After skiing upstate last weekend, Dispatches passed out on the plane and woke up (bang!) to palm trees and sunny skies in Los Angeles. My hotel, a stone's throw from Bel Air, has a tennis court and a pool surrounded by cabana tents and hedgerow.

The Oscars Countdown Begins...
The 14th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards were held at The Beverly Hilton Tuesday evening. En route to the hotel, one can’t help but notice the corner of Wilshire Boulevard, where fans of the late Whitney Houston have built a shrine of hand-penned notes (one that read, “We’ll Always Love You”) and poster pictures of the singer in her prime. As Dispatches turned off Merv Griffin Way to walk up to the hotel, the trees were stumpy and fragrant. It struck me that the primly landscaped, modernist drive up to the hotel was one Houston’s last sights.

Lightening my spirits at the awards was Clint Eastwood. The actor and filmmaker was there to receive an award with costume designer Deborah Hopper; the pair have collaborated on more than 20 films. Eastwood mentioned that he'd been told the "Guild gala," as he called it, was one of the most fun evenings of awards show season. And it really was. Hopper, also a winner, told me that Leonardo DiCaprio had decided to turn his watch around (wearing the face on his wrist) for J. Edgar. "Leonardo had 80 changes, and all his clothes were made for him, since he is tall," she said. "It would have been hard to find so many rental clothes." Ditto for his co-star Armie Hammer, who is 6-foot-5.

Mark Bridges, who costumed The Artist, reminded Dispatches that when they were making the film, he was on a budget. "A lot of the clothes were real or inspired by real clothes from the ’20s," he noted. "Nothing at age 90 is in great shape," said Bridges "But we copied the shape, the grain of the fabric, and we remade them." They didn't have the time or money to have everything made, though, and Bridges described LA’s costume houses as "beautifully organized." And as for Jean Dujardin, "I made his tailcoat and his tux at [LA’s] High Society tailors," he said. To get the charcoal-smudged look on Dujardin's suit after the fire scene, Bridges literally smudged it with charcoal, bought from Trader Joe's.

Jane Lynch did a remarkable job as master of ceremonies. She kidded Eastwood about having a great career ahead of him and how she would be able to say, "I knew you when..." She also joked that she couldn't wait to go shopping with Michel Lacoste, who sponsored the event, until she found out that in "Franceland" Michel is a boy's name. She then proceeded to sweetly beg Lacoste for shirts all night.

Kate Beckinsale, who accepted the Lacoste Spotlight Award, which is basically an award for looking fab in clothes, told me she was feeling under the weather—but she sure didn't look it. In her speech she said that she tends to hang out in the costume department on sets to get through divorce, unexpected pregnancy, and "stubborn camel toe," all of which she indicated she had actually suffered.

Bucking the cold in a low-cut, corseted dress by Vivienne Westwood, Beckinsale managed to spend a good five minutes signing pictures for fans, including Radio Man, a New Yorker who calls himself “The Where’s Waldo of Showbiz.” Radio Man had his bicycle with him and said that he'd been in town since Saturday and that Dispatches would see him at the Independent Spirit Awards. How Radio Man, who rides his bike to the Hamptons every summer, gets to Oscar week I'll never quite figure out.        

Rooney Mara had her jet-black hair pasted down exactly like the gals in last week’s Calvin Klein show, who were aping Mara, by the way. Like a young, punk Audrey Hepburn, Mara wore nude heels and a big coat. She was there with a bearded gentleman, who clearly didn't want his picture taken. Before the pair scurried away from their table, Mara hugged costume designer Trish Summerville, who took home an award for her work on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.    

Mara doesn't chat with press. But she really has something extraordinary. The way she moves so quickly in heels to avoid people gives her an electric style. I left the dinner at the same time as Mara. She and the dude were nearly running and appeared to vaporize into the night.   

Stay tuned. On Wednesday, Dispatches is invited to Hollywood's 9th Annual Global Green Pre-Oscar fete.

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