Scene and Heard at Shirley MacLaine’s Party of a Lifetime

Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson — behind-the-scenes moments you won't see on TV when Shirley MacLaine's AFI Life Achievement Award special airs on June 24

When the top guest at a Hollywood event not only shows up to the after-party but shuts it down, that's a sure sign that the smiles and good cheer are genuine.

At 12:45 A.M. Friday morning, AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Shirley MacLaine was still holding court and picking at fruit and cheese with a small circle of six, including brother Warren Beatty, in an entry foyer couch of the Harry Cohn Building on the Sony lot.

After several hours seated at a dais-style dinner table on-camera without touching the food, there was an eating, drinking, and guard-dropping deficit to correct.

Also Read: Don Rickles Steals the Show at AFI's Shirley MacLaine Tribute

Navigating the pit of closely packed tables at the show was like dodging an A-list minefield.

Getting to your table, or any table, involved airplane-boarding scooting by Beatty, Peter Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Amy Pascal, Alan Horn, Jennifer Aniston, Meryl Streep, or Julia Roberts (at left, with Sally Field).

CBS President and CEO Les Moonves and wife Julie Chen waited patiently in line, and a photo-op between Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer and Steven Spielberg clogged up a narrow pass.

“Let’s get a smile out of this guy,” Stringer said as the two posed among the crowd, with Congressman Dennis Kucinich loitering off to the side. Jack Nicholson would float by to give them a pat on the back.

Even though it’s not a Laker game or the Oscars, Nicholson still got the best seat in the house: the first-row center table, seated at six o’clock, facing the stage. Also scoring seats in the front row were Terry Semel and his socialite daughter Courtenay.

Organizers facilitated tableside face time, handing out alphabetized guest books with table numbers in lieu of seating cards as guests stepped out of the parade of shiny black Audi A8’s streaming onto the lot.

Someone who was not looking for face time: Jennifer Aniston.

During MacLaine’s glad-handling entrance parade through the A-list pit to the center of the room (a moment that will promo and play well for the show’s June 24th airing), the camera caught the oft-scrutinized actress in a close up cutaway.

“Oh stop,” she appeared to say when she saw herself on the big screen.

Unfortunately for her, she didn’t escape Don Rickles’ (below left) wide swath of destruction. “(Aniston) took my table at the Sunset Tower restaurant one night because she was in heat for some guy,” Rickles announced.

He was the only speaker to go without a teleprompter or notes.

Later, when MacLaine and Meryl Streep vacated the center table to take the stage, neighbor Aniston pulled Julia Roberts (who had been teary-eyed earlier in the night) across the two empty seats to fill the gap.

During the first break, the theme from MacLaine’s “Terms of Endearment” played through the salad course, as Carrie Fisher made a break outside with her electronic cigarette in hand. “It’s healthier,” she said.

“I was 12 when I first fell in love with you,” Katherine Heigel said to MacLaine, while admitting to being nervous to be speaking before this crowd.

“I have spent 31 years trying to perfect your zingers. To honor the 12-year-old still inside me, can I get your autograph?” she asked, looking visibly shaky. While speaking, she stood at least a foot back from the podium.

Earlier, John Travolta made a surprise (albeit forgettable) speech, his first major appearance since a recent scandal involving masseuses. There was no pre-or-post socializing for the original J.T.

Doug Herzog and Casey Patterson were back on the same (but totally transformed) Stage 15 where they shot Spike's Guys Choice Awards only five nights earlier. “I think there’s still a few turkey legs in the corner,” Herzog told TheWrap.

At the high-end Audi afterparty on the grass outside the Sony commissary Fox films CEO Jim Gianopolous was huddled up with Beatty on a VIP patio near Streep by the Cohn building.

At right, "Steel Magnolias" and "Terms of Endearment" confections were on offer at the after-party.

While Rickles blasted Wolfgang Puck earlier in the night (“I’d like to say first, the fish was lousy") the celeb chef’s crew did not have it any easier as the night went on.

As MacLaine, Beatty, and their party winded down and the two bartenders attending to their spirits had idle time, Puck's staff realized there was no hard out. “We’ll be here as long as they want,” one said.