An hour after the last of the golden statuettes had been handed out at the 77th Academy Awards, transforming the lives of several honorees for the better, a similar shift was taking place at Morton's, where Vanity Fair has given its Oscar-night party for 12 years.
During the televised ceremony, this restaurant was tame by Hollywood standards: Kirk Douglas stared up at the ceiling as if contemplating a bon mot from one of his dinner companions, the novelist Jackie Collins.
But moments later, when the Awards ended, tables were whisked away, and a swarm of people suddenly filled the cavernous restaurant and a tent pitched behind it. It was as if the rich and famous were all given the secret Vanity Fair alert and gathered together, like silvery salmon swimming upstream -- in their feathers and jewels, with sweeping trains and cropped furs -- sharing celebrity secrets in the murky post-Oscar night.
"The Vanity Fair party is as if they let the animals out of their cages, at least for a couple of hours," said the photographer Todd Eberle.
He was correct in the sense that major stars like Tom Cruise, who showed up in a Ducati motorcycle jacket, and Cate Blanchett, carrying her statue for best supporting actress, gadded about without the aid of the customary band of handlers.
And he was also correct metaphorically, since when it came to dishing about red-carpet fashion, the proximity to such raw meat meant that the claws came out.
Don't think that just because Hollywood insiders inhabit a glass house, they are kinder or more forgiving than average citizens about the red-carpet choices of their peers. Rene Zellweger was just one actress raked over the coals by more than one partygoer for her raspberry-red trumpet gown by Carolina Herrera. One fashion publicist said it made her look like Mrs Claus.
Beyonce Knowles, who performed three songs on the Oscars telecast, vastly diminished her chances of escaping the fashion police by changing outfits three times.
"When she sang the song from Phantom of the Opera, she looked as if she brought the whole chandelier from the opening scene," said a partygoer who was not Joan Rivers.
Here and there a drone wandered, an unknown face. But for the most part it was a living menagerie of the pages of a glossy magazine.
Jake Gyllenhaal, his head shaven, whispered in the ear of Reese Witherspoon, her hair a stripy vanilla-chocolate color. Harvey Weinstein, half his normal girth, hovered, talking to Kenneth Cole.
Weinstein did not look nearly as miserable as he should have considering The Aviator was bested by Million Dollar Baby in all the major categories, and given this was almost certainly his last Oscars as the co-chairman of Miramax, since the Walt Disney Company is not renewing his contract.
Meanwhile, two alabaster goddesses perched on a settee, talked shop. It was Blanchett, her platinum hair a muss, her face devoid of makeup except for a touch of mascara (this couldn't be true of course, but so it appeared), chatting girlishly with the Oscar nominee Julie Delpy, who wore a strapless white gown with drapey echoes of the Parthenon. Their skin was impossibly white, their hair luminously blond.
Oh, aching feet. Delpy had dumped her Jimmy Choo shoes on the table, where Martin Landau could eye them skeptically.
She said she has written three more scripts (she was nominated for being a writer of Before Sunset) and will be directing a period film. A foot away, Blanchett's entourage took turns holding her naked gold statue. The smooth little man always feels so solid on Oscar night.