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Oscar parties

Lights, camera and glamour in Tacoma and Olympia

Photo credit: Tanya DeMots

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Surely one of the foremost appeals of Hollywood's night of all nights is imagining oneself in attendance. The South Sound offers two big opportunities to share in the glitz and glamour of Oscar night this Feb. 28.

I know; I've been there.

In a break from current editorial preference, this writer's first-person experiences will be all over this article. See, I lived in Hollywood from 1998 to 2004, so the Oscars were a big deal in my life. Those were tense years on the international political scene, and we residents learned to grit our teeth through security lockdowns and parking pass checks. The world-famous Chinese Theatre, next door to the Dolby (then Kodak) Theatre in the Hollywood & Highland Center, was my neighborhood cinema hangout, an easy walk from my apartment. Like you, I watched the Academy Awards on TV, envisioning myself strolling the red carpet, chatting with entertainment "reporters," accepting my golden statuette with grace and wit, and tearing it up at Elton's after party.

Unlike you, however, my daydreams were interrupted by the bone-shaking rattle of camera choppers circling the red carpet four blocks down Hollywood Boulevard.

Imagine my delight, then, when my wife and I were asked to host the Olympia Film Society's annual Oscar party in 2009 and 2010. Here's what it's like: You arrive before the red carpet gets underway to review notes, fill out your Oscar ballot to see how well you'd fare in the contest, throw on a tuxedo and straighten your tie. Looking good is important, because you never know when your image might be projected on the main screen, 40-feet high.

As a host, your job is to keep the audience entertained during the real program's commercial breaks. You do this by cracking jokes, posing trivia questions, and giving away movie tickets and other appropriate items. For example, who's won the most Academy Awards to date? It's Walt Disney, with 22 (plus four honorary). Which living individual has won the most? That's visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren of ILM, with nine. Which actor was nominated twice after he died? Keep reading to find out.

As a perk for our emceeing, I was allowed to hold an actual Academy Award while posing for pictures. Thus, I can confirm what the winners often say: Oscar's heavier than he looks. Officially dubbed the Academy Award of Merit, its gilded Britannia metal physique weighs in at eight-and-a-half pounds.

I can also tell you that South Sounders take their red carpet duties seriously. Folks dress up. They look fantastic! They take Ellen-style ussies and broadcast their fabulousness on social media. It's a lot more fun than hiding in a Hollywood apartment while begrudging the celebs down the street.

Here's where you come in. The Volcano is cosponsoring The Grand's Film Awards Party, which sells out each year.

"We encourage people to dress up like characters from the films they love," said Darcy Nelson, director of Marketing and Communications for Tacoma's preeminent arthouse cinema. "We have paparazzi out meeting people on the red carpet at the Theatre on the Square. We do Oscar prediction voting, and it gives somebody a chance to win free movie tickets for a year at The Grand."

In addition to this "Golden Ticket," The Grand will give away $300 in gift cards to costume contest winners.

"We also have a VIP room with a catered dinner," Nelson said.

This year's hosts are Adam Utley and Paul Richter of improv troupe Muh Grog Zoo, Grand board member Jordan Hightower, and Gritty City Siren host Ricky German.

"Last year," Nelson said, "we could only do wine, but this year the Theatre on the Square changed their banquet permit, so we're bringing in the bartender from the former Hilltop Kitchen. He's mixing special cocktails for us. I'm really excited about the costume contest! I almost went as Cinderella, but that hoop skirt ... "

Olympians should check out Capitol Theater's shindig, which will be hosted by actress and raconteur Elizabeth Lord. Louise Morgan and K.T. Williams will interview guests arriving on the red carpet.

"The folks from Masque & Pettycote are supporting this year," said Audrey Henley, Olympia Film Society's executive director. "They're gonna doll up our red-carpet hosts."

All food orders will be crafted and served by Our Table restaurant, with prizes by the dozen distributed throughout the ceremony. You, too, can have your picture taken while holding an Oscar statuette - and, unlike the answer to our third trivia question (it's James Dean!), you won't have to ride off into the sunset before securing Hollywood stardom.

Your glory awaits!

FILM AWARDS PARTY, 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma, $15-$90, 253.593.4474.

OSCAR PARTY, 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave. SE, Olympia, $7-$10, 360.754.6670

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