BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — At the culmination of an intense and monthslong Oscars awards season, Hollywood took up where it left off before the pandemic and became a maskless, glittering free-for-all.

Fashion labels like Saint Laurent, Chanel and Gucci and powerhouse talent agencies like CAA competed with tech Goliaths like Apple to score the best restaurants, most elegant party spaces and the rarest specimens from among the celebrity coterie.

The consensus is not yet in on who won the race for best wingding. Some parties were so scrupulously private — like CAA’s at the San Vicente Bungalows club on Friday — that only megacelebrities like Elon Musk, Leonardo DiCaprio and Taylor Swift were invited to graze a buffet of roast salmon, pulled pork, chicken curry and mini meringues.

But Hollywood also hungrily eats its own history, as the writer and producer Mitch Glazer once wrote, and often upstages the talent itself.

A case in point was Saturday’s party for the reopening of the Giorgio Armani flagship on Rodeo Drive, a glamorous mosh pit in which hundreds of those from the Juvéderm and micro-mini face-lift set jostled for breathing space.

They sipped Veuve Clicquot Champagne or iced Limoncello and ogled the assorted show people — Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Annabelle Wallis, Miles Teller and Dylan Sprouse — who came out on a cool California evening. No matter whom anyone was talking to, all eyes were on the front door awaiting the arrival of Nicole Kidman, the evening’s honored guest.

A ripple ran through the room when Ms. Kidman — an Oscar nominee for her role as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos” — swept in at 5:52 p.m., surrounded by a security phalanx and Kevin Huvane, the co-chair of CAA, in fullback form at the lead.

Dressed in a black Armani pantsuit, a décolleté embroidered bustier and flats (“I wanted to wear man’s clothes,” she told this reporter) to offset her commanding height, Ms. Kidman immediately sequestered herself in a corner wedged between a case of velvet clutches and a rack of beaded frocks.

With her unlined and poreless, bisque-doll complexion and her startled Dresden-blue eyes, she seemed too preternaturally glamorous to fit her characterization of herself, in a recent Vanity Fair article, as an “oddball.”

“Oh, I am an oddball,” Ms. Kidman said flatly, when asked about her self-assessment. “I’m an introvert. I think laterally — always have and always will.”

Ms. Kidman is 54 and first starred as a leading actress in a film 33 years ago. Such a feat of show-business survival would seem hard to surpass. Yet 20 minutes after she arrived, the crowd parted again, this time for the arrival of Sophia Loren, who made her first cinematic appearance seven decades ago.

No matter what doomsayers may say about a crumbling dream machine, the impress of these luminous beings on our cultural consciousness is forever. Sure, shifting technologies will alter how fantasy is delivered. The appetite for it will always remain.

Consider a spontaneous scene that erupted when the mob clamoring outside the Armani party spotted a tuxedo two-tone convertible Rolls-Royce cruising up Rodeo Drive, top down and Mark Wahlberg behind the wheel. Suddenly those in the crowd surged into the street to surround the vehicle, “The Day of the Locust”-style, with smartphone cameras hungrily fixing him in their sights.

Mr. Wahlberg grinned like a tanned and benevolent deity accepting tribute, as the street echoed with the cries of strangers shouting his name: “Mark! Mark! Mark!’’

Depending on one’s vantage point, women either have all the fun or are stuck with the heavy lifting when it comes to Oscars dressing.

Harvey Keitel was fine cruising into Chanel’s annual pre-Oscars dinner on Saturday, held in the gardens of the Beverly Hills Hotel and its storied Polo Lounge, wearing a basic black jacket and sandals. It was socially acceptable for both Charles Finch, the co-host of the starry, hot-ticket evening, and Jamie Dornan to wear white shirts with the collars left deeply unbuttoned. Chris Pine elicited oohs and aahs in nothing more special than a rumpled linen suit out of Don Johnson’s “Miami Vice” closet.

Women don’t have it nearly so easy, even with Chanel munificently providing some of them with their party glad rags.

“I told my stylist I’m scared of this dress,” said Minnie Driver, referring to a slinky creation with a floor-length black skirt, a tight beaded coral top and stylized pagoda shoulders. “She told me, ‘You should be scared of this dress! It raises your game.’”

Still, Ms. Driver looked Instagram ready, and that was the task.

And so, as one after another female guest queued up against a wall of philodendron for a photo op, the result was a spectacle that probably exists nowhere else outside this city during the Oscars.

The scene resembled one of those Discovery Channel specials about exotic reef fish or the snow crane — an influx of exceptional beauties disporting themselves in the most spectacular manner.

Here was Kristen Stewart striking saucy, sullen tough-guy poses in her Chanel tweeds. Here was Rashida Jones somehow making a matronly frock look fresh. Here was Sofia Coppola demonstrating Coco Chanel’s adage that luxury is not the opposite of poverty but of vulgarity. Here was Kate Beckinsale with her hair in a tower of what appeared to be brioches sucking air in little guppy breaths that kept her lips photogenically parted.

And here was Joan Collins powering across the red carpet on a pair of four-inch “Dynasty” heels. With a series of appearances lined up for a new memoir she composed aloud in diary form, as she explained to this observer, Ms. Collins showed no evidence of having lost her appetite for fame, its trappings or the effort required to hold on to both.

Asked what the secret was of her abiding ambition to remain a player, as she approaches 90, Ms. Collins paused and slowly lowered her minklike lashes. After a moment, her lids popped up again, and she had an answer.

“I would say, Eat life,” Ms. Collins said. “Or life will eat you.”



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