Clint Eastwood and me in Hollywood

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Back in 2004, while on a book tour for Restoring the Lost Constitution, my wife and I were invited to attend the "Night Before Party," held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The next day we sat in the bleachers on the Red Carpet at the Oscars before watching the proceedings at the El Capitan Theatre across Hollywood Boulevard from the Dolby Theater where the ceremonies are held. (The El Capitan Theater is where I saw the Godfather when I was a freshman in college on my first trip to California.) Here is my report on the party

THE NIGHT BEFORE: So while in LA for the Southern California leg of my book tour, my wife and I attended the Second Annual "Night Before Party" at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was an amazing scene, and hard to believe that so many A-list celebrities ever attended the same event. The pool had been covered up, and a tent erected over it. Reebok was giving guests their choice of shoes, and Krispy Creme served donuts covered with ice cream or topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Cell phones and cameras were not permitted, but security only stopped you from bringing in cameras-or camera phones. I did not hear a single cell phone go off the whole night, and only noticed a few people furtively using theirs. The celebrities dressed casually with a noteworthy lack of affectation-except of course for Elton John who sat surrounded by younger men. No one wore sun glasses at this evening event. All the celebs were gone by midnight.

It turns out I am very bad at recognizing even very famous actors in a crowd, but fortunately my wife is excellent at spotting them. Were it not for her, I would have missed most of the following (don't write me about misspelling their names): Sylvester Stalone (a little waxy looking), Tim Robbins & Susan Sarandon, Martin Short, David Spade, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Courtney Cox & David Arquette, Steven Speilberg, Will Smith (with body guards), Rene Zellweger, Christian Slater, Angelina Jolie, Patricia Clarkson ("Pieces of April," Aunt Sarah on "6 Feet Under"), Michael Chiklis (The Shield, The Commish), Kristen Davis (Charlotte on "Sex and the City"), Bonnie Hunt, Antonio Banderas & Melanie Griffith, Luke Wilson, Tom Arnold, Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel"), John Spencer ("The West Wing," "LA Law"), Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Dern, standing nearby his daughter Laura Dern, Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson (the only one we noticed smoking), Kevin Spacey (in a Kangol-style cap), Jill Hennessee (Law & Order), Camryn Manheim ("The Practice"), Ted Turner and Donald Trump (hair looking a little more like normal hair in person). It was very crowded, especially at the beginning, and we must have missed a lot more who were there. We know Tom Cruise left just before we arrived, and we somehow managed not to see Michael Douglas with Katherine Zeta-Jones though we were told they had stood in the same spot for nearly an hour.

Most of the males actors are much smaller, not just shorter, than you expect-especially Banderas-except DiCaprio who you'd expect to be small, but is really normal size and height. Alex Baldwin is a bit bulky of course, and Pierce Brosnan is a remarkably big guy, who is not shy about wearing grey stubble. The tallest was probably Tim Robbins, but taller than you'd expect were Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey. Not surprisingly on the tall side were Ted Turner, Donald Trump, Will Smith, Bruce Dern, and Clint Eastwood.

I asked Eastwood if he was a libertarian, and he replied that he agreed with the libertarian philosophy, but had not changed his registration from Republican, though his wife had. Besides, he noted, that used to be the philosophy of the Republicans. Though it seemed like he was warming to the subject, I did not get to ask him what made him think so because Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks and one of the hosts of the party (and another little guy), just then interrupted to thank Eastwood for coming, so we moved on.

It was a pretty awesome to see in one night, in one place, and very informally, more prominent actors and actresses than we will ever see in our whole lives-except for on the Red Carpet later today at the Oscars. But that's another story.

In my post, I failed to report exactly how that conversation ended. Like me, Katzenberg was intercepting Eastwood before he left the party. We were near the door where it was very crowded. When Katzenberg came up to say hello, I knew my time with Eastwood was over and I started edging away into the crowd. What was particularly memorable is that, as Katzenberg was saying his hellos, Eastwood interrupted him, turned to my wife and me, and said "it was nice meeting you" to acknowledge the end of our chat. It was a very courteous thing to do.

I remember seeing Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Clint Eastwood standing together talking. You imagine Eastwood to be tall, but Hanks and Spacey were the same height. The celebs were expert in not making eye contact to avoid inviting approaches. The only ones I noticed make eye contact with me were Elton John (sitting at a table with 3 young men) and Courtney Cox (two different times) who was with David Arquette. I must have looked like someone she knew. Alec Baldwin mouthed "you were wonderful" to Rene Zellweger from across the room. Angelina Jolie was the only person I saw standing all alone against the wall inside of one of the tents, but I lacked the courage to approach her (and my wife lacked the interest). Leonardo DiCaprio (who is also taller than you would expect) was dancing with 2 attractive females. Ben Kingsley was dancing with his wife. The line was long for the bags of swag. My free Reeboks turned out to be too small for me to wear.

I cannot find that I ever blogged on what it was like to watch the Red Carpet entry to the Oscars the next day. Anyone attending the Oscars—no matter how big (or small) a star—who is not in the program must walk the Red Carpet after going through a security tent. There are bleachers the length of the Red Carpet, both before and after the security tent. We sat on a section before the tent where we could see the attendees arriving in their limos. The normally two-way street was one-way and there were 5 lanes of limos as far as the eye could see. We were told that limos are brought in from Las Vegas to meet the demand of the show. That year, several attendees arrived in Prius's to make a statement, but none of the A listers. A huge backup crowd forms as everyone waits to enter the security tent. After leaving the tent they can stroll down the Red Carpet like you see on TV. What was interesting is that, while the A list celebrities must walk the Red Carpet, they don't have to wait in line for the tent. Security teams spot them when they pull up in their limo, then escort them to the front of the line and into the tent. For example, when they saw that Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglass (who we missed at the party the night before) were leaving their car, they were whisked through the throng.

Here are a few pics to capture the experience:

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Limo line of arrivals
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Not an A list celebrity on the Red Carpet
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Julia Roberts in full diva mode
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Clint Eastwood dressed more formally than the night before
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Angelina before Brad
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The name is Bond, James Bond.
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The heck with him, you know who James Bond really is.
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Missed them at the party
Sean before Charlize
Sean before Charlize
Annie Hall
Annie Hall
Mrs. Wallace
Mrs. Wallace
Charlize before Sean
Charlize before Sean
Jimmy Fallon's ex
Jimmy Fallon's ex
Don't stand so close to him
Don't stand so close to him
Depp
Depp
Big star
Big star
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Can you name this woman?
Co-hosts of The Night Before party
Co-hosts of The Night Before party
Million dollar baby
Million dollar baby
Will & Jack
Will & Jack
Holly on Hollywood Blvd
Holly on Hollywood Blvd
Sir Ben and his dance partner
Sir Ben and his dance partner
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There is always one wiener in every crowd

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