When it comes to Oscars, there’s only one party that really matters: Dani Janssen’s. It’s the most private, the most star-studded, the most relaxed in town. Only my pal Dani is a bundle of nerves on the phone with me because she just found out her condominium had stripped a lobby wall the day before. So the first thing greeting her VIPs when they arrive is a demolition mess. (See photo below.) Trust me, no one will be looking. Not with guests like Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg and Reese Witherspoon and Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn and Harrison Ford and Al Pacino and Owen Wilson and Mariah Carey and Bruce Springsteen and Sting and Oprah attending. This year, she’s hoping her close friend Clint Eastwood wins a pair of Academy Awards and displays them on her dining tables just like he did the years before. (The two have known each other since they were in Universal Studios ingénue school together.) Right after he won Best Director and Best Picture for Million Dollar Baby, and snagged Academy Awards as well for his leading lady Hilary Swank and supporting actor Morgan Freeman, Eastwood told the media he was going “to Dani’s for an ale.” And when the media clamored to follow him, Clint smiled, “This party is so exclusive, I’ll be lucky to get in.” Dani wound up having four Oscars that night at her party: Clint’s two, Hilary’s one and Morgan’s one. And Babs reminded that she’d given Clint his Oscars for both Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven. That’s why Dani’s feels like a gathering of the clan… if your family was the Hollywood glitterati.
It’s where Barbra jokes with Oprah (brought by Quincy Jones). Where the two divas get into a discussion about their weight loss secrets. Where Oprah asks Barbra if she’s really going to eat after 7:30 pm. And Barbra replies that she does only at Dani’s. Where Sean Penn once brought presidential scholar Douglas Brinkley who, when he saw Dani moving around the room taking photos for her private portfolio (she’s the only one allowed to have a camera), said those pictures would wind up as historical artifacts decades from now. Jack Nicholson spends his time in Dani’s kitchen and outside on Dani’s terrace. Penny Marshall takes a catnap on Dani’s sofa. Notorious recluse David Lynch tells guests he waits 364 days of the year for Dani’s party. Add to the mix Tim Robbins, Pierce Brosnan, Robin Williams, Shirley MacLaine, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel, Calista Flockhart, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, designers Donna Karan and Tom Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Richard Dreyfus, George Segal, Dan Aykroyd, Holly Hunter, Billy Crystal, Sidney Poitier, John McEnroe and Patty Smyth, Daryl Hannah, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Spacey, Carrie Fisher, Courtney Love, and Dennis Hopper. Dani knows and invites not only the legends but also Young Hollywood’s legends in their own minds. That way her guest list never gets stale. Partygoers who’d been presenters at the Oscars often change their clothes for Dani’s party so they can just hang. They also know the rules of the house: don’t talk business or try to drum up work – or you’ll be banned by Dani next year. And definitely don’t gate crash. Still legendary is the time, in the wee hours of 1998, when a countess who’d attended another party in the building waltzed into Dani’s apartment and draped herself around Jack Nicholson. Dani quickly marched the countess out the door. But stars who don’t RSVP and then show up get Dani’s cold shoulder as well.
Dani used to be known simply as the ultimate Hollywood wife who fed Jackie Collins her best lines for her books. Now she’s the reigning Hollywood hostess. She and husband Janssen used to give the best Oscar bash in town, but when he died suddenly in 1980, she told Hollywood agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar to take over her guest list. When Lazar died in 1993, the big question was who’d host the A-list celeb party on Oscar night. Dani decided to have a few friends over, which wound up to be more than 100. Now, the Grazers and the Hankses and the Meyers are going straight from the Governor’s Ball or from Vanity Fair‘s party to Dani’s Century City apartment, where others have been watching the show from the beginning. The party ends only when the last guest leaves, and that could be 4 a.m. Dani’s Southern home-cookin’ is always the same menu: rib-sticking smothered chicken, vegetable casserole, sweet potato surprise, black-eyed peas, tossed salad and her famous Monkey Bread. Then, there’s Dani’s hospitality. She isn’t a celebrity. She has no agenda. She isn’t promoting any movie or cause. She never has media in attendance. (Harrison Ford was head over heels with Calista Flockhart in her living room before the tabloids even got wind of the romance.) Her party is just like going to a neighbor’s house, Dani claims. I say sure it is — if all your neighbor’s friends just happen to be wildly famous.