What we really lost when Showmanship parties and celebrity chats faded away this year


Once upon a time, celebrities wanted to discuss who they were wearing, and it was the job to talk to them about it.

I might approach Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Kerry Washington, Cher, Salma Hayek Pinault and other major stars inside personal industry events in La. Over cocktails or supper, occasionally brunch or lunchtime, we would chat about dresses, their head of hair, the party scene and their philanthropic work anytime the event benefited a cause.

This was long before the phrase “social distancing” invaded the daily vernacular courtesy of the particular pandemic.

An animated conversation among Tessa Thompson, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Suzie Riemer.

In the good, old days of parties, Tessa Thompson, seated from left, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Suzie Riemer chat during 2019’s Chanel and Charles Finch pre-Oscar dinner.

(Billy Farrell and BFA. com)


This awards season, which is unlike any, I’ve found myself showing on those brief trades with Hollywood’s biggest brands, candid moments that survive in my memory and on old recordings — some therefore ancient they were documented on an iPod classic.

The interactions helped make me who I am and, in lots of ways, represent another era associated with life for me and, probably, the cultural zeitgeist. They will signify an age of purity when community, camaraderie plus connection didn’t feel like long-lost friends, and parties had been held IRL instead of over video chats.

Like in 2008, when I met Rihanna. Back then, she has been she was still only a “Good Girl Gone Bad” who hadn’t yet arrived at “Rated R” territory.

Rihanna, bejeweled flask in hand, strikes a pose for a party photographer.

Rihanna at the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017.

(Christopher Polk / Getty Images)

“I never get to celebration, ” Rihanna purred directly into my recorder during an InStyle pre-Grammy event with Hollywood club Boulevard3. “Tonight is the night. ”

Four years later on, I approached her with another pre-awards event, the particular Roc Nation brunch, which usually had been sponsored by Gucci.

“Hey, honey, what’s up? ” said the singer-turned-entrepreneur, perched atop the winding primary stairway at Soho Home in West Hollywood. The lady addressed me as if we were old friends, but Rihanna meets more people compared to Pope. I was under simply no illusion that she thought of me. She’d simply become accustomed to strangers approaching her and knew how to play the game.


I picked up my recorder as her blond curls bounced with all the effortless ease of a celeb whose hairstylist had invested hours coiffing each individual curl. “I woke up with my hair like this, ” the lady said. “I took the shower last night after rehearsals, and it was curly. ” Her new hue “was inspired by ‘Scarface, ’” she said.

Minutes later, Rihanna found a friend in Katy Perry, who was hanging out in a roped-off VIP area. At the time, Perry had just divorced Russell Brand. I wasn’t amazed when she declined to accomplish an interview with me. However , Perry proved happy to oblige while i asked who made the girl blue and pink gown, which perfectly coordinated with her electric blue locks.

Katy Perry poses for the press in a skin-baring dress.

Katy Perry arrives at the particular 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.

(Chris Polk / Getty Images)

“I don’t know, ” Perry said. “But you can unzip me personally. ”


So I did.

“F-a-u-s-t-o/P-u-g-l-i-s-i, ” I spelled out into my recorder. “Thanks. ”

I was used to coy responses. And, hey, coy can sometimes be cute. Anything funny or strange worked as well. Michelle Williams (the Oscar-nominated actress, not the Destiny’s Child singer), once insisted to me that she hadn’t dyed her hair, that it was darker because it “never views the sun because it lives below wigs most of the time. ”

Her best friend, Busy Philipps, seated next to her, chimed in. “I think that when you were in Michigan, it must have already been so dreary that your hair just went dark, ” she said, adding to the bit.


Was any of this breaking news? Number

But everybody knows you’ve clicked on these inane, photo-driven stories over the years or you probably wouldn’t end up being reading this one right now. (“Rihanna Debuts New Blond ‘Do at Grammy Party”; “Katy Perry Steps Out in the Body-Hugging Dress”; “Michelle Williams Swears She Didn’t Dye Her Hair. ”) I actually didn’t write the head lines, but it was my work to become fast friends along with stars for a quippy estimate or two. Sometimes it has been for a fashion or beauty news item, other times for a party story.

Michelle Williams clutches an Emmy beside bestie Busy Phillips.

Michelle Williams, left, and bestie Busy Phillips at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards’ Governors Golf ball on the L. A. Reside Event Deck.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

As an enjoyment journalist in my early twenties, new to Los Angeles and just trying to pay my dues and my bills, there were regarding as many splashy awards period parties as there were nominations each year.


Night after night, the venue and crowd may have differed, however it was always the same tune and dance, with choreography that any nominee or aspiring nominee knew well. The true stars almost always played along, which helped me workmanship a story that allowed visitors to feel as though they’d also been a well-heeled soar on the wall. Others, who else shall remain nameless, had me alive at events, but their behavior reiterated a very important life lesson that I’d already learned during my teen years, which was that it mentioned more about them than it did about me.

“You’ve got to have got balls of steel in the party biz, ” an editor once told me right after an actor berated me for approaching him.

