino, who wept when his daughter Mira won best supporting actress for Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite
. For most tasteless ad-libs: Tom Arnold, who, when copresenter Teri Hatcher
interrupted his Roseanne-bashing monologue with "Maybe I should speak," snapped, "That's probably not what you do best." (Later a bewildered Hatcher said, "I have no idea what could have possessed him.") Emma Thompson took the honors for most original speech when she accepted the award for her Sense and Sensibility
screenplay by pretending to be Jane Austen commenting on the Globes ("Thankfully there were no dogs and no children"), thereby avoiding becoming one of the numbing parade of winners who thanked their agents, publicists, cast, crew and, in John Travolta's case, the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.
As is customary, the victors and the also-rans headed to one or more of the six lavish postshow parties. "Oh, my God!" shrieked Quentin Tarantino, as he congratulated pal Travolta on his award at the Disney bash at the Hilton. Uma Thurman and Sharon Stone (who earlier was giggling backstage on her cell phone with best friend Mimi Craven over her best dramatic actress win for Casino
) hit the Creative Artists Agency shindig at the restaurant Muse. And at the Hilton's MGM-United Artists fete, where Jamie Lee Curtis and Patrick Swayze piled into a room transformed into a 1920s speakeasy with $500,000 worth of rented antique furniture, the Party of Five
cast was reeling from its best TV drama series win. "I wanted to ask them to read the name again," said star Lacey Chabert, 13. Even for those who showed up merely as spectators, the excitement proved dizzying. Noted Friends
' Matthew Perry, who came with his costars rather than new girlfriend Julia Roberts
: "It's just like going to the prom—except there's less vomiting."
ANNE-MARIE OTEY, CAROLYN RAMSAY and PAULA YOO in Los Angeles