Party-hop with the stars! We checked out the big-deal 2023 Oscar parties

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 12: Jamie Lee Curtis attends the Governors Ball after the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Jamie Lee Curtis looks pleased as punch with her Oscar, newly engraved at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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Ever wonder what it's like at the famous Oscar parties — the ones thrown by Elton John and by Vanity Fair, and the academy's own Governors Ball? Ever wonder which one's best? We sent trusty correspondents Amy Kaufman, Michael Ordoña, James Reed and Jen Yamato out on fact-finding missions Sunday night so you can judge for yourself.

4:05 p.m.: It's cocktail hour at Elton John’s 31st annual viewing party in West Hollywood Park for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). Lines of black suits and shimmering gowns mingle under a lavish tent that doesn’t feel like a tent at all.

Country music superstars Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton weave their way through the crowd, gamely pausing for photos with fans along the way. Guyton turns heads in a floor-length white dress dripping in silver sequins. — J.R.

Paul Mescal stands beneath strings of white lights; James Hong clutches an Oscar.
Paul Mescal, left, and James Hong attend the Governors Ball after the 95th Academy Awards. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

At the Dolby Theatre before the ceremony begins, it's an alternate universe in which everyone is born in a tuxedo or gown. In the pre-show cocktail reception on the lobby level, it really feels like Oscar night, with Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner here, Allison Williams and Elizabeth Olsen there and Hong Chau and Dolly De Leon among those drifting through. Christopher Guest, not exactly an extrovert but here for spouse Jamie Lee Curtis’ big night, looks uncomfortable when someone seems to recognize him.

Florence Pugh, Old-Hollywood elegant in a bejeweled necklace and white off-the-shoulder gown, is stopped by an awestruck little girl (in suit and tennis shoes) who couldn't be more thrilled to meet Yelena Belova, the next Black Widow. Pugh warmly kneels to speak with her and pose for a picture together. — M.O.

4:45 p.m.: A crush of celebrities funnels into the hallway at the Elton John party in time for dinner. “You look amazing!” Christina Hendricks gushes to Jennifer Tilly before huddling for photos with Patricia Arquette. Zooey Deschanel stops for a selfie with an admirer before her “Property Brothers” husband, Jonathan Scott, steers her away.

Marlee Matlin stands beneath rows of white lights.
Marlee Matlin at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

5:20 p.m.: Elton and husband David Furnish take the podium to greet guests. Peering over his rose-colored glasses, John trips over his introduction, blaming the two teleprompters he can’t read, that make him feel like a “cross-eyed monster.”

Throughout the night a parade of famous faces — Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (“Pose”), Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”), Sabrina Impacciatore (“The White Lotus”), model Heidi Klum, four of the Fab Five from “Queer Eye” (Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Antoni Porowski) — praise the EJAF’s charitable efforts to educate about living with HIV and AIDS. “If we lift each other up, we all rise,” Rodriguez says. — J.R.

Back at the Dolby after the ceremony, lush red roses and twinkling lights line the pathway to the official Oscars after-party, the Governors Ball. Hungry guests beeline for open bars, sumptuous spreads and servers with trays of melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef sliders and fries, Oscar-shaped smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres and welcome glasses of bubbly. Guests can pretend to puff on Don Julio tequila-flavored chocolate cigars filled with liquid nitrogen. — J.Y.

Danai Gurira and Sarah Polley stand amid a crowd under rows of white lights.
Danai Gurira, left, and Oscar winner Sarah Polley at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The gag seems to be that all the food has to be somehow surprising. And generally, it’s working. At one station, there’s sushi for people who don't eat seafood: It's topped not with salmon or tuna, but fresh strawberry slices, tomato tartare, golden kiwi or braised mushrooms.

As for the humans, it's the usual jaw-dropping collisions of worlds as you stand next to Ava DuVernay and Lauren Ridloff one moment, pass Ruben Östlund and Kerry Condon the next, then almost run into martial-arts legend Donnie Yen taking a selfie in front of a giant Oscar. — M.O.

8:37 p.m.: At Elton’s party, the donations are pouring in to the tune of $273,781. (The event will wind up raising more than $9 million.) — J.R.

An engraver etches Ke Huy Quan's Oscar at the Governors Ball.
An engraver etches Ke Huy Quan's Oscar at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The engraving station, lining one side of the cavernous Governors Ball gala, has become a regular attraction. With live feeds projecting on jumbo screens, everyone can watch the high emotion on the faces of the night’s winners as they see their names added to their trophies for posterity. — J.Y.

On stage, Jamie Lee Curtis is getting her Oscar engraved. Offstage, the duck fried rice is not to be missed. Sarah Polley, still jazzed over her adapted-screenplay triumph, all but dances a jig for the benefit of her seated husband.

9:29 p.m.: Harrison Ford and Colin Farrell are having a nose-to-nose meeting of minds; Ford takes Farrell's chin in his hand. They embrace. Resplendent in general and very tall Phoebe Waller-Bridge and multiple-nominee beau Martin McDonagh snag Farrell for jolly conversation immediately after Ford departs.

Michelle Yeoh smiles as she puts her hand on an acquaintance's shoulder.
Michelle Yeoh at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Michelle Yeoh, belle of the ball, is mobbed as she holds up her newly engraved trophy for eager photographers. It’s as official as official can be: She’s the first Asian woman to win for lead actress. — M.O.

9:43 p.m.: Japanese British pop dynamo Rina Sawayama electrifies the crowd at Elton’s party with her artful mash-up of rock, electro-pop, nu-metal and even some country pop. She says that as a “queer Asian woman,” she “had a little cry backstage” after Yeoh won her Oscar. — J.R.

