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Going to Hollywood for the Into the West LOTR Oscar Party!
What an amazing weekend! Now, where do I begin...?

Hollywood was awesome! Ye know, I didn't really expect to enjoy the city as much as I did. I had quite a very negative stereotypes towards the Los Angeles area, but now I see why people flock to that city and California in general. There's definitely something out there that gets under your skin.

We arrived Friday a bit later than I hoped, but we spent some time driving around and familiarizing ourselves with the area. Those famous streets flew by: Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd, Vine... on and on. It was a bit late when we finally arrived at a Motel 6 just four blocks from the Oscar ceremonies. We crashed hard.

Visiting Universal Studios
But we got up fairly early on Saturday. We had big plans. First, we went walking down Hollywood Blvd chatting about all the stars at our feet. We stopped at a wee restaurant and had breakfast with Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge's stars while we sat on the sidewalk in the cool brisk air and watched passerbys.

Fortunately, it had a rained the day before, so the sky looked like the Texas sky had come to L.A.. It was a beautiful baby blue.

Then up we walked up to the Kodak Theatre, took some pictures, and saw a few shops before we made it to a beautiful, scenic view of the big Hollywood letters where Dr. Evil makes his lair.

Then off we went to meet up with my friend Rimbo as the three of us went to Universal Studios for the afternoon.

First BIG suggestion. If you ever go to Universal Studios, remember two things. First, it's a theme park. I was a wee bit disappointed since although there were a lot o'cool shows, what I really wanted was to tour the studios. Think they offered that, but didn't want to shell out the $139 for it.

Second, get the Front of the Line Pass. I hate lines with a passion. This sweet little pass got us in to every show first. We walked by hundreds of folks laughing and smiling as we passed people. It's well-worth the extra thirty dollars! Yeah, the place is expensive as is ($50 tickets), but for $30 more you will be able to see the whole place in a day and NOT have to wait in line!

I totally dug the Shrek attraction and the T2 show as pretty sweet as well. The whole afternoon as a big inspiration for me. It's amazing how these studios have gone about to promote their movies. It's just brilliant.

The Pre-Into the West Oscar Party
After we got back from Universal Studios, I took a brief nap before we headed over to the Hollywood Athletic Club for our show. People were already starting to gather around 7ish when we arrived.

I gave Rimbo my camera to take pictures of this pre-Oscar Party which he did quite well. Unfortunately, totally forgot to bring out the camera on Sunday evening. Ah well...

We were extremely anxious to play, but not supposed to go on until after some Tolkien poetry readings after 10pm. So we chatted with folks, and then as our showtime approached and passed, we decided to just go ahead and play music while we waited in the hall.

Folks were gathered from all around the world: Los Angeles, Utah, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, London, Austria, New Zealand... Met a few people from right here in Dallas, San Antonio, and even Austin too.

I'm glad we put on this mini-show, because around 11:15pm, we found out that there was an error and that the event was supposed to end AT 11pm! They talked the Club into keeping it open till midnight, but that meant our set was to be cut wayyy short.

So we put on a fiery 30-minute show with poor sound, but an excited audience. Everyone seemed to leave on-fire!

The Big Day of the Oscars
We awoke a bit later on Sunday and returned to have breakfast with Bellafonte and Dandridge and started perusing the streets with me dressed in my Clan Gunn finest kilt. The streets were a bit busy. It was amazing to see people packed at the corner of Hollywood and Highland trying to catch a *glimpse* of someone famous. But security was tight, so there was not getting too close.

After a bit o'a walk around, we decided to visit our good friends, Emerald Rose. They were performing for their second year at TheOneRing.Net Oscar Party that evening. I wish I could've seen that even too. They're just an incredibly fun Celtic group. We went out and joined them in the hot tub as we all relished the fact that we were in Hollywood playing for Oscar Parties (c'mon, it's just too cool!), before duty called us back to our respective events.

After getting ready, we headed back to the Hollywood Athletic Club. The place was already full of people waiting for the Oscars to begin. Black ties, beautiful dresses, exquisite costumes. Energy was high.

We hobnobbed with a huge number of folks from various Tolkien groups online, made some great connections for other possible LOTR events in the near future, as we waited for it to begin.

I gotta say that there's nothing like a few hundred people gathered together cheering every time a LOTR category was mentioned... and won! Wow! The celebration was dumbfounding. During commercials, swords, and books, and Tolkien art were given away.

Course my favorite part of the Oscars was when Mickey and Mitch played "Kiss At the End of the Rainbow". I was yelling "autoharps rule!" for my part. ;) We even talked about performing a bit of it during our set later, but slipped my mind when show time arrived.

Finally, the anticipation grew as we racked up more and more awards. Andrew made the comment at one point that the only worry after winning so many awards was that we wouldn't win best picture!

Course by the end, everyone went wild! Cheering, hugs, salutes, and non-stop fun kicked as Kevin Henry started the music part of the evening with a short folk set of music inspired by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.

We took the stage and had people rolling laughing and cheering with a wonderful mix of drinking sing-a-longs and some of our best sci-fi, fantasy filks. But for me, the classic point of the evening was while we were playing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and Andrew comically dedicated it to all the poor movies that were up against The Lord of the Rings at the Oscars. There was a uproar of laughter that rang loud and had me busting up on stage as well!

With our show finally over, we kicked back and relaxed as Avalon Rising kicked it into full-gear with a powerful mix of Celtic rock music reminiscent of Jethro Tull. That was a blast. I'd heard so much about them since the days when they were all over the charts, and chatted with singer and harpist, Margaret Davis, quite a bit. Killer to see them live at last.

The evening flew by way too quickly. Before we knew it, it was almost closing time at 1am. Sadly, none of the LOTR cast made it out to the Party, but that didn't stop it from being one wild, exciting evening!

But ye know the funniest thing of all is that we actually didn't see one celebrity during our visit... until we got off the plane in Austin and saw Jason Lee from Dogma out gathering his bags.

Ah, well, it was an incredible adventure. Now I just need to catch up on my sleep and try see what I forgot to mention. Slainte!

--posted by Marc Gunn of the Brobdingnagian Bards, Celtic Folk Music
  Tuesday, March 02, 2004


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