On a day when the parties and ceremonies pre-Oscar seemed ceaseless and overwhelming — the Independent Spirit Awards, the IFC after-party, the gifting of stars with loot for showing up at the Beverly Hills Hotel, lunch for 300 executives and Warren Beatty at Barry Diller’s house, and a late-night jam session with Microsoft co-creator Paul Allen — Katie Holmes, like the proverbial groundhog, made a startling, glamorous appearance at a Giorgio Armani fashion show.
Of course, it wasn’t just any Armani fashion show. It took place in the “backyard” of billionaire grocery chain magnate and Clinton supporter Ron Burkle, on the former palatial estate of original Hollywood comic actor Harold Lloyd, up behind the Beverly Hills Hotel and through a heavily guarded gate.
It was also — with regrets to Vanity Fair, Harvey Weinstein and Clive Davis, the usual proprietors of the A-list invite — just about the most star-studded short event in bold-faced name history.
When the show was over — oh yes, there was a fashion show of lovely, thin but not anorexic models wearing gorgeous Armani gowns encrusted with Swarovski crystals — we quickly stuttered down the black-carpeted steps and down onto the narrow runway only to be crushed by an ocean-like wave of superstars attempting to make an exit.
Such as: George Clooney, Clint and Dina Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Natalie Portman, Spike and Tonya Lee (he was nattily attired in a wide striped Ralph Lauren suit), Penelope Cruz, Beyonce, Helen Mirren, Sidney Poitier, Mark Wahlberg with Rhea Durham, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, designer Kai Milla Morris (aka Mrs. Stevie Wonder).
Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd and Alice Evans, Mischa Barton, Lauren Hutton, Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Martin Scorsese with wife, Helen, and 7-year old-daughter Francesca, Josh Hartnett, the Band’s Robbie Robertson and record producer Richard Perry, Harvey Weinstein, Lance Armstrong, Olivier Martinez, Graydon Carter, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Steve Martin, Frederic Fekkai, Brian Grazer, Mike Medavoy, Gina Gershon, as well as Naomi Campbell, Andy Garcia, Joshua Jackson, Debi Mazar, Sandra Oh, Dylan McDermott, Jason Lewis, Adrien Brody, the Mr. Chow of Mr. Chow, Faye Dunaway and Russell Simmons.
OK? I might have missed a few. That’s because when we first made our way across Burkle’s massive lawn and down the sort of Tuscan stairs from his immense gardens to Armani’s stage set, Leonardo DiCaprio was the second person we bumped into after watching Al Gore greet fans near the entrance.
We can only assume that once inside he ran into his cousin, the famed writer Gore Vidal, who for reasons we never determined arrived and sat in a wheelchair.
But then, when the wave subsided, and all we thought was left was the Eastwoods chatting with the Lees, there she stood: Katie Holmes, in a gown similar to the ones we’d just seen on the runway, looking shy and a little thin, but wearing a big smile.
It’s been almost two years since we talked to her at that “Steel Magnolias” premiere on Broadway, and then she vanished — poof! — never to be seen again.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s right. It was April 4, I think.”
Yikes! Either she actually remembered this incredible piece of minutiae or she’s read it in this column (we’re not egotistic, so it must be the former).
In any case, she was lovely, spot on, and chatty, even enthusiastic to recall that moment.
She’d come to “Steel Magnolias,” however, to see her friend, Rebecca Gayheart, make her stage debut. Had she seen Gayheart since then, I wondered?
Katie shook her head, and this is where things get a little sketchy. “No,” she said, shaking her head slightly.
Had she seen Joshua Jackson, her one time boyfriend and "Dawson’s Creek" co-star just now? He was sitting in the front row, I said.
“He was here?” she asked, again, a little fuzzy. “Oh.”
She looked around, a bit wanly. “No.”
She was more focused on going to back to work next month on an all-girl heist movie called “Mad Money.” Callie Khouri (“Thelma and Louise”) wrote and will direct her with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah.
The shoot is in New Orleans, so husband Tom Cruise and baby, Suri, will accompany her, she said, while she makes what will be considered a much-anticipated comeback after two wild years.
Just then, three people swooped in around us, protectively and eager to say hello: Cruise’s sister Cass, who lives in Katie and Tom’s house with her children and, by all accounts, does the Scientology home schooling, as well as two Italians from Armani, a man and a woman Katie introduced as her “good friends.”
Also in the entourage, Tom’s lovely mom, Mary Lee Mapother South, who moved suddenly to Beverly Hills a year ago after 20 years of marriage in Marco Island, Fla., to Jack South. She no longer wears a wedding ring.
I asked Katie about a paparazzi shot in one of the magazines this week with her, Mary Lee and baby Suri. She’s holding Suri over her shoulder, so the baby and mother-in-law’s faces are in the pic.
“Yes,” Katie said. “We were trying to find a bathroom!”
It’s hard to imagine living in a fishbowl like that, isn’t it?
And then Katie — who was wearing a large single pear-shaped diamond on a chain around her neck — and crew made their goodbyes.
What happened exactly, I asked, after we didn’t see her again lo those two years ago?
“I fell in love!” she said, with the most incredible enthusiasm.
Would we see her again?
“We should all get together," she said with absolutely no irony. "That would be amazing!”
That’s an understatement.
“Wait till you see the Leo-Gore Show.”
That’s what I was told by an insider at the Burkle manse last night.
Leonardo DiCaprio, environmentalist, will present the Best Documentary award tonight.
I suppose we can assume that Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” will win. If it doesn’t, this will be embarrassing.
How the win will play is unclear since Gore is not a producer of the film and technically wouldn’t get to be on stage. The Academy has clearly made a concession. …
Another change: If “Little Miss Sunshine” wins Best Picture, exiled producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger will be allowed to join the three sanctioned producers on stage. They just won’t get Oscars or be allowed to speak.
Luckily, when the film won Best Feature at the Indie Spirits Saturday, the pair was indeed allowed to speak and accept their much deserved honor. They produced the movie, you know! ...
Jennifer Hudson’s Best Supporting Actress win won’t come until midway through the show. It’s the 14th category this year. …
Clint Eastwood is presenting Best Art Direction. He told me last night if every person who’d told him they’d voted for “Letters From Iwo Jima” for Best Picture actually did it, he would win.
What’s he doing next?
“I have to take a little break,” he told me. “After these films and 'Mystic River' and 'Million Dollar Baby,' I have to find something I really want to do.”
What about working with Gene Hackman again?
“He’s retired, I think,” Clint said, with a shrug. “I don’t know if we can get him back.”
Gene: Come on now, this is ridiculous! You’re too young to retire!