Edited by Kateri Butler

It was a laid-back kind of kewl at the celebration for ESSENCE’s first annual Hollywood issue, at the oh-so-cavernous DEEP, where oversized posters of the mag’s covers past and present adorned the walls. The crowd was Hollywood sexy: women in sleeveless dresses with slinky heels and men in dark designer duds shimmying from schmooze to schmooze against the beat of scratched funky slow jams. Cover subjects
SANAA LATHAN and TAYE DIGGS posed for photos and held court at reserved tables while newlyweds HALLE BERRY (pictured) and her R&B-singer hubby, ERIC BENET, worked the crowd, getting congrats and hugs from pals and strangers alike. Bartenders were doing their Tom Cruise–in–Cocktail thing with cosmos, apple and regular martinis at the open bar as hostesses made the scene holding skewers of satay. Photogs flashed STEVIE WONDER,
JON B., LORETTA DEVINE, JASMINE GUY, JOHNNIE COCHRAN and OMAR EPPS as they arrived, while members of the magazine staff announced they’d pulled the party together, from idea to venue, within two weeks. Word got out, because by 11 p.m., the place was packed tighter than a hat band, with weary attendees nodding in acknowledgment when we tried to work our way to the door, where we found the gift bags — not bulging like the ones given to presenters at the Oscars, but hey, a night of free drinks, free food plus a free copy of the mag and a few other goodies . . . Who could complain?

—Diedre Johnson

Whaleness Begins Here

Attendees at the premiere party for MEMENTO, the tale of murder, mayhem and a man with memory loss, might have thought they’d fallen into a swell, well-stocked celebrity fishbowl at LAS PALMAS. There were the stars of the film, GUY PEARCE,
JOE PANTOLIANO and JORJA FOX, getting down to the wee hours with actors
JENNIFER BLANC, AMANDA DETMER, ELISA DONOVAN, THOMAS JANE (who, before the film, was spotted daringly chowing down on a plate of nachos topped with a nuclear-looking gooey cheese product), D.J. QUALLS and JAMIE KENNEDY. And there was the back-bar tank of jellyfish that resembled a bowl of floating whale sperm, as well as the ocean of free-flowing vodka and wine. The hosts — LUIS BARAJAS’s Flaunt magazine, Skyy vodka and Lucky Strike cigs — worked the promo angle, loading down guests with fistfuls of swag including disposable cameras, magazines and smokes. The only thing missing was bags for all those gifts.

—J.V. McAuley


Make a Dash for Comma, Period

Although BeatNonStop spinstress AQUA VEE slammed juicy tracks of conceptual funk ’n’ deconstructed disco-soul on the turntables, she still had a helluva time competing with the high-volume chatter last Wednesday at COMMA, the weekly groove-fest at FUEL that’s adding a much-needed touch of true underground flava to the Hollywood revival scene (as opposed to the string-cheese goings-on at those spots that attract the likes of Hugh Hefner and his bunny pals). The week before, MC DYNAMITE and
DJ DIEfrom Roni Size’s Reprazent crew, singer ISSEY MONK, JULIANA JAI of Flowerchild, P.E.A.C.E from Freestyle Fellowship, and Blair Witch 2 star
JEFFREY DONOVAN darn near stomped holes in the cement floor when resident jock ALLEN VOSKANIAN of Bossa Nova dropped Dee Lite’s funktafied classic “Groove Is in the Heart” into the mix. DJs such as Rootdown’s DUSK, TOM CHASTEEN,
OSCURE, DJ NIQUE, DJ @ LARGE, JUN and MARTIN “2-Step” EAST have been stopping by for a turn on the tables. Urb’s LISA YU and Tomandandy’s PEGI MURRAY concocted the hush-hush hangout as a place for folks-in-the-know to get to know each other a lil’ better. Alas, REG MacDONALD, co-owner and manager of Fuel, is about to gut the spot and turn it into an upscale ’50s-style Cuban ultra-lounge bar called Nacional. Pegi, however, didn’t seem the least bit upset. “Oh, this isn’t the final pause,” she purred. “You can always press play ’til we come back in May.”

—Derrick Mathis


Three Rubber Sheets to the Wind

Extreme sports and fund-raising collided recently when MAUREEN WEISS and
JOSH WORTH, founders of Trade City Productions, threw a Dodge Ball at TRADE CITY to benefit the four-year-old theater and art space in Santa Monica. Former Grown Ups songstress PALOMA PARFREY kicked off the champagne-fueled game with a Roseanne-ish version of the national anthem over the drum-’n’-bass noodlings of
DJ HAWK, who provided the soundtrack for the ensuing organized melee. The avant thrift-couture-clad crowd pummeled each other with rubber balls while STEVE, a resident of the alley by Trade City, delivered an alcohol-soaked Howard Cosell–like analysis from the sidelines to gallerist MARK FARINA and hepcat ROBYN BERG. Thrashing their boutonnieres and trashing their corsages were Welcome to the Doll House alum MATTHEW FABER, thespian
HOLLACE STARR, installation artist KANAKO SHIBATA, painter JAVIER LARA, virtual filmmaker PAT McMANEMY and vocalist
LILY MARLENE. Actor REZA SAFAI led a team of (literally) sore losers to Highways Performance Space to crash New Yorkers’ NORA BURNS and MIKE ALBO’s post-show cocktail party, hosted by their director and Highways board member DAVID SCHWEIZER. Although bruised and beleaguered, the party-crashers challenged man-about-town
JOHN FLECK (pictured), filmmaker RICHARD GLATZER, porn director WASH WEST, scenemeister MICKY COTRELL and performance artist DANIELLE BRAZELL to a game of dodge ball. However, at that point, the only thing anyone wanted to dodge was a hangover.

—Marcus Kuiland-Nazario

LA Weekly