EXCLUSIVE: If my roundup of Hollywood’s Oscar parties looks smaller than usual, it is. Fewer media, organizations, and swells are having parties over the next week. But two fetes in particular will be missed by their annual attendees: Barry Diller’s Oscar weekend mogul picnic on Saturday afternoon, and Dani Janssen’s after-the-Oscars party on Sunday night. Both hosts give similar reasons for cancelling their events this year: domicile problems. Both will be at the Vanity Fair party Sunday night. There are still the Oscar weekend’s Friday night agency parties — Jim Berkus” UTA party and Ari Emanuel’s WME fete and Bryan Lourd’s CAA bash. And the fundraisers like Elton John’s and the blowouts like Vanity Fair‘s. But for years the place to really see the Big Media moguls, past and present, and their assorted pilot fish on parade has been Diller’s lawn luncheon ostensibly in honor of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Of course, Diller is now underwriting Tina Brown’s Daily Beast/Newsweek so celebrating rival media may not make for good business. But that’s not the reason Diller is giving for not holding the party this year. And the door is open for him to hold it next year.
As for my pal Dani Janssen, she, too, is keeping the door open to holding her party next year. Hers was the very private Oscar party for Hollywood’s Triple-A list that no one could crash. In past years Dani’s guests in her Century City penthouse have included Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand and Oprah and Steven Spielberg and Reese Witherspoon and Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn and Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks and Brian Grazer and Ron Meyer and Al Pacino and Owen Wilson and Mariah Carey and Bruce Springsteen and, of course, her close friend Clint Eastwood. (The two have known each other since they were in Universal Studios ingénue school together.) Right after he won Best Director and Best Picture for Million Dollar Baby, and snagged Academy Awards as well for his leading lady Hilary Swank and supporting actor Morgan Freeman, Eastwood told the media he was going “to Dani’s for an ale.” And when the media clamored to follow him, Clint smiled, “This party is so exclusive, I’ll be lucky to get in.” That’s why Dani’s feels like a gathering of the clan… if your family was the Hollywood glitterati.
It’s where Barbra joked with Oprah (brought by Quincy Jones) discuss their weight loss secrets. Where Jack Nicholson spends his time in Dani’s kitchen and outside on Dani’s terrace. Where Penny Marshall takes a catnap on Dani’s sofa. Where notorious recluse David Lynch tells guests he waits 364 days of the year for Dani’s party. Add to the mix Tim Robbins, Pierce Brosnan, Robin Williams, Shirley MacLaine, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel, Calista Flockhart, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Richard Dreyfus, George Segal, Dan Aykroyd, Holly Hunter, Billy Crystal, Sidney Poitier, John McEnroe, Patty Smyth, Daryl Hannah, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Spacey, Carrie Fisher, Courtney Love — all have been guests at Dani’s Oscar party. Partygoers who’d been presenters at the Oscars often change their clothes for Dani’s party so they can just hang. They also know the rules of the house: don’t talk business or try to drum up work – or you’ll be banned by Dani next year. And definitely don’t gate crash.
Dani and her late husband, TV legend David Janssen, used to give the best Oscar bash in town, but when he died suddenly in 1980, she told Hollywood agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar to take over her guest list. When Lazar died in 1993, the big question was who’d host the Triple-A list celeb party on Oscar night. Dani decided to have a few friends over, which wound up to be more than 100. The invitees used to go straight from the Governor’s Ball or from Vanity Fair‘s party to Dani’s. She used to host a viewing party, but then gave that up. The party ends only when the last guest leaves, and that could be 4 a.m. Dani’s Southern home-cookin’ is always the same menu: rib-sticking smothered chicken, vegetable casserole, sweet potato surprise, black-eyed peas, tossed salad and her famous Monkey Bread. Then, there’s Dani’s hospitality. She isn’t a celebrity. She has no agenda. She isn’t promoting any movie or cause. She’s the perfect hostess.