Just moments after I was e-mailed the super-secret location of the Opening Night Gala of the 27th Annual Seattle International Film Festival, I propelled myself toward the Union Square mall in a froth of excitement. This evening would launch one month of booze, schmooze, and real movie stars--like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, who held the U.S. premiere of their joint directorial debut at the sumptuous 5th Avenue Theatre. I arrived at 9:30 (after the screening, ahem) to find a restless horde in high heels and shoulder pads milling around the downtown sidewalk like glamorous cattle waiting to rush the salt lick.

I bypassed the throng with my press pass and strutted into the thick of a buzzing soirée that stretched around two levels of the outdoor mezzanine. "Only VIP passes get you into this room!" bellowed a tattooed guard in front of a red velvet rope stretched across a long hallway lit with flickering candles. I'd been at the party for 13 seconds and already I knew I'd die if I didn't get into that room. Luckily, I found Bill, a perfectly coifed SIFF ambassador, who air-kissed me and handed me the magic key: a tiny pink flashlight. I elbowed my way through the crowd, shined it at security and nonchalantly penetrated the inner sanctum of celebrity.

The party was hot, hot, hot! Like about 120 degrees hot. Unfortunately, the heat was all weather-related. Like many big Seattle bashes, it was sexless and scandal-free. Glamour, glamour everywhere, and not a speck of dirt. "Jennifer's getting out of here," murmured a man jammed against my ribcage. "It's a bit too much." A bit too little, if you ask me.

Just then I spotted Alan Cumming and my knees went wobbly. My sexually ambivalent movie-star boyfriend, sporting an eyebrow ring! Willkommen! A pudgy man in a leather vest turned to his friend and hissed cattily as Cumming passed, "Apparently you lose two inches of height when you pierce your eyebrow." I frowned and tried to follow my unattainable object of desire through the ever more maddening crowd, but I lost him near the finger food. I grabbed a bottle of mercifully cold Evian and wedged my body between an unnaturally tanned man with a chiseled jaw (who was raising his pink cosmopolitan in the air) and another unnaturally tanned man with a chiseled jaw. I would probably still be trapped there, fanning myself with a SIFF guide, if a friend hadn't found me and hauled me outdoors to the comparatively fresh air of the VIP smoking patio.

I spied a large round table on a balcony that overlooked the rest of the party, where Cumming (clad fetchingly in what appeared to be a worn black T-shirt and a sharkskin bathrobe) and Leigh (draping her slender frame in a strange striped turtleneck) calmly held court. Behind them stood a phalanx of brawny fellows with little Secret Service radios trailing in their ears. How exciting! The ultimate accoutrement of fame: bodyguards!

The next few hours passed pleasantly in a blur of salmon, drunken self-promotion, and ceaseless neck craning, all in vain. On a night like tonight, the requisite Tom Skerritt sighting was simply not enough. When Leigh and Cumming slipped away, all that remained was a coterie of well-dressed rubberneckers; with all the kegs tapped, there was no good reason to stay. Still, it hardly seemed nice when the security guards shooed us into the street.

Following a pack of people I barely knew, I soon found myself in a booth at the W Hotel, where half of the SIFF folks seem to be staying. "Lucy Liu was fucked up beyond belief at the MTV music awards," blabbed one of my new companions, a gorgeous girl and self-proclaimed Hollywood insider. "Remember, she wore that chain-mail dress? Anyway, George Clooney told me that he leaned her over his Mercedes and fucked the living daylights out of her, and he didn't even care about scratching the paint." Everyone at the table shrieked with tipsy delight, starved as we were for trash. My dishy new friend continued, "He also said that since he'd fucked Cameron Diaz, all he needs to do is nail Drew Barrymore and he'll have done all the Angels!"

In the end it was a lovely evening.