LOS ANGELES — Winners, losers, not-a-chance nominees and plenty of wannabes partied into the wee hours following the 78th annual Academy Awards, with celebrations all over town providing ample opportunities for "Crash" supporters to raise a toast, "Brokeback" loyalists to drown their miseries, and the Three 6 Mafia to continue their plans for Hollywood domination.
Ten-foot-high bushes spelled out the words "Vanity Fair" at one of the toughest tickets in town, where 150 celebrities including Jay Leno, George Lucas, Selma Blair, Mick Jagger, Teri Hatcher, Seal and Heidi Klum showed up in the late afternoon to watch the Oscars. Eating New York strip steak and sipping champagne at the magazine's annual party at Morton's in West Hollywood, the early arrivals rooted for their friends, knowing that the nominees would join them shortly after the ceremony wrapped up.
Sure enough, everyone from Rachel Weisz to a stogie-smoking Philip Seymour Hoffman to the doll-hugging filmmakers behind "March of the Penguins" arrived within minutes of a shocking Oscar conclusion that had "Crash" winning Best Picture. Triumphant writer/director Paul Haggis also came to the Vanity Fair party with his two daughters each holding an Oscar, while Hoffman left his shiny new friend in the car for safe keeping (see "Oscar Wrap-Up: A Best Picture Party Crasher, Virgin Winners ... And A 'Pimp' ").
"I think she's just really lovable as a person," a dark-haired Lindsay Lohan said of Reese Witherspoon, whose acceptance speech she cited as her favorite. "I just thought her speech was really graceful, and she was so calm about it. I would have been bawling up there!"
Naomi Watts, Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman and Jennifer Lopez walked the red carpet and discussed their favorite wins of the evening, while Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston arrived about 45 minutes apart, but united in their bypassing of the press. Although he may still have been smarting from the fact that his name was misspelled during his Oscar introduction, Will Ferrell kept a smile on his face and went inside to see if Felicity Huffman, Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix could do the same.
"I'm feeling like a million dollars — no, 10 million dollars," grinned "Crash" star Ludacris. "We freed a lot of people and a lot of minds, and that's why it was so powerful that it had to win Best Picture. If people understand that, you'll realize that's why we beat 'Brokeback Mountain.' There, I said it."
"I predicted 'Crash' winning," bragged "Ray" star Regina King, one of many to stake that claim after the fact. King also joined many others in praising Three 6 Mafia, saying, "They embrace their ghetto-ness, they embrace their Southern-ness. I loved it."
"Three 6 Mafia was in the house, baby," Jamie Foxx added enthusiastically. "That was beautiful. To me, it was one of the most genuine moments of happiness. ... There's was the most felt."
Echoed first-time host Jon Stewart: "Three 6 Mafia, man, that was the best part of the whole night; exuberance, real joy. I loved it" (see "Oscar Host Jon Stewart Gives Mad Props to Three 6 Mafia, Fears Russell Crowe Beat-Down").
The loudest cheers of the night erupted when Madonna and Guy Ritchie showed up, but even the Material Girl seemed somewhat immaterial once the Three 6 MC's showed up flashing ear-to-ear smiles nearly as bright as the golden statues in their clutches. Laughing, Juicy J asked: "Did you see the way we ran out there on the stage?"
"It felt good," DJ Paul remembered. "I was trying to keep from looking in the crowd, because I was nervous. I didn't want none of my favorite actors to be giving me the finger."
"We're gonna go drink some champagne," Juicy concluded, thirstily eyeballing the entrance to the party.
"I've hit like three parties, this is my fourth one," Ludacris reported. "I'm meeting a lot of people I've never met before in the movie world and the TV world and the music world. Sometimes you just want to rub up against that magic."
"I'm gonna go over here and kick it," Foxx said of his plans for the evening, grinning mischievously, "and then I'm going to a private little joint."
Several others on the party scene were a bit mellower, deciding instead that "Mom" was the word. Terrence Howard and Reese Witherspoon were among those who brought their mothers along for the evening festivities, while the sober Hoffman invoked his mother's name frequently as a source of inspiration.
At the Governor's Ball adjoining the Kodak Theater, the music was pumping and the champagne was flowing. Jack Nicholson sat at a table next to Queen Latifah, leaning over to kiss her hello, while a black-clad Joaquin Phoenix received condolences en masse. Personalities ranging from Steve Carell and Dame Judi Dench to Paul Giamatti and Lauren Bacall intermingled, while Steven Spielberg admired the Best Animated Feature Oscar from "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Cradled in the hands of eccentric director Nick Park, the statue still wore the colorful bowtie — a scaled-down version of its owner's — that Park put on the trophy during his acceptance speech.
The epicenter of all activities, however, was the annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party, held this year at the mammoth Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Richie, Prince,
After greeting press on the carpet, the stars went inside to continue the party and watch the Rocket Man perform alongside a hit-making admirer.
"We'll have John Legend singing and I'll be performing with him," Elton John said, flanked by partner David Furnish and their tiny dog. "We're going to auction off the piano we play, and hopefully it'll just be a great evening. It's nonstop until two in the morning."
John added that he was expecting a diverse guest list — including 74-year-old B-movie legend Mamie Van Doren and the younger, but no-less-reclusive, Axl Rose. Meanwhile, Olympic hero Sasha Cohen confidently worked the crowd, knowing that her newly acquired silver-medal bling could hold its own against any Oscar statue. "I'm not gonna go too crazy tonight because I have training in the morning," she giggled.
"This week I've been going to parties every night, and I went to a pre-Oscar party last night where I met like half of Hollywood," the 21-year-old figure skater continued. "There's a lot of schmoozing that goes on, and I'm pretty new at this, but I got to meet Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller, George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey. ... I was just like 'Oh my God, everyone's here!"
Cohen couldn't officially claim that she had seen everyone, however, until Paris Hilton made her mandatory appearance. In a blue sequined dress adorned with nothing less than peacock feathers, the heiress said that Elton John's party was the place to be — but that wouldn't stop her from hitting all the other celebrations as well.
"[Elton] knows how to throw a great party and it's a great foundation," the bubbly blonde enthused. "I'm going to go to like every single party tonight."