I don’t know about balls, but I had an arsenal of little black dresses. What I wore grew to become my armor. It allowed me to kick my wallflower instincts to the curb and masquerade as the social butterfly I wish I’d been in high school and college. No matter which i often gave myself pep talks on the car rides over in which I repeated mantras like, “You are just as successful as these individuals. You are just as worthy, ” like a poorly written edition of Al Franken’s “Saturday Night Live” character’s lines: “I’m good enough, I’m smart and practical enough, and, doggone this, people like me! ”


Eventually, I graduated from LBDs to designer gowns I found through consignment buying. I purchased a dark and fuchsia Zac Posen cocktail dress previously owned by my childhood idol Paula Abdul, a structured gray Oscar de una Renta wool dress that Naomi Watts once complimented me on, a reddish and black silk Dolce & Gabbana dress and many other designer dresses that helped me embody the part of somebody who belonged. These dresses required from one season to the next plus taught me the value of shucking fashion trends for timeless design and taste.

Over time, politely interrupting Matt McConaughey and Kate Hudson at a Screen Actors Guild Awards afterparty became as well-honed a skill as the art of asking an absurd question in such a way that I was in on the joke. (What would it take to get Hudson on the dance floor? “What would it not take? ” she repetitive back to me in 2008. “A later night! This won’t be happening today! I’m a working girl and I’ve also got the son. I can’t end up being up too late! ”)

A portrait of Alfre Woodard.

Alfre Woodard in October 2019.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

While snappy soundbites were most common, occasionally, you’d have more insightful responses such as at Alfre Woodard’s awards-season dinner, which often attracted Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.


“The only time we hear each other’s names is when the representatives are cursing the fact that one of the other of us have gotten a job, ” Woodard told me over mint juleps in 2012, explaining why she had her annual affair. “It’s a big town, therefore i think it’s important for people to get together. … We’ll trade secrets. Eventually it is going to get down to talking about sex. It always does. We are so thirsty to relax into the arms of somebody that may get us. ”

Added Davis: “There’s something about getting together and shared experiences to make you are feeling less alone in your encounters. ”

Writing about Hollywood hoopla largely dropped its luster over time, but looking back, I can today say that the good times were great. I had a front line seat to the industry’s the majority of celebratory moments and styles that were unfolding in real time.

With a pandemic, this year’s awards season is very different. We had glimpses in to the homes and hotel rooms associated with nominees and winners. Parties are, at least momentarily, anything of the past, but there is a time and place for them. I am aware firsthand because this isn’t the first season spent on the sidelines.


I never get to party. Tonight is the night.


When my daughter was 4 weeks old, she was diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disorder. The awards circuit coincided with the nearly two months we invested in the hospital. Eager to maintain health insurance and a career he’d worked hard to achieve, my husband, an entertainment photojournalist, went to the Golden Globes to photograph the red carpeting. My friend Katie kept me personally company at the hospital that night.

“We’ll throw our own Golden World party, ” she’d stated in an attempt to be upbeat.

As my daughter slept, Katie and I watched the show on silence. The sounds of the medical center took center stage: the beeping machines, the nurses within the hallway laughing while on crack, the sound of my daughter’s breathing. On a television close to her bed, we watched in silence as people paraded around in gowns while winning awards. I found me thinking, “Who cares about parties, dresses, films or Hollywood when the world feels like it’s crumbling around all of us? ”


In the weeks that followed, my reality strayed further more and further from the normal I once knew, but We started to realize that self-care supposed getting back out there. Getting dressed. Going to work. Socializing. Celebrating. Even if they were other people’s wins, optimism was transmittable.

To many individuals, awards season may seem including self-congratulatory silliness, particularly right now, which is likely why many of the shows have seen their rankings slip this year.

As someone whose life and livelihood has become a constant balancing act of materials things and an usually darker reality spent out and in of the hospital with the daughter, I’ve found it is important to remember: Life is precarious. No one knows what the next day, month or year provides. Movie stars aren’t exempt. Joy and sadness are similarly fleeting, so when it’s your time and energy to celebrate — perform just that.


Further, past the smoke and decorative mirrors, the truth is that the awards, the particular dresses and the parties are meant to be a marketing tool. Margot Robbie was quick in order to remind me of this past year, just weeks before the pandemic unfolded.

Below strung lights during beverage hour at the Chanel plus Charles Finch dinner on the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lay, I asked what Robbie’s Oscar nomination for “Bombshell” meant to her.

Margot Robbie wraps an arm around Penélope Cruz.

Margot Robbie and Penélope Cruz attend the Chanel and Charles Finch pre-Oscars dinner in the Beverly Hills Hotel upon Feb. 8, 2020.

(Billy Farrell / BFA. com)

“It just means that hopefully more people will watch film production company, which is what I really want, ” Robbie said before getting up with Penélope Cruz. “Awards recognition can do that for any film. ”


With that likely in mind, Robbie appeared at this year’s Golden Globes, clad in a floral printed dress from Chanel’s spring-summer 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Being a producer on this year’s World and Oscar-nominated dark comedy “Promising Young Woman, ” Robbie attended the show to introduce the film’s trailer. No doubt she would have got attended afterparties to help buzz the film, had right now there been any.

For Chanel and Finch’s part, in lieu of a soiree this year, organizers are transmitting their perennial guest listing a package so the film and fashion elite can toast this season’s nominees at home the night before the Oscars. They decided against having a digital event but wanted to memorialize the moment.

But there are signs of what is to come. The organizers of the Met Gala, which generally happens in May each year, have postponed the annual considerable affair, opting for a more intimate benefit on Sept. thirteen. A starrier gala is scheduled for May 2022.

For business insiders, the show — and the circus surrounding it — must go on. While times have changed and it also may appear as though the celebration has momentarily come to an end, it’s clear that one day time it will return. And when it is about time to celebrate, we will once again.