LA: Parties. Photos, And More Parties

Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 14, 2012

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.–In Los Angeles, there are people who crash parties and then there are parties that crash other parties.

Except for the occasional splashy movie premiere, this city, unlike New York, tends to skimp on affairs. But whenever you have a big award ceremony out here–the Grammys, the Emmys, this weekend’s Golden Globes–a logjam of events pile up around them, capitalizing on the influx of out-of-towners as well as the readiness, willingness and ability of celebrities to pose for a few pictures and give a few slaps on the back.

The engines were just starting to rev up Thursday night at a series of soirees that ranged from the high to the low to the middle.

Most of the big stars–Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Stone, George Clooney, Michelle Williams–were at the Hollywood Palladium sitting through the Critics’ Choice Awards. But in Beverly Hills, a real happening was taking place with just a few cases of Sancerre and some Pellegrino. This was at the Gagosian Gallery, where the West Coast arm of Damian Hirst‘s Spot Paintings was opening.

The place was jammed, spilling out on the street. Most of the paintings weren’t for sale.

As it turns out, Mr. Hirst’s Spot Paintings, ranging in size from tiny to ginormous, make excellent backgrounds for Facebook “I was here tonight” photos. So many guests were taking pictures of themselves in front of the artwork, certainly more than at your typical art opening.

Meanwhile, over at the London Hotel, guests were taking pictures of themselves in front of the red carpet as semi-celebrities walked by. This was at the Derby Prelude Party, an event thrown for the last few years by the Louisville-based sisters Tammy York-Day and Tonya York Dees with the hope of drumming up celebrity excitement about the Kentucky Derby. They also throw a pre-Derby party around the race to help out a charity called Blessings in a Backpack, a program that feeds elementary school children on the weekend across 32 states and three countries.

The party Thursday was less of a fund-raiser and “more of a friend-raiser,” said Ms. York Dees, the older sister who also works as an event planner. “It raises awareness and interest in the Derby, and ultimately helps us raise a lot of money.”

“We love Louisville and we love the Derby,” said Ms. York-Day, who works in dental insurance. “And whenever celebrities come down, they have an absolute blast.”

“This is a way to show our Southern hospitality,” said Ms. York Dees.

Of all the celebrities they’d hope to see at the Derby, Ms. York-Day said she’d most like if Denzel Washington visited. For Ms. York Dees, it was more about aging rockers, like Lionel Richie and Elton John.

Was Hollywood responding to their Southern hospitality by inviting the sisters to the Golden Globes?

“We can’t go,” said Ms. York Dees, citing a list of things to do back at home keeping them from attending the event. “But one day, we’re going to stay for it.”

At the end of the conversation, the two sisters reached for an embrace. “We’re Kentucky huggers,” Ms. York Day said.

Over at the Standard on Sunset Boulevard, guests were taking pictures of themselves in front of various Warhol Polaroids.

Tracee Ellis Ross, for instance, posed in front of a Warhol Polaroid of her mother, Diana. This was at a party to celebrate an installation in the lobby of Andy Warhol photographs from the collection of James Hedges, an art collector and former hedge funder.

Studio 54 attire was “required” and some guests–including several in Warhol wigs, and Mr. Hedges, who wore a Keith Haring T-shirt–actually obliged.

Mr. Hedges estimated that he owns 500 Warhol photographs, and installations of them–a little bit like Mr. Hirst’s–will take place at the Guggenheim Bilbao and in various other cities.

At the Standard, several images, including ones of Bette Midler and Sting, were placed in the famous glass lobby case, once featured on “Sex and the City” and featuring a scantily clad model. It was, of course, very Warhol.

“Seeing these images, you see more Warhol than usual,” said Mr. Hedges. “This was his personal life, the people he interacted with.”

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