WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — When Chris Tucker and Jon Voight are grooving side by side to Rick James' "Give It To Me, Baby," you know the surreal dream that is the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party is playing out again.
For many of the nominees and winners, the Governors Ball, located in a large ballroom one level up from the Oscars-hosting Dolby Theater in Hollywood, is the first stop. Guests get food there, an array of goodies from Wolfgang Puck including a raw seafood bar and his trademark chocolate Oscars, and they kibitz in the kind of formal setting you might imagine if a Steven Spielberg movie celebrated a Bar Mitzvah.
I arrive too late to catch the buzzed-about summit among Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey and Adele, though the "Goldfinger" singer is signing autographs near the entrance when I arrive. I do chat with Daniel Radcliffe, at his first Governors Ball after his first Oscars, and he tells me, "I was inspired meeting Ben Affleck. He's just been a real inspiration to me, the way he's carried himself…and he became an amazing director."
Nearby, Anne Hathaway and her new Oscar are sliding past John Travolta as he tells a cluster of folks how much he enjoyed the show, comparing host Seth MacFarlane's "nonchalant" demeanor to Dean Martin's and praising the musical numbers.
"I love the standing ovations because I hadn't seen them for years," Travolta says. "I loved my Streisand moment."
By 11 p.m. the famously familiar faces have become sparse in the room.
But when the clock strikes midnight at the Vanity Fair party in West Hollywood's Sunset Tower Hotel, the star-studded fever dream is peaking.
Steven Tyler in all his fab leatheriness is walking in, as is Vanessa Hudgens. Elton John is sitting in one of the den-like alcoves of the first big room, and Jennifer Aniston is in the next one.
In the middle of the room, a few steps away from Amy Adams, Ben Affleck and his Oscar, alongside wife Jennifer Garner and brother Casey, are at the end of a makeshift receiving line, and Juliette Lewis is paying homage.
Retro-outfitted cigarette girls dispense cigarettes and candy, though the many folks flouting California's anti-smoking laws probably brought their own. An In-N-Out Burger truck is set up on the street, and the cheeseburgers offered inside are quickly devoured.
Amanda Seyfried, a blue-eyed vision in red, is perched at one end of the long bar in the packed main area, with Jeremy Renner nearby. Robert De Niro maneuvers his way through the crowd to reach the other end.
Daniel Day-Lewis is chatting with Patricia Clarkson. Danny Huston has his arm around the shoulders of Martin Landau (who's got a cane) as they sit on a white couch under a video feed of the party's red carpet.
Salma Hayek is in the house. So are Naomi Campbell, Quincy Jones, Conan O'Brien, Catherine O'Hara, Andy Samberg, Martin Short…
No Adele, though.
Christoph Waltz walks in, and I ask him (not in a tacky way, of course) whether he thinks any supporting actor winner ever had as much screen time as he did in "Django Unchained."
"It's not the screen time. It's the chromatic function." Waltz replies in his precise diction, saying that he and the "Django" folks had an extended conversation about this. His character is supporting the hero's journey and is "a classic supporting role."
Catherine Zeta-Jones is posing for photos with Tyler near a photo booth, out of which pops Hathaway and her husband and Oscar. Jennifer Lawrence and her Oscar pass by soon afterward.
Jane Fonda is trying to get out of the crowd.
"Way out, way out," she asks me as we intersect in the bottleneck. I point her toward some doors that should do the trick.
Juliette Lewis is now chatting with Radcliffe.
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio says MacFarlane was all right, but "Stewie would have been better." (That's a "Family Guy" reference, just so you know.)
A woman asks me to take a photo with her cell phone, and she poses with Quentin Tarantino and Naomi Watts. Afterward, I ask what she does, and she tells me she's California's attorney general (that is, Kamala Harris).
Tim Burton is there with longtime partner Helena Bonham Carter, though at this point she's in a booth with Michael Douglas (who's looking good) and Zeta-Jones (ditto), and Burton is standing against a pillar with his left arm in a sling. Does he intend to come to Chicago for the April world premiere of the "Big Fish" musical based on his 2003 film?
"Probably not," he says, shaking his head.
When I ask about his arm, he says the story is too boring to tell.
Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann are huddled in a corner with Bradley Cooper. Cameron Crowe, standing nearby, says he plans to start shooting a movie with Cooper later this year.
Voight chats with Tucker, then Foxx, before "Give It to Me, Baby" comes on, and the hips start swinging. When the music segues to Madonna's "Holiday," Tucker announces, "C'mon, everybody!" Naomie Harris of "Skyfall" and a friend join in the dancing. Foxx does not.
I cross paths with Peter Fonda and his wife, Margaret, who tells me he's looking for his sister.
"She left," I inform her.
Radcliffe and a young woman are seated on the floor, their backs against the bar, as they look at her smart phone. The fellow formerly known as Harry Potter is smoking.
Kelly Preston says she and husband Travolta are leaving for another party.
The room begins to clear, and portions of the carpet become visible, showing cupcake frosting stains and other detritus. A lanky woman is seated atop a chair's arm consulting intensely with her phone's screen, apparently seeking the next move. Some guests have started to sway.
It's 2:30 a.m., and the fever has broken.