Our columnist talks about hobnobbing with Madonna, Mickey Rourke's style, and learning from ''Milk'' screenwriter Dustin Lance Black

Diablo Cody at the Oscars

Last year, the legendary Vanity Fair Oscar party was cruelly, shockingly canceled due to the writers’ strike. As a 2008 winner, I’d been hoping I’d get to schlep my little gold man to the night’s toughest ticket. Where else are you going to see Fran Lebowitz interface with Gwen Stefani? Hollywood generally repels literary types; this is a town where people actually hire other people to write their memoirs. The East Coast intelligentsia rarely leave the shelter of the Waverly Inn to socialize with bubbly L.A. types.

Therefore, I was excited to score an invite to this year’s resuscitated VF soiree. I flew back from a three-day bender in Mexico mere hours before the big event. This proved problematic when I tried on my dress; I realized I’d be attending the world’s most glamorous party with visible tan lines, bloat, and a half-finished tattoo. I looked like I was ”auditioning” for Rock of Love Bus, not heading out to hobnob with Brangelina.

Still, I put on my game face, cleared the Rikers-level security checkpoints on the Strip, and joined the party. The festivities were appropriately held at the Sunset Tower Hotel, a sleek wedding cake of a building where Truman Capote and Howard Hughes once lived. For the VF party, they built a floor over the pool area — I secretly prayed for an It’s a Wonderful Life-style mishap to send celebrities plunging into the water. Can you imagine the wreckage? Couture gowns are like gremlins; you can’t expose them to bright light or get them wet. (And forget about eating, after midnight or otherwise.)

So the instant my date and I bellied up to the bar, we realized we were standing next to Madonna. Yes, Madonna. She actually resembled an Oscar statuette: golden and toned, with perfect posture. I try to stay cool in these situations, but it was so hard not to throw myself at her feet. When I was little, I cut the fingers out of my lace First Communion gloves because I idolized this woman. And now, she and I were taking advantage of the same open bar.

My boyfriend is Italian and from New Jersey, so naturally he was thrilled to meet Joe Pesci. We also noted that Pesci and Robert De Niro were in the same room, which was quite the celeb-spotting coup for a couple of Scorsese buffs. I was also excited to chat with the criminally misunderstood, truly hilarious John Mayer. I mean, the guy had a cake-decorating contest on his website. How can you not love him?

But here is the single greatest thing about the Vanity Fair party: There are uniformed In-N-Out Burger employees circulating the room with trays of cheeseburgers all night long. (Sure, they also have the requisite fancy food, but who actually wants that?) While eating my second Double-Double, I accidentally bumped into Sean Penn. ”I’m sorry. Congratulations,” I said with my mouth full. It was extremely classy.

I’m sure all the magazines will give Best Dressed kudos to Natalie Portman or Anne Hathaway. However, Mickey Rourke’s outfit deserves major props. Dude paired a white Gaultier tux with a touching pendant honoring his beloved, recently deceased dog Loki. As a fellow Chihuahua lover, I had to approach him and commend him for the accessory choice. He was friendly, lovely, and wonderfully weird. Who would have thought Rourke would wind up being the de facto prom king of the 2009 Oscars?

We spent the whole night gawking at celebrity skin: Meryl Streep, Mick Jagger, and yes, Fran Lebowitz in one of her signature bespoke suits. But my favorite moment of the night was greeting Dustin Lance Black, the Best Original Screenplay winner for Milk. I knew he was having the most intense experience of his life, and I felt privileged to bear witness. Weeks before, I’d told him that he was probably going to win, and that he had better steel himself for the white-hot spotlight that writers (reclusive nerds that we are) are unaccustomed to facing. But at the party, Lance didn’t seem the least bit overwhelmed. In fact, he looked every bit the star: poised, radiant, and proud. Next time I go out on the town, I wanna take lessons from that guy.