Jonathan Wang, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert balance all their Oscars.
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" producer Jonathan Wang, left, and writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have fistfuls of trophies. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Just after 10 p.m.: The Daniels — Scheinert and Kwan — are in the (Governors) house, waiting to get their six (!) statuettes engraved. They still have the look about them of two buds who can’t believe they’re getting away with this. — M.O.

In comes supporting-actor winner Ke Huy Quan, who’s so excited he literally bounces to the etching table. The emotion is palpable as an overjoyed Quan not only kisses his Academy Award for the cameras but jumps up to sit on the table and raises his Oscar in triumph as photographers snap away. — J.Y.

Ke Huy Quan, holding an Oscar, points at a sign reading, "Oscars."
Ke Huy Quan can't contain his excitement. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

10:15 p.m.: John joins Sawayama for the first live performance of their duet “Chosen Family.” “We don’t need to be related to relate / We don’t need to share genes or a surname / You are, you are / My chosen, chosen family.” — J.R.

Oscars sit all but unattended on Governors Ball tables, lots of dance music but virtually no getting down. But who knows? The night is still young. — M.O.

Is there anything more unifying than a metal detector? No matter how famous you are, there is no bypassing it, even here at the Vanity Fair Oscar party before its red carpet. If the rapper Offset wants to pose for the cameras with Cardi B, he and his bejeweled face mask must wait in line behind Sabrina Carpenter, just like the rest of us. — A.K.

Questlove grins beneath strings of white lights.
Questlove at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

10:50 p.m.: DJ Johnny Dynell has lured partygoers at Elton’s soirée onto the floor, where the action is more about selfies with celebs than actual dancing. Tyga surveys the scene; Wiz Khalifa greets him before fans pull him away. Bare-chested and draped in a jacket by French luxury brand Celine, Khalifa is game for photos as smoke wafts from the blunt dangling from his lips. After a hug from him, a woman beams and says, “God, I love this party.” — J.R.

It's nice to know that even Steven Spielberg and his family want to take a poorly lighted iPhone photo in front of a neon Vanity Fair sign; that Jonathan Majors wants to hit the photo booth for a strip of images to affix to his fridge; that Zachary Levi is embarrassed to be caught belting “American Boy” while waiting for a drink.

And that even cool people gravitate toward people they think are cooler — Super Bowl champ Travis Kelce, “The White Lotus” stars, newly minted Oscar winners — so they can feel the shine. Even though the big winners don’t show up until well past midnight, when half the guests have already moved on to Jay-Z’s party, there’s a palpable shift in the air when they appear. No, Michelle Yeoh, don’t get up. Sip your Champagne. Bop your head to “Dancing Queen.” Put your Oscar right there on a table so small maybe it’s meant only for Oscars. Someone will bring you something to eat. — A.K.

Four men huddle
The team behind live-action short winner "An Irish Goodbye" — including writer-director-producers Ross White and Tom Berkeley, with their trophies, and cast member James Martin — at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

All the Oscars are engraved and A24's reserved table appears unsullied. At last, a happy few folks are cutting a rug at the Governors Ball — perhaps because the crowd has thinned enough for the dance floor to not default to a mosh pit. It’s about 11:30 p.m. and the exodus to the satellite parties is in full effect. — M.O.

At Vanity Fair, some pairings make sense: Carpenter and Shawn Mendes. DeuxMoi says they’re dating, and they’re taking a lot of selfies together, so maybe that checks out. Paul Mescal giddily bringing his “Normal People” buddy Daisy Edgar-Jones over to see his parents. And the “White Lotus” cast — Adam DiMarco, Beatrice Granno and Simona Tabasco — taking a selfie with Joe Jonas.

But Sharon Stone and Tina Knowles chatting up a storm? Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Olsen, Andrew Garfield, Aziz Ansari and Malala Yousafzai in a tight-knit circle? Spielberg fielding questions from Eiza González about how his family is doing? — A.K.

Brendan Fraser and Bill Nighy pause amid festivities.
Brendan Fraser, left, and Bill Nighy at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

12:30 a.m.: On the Sunset Strip, Netflix’s private party on the Pendry rooftop gives the “All Quiet on the Western Front” company a home base to celebrate its four Oscar wins, while across the street is the party that is taking itself far less seriously than any Oscars party ever, probably: the Neon bash at the Western-themed Saddle Ranch Chop House. Yes, its famous mechanical bull is in action for the tuxedos-and-gowns crowd.

In one corner, a dance party rages to early 2000s hip-hop and Shakira hits. At the bar, drinks flow freely. And in the central corral, a woman in a gold-sequinned mini-dress has donned a cowboy hat, kicked off her shoes and climbed astride the bull. Unlike the men in fancywear before her, she does not take a tumble into the padded floor below but conquers the bull.

Jonathan Wang holds an Oscar statuette.
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" producer Jonathan Wang at the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Dolly De Leon, breakout star of “Triangle of Sadness,” is happy for the night’s winners. “I think everybody got what they deserved,” she says, cheering in particular the wins for “The Whale” star Brendan Fraser and "EEAAO's" Yeoh and the Daniels.

As the evening pushes toward 1 a.m., more of her “Triangle” cohorts arrive — director Östlund, co-star Harris Dickinson — as does Renate Reinsve of last year’s Neon nominee, “The Worst Person in the World.” — J.Y.

Troy Kotsur attends the Governors Ball after the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre.
Troy Kotsur attends the Governors Ball. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.