This year, numerous suites were staged at the l’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills, which was one of the birthplaces of the pre-event gifting suite or lounge now so ingrained in popular culture. It made me nostalgic, given that I attended my very first Oscar suites at the l’Ermitage Hotel, ten years ago and just months after 9-11. As they were in 2002, celebrities then were very polite and circumspect, graciously accepting their tributes in a very respectful way. Whitney was gone yet everywhere, imbuing a similar sense of humility into the festivities.
It was at my very first gifting suite at the l’Ermitage Hotel in 2002 where I met luxury PR power couple Roger and Lynn Neal, who just a week earlier arranged for me to interview designer client Stewart Weitzman for a local paper called Valley Scene. It was a delightful surprise to receive an invite to their annual Oscar suite, and back at the place where things began.
The Neals’ 12th edition of Ultimate Beauty & Couture Suite, benefiting the Safety Harbor Kids Foundation and the Andy Transplant Foundation, was by design not a gifting suite, but an introduction to a myriad of unusual niche fashion, lifestyle and beauty products in exchange for contributing to these causes focused on children in need. Anchor sponsor G. M. Collin Skincare Paris offered $10,000 beauty treatments which included the Phyto Stem Cell + Collection. Dallas star Victoria Principal was back on the beauty pulpit, this time with her Reclaim Continuous Lift spot treatment for the eye area.
Other services offered to celebrities included facials, massages, instant eyelifts and facial waxing. Celebrity chef Kurt Ehrlich, chef for Presidents Reagan and Ford, Roy Disney and many of Hollywood’s biggest stars kept stars and sponsors fed and energized. Another Roger Neal veteran, handbag designer Timmy Woods, was on hand to tempt accessory fanatics with her collection of whimsical purse-sculptures, including her iconic Eiffel Tower bag first spied on Carrie Bradshaw’s arm in Sex and the City.
Animals played a major role this year, not only in Oscar-nominated movies (most notably, in Best Picture winner, The Artist) but also with other gifting suites. On Wednesday, Secret Room Events took over the roof of the l’Ermitage with its celebration benefiting the Humane Society, as they did for the 2011 Emmy Awards. Guests were greeted at the entrance by NuSkin’s latest home skin care spa essential (the Galvanic Spa), Whitening Lightning dental products, Nordic Naturals Vitamins and a 1940s pinup passing out Beachy Cream Gourmet Ice Cream. From there, they could sip a VuQo Coconut Vodka Cocktails, Macallan scotch or Wolfgang Puck Cappuccino, as they took in information about latest goings-on of the Humane Society of the United States.
While most animal charities and vendors at these things tend to be very dog-centric, the cats and cat owners of the world had their moment with the Tiniest Tiger Conservation Cub Club. Their bag, which helped them carry their message out to attendees, was a lovely travel body bag that not only had a passing resemblance to Marc Jacob’s latest collection, but was also filled with treats and toys galore.
Other fabulous finds from the Secret Room included Turtle Island packages for celebrities (which we showcase in ‘Volante’), Jock Soap skin care (luxurious enough for a woman but made for a man), Pantafola d’Oro sneakers from Italy (just débuting in the US), Mary Frances artisanal handbags, Lolo sterling silver jewellery from Canada, stunning Mujus statement jewellery from Peruvian designer Paola Delgado (fashioned from the seeds of indigenous fruits and plants), Eminence and Atzen skin care, and fun golf attire from Loudmouth Golf.
The very next day, event planning brothers Mark and Matt Harris (who have been producing gift bags for events as diverse as the Kentucky Derby, Miss America, Miss Universe, Miss USA, TV Land Awards and the TBS Comedy Festival) took over the roof for their WOW! Creations Lifestyle Gifting Suite, where lifestyle was the operative word. Those hosting their own Oscar fête (myself included) were thrilled to put Gnarly Head Wines, Chocolate Shop Wines, and Mary Louise Butter Brownies on our table for hungry and thirsty guests.
Those looking for healthier libations could turn to Noah’s flavoured sparkling water and Naked Juice’s cocoanut water. The suite also had plenty of healthy indulgences such as BeautiControl cosmetics, C-Zen’s ingeniously palm-shaped designed travel pillows, Sweteez’s handy antimicrobial fitness towels with zippered compartments for keys, cryotherapy wraps from Arctic Ease, a global assortment of sterling silver jewellery from Visible Treasures, airline-approved travel bottles from Brincatti and insect repelling candles from Bite Lite.
Canadian artist Shawna Erback, who made her mark on the animated DreamWorks feature How To Train Your Dragon, issued several How To Train Your Dragon II prints to suite guests, as well as prints inspired by the films Puss in Boots and Alice in Wonderland.
The general consensus among fellow reporters was that the GBK Oscar suite at the W Hollywood Hotel had one of the season’s most interesting mixes of goods and gadgets for celebrity attendees. They certainly had some fantastic charities that were being supported: the Worldteam Foundation, the HollyRod Foundation (whose giveaway including a heartfelt children’s book supporting children with autistic siblings), Drawing for Hope (also featured at their American Music Awards suite) and the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation.
Another highlight was a team of South Australian make-up artists prettying guests up with Vani-T, whose professional line includes natural and organic-based mineral make-up, tanning, teeth whitening, hair extensions, bath and body wear. Equally innovative was Max Mirani, offering the very covetable Move Mobile Closet suitcase with an inspired shelving system keeping everything tidy, organized, leak-free and wrinkle-proof.
Convenience was a running theme at this suite, from the self-customizing My Pillow, to Julep’s celebrity inspired manicure sets to the Artisan Group’s one-stop-shopping hub for unusual gifts and décor items to Think Thin’s yummy nutrition bars and Green PolkaDot Box’s cost-effective and user-friendly web site for organic groceries. Also featured was Chick Boss’s community-building handcrafts, Mayawater’s refreshing mineral water sprays, TEI Spa Essentials and Ambe Aesthetics’ skin care lines, and, of course, RevitaLash.
When it comes to ambiance and location, however, Debbie Durkin’s Eco Oscars Music, Celebrity & Pet Style Lounge, benefiting Music Saves Lives and Fur Fitness Foundation won hands-down for staging its event at the Hancock Park Estates mansion where scenes from the Oscar-winning The Artist was filmed. Suzanne Lindley from Yes! Beat Liver Tumors was also on site to share information about her charity.
Though France had the spotlight at the ceremony, entrepreneurs with the American can-do mindset had top billing. Guests could drape their home with luxurious Minky Couture blankets, with a proprietary fabric now wraps around adults, drapes across leather sofas, and comforts college freshmen, and pampers pets. Hugrz boot wraps, made in the US and 100 per cent acrylic, has helped put numerous people in economically challenged Michigan back to work. Solz’s collapsible shoes enabled the well dressed guests to escape their stilettos and traipse more effortlessly across the lawn. D’Mademoiselle pure mineral make-up and Skintastic products also kept a smile on the faces of the guests as did gourmet food from San Diego-based south-of-the-border chefs Len and Tony and organic signature cocktails by eco-friendly Swedish brand Kanon Organic Vodka. Water was served in LifeSource Water, America’s most recommended eco-friendly home water system, and (as Debbie always does “clean”) the always hotly anticipated Shaklee Get Clean Kits.
On3’s suite providing party favours backstage at the Film Independent Spirit Awards added a little something extra to the annual Santa Monica beachside celebration of independent filmmakers, rewarding their efforts of select guests with some useful things (Emergen-C, Marchon’s always-fab eyewear, Cult of Individuality jeans and Ts, New Balance shoes, