I started working at Spago Hollywood at the end of summer 1988. The following year I worked my first Oscar Party. The history behind the Oscar party and how it figured into the success of Spago is well known. This is my memory of it. First of all, Swifty and I shared the same birthdates. The Oscars fell right around that date so I always remembered to wish him a happy birthday. He had no clue who I was. Just another cook but he smiled and said thank you. It was funny to see him and his wife Mary argue about the last minute seating arrangements. It was quite a juggling act keeping the people who hated each other apart. I even heard Mary curse about his meddling with the table map. It was cute though. They loved each other so much. I felt like I was watching the change of the guard. Old Hollywood was making way for the next generation. What a kick it was to see and cook for Lucille Ball and Sammy Davis Jr.
It was an amazing thing to be in that building for the party. The party basically was a sit down dinner during the awards. We had televisions all over the restaurant and spread the courses out over the ceremony. When the Oscars were finished the tables were removed and we took a break. It really was a blast to stand up on the roof of the restaurant and watch the craziness going on out on the street. Once the attendees started showing up from the ceremony we began sending passed appetizers. We served things like pizza, satays, caviar potatoes and Chinese duck sandwiches. It was so tight and cramped. The kitchen was right there in the open and anytime you ran out of something it had to be carried through the crowd milling around the dining room. I had to be careful only a couple hundred people were attending the hottest party of the year. It stood to reason that everyone in the room was a power player even if I didn’t recognize them. There were people trying to crash, walls of paparazzi, and even a line cook who snuck his girlfriend in through the upstairs bathroom window.
I don’t know how I managed it, but every year I managed to get one of these clapper boards from the table centerpieces that were made by Shelly Balloon. The one from 1989 is hanging in my kitchen.
Here is a short list of some celebrities that attended
Alana Stewart, Bruce Willis, Catherine Oxenberg, Cybill Shepherd, Demi Moore, Dudley Moore, Ed McMahon, Eva Gabor, Geena Davis, George Hamilton, George Schlatter, Jack Valenti, Jackie Collins, Jodie Foster, Julian Sands, Kim Novak, Merv Griffin, Michael Caine, Michael Douglas, Mimi Rogers, Placido Domingo, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Sherry Lansing, Shirley MacLaine,
Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks.