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Inside the Vanity Fair party: Face to face with Ellen

Cate Blanchett (L), winner for best actress for her role in the film "Blue Jasmine", poses for a "selfie" with a reporter at the Governors Ball for the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California March 2, 2014.

Adrees Latif/REUTERS

Jane Fonda walked toward me like she was holding an egg on a spoon, while Neil Patrick Harris gingerly enunciated the word "Putin" to a friend. In another part of the party, Benedict Cumberbatch's spirits were high enough to sing along to Daft Punk's Get Lucky, doing a little Sherlock sway, while Bill Murray, in a quarter of his own, BFF'ed with new Oscar prom queen Lupita N'yongo.

The rain held off in L.A. – the hideously threatened, rain-on-parade rain – but inside the the Vanity Fair blow-out Sunday night, it was nothing short of a celebrity deluge. "My wife has disappeared with Lady Gaga," was what Judd Apatow was saying, his eyebrows raised in studied amusement in the doorway of one of two rooms constructed in built-to-suit modernist fashion on what, rumour has it, is normally a parking lot, on Sunset Boulevard. They un-paved a parking lot, and put up paradise, to para-reverse-phrase Joni.

After all was selfie'd and done at the Dolby Theatre, the on-air pizzas consumed, and the golden statues handed out, even Ellen DeGeneres was game for a bit of Vanity Fair. DeGeneres looked jubilant, if a little dazed, as well-wishers circled her, and Portia de Rossi followed in lock-step, The Good Wife-style. "You broke Twitter," I told her, getting close, to which she replied, "You bet I did."

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And then she and Portia were being drawn into another circle – this party consisting of more webs than even E.B. White would know what to do with – and, then, another, with Bono. Making kissey for the cameras, Portia drew in both her woman and the U2 singer for a three-way lip-lock. Click! As for who got "custody" in the divorce of this annual coveted affair, hosted by Vanity Fair's editor-in-chief Graydon Carter – Rupert Murdoch or his now-ex, Wendi Deng, mega-mogul Murdoch was hardly circumspect, working the carpet this time with Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Juliet de Baubigny. (Wendi's alleged manipulations, and suspected romance with Tony Blair, made one for a not-small article in a recent issue of Graydon's periodical.)

All's clearly fair in love and guest-lists, as this year's party also unearthed Paula Patton, whose split with singer Robin Thicke was just made public. No sign of Mr. Blurred Lines. Making for a civilizing force, however: Orlando Bloom and his Victoria's Secret ex, Miranda Kerr. Both managed different sides of the bash.

Also seen: Harrison Ford grandly gesturing. Ben Affleck rhapsodizing. Gayle King, of all people, consumed Steve Tyler. Channing Tatum zipped by, inebriated by his own youth. Penny Marshall nearly knocked me over when we were caught up in a bit of a human traffic melee, and I came eye-to-chest with the big gold cross hanging from her neck. Jennifer Lawrence dashed in, reportedly after having made a pit-stop for wings at Hooters.

My main personal accomplishment occurred on the outdoor ledge, overlooking the self-impressed hills of Hollywood. It was where I made a bee-line for Anjelica Huston – dressed in a sinister red – and got her talking about her earlier modelling days with the legendary Richard Avedon. The author of a newish memoir, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York, the icon re-wound a story to me: Avedon apparently told her, early on, she didn't have the "right shoulders" for modelling. He was wrong. "Your shoulders have served you right so far," I told her. She guffawed on cue. Clearly, we were meant to be. But then, Quincy Jones had to get in the way. It wasn't that much later when I spotted Anjelica – my Anjelica – sitting on the impresario's lap.

The gathering was a seminar, really, in this famous quote popularized by movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made." Players, both new like Elon Musk, and more sepia-toned, like David Geffen, rounded out the small dinner that jump-started the evening, a childhood fave of Carter's served as the inspiration for the chicken pot pie conjured up by chef Thomas Keller. Media kings, models, and music royalty rounded things out throughout the evening – from Bill Maher and Aaron Sorkin to Karlie Kloss and Chanel Iman to Stevie Nicks and Taylor Swift. Socials, from this century and the last, also made appearances: Nicholas Haslam, Lynn Wyatt, and Barbara Davis. Serena Williams arrived sans racquet, Diane von Furstenberg arrived with panache, and – watch out for those evil nuns! – the real Philomena Lee, beautifully captured by Judi Dench in the nominated biopic – provided gravitas. The gang was eventually all out, including Anne Hathaway, Seth Rogen, John Travolta, Leonardo DiCaprio, Shirley MacLaine, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Kate Hudson, Jon Hamm ... and, well, it keeps going. (No sign of Gwyneth, though ... ahem)

At one point, I even saw Will Smith talking to Donatella Versace, and thought to myself: that, right there, is the stuff of future nostalgia.

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