Hollywood life halts on Oscar day waiting for big night of winners


HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- By 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon, the movie studios were empty, the nominees were all dressed up and drinking champagne, and the streets around the Los Angeles Music Center resembled a barricaded war zone in which the police, the paparazzi and demonstrators engaged in running skirmishes.

By late afternoon, the freeways were gridlocked in pre-holiday-style traffic as everyone rushed home to turn on the television set.

It was Oscar Day 1992.

"For most of my life I saw the Oscars as an occasion to stay home, laugh at the outfits, boo and applaud the winners, and groan at everyone stumbling through their speeches," said Ted Tally, who was nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for "The Silence of the Lambs." "Now, I'm one of them."

Callie Khouri, who was nominated for best original screenplay for "Thelma & Louise," began drinking champagne with her family and friends in her Santa Monica home before she climbed into a limousine paid for by the studio, MGM.

"You spend your whole life getting to the point where you can express yourself as a writer and try to deal with some truths and thinking of yourself as a kind of serious person," she said. "But the one thing I kept worrying about, obsessing about, is what shoes I'll wear under my Oscar dress."

The gray, drizzly day followed a single pattern, Hollywood style. Nominees worked a bit in the morning, went to barbers and hairdressers in the early afternoon, put on their outfit of outfits, met friends at home for champagne, piled into limousines and went to the Academy Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Later, many of them were to attend the academy's official party, the Governor's Ball, in a tent on the Music Center plaza, and then, with the night still young, make their way around town to numerous parties.

The most famous party, and probably the hottest ticket, was the one given annually by the agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar, and his wife, Mary, at which some of the biggest movie stars in town would be crammed, like rush-hour subway riders, into Spago, a restaurant above Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.

The guest list included Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, Anjelica Huston, Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Faye Dunaway, Kevin Costner and just about everyone else who has ever appeared on the cover of People magazine.

"The party began 30 years ago in my home, and it just grew to what it is today," said Mr. Lazar, who has just turned 85. "We invite people because we like them, not because they're important. But, believe me, some people try to take advantage."

Mr. Lazar said a very well-known agent tried to have an equally well-known producer invited several years ago, but the Lazars refused. "Why? Because the guy is a bore," Mr. Lazar said. "The agent said the producer would give $50,000 to charity. I said no. He said the fellow will give $100,000 to charity. I said no. Can you believe it?"

At midday the scene downtown at the Los Angeles Music Center was chaotic. Hundreds of police and security officers and firefighters surrounded the music center all day, partly because of demonstrations by gay protesters against what they termed Hollywood's unfair treatment of homosexuals.

The demonstrators singled out films including "JFK" and "The Silence of the Lambs," two nominees for best picture, as well as "Basic Instinct," which opened this month, as films that dealt crudely and unfairly with gay characters.

About a dozen people, blowing whistles and carrying signs reading "Hollywood Stop Censoring Our True Queer Lives," demonstrated noisily outside the ceremonies. Several of them embraced and kissed, and others pasted small signs that said "Fag" on an enormous replica of the Oscar.

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