The cancellation of this year's Vanity Fair party, the social highlight of Oscars night, is a tragedy. Not so much because it deprives gatecrashers of their most significant challenge of the year; but because Graydon Carter's annual party invites represent a definitive list of celebrity. The next best thing: social scientist Elizabeth Currid and her colleague analyzed photographs of guests since last year's gathering, to calculate the most socially connected and socially promiscuous of celebrities. A taster: highly connected Kimora Lee Simmons is a perfect celebrity disease vector, or else simply skilled at working her way into the frame. But one of the flightiest social butterflies, a cute Spanish actress, seemingly devoted to her craft, will surprise you.
We use Getty Images database as a proxy for measuring the social behavior patterns of celebrities. Getty Images collected almost 1,600 pictures from the 2007 Vanity Fair event. 248 different people were identified in these photos. The means, even if we discount the fact that not everyone at the event actually was photographed, at least 30,628 connections are mathematically possible. More interestingly, it seems that a surprising number of these potential connections are made throughout the year at various other events. When we looked at the entire database of Getty Images photos associated with entertainment events, we find that some of the people in attendance at the Vanity Fair party ended up at other events with at least 50% of those also at the party.
Take for example Jennifer Lopez: Of the 248 people photographed at the party, between 2006-2007, she ended up at other events throughout the year with 134 them while expectedly, given her social butterfly status, Lopez's husband, Marc Anthony was at other events with 121 of the 248 photographed attendees. Similarly, Penelope Cruz ended up at other events with 123 Vanity Fair party attendees.
Figure 1: The celebrities who attended the most events with other Vanity Fair partiers
1. Jennifer Lopez
2. Penelope Cruz
3. Marc Anthony
5. Helen Mirren
6. Jennifer Hudson
7. Sharon Stone
8. Will Smith
9. Forest Whitaker
Further, part of the appeal of the Vanity Fair party is that even if you don't know everyone, there is an extraordinarily high chance that you will be able to meet that producer, director, actress etc. that you want to meet if you try just a little, and this meeting doesn't have to occur at the party. Vanity Fair party goers are just more connected than the rest of us. As a whole, Americans have a maximum of six degrees of separation, which means that the worst case scenario is that you can reach anyone in America through at most six acquaintances. (No, this isn't just a phrase, it's been tested by social scientists ranging from Stanley Milgram to Duncan Watts, and Will Smith, ironically, even stars in a movie with the same title). Conversely, the people at the Vanity Fair party network have just 4 degrees of separation.
What this means is that those attending the Vanity Fair party not only have just 1 degree of separation from those also at the party (by virtue of being in the same place you only have to tap someone on the shoulder at the bar and say hello), they also can connect to anyone else in the entire database of people and events photographed by Getty through 3 mediators (or people). And there are some people who are even more connected – they need less than one person to get in touch with someone else. For example, Vanity Fair attendees, Oprah Winfrey and Kimora Lee Simmons are only 1.7 degrees of separation from anyone else photographed by Getty, while Suzanne Somers' degrees of separation is 1.96 and Elton John's is 1.78, which means that they need contact with, well, 0.7-0.96 of a another person to access anyone else.
Figure 2: Degrees of Separation for the Rich and Famous
1. Kimora Lee Simmons
2. Nancy Wilson
3. Oprah Winfrey
4. Gayle King
5. Zhang Ziyi
6. Elton John
7. Brandon Routh
8. Fran Lebowitz
With the cancellation of the Vanity Fair party putting the kibosh on all those potential interactions with other beautiful, interesting celebrities, a star might be inclined to stay at home, order Chinese food and watch the Oscars on TV. And that decision, as it turns out, would be okay.
Because so many of those attending the Vanity Fair party end up at so many other events together, there is a high probability that the run-ins and social networking that occur at the Vanity Fair party will occur in other places to, albeit not quite to the same level. Now that the most fabulous party (and as it seems greatest networking event) of the year has been likely permanently cancelled, it would be useful to have a plan B, to know where to even bother showing up, and we'll tell you. Sure, going to the actual Academy Awards or the Golden Globes would be an option. But with the cancellation of the raison d'etre for the evening, why bother getting all dressed up to sit quietly in an uncomfortable seat for 3 hours? Instead, we suggest hitting up the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Ball, New York Fashion Week or the Instyle and Warner Brother's Golden Globes party. According to our research, you're guaranteed to find some of your former Vanity Fair party BFFs there (See chart).
Elizabeth Currid, assistant professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at University of Southern California, is the author of The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art and Music Drive New York City. Gilad Ravid is a lecturer and researcher at Industrial Engineering and Management department, Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.