Imagine a dinner party where R&B divas Janet Jackson, Diana Ross and Mary J. Blige each commanded tables side-by-side.
Elsewhere in the room, Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams and Sharon Stone each had the attention of their own circles of eight, while rock legends Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys , Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and all of Earth, Wind & Fire were busy accepting kudos and signing autographs.
I think Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter would trade a truckload of his most beloved cigarettes to get that kind of action on Oscar night. Clive Davis only had to wave his magic wand last night for his annual pre-Grammy bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel and it all came true.
Among the things for which Davis is famous in the music industry is topping himself every year with this event, and last night he did not disappoint — even as the Beverly Hills fire marshal was about to have a stroke when he saw so many famous, black-tied folks sucking in their guts so they'd fit into the ballroom.
Of course, the irony is that Davis is the head of BMG Music North America, which encompasses his own J Records, RCA and Jive Records.
BMG has been merged with the company that Davis commanded during the late '60s and early '70s, Sony Music (formerly Columbia Records), before he left in 1974 to start Arista.
The result is that his introduction was made last night by Sony Music chief Andy Lack, who called Davis "the greatest star of them all," which Sony Entertainment head Sir Howard Stringer applauded enthusiastically.
It was a sweet moment that Davis, 73, must still be savoring.
All over the room were stars of varying degrees and legend.
From the record industry: Quincy Jones, Ahmet Ertegun, Joe Smith and Mo Ostin.
From the hip-hop world: Mos Def, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Nelly and Jermaine Dupri.
From rock: The Foo Fighters, Rob Thomas, John Mayer, Slash, Gavin DeGraw and Sheryl Crow (with boyfriend Lance Armstrong ).
From the media world: Les Moonves and Julie Chen, Jackie Collins, Grammy producer Pierre Cossette and his classy, beautiful wife, Mary, as well as Larry King and his wife Shawn.
From music in general: Chaka Khan, the Backstreet Boys , J.C. Chasez of 'N Sync , Kid Rock, Anthony Hamilton, Peter Asher, David Foster and a late-arriving, early-leaving, Mona Lisa-smiling Prince.
(Prince had good reason to exit "early," though: He was hosting his own middle-of-the-night show and party up in the Hollywood Hills, the first of many this week, according to friends.)
Did I mention newlyweds Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey with Jessica's dad, Joe? Or Diana Ross with all six of her kids; Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds; Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe; Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick; Sally Kellerman; Evander Holyfield; Sugar Ray Leonard; "Rush Hour" star Chris Tucker; and director Brett Ratner (who brought his grandmother as his date)?
Even the unlikely Steven Seagal showed up, as did "American Idol"-ators Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest; über-producers Richard Perry and Phil Ramone; plus all the people who hopped on the stage to perform after dinner: Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, Fantasia, Usher, Gretchen Wilson, Maroon 5 and the aforementioned Kahn.
Yes, even as you read this, Graydon Carter is firing someone on his staff. Not since his more-revered predecessor, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, threw his celebrity orgies at the old Spago has anyone assembled a group like this in one place. And the funny thing is, I've left out dozens more. I've no doubt their names will turn up elsewhere.
Oh, right, Graydon, how about the biggest star of the upcoming Academy Awards, Jamie Foxx? Davis presented Foxx at his party last year, then signed him to a recording contract.
Last night, Foxx returned and performed "Love Changes" with Mary J. Blige, plus an extended comedic rap, soul and straight-on singing number (Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman") with Babyface that put this ordinarily jaded audience in the palm of his hand.
And, yes, let me tell you, the schmoozing took so long that four hours passed between the start of cocktails and the beginning of the "concert" part of the evening. Some of my favorite moments: John Mayer playing air guitar for Kevin Bacon while they discussed music; the oft-confused Dupri and Anthony Hamilton, each wearing hats, hugging and posing for pictures; Keys' mom, Terri , showing off her own beautiful voice; Jay-Z chatting up his whole entourage during Usher's performance of the ballad "A Song for You"; and Kid Rock huddling with Ahmet and Mica Ertegun at dinner.
Kid Rock — aka Bob Ritchie — is full of bon mots. He told me: "I ran into Bruce Willis last night at a bar. I told him, 'You stop making music and I won't make any movies.' He was pissed, but he understood."
About the huge number of people the fire marshal was trying to seat before the show began: "There are a lot of half-stars here. Some of these people have only sold 4 million records. I had to wait until I sold 20 million."
And what of the music? Keys turned Santana's "Black Magic Woman" into a smoldering first-person jam, with Santana himself leading the band right into "Oye Como Va."
Keys also wowed the crowd with her Grammy-nominated best song, "If I Ain't Got You," after beating yours truly in Marvin Gaye song trivia.
Keys continues to be the most important pop artist of her generation, tantalizing audiences with bravura performances and setting the stage at age 24 with an even more enormous career to come.
"American Idol" winner Fantasia was the revelation of the night, continuing to outdo the vets (Khan, Ross) she's paired with and even herself; she's going to be bigger than even she knows. And, of course, Ross, who feigned surprise when she was called to the stage for a big finale of Supremes songs, then reluctantly joined in and showed off her legendary still-perfect voice.
Despite rumblings from his mother to the contrary, 17-year-old pop singer Aaron Carter says Michael Jackson is straight and that nothing inappropriate ever happened between them.
Carter, who is estranged from his mother, also told me that his brother Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys did indeed hit pop tart Paris Hilton , as was intimated in many tabloid reports late last year.
"He hit her," Aaron told me on Sunday night at the big Grammy celebration party following the awards show, "and he hit me."
Aaron Carter plays BB King's in New York this Friday, and has all the aplomb and polish of a kid who's been working since he was five years old.
Sporting blond highlights and a 42-carat diamond-studded watch popular with rap stars, Carter also told me that he continues to be estranged from his mother and former manager, Jane Carter . He's just finished a new single for release later this month and is working on a new album due in June.
I liked Aaron Carter, which was unexpected. Being forced into the adult world at an early age has made him self-assured, opinionated and not a bit clueless. He told me that he did complete his G.E.D. for high school, but that brother Nick "is a drop-out."
He said of Jackson that the charges against him are false.
"He lives in isolation," Carter said. "He would never touch anyone."
However, Carter insisted that he thought Jackson liked women.
"He'll see a girl and comment on her," Carter said, "or want to touch her [bottom]. He likes girls."
Meantime, at Clive Davis's pre-Grammy party, Brett Ratner and star Chris Tucker reconfirmed for me that they will testify in Jackson's behalf.
"I will tell the truth," Tucker said, when it comes to his knowledge of Jackson's alleged victim and his family. Both men got to know the family well over a period of a couple of years.
I'm told, in fact, that Tucker was recently deposed for the case. His ex-girlfriend, who's also the mother of his son, has also been subpoenaed. She often babysat the alleged victim and his siblings when the mother "dumped" them with her so she could be with her then-boyfriend, now husband.
The Grammy post-award bash at which I spoke with Carter is said to have cost $1 million and featured performances by Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Deborah Cox and Nile Rodgers with Chic . It was one of the few times when you could see all the money that had been spent. The party was tasteful and fun, quite the opposite of Usher's post-Grammy bash — and I mean bash in the most literal sense — at Geisha House in Hollywood.
That anti-social gathering was marked by the heavy smell of marijuana in all areas and a violent, stupid squad of security people who seemed to be angling for legal action at every turn. Usher, Nelly, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri and actor Wesley Snipes were just a few who braved the thick crowds in the small, dimly lit club.
Wisely, Alicia Keys — billed as a potential guest — stayed far, far away.
More tomorrow from the Grammys.