- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

Ah, the glitz. The glamour. The stars. Although the real Oscar event was taking place on the other side of the country, that didn’t stop Washingtonians from engaging in Potomac-style red-carpet waltzing and champagne popping in their own milieu Sunday night.

At the Hard Rock Cafe in Northwest, a glamorous soiree - featuring the capital city’s young-and-beautiful crowd, and one of 52 Oscar parties nationwide officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - unfolded to benefit the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area.

By its 7 p.m. start time, more than 100 well-heeled revelers had filtered into the venue - complete with its own red carpet and mirror ball - for the evening’s fun and games along with the chance to view the Oscar telecast on ABC.

“The American Red Cross of the National Capital Area is so honored to have been chosen by the Academy of Motion Pictures to host Oscar Night DC,” said Linda Mathes, the organization’s chief executive officer.

“Washington, D.C., is more than just politics. This very special event is an opportunity to put off the intensity of the Washington pace and enjoy an evening out for one of this community’s most essential causes. The American Red Cross of the National Capital Area works hard each and every day to help the people of this community prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters and other life-threatening emergencies.

“Oscar Night DC is a unique event in that it brings people together to have a great time, to celebrate inspiring talent and accomplishments, and to help people through their local American Red Cross all at the same time - a winning combination.”

Added David Mara, co-chairman of the benefit: “There are so many 30- and 40-something power players here, especially in politics and business.” He also noted the “official” Oscar parties taking place in Richmond and Baltimore.

“I expect our event will be more glamorous than the others,” said Mr. Mara, who estimated that the benefit would raise more than $100,000.

The $85 tickets to the benefit at the Hard Rock included food and an open bar, plus the chance to bid on several high-end items. Among the night’s bounty: a Gibson Les Paul guitar signed by the rock band O.A.R.

“It means more to be here in Washington. There’s a post-inauguration buzz. In Washington, you can actually see the Oscars, whereas in L.A., there are too many distractions,” said longtime Washington entertainment reporter Arch Campbell of WJLA-ABC7.

Mr. Campbell, who covered the Oscars in Los Angeles for two years, had his heart set on “Slumdog Millionaire” emerging as the winner for best picture. “It’s a good message for hard times,” Mr. Campbell said. “It has mirth and hopefulness.”

Said Washington socialite blogger Andrea Rodgers of AskMissA.com, who also attended the Hard Rock event: “The love affair between Washington and Hollywood has gone on for decades. As we saw at this year’s inaugural, the love affair is at an all-time high with Barack Obama in the White House. Washington represents power, influence and wealth, while Hollywood represents popularity, talent and beauty.

“All these qualities are such strong aphrodisiacs.”

The atmosphere was equally grand across town at the Laird-Dunlop Coach House - the historic Georgetown home of Rick Rickertsen - where several members of Congress, business owners and entrepreneurs were invited for a black-tie event.

The Rickertsen soiree, which was expected to attract 120 revelers, was sponsored by Moet & Chandon Champagne, the official champagne of the Oscars. Proceeds from the party will benefit Five & Alive, an organization geared toward improving the health of children 5 and younger.

“I think it brings glamour to D.C., and that’s a wonderful thing,” said Michael Saylor, chief executive officer of MicroStrategy.

“We’re thousands of miles away from Los Angeles, but dressing up brings the event to life and creates a festive, celebratory mood.”

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