Running Around Celebrities

February 26, 2009 | By Pete Savignano | Entertainment

“Would you like to work the Vanity Fair Oscar Party?” I was asked at work one day a few weeks ago.

“Um…well, I’m not sure. I like to watch the Oscars at home.” I answered somewhat vaguely.

“Are you crazy daaaarling? This is the most exclusive party on Oscar Night and people would kill for this spot. Getty Images is the house photographer.”

Not wanting blood on my hands I replied, “Well, in that case, sure!”

I am paraphrasing here, but that is basically how the conversation went with Roxanne Motamedi and how I came to work at this year’s Vanity Fair Oscar Party at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles.

Roxanne, who is a senior director of sales in Los Angeles had negotiated and finalized a deal with Vanity Fair for Getty Images and WireImage to be house photographers for the event. My job that day was to run the cards between our photographers covering the party and our editors situated in hotel suite on site overlooking the party (see Bob Covington’s blog entry for photos).

I arrived to get credentialed at 3:30 PM and met up with our team which consisted of Roxanne, Cory Lidschin, Karl Walter and five tireless and focused photo editors. The first part of the evening was the Viewing Dinner Party which was attended by various Vanity Fair big wigs, Hollywood insiders and actors not attending the awards ceremony. On my first trip down to the dining room to retrieve cards I spotted Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of my favorite TV shows) and Catherine O’Hara (Best in Show, one of my favorite films) seated together at what must have been the “funny” table. That was just the beginning of seeing all these people that are usually talking at me from my TV, up close in person, but sadly not talking to me. Throughout the rest of the dinner I’d see Jerry Seinfeld and Daniel Craig enjoying a drink and a laugh together, Uma Thurman slinking across the room like a giraffe (do giraffes slink?) as well as rock and roll legend Mick Jagger.

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Actors Jerry Seinfeld and Daniel Craig attend the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Sunset Tower Hotel on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/VF/WireImage for Vanity Fair)

I thought the dinner party was pretty packed but I had no idea what I was in store for once the Oscar telecast was over. Within 45 minutes of the show ending, the celebrities started to pour into the indoor/outdoor room where the party was held and it never seemed to end. Karl and I were designated as the two runners for the evening. We were supporting three photographers: Kevin Mazur, Jeff Vespa and Eric Charbonneau. Finding them in the party, was at times, a daunting task. It was estimated that 750 guests attended and it felt like standing room only. Every where you looked there was someone famous.

Madonna was one of the first major stars to arrive. Our photographers have a gift of taking photos while not being obtrusive and capturing special, candid moments. One of the interesting things about the evening was seeing the celebrity pairings. There was Madge and her cheek bones (I am not saying they are new or different) with Sacha Baron Cohen. Jennifer Aniston with Christina Applegate or Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet photographed together, in my favorite image of the evening. They were having a real good laugh at it.

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Actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Madonna and Guy Oseary attends the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Sunset Tower Hotel on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/VF/WireImage for Vanity Fair)

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Actress Kate Winslet and actress Meryl Streep attends the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Sunset Tower Hotel on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/VF/WireImage for Vanity Fair)

As luck would happen, I was at the entrance to the party when Kate Winslet arrived with her Oscar in tow. (Interestingly enough Sean Penn ditched his somewhere before arriving.) She was bombarded with an arsenal of flash bulbs which, in all honesty are really blinding. It took me a few seconds to get my bearings as I kept blinking to gain my vision back. Kate the Great is a seasoned pro because she handled it effortlessly.

I was amazed at how much shorter celebrities are in person than what you might think they are from watching them on the big screen (with the exception of Uma, who is a Glamazon). I mean Joe Pesci looked like he could have been a body double in The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons.

Many people have asked me who looked the best that night. It was really hard to tell because we were so busy and it was so crowded. But if pressed, I’d have to say Natalie Portman, this year’s nominee Amy Adams, and last year’s winner Tilda Swinton (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s not conventional, so sue me).

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Actress Natalie Portman arrives at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at the Sunset Tower on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

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Actress Amy Adams arrives at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter held at the Sunset Tower on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

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Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter held at the Sunset Tower on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

So back and forth for the rest of the night, Karl and I went from the party to the hotel suite relaying cards from the photographers to the editors. I thought of our hotel suite as “Command Central.” A team of five editors headed by Mike Heiman worked continuously throughout the day into the wee hours of the morning, captioning, cropping and ingesting photos to our site. This was a well oiled machine we are talking about and quite impressive! They moved a total of 1,600 images from inside the party, while our photographers on the red carpet transmitted 4,000 images across all three brands.

Towards the end of the night as the crowd started to dwindle (probably moving on to another party), I was able to have a conversation with Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short, Megan Mylan. I am not even sure how it started. I think it was because she saw me looking at her Oscar perched at the bar amongst half full cocktails while I was thinking how much I could get for it on Ebay (kidding people!). Ms. Mylan was there with her cousin. Both were over the moon and just beaming. You couldn’t help but feel really happy for her. I congratulated her on her win. She was so sincere and gracious. She asked if I wanted to hold it and before I could say anything she just handed it to me. Damn, those things are heavy! No wonder why Sean Penn left his in the car.

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