Back when Bradley Cooper was waiting tables at Washington D.C.'s Georgetown University in the 90's and imagining a West Coast future similar to then it-boy Ben Affleck, he probably didn’t imagine the awkward moments; like spending your 38th birthday with "Entertainment Tonight" personality-emeritus Mary Hart warbling “Happy Birthday” in front of 2,000 people, and then fending off a crowd of iPhone photo-seekers on the posh side of four security check points at a ritzy hotel after-party.
On the upside, Cooper was a co-headliner with Affleck as both were among the honorees at the Palm Springs Film Festival’s annual black tie gala on Saturday night.
Cooper's fellow honorees included Richard Gere (above left), Sally Field, Helen Hunt, Robert Zemeckis, Helen Mirren, Tom Hooper and Naomi Watts.
David O. Russell (left) presented Cooper with his award, noting that the Palm Springs Festival "helped launch 'The Fighter' two years ago. It was an underdog."
A pair of Helens, Hunt and Mirren, were on hand. Hunt reminisced about coming to Palm Springs for spring break and "killing brain cells. Not smart for a future actress," she said.
There was no Brad Pitt limping in with a cane next to Angelina Jolie (as he did in 2012) or a tipsy Mariah Carey’s motor mouth going viral (as her speech spread in 2010).
Instead, most of the surprises came from the unannounced presenters.
Tom Hanks (left, with host Mary Hart and Robert Zemeckis), Martin Sheen, Ang Lee and former CIA Agent Tony Mendez, upon whom Affleck's "Argo" character was based, all made unannounced appearances.
"Les Miserables" co-star Eddie Redmayne (right) with the film's director Tom Hooper at the Parker Palm Springs after-party. Redmayne had just flown in from London, but has been preceded by U.S. press like Buzzfeed’s 28-photo binary quiz, “Is Eddie Redmayne Hot?”
Young Tom Holland, 16, said that of all the films made by Naomi Watts, his co-star in "The Impossible" -- which include "21 Grams," "J. Edgar," and David Lynch's kinky "Mulholland Drive" -- he'd only seen "King Kong." "I wanted to watch 'Mulholland Drive,' but my dad wouldn't let me," Holland said.
"Life of Pi" director Ang Lee worked the autograph line. at the film festival.
In the past, Oscar strategists have referred to Palm Springs as a “constituency” to be reached. But the accelerated Oscar nomination schedule -- with votes due 24 hours before the Palm Springs event began -- made the trip 120 miles east from Hollywood somewhat akin to campaigning in Iowa after the caucuses. However, most of the honorees could walk away winners at the Critics Choice and Globes this next week.
Martin Sheen, who presented an honor to Sally Field, with Bill Pullman.
Field (left, with John Hawkes of "The Sessions") gave a terrific speech. "I've done love scenes with a pelican. But I've also done love scenes with Paul Newman," she said in an homage to the highs and lows of the life of an actor.
Her speech would not have been out of place in last year's Oscars telecast as one of the “Why I Love Movies” star confessionals, except that it was good.
The boss -- festival chairman Harold Matzner (right) with Mary Bono Mack backstage -- wore sneakers. Festival founder Sonny Bono passed away 15 years ago to the day, and Mack was one of the presenters to the Bono award winner, Tom Hooper.
A full-length view of the Cooper's "birthday suit." Local TV stations went “Live from the Red Carpet,” on a night with temperatures in the 40s. With attendees wary of flour bombings, the furs were out.