Stars go out on the town after the big show

By Chris Nashawaty
Updated April 03, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Sure, a billion people tuned in to watch the Academy Awards on TV. But getting in to the big parties after the Big Party took a bit more effort. Being a bold-named member of the glitterati didn’t hurt. And, of course, waving a newly acquired statuette helped single you out from the desperate finger-crossing gate-crashers too. But in case you stayed home in your pj’s or got hosed by the Los Angeles County fire marshal while waiting on line to get in, here’s what you missed.

The Miramax Party (The Polo Lounge)
After getting shut down by said fire marshal for last year’s over-packed bacchanal fiasco at the Mondrian, this year’s late-night fete was surprisingly intimate.
A-list factor: Very high.
Benedict Arnolds: As Good as It Gets‘ Helen Hunt and L.A. Confidential‘s Curtis Hanson weren’t going to let their respective loyalties to Sony and Warner Bros. keep them away.
Photo op you’ll never see: Minnie Driver kept her distance from her triumphant ex-honey, Matt Damon.
Choice quip: An unknown man to Geena Davis: ”Hi, Geena! I played the bouncer in Good Will Hunting! Can I kiss you?” Davis: ”No.”
Must-haves: Stogies and Cosmopolitans.
Cozy: Sean ”Puffy” Combs and Jennifer Lopez.
Least likely to get turned away by bouncer: Heavy D.
De rigueur souvenir: A giant bear hug from Ben Affleck, who was squeezing everyone like they were rolls of Charmin.

The ‘Vanity Fair’ Bash (Mortons)
Far too exclusive for some, as scads of celebs were corralled and humiliatingly forced to wait at the door forever as that pesky (and ubiquitous) fire marshal let in one hopeful at a time.
A-list factor: Off the charts.
Take a number: Neve Campbell, Faye Dunaway, Mike Myers, and Kate Winslet all squished and squirmed on line like frenzied fans at a Who concert.
The Red Sea parted for: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon; Cher, minus that hat.
Six degrees of Gwyneth: Paltrow playmate Affleck kept away from her ex, Brad Pitt (while she was filming in London).
Tasty treats: Cookies with Vanity Fair covers as frosting.
Get a life: One partygoer clutched her broken Leo DiCaprio cookie, saying ”Well, it’s the closest I came to seeing him.” Yikes.
Overheard: ”You know, there are just too many Judds.”
Tense alpha-male moment: You could almost see the pecs popping as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal breezed past each other.
Madonna moment:The muscle-flexing mom (replete with a bodyguard to prevent folks from tripping on her dress) jumped over a booth to talk to Joni Mitchell.
My, how times have changed: Warren Beatty showed up…stag. Where’s the fire marshal when you really need him? You would’ve thought Sean Penn was there, the room was so thick with smoke. Heck, they were even giving out Zippo lighters and ashtrays as party favors.
Best come-on: Robin Williams — ”Wanna rub my Oscar?”

The Elton John/’InStyle’ Benefit (Spago)
Mr. Rocket Man’s bash was the early spot to hit.
A-list factor: Decent, judging from all the folks Reg squeezed into photos with.
Worst snub: A limo ferrying the Full Monty posse wasn’t even allowed to stop in front of the restaurant.
Best Commodore in attendance: Lionel Richie.
Power couples: Toss up between Ah-nuld/Maria Shriver and Sharon Stone/That Guy With the Bushy Mustache she just got hitched to.
Conversation we’d pay to hear: Stephen Baldwin and Bianca Jagger talking about…what? How much she loved Bio-Dome?
Quickest exit: Jay Leno stayed for about 30 seconds.