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Hartford Oscar Night All Aglitter


February 23, 2009

The Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition proved Hollywood had nothing on Hartford Sunday night as it hosted its annual Oscar Night Hartford party and fundraiser.

More than 200 people, many dressed in Academy Award-worthy attire, crammed into Dish restaurant on Main Street, walking the red carpet, grabbing a drink, posing for pictures and then settling in for a night of hobnobbing and watching who was winning what on big-screen TVs set up for the event.

"I have been to Oscar night parties in California and was visiting here and came with friends to this one," said Amanda James. It was one of 53 Oscar "viewing parties" that were part of Oscar Night America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' grass-roots outreach program to benefit worthy causes. "It's fun to watch the show in Hollywood on TV, but it's more fun to put on something nice and come out and watch it with a crowd, even if it is not Hollywood."

An unofficial poll of the crowd indicated that "Slumdog Millionaire" was the favorite for best movie, while Mickey Rourke seemed to have the most support for best actor and Meryl Streep for best actress.

The fact that the night was all about the movies was not lost on Dish owners Dan Keller and Bill Carbone, who not only closed down in order to host the special event but also decked it out to make it look like an upscale movie lobby, complete with candy and popcorn concession stands and buffet offerings that reflected each of the best-movie nominations.

"I love the Twinkies idea," said Michael Archer, referring to the dessert offering at the "Milk" table, which illustrated the "Twinkie" defense used in the movie's story line. "But I'm not sure I get the deviled eggs being served at the 'Nixon/Frost' table."

While a few of those who attended sported big-price attire with labels like Versace, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Armani, others proudly explained they were making do and giving in to the recession by wearing something old or borrowed.

Others used the evening to talk politics, specifically how to brace for big budget cuts that are likely to affect everyone, including nonprofit organizations.

"We are looking at a $3 million cut to the AIDS services line in the budget for next year," said AIDS coalition Executive Director John Merz of a proposed state budget cut that would affect several agencies. "We could have an Oscar night fundraiser every night and not be able to make up that kind of cut."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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