Vanity Fair at Morton's

During the 1970s, the toughest ticket in town was agent Swifty Lazar's Oscar party at Spago. After Lazar died in 1993, both producer Steve Tisch and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter had the same idea: continue the party, but at Morton's. "It was the seminal power restaurant in L.A.," says Carter, "and Monday was when the powerful assembled there. Oscar Night was on Mondays, so Morton's seemed a serendipitous choice."

Tisch and Carter combined forces, with A-listers increasingly clamoring to get in. Then, in 1996, Carter went solo. Recalls Tisch: "I was relieved. People would threaten, 'If you don't get me on the list, we won't do business.' It took a lot of the fun away."

The night's unique mix of power players and topical names was encapsulated by "watching Monica Lewinsky and Sir Ian McKellen chatting it up" at an early party, says the editor. Another year, he says, "Courtney Love complained to me that her manager was stuck at the door. 'Graydon, you've got to let him in. He's got my money, my keys and my drugs.' I told her to take it up with VF's Sara Marks, who runs the party. When Sara didn't accommodate her, she stood before a wall of cameras and said, 'I've got an announcement. Sara Marks is a c--!' " Famous for its tight guest policy, the party still is the place to be seen (and see a sea of golden statuettes) on Oscar Night.

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