Hold the caviar: The Oscar parties are slimming down this year

Oprah made bling uncool again last December when she couponized her decadent "Favorite Things" show. This Sunday, millions of us will tune into the Oscars on Sunday for a bit of glamor, but this time Hollywood isn't going to rub our noses in its annual pageantry of excess. Everything about the awards week this year, from the invitation lists to the goodie bags to the (please, oh please) telecast's running time, is on a diet. And if something isn't, no one's going to boast about it on Access Hollywood.

WWD reports
that annual galas that used to invite 1,000 people are now just sending RSVP cards to about 300. Fashion and jewelry houses that once booked hotel suites to host media seekers on a revolving-door basis are now just sending enough staff to service starlets in one-on-one sessions. Swarovski's fashion division once threw dinner parties and runway shows to load actors with their products before their walks down the red carpet. This time, it's cocktails, and for half as many people.

Even the notorious swag bag of freebies given to Oscar presenters and nominees has been pared from a onetime high of around $100,000. No more plasma screens for the lucky Dior-clad few. One of the items in the presenters' swag bag will be a $10 bottle of wine made not in Napa or France, but in Indiana. Other freebies in the swag bag sound like stuff your granny might put in your Christmas stocking: a toothbrush sanitizer and a vacuum cleaner. Billboard magazine's Oscars after-party is also turning virtuous: Instead of fancy luggage or bags, it's buying re-usable laundry bags to hold the goodies that guests will get.

Something tells me that Anne Hathaway isn't going to want to appear in People magazine clutching one of those, which is the whole point of the over-the-top gifting lounges: products want the press. On the flip side, the stars can't brandish bling and get away with it, either. The L.A. Times, which knows about Hollywood excess, says that this year, stylists and P.R. flacks are telling their clients not to brag about the price of their couture. A few years ago, Dolly Parton told the press about her $1.2 million Fred Leighton earrings. This year, factlets like that will land you in hot water with the public.

But don't expect the stars to slum it in J. Crew the way Michelle Obama did when she hit Burbank. Mind you, modesty to the entertainment industry is still a relative term. Stars are still being handed $10,000 spa vacations, $18,000 watches, and a year's worth of Botox worth $3,000. (That is, if Mickey Rourke left any for anyone else.)

Jennifer Lopez put the dilemma in perspective. "I think you can get criticized if you're wearing borrowed dresses now because it's borrowed, and I think you can get criticized for it if it's not because you bought it during the current economy," she told WWD. "So I say do what makes you happy and wear what you want because the only thing that really matters is if your mother calls you up the next day and says, 'What were you wearing?'"

It's just as well. The stars usually borrow the most expensive stuff (which is why you see those guards looming near the Harry Winston necklaces), and everything in the swag bag is taxable anyway. George Clooney gave one recent gift bag to the United Way, which auctioned it for $45,000. This year, considering all the cleaning products, Ron Howard might consider donating his to his housekeeper.
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