(Hollywood) It’s not a party. It’s an HBO party.

That was thinking Sunday night of a few hundred celebrities, some toting Golden Globes, an army of Hollywood suits, publicists and minor actors as they descended on HBO’s Golden Globe party at the Beverly Hilton, also the site of that night’s Globes.

By the good graces of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, HBO was one of the big winners last night. By the good graces of HBO, my colleague Mike Grebb and I were invited to HBO’s parties. Yes, parties plural. We watched NBC’s telecast of the Globes sitting in HBO’s viewing party, you should know, inside the Hilton’s Circa 55 restaurant. That part was impressive, relatively quiet and surreal when you realize you’re watching a telecast of something that’s going on not more than 100 yards from where you’re sitting.

The recession of 2009 was temporarily halted last night. Yes, actors who haven’t worked in a while were putting on a good face, dressed to impress, networking mightily Sunday night, looking for their next gig. Yet when even minor players are walking around the Hilton quaffing small bottles of Moet from little black Moet funnels, it’s tough to recall the country’s trillion dollar deficit and nearly 10% unemployment rate.

In fact, two hours before the Globes, the Hilton is a beehive of economic activity. The security staff alone must have been nearly one thousand, ear pieces buzzing. Then you think about the unseen people: those who harvested the ingredients for the food, the people who cooked the food; those who made the tuxedos, the gowns, the shoes; then there are the hair and makeup artists; oh, and of course the plastic surgeons, the athletic trainers and the psychiatrists. Recession? What recession?

(My goodness, Alec Baldwin, coming in the back entrance looks smaller height-wise than I’d imagined and he’s wide. He also walks a bit hunched over and stiffly. In truth, he looks like he can barely make it to the entrance of the Globes. He makes a great recovery about 2 hours later when he picks up his Globe.)

Yes, I hear you, what about HBO’s parties? Well, let’s start with the color scheme. HBO’s designers, perhaps inspired by the Hilton’s old Hollywood tradition, chose a muted gold and brown palette, and a 70s geometric pattern for its party. It bathed everything, the walls, napkins, pillows, invitations, in these colors. Even the waiters were wearing muted gold tunics with the letters HBO glittering on the upper breast pocket.

Sitting inside Circa 55, watching the Globes on one of several big-screen TVs, HBO’s party concept was just coming into focus. Outside, at the pool, is where things got fired up. Literally. Fires were ubiquitous (as were members of the Beverly Hills fire department). There were small fires around the perimeter of the pool, and, most impressively, fires IN the pool, on the pool’s surface really. HBO put 5 small fires atop numerous round platforms it anchored in rows to the pool’s bottom, making an impressive site when day became night—a sea of fires afloat in the pool surrounded by fires on the pool’s deck and gold lighting everywhere.

Once the Globes finished, this gorgeous tableaux was inhabited, appropriately, by the beautiful people. Naturally you had HBO’s Golden Globe winners, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti (walking around humbly, accepting congratulations), Anna Paquin, Laura Linney, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson. In addition, you had members, past and present, of the HBO family: the Entourage gang—Jeremy Piven, Rex Lee, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly (tiny in real life), with Jerry Ferrara (Turtle) clutching his date Jamie Lynn Sigler (does Tony know who his daughter is dating?), Melissa George from In Treatment (gorgeous, yes, but she’s so much taller than I’d imagined), Ginnifer Goodwin (also taller than I thought) from Big Love, Bill Mahr (who’s circulating big time, we bump into him several times), Drew Barrymore (smoking near the pool, darn), Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick.

As the night wears on, moving on to 10pm, it’s clear HBO’s is THE party, as stars from other networks descend upon it. There’s John Slattery from Mad Men, Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgins from High School Musical and Rachel Griffiths from Six Ft Under (truly gorgeous in person).

Then there are the actors who you recognize, but can’t name, particularly Rich Sommer (slimmer and taller than I thought) and Michael Gladis (quite handsome in person) from Mad Men. Of course, there are countless actors you think you’ve seen somewhere or another, but aren’t sure.

The capper comes when we see NBC stars milling about. (Guess NBC’s rooftop party just isn’t cutting it.) It’s all over when NBC’s Hayden Panettiere arrives at HBO’s do (with a bit too much makeup overshadowing her 19-year-old innocence).

A look outside of HBO’s party reveals a line of a few hundreds waiting to get in. We hear later it’s a 2-hour wait. We leave @ 10 pm to check on NBC’s party on the roof, passing that huge line attempting to enter HBO’s soiree. It was a mistake.

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