Joaquin Loses A Bet, Clooney Eyes Heath And Golden Globes Parties Rage On

From the red carpet to the post-show bashes, Hollywood's finest were out in full force.

BEVERLY HILLS, California — Surrounding the red carpet like invading soldiers, giant shiny golden balls announced to the world that this was an event like none other — appropriate, since the 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards were similarly dazzling, larger than life and without any true beginning or end.

(Click here for shots from the night’s hottest parties.)

The night drifted in on the heels of a sunny California day, with the red carpet giving an indication of the indecisiveness to come. While many trumpeted the “soulmates come in all shapes and sizes” angle (“Brokeback Mountain,” “King Kong”), others preferred to dwell on films that questioned the answers (“The Constant Gardener,” “Syriana”). By the time the Globes stopped spinning, Johnny Cash had given birth to a boy named Joaquin, Hoffman and Huffman had become household names, and “Brokeback Mountain” proved it had more peaks than valleys (see ” ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ ‘Walk The Line’ Win Big At Golden Globes” ).

“Well, he is awfully handsome,” George Clooney joked about Heath Ledger, when asked if he’d ever appear in a “Brokeback” sequel. “We thought that our little story about the CIA — the gay men in the CIA — was an important story to tell [too].” Then, holding up his shiny new statue for Best Supporting Actor, the charismatic star added: “This goes on the hood of the car.”

For that, Clooney would get the award for second-best trophy idea, finishing behind proud mama (and Best Actress winner) Reese Witherspoon. “I’m driving five girls to gymnastics tomorrow,” she giggled, holding her Globe. “Maybe I’ll put this on the dashboard for good luck.”

Backstage, the buzz was clear: Witherspoon’s FOX table was the place to be. “[My husband] Ryan [Phillippe] and I are quite enjoying ourselves, sitting at a table with ["In Her Shoes" nominee] Shirley MacLaine, probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and I think my husband’s new best friend,” Witherspoon revealed. “She’s a hoot. She has so many funny stories, and she knows everything about everybody, so I’m all ears.”

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Witherspoon’s “Walk the Line” hubby, Joaquin Phoenix, similarly bonded with the man in Reese’s corner. “I lost a $220 bet to Ryan,” Phoenix revealed after his Best Actor win. “That’s what he was so happy about. … He bet me that I’d win, and I said no way, and I bet him whatever I had in my pocket.”

Earlier in the evening, Phoenix could have lost plenty more if he bet against such other sure things as random celebrity conversations, super thin actresses, and a parade of big, bigger and biggest stars running down the red carpet at the last possible moment. Rachel Weisz and Gwyneth Paltrow compared pregnancy notes, Will Ferrell cracked up Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Piven presumably got some vampire tips from Kate Beckinsale. Mariah Carey and Jamie Foxx turned plenty of heads, walking the carpet together while sharing entourages.

Some newer Hollywood stars, such as Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, were just happy to be there: “I’m not gonna lie to you; this is weird,” the “Crash” and “Hustle & Flow” star confessed. “I was careful about which projects I chose to jump in movie-wise, but I didn’t know it was gonna be this big. I’m just soaking up the energy right now.”

The red carpet crush ranged from the eager (Zach Braff politely waited to speak to an interviewer) to the evasive (Jonathan Rhys Meyers dodging “Mission Impossible 3″ questions and Keira Knightley doing the same for “Pirates of the Caribbean”) to the forgetful (Mark Wahlberg promised he’d come back, but never did). In a moment of near awkwardness, Don Johnson came thisclose to bumping into ex Melanie Griffith. Then, what began as a trickle (Anybody want to talk to the kid from “Everybody Hates Chris”?) ended in a tidal wave as names like Johnny Depp, Hilary Swank and Russell Crowe sprinted down the carpet. Steven Spielberg took a similar approach while avoiding possible questions about another “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movie — apparently he had no time for love, Dr. Jones.

Finally, a stunning Scarlett Johansson breezed by, dropping mouths and undoubtedly garnering plenty of work for the publicity team that put her last on the carpet and in a vivid red dress to boot. She didn’t have anything to say, either, and she didn’t need to — that outfit said it all.

Once the ceremony began and the winners were handed their shiny new toys, they were quickly ushered into an adjoining press room, where some seemed more excited than others. An off-the-wall Phoenix, his tie already undone, was ushered off the stage with a promise that he was coming back — to which the actor replied: “No, he’s not.” Sandra Oh (Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for “Grey’s Anatomy”) walked into the room singing “Hi, guys! Hi!” Rhys Myers pointed out that there was no hyphen in his name, thank you, and virtually every guest took a turn dodging a Tom Cruise question from a troublemaking columnist in the front row. The luckiest winner of the night, however, may have been Steve Carell (Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for “The Office”), who snuck offstage when the power went out a few questions into his cross-examination.

After “Brokeback” made a late push with its Best Picture win, the crowds hustled and flowed into the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, a building complex that could put most small cities to shame. Michelle Williams (wearing a purple dress) and Heath Ledger (with a purple boutonnière) were ushered through a secret exit together. “Superman Returns” director Bryan Singer snuck in unnoticed, while leading man Brandon Routh enjoyed the attention of shutterbugs six months before most of the world will discover him. Paris and Nicky Hilton strutted around, both talking on their cell phones, and at least one pop star toppled over in a drunken stupor.

All the major parties were self-contained at the Hilton complex, with two in particular serving as gateway bashes. The HBO party, at the center of it all, featured a swimming pool with a flaming ring of fire in the middle of it. Stars from “The Sopranos” and “Crash” worked the scene amidst the three “D”s of any good Hollywood party: a DJ, dancing and disco balls.

Down a long hallway at the Weinstein Company bash, stars similarly dropped in to pay their respects to the former Miramax executives who are likely to dominate awards seasons again in years to come. Nearly 6,000 invaded the Beverly Hilton Monday night — and it seemed that every one stopped in at the legendary Trader Vic’s restaurant to see the Weinsteins.

For sheer size, however, it was hard to beat the NBC Universal party on the parking-garage roof. After cutting through the velvet drapes, a circular bar battled for guests’ attention with the DJ spinning the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Guns N’ Roses. Food and drink flowed freely, as did Ang Lee, Laura Linney, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Peter Jackson and Mel Brooks. Linda Cardellini wrapped her arms around “Brokeback” writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, as they rejoiced over their film’s four wins.

Through the miracle of cell-phone technology, word quickly spread that the InStyle/ Warner Bros. party was the place to be. With the entire fourth floor of the hotel roped off for foot traffic, it provided the perfect shortcut for stars and wannabes alike. A quick jaunt down the stairwell, and you were packed in among the sardines.

But if you have to be squeezed, the company at this bash made it as pleasurable as possible: Charlize Theron sipped a drink and giggled; Jimmy Fallon (with blond hair) posed for photos; Taye Diggs, Gabrielle Union and Guy Pearce worked the crowd. While a live band showed its versatility by seamlessly bouncing from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Michael Jackson, guests snuck into the Godiva chocolate room to live out their Willie Wonka dreams among edible sculptures.

All in all, it was a yummy night indeed for a wide array of people — not unlike the awards themselves, a shiny spectacle that spread the wealth without revealing clear-cut conclusions. Now, it’s on to the Oscars, with Johnny Cash riding his train and the “Mountain” boys going for broke.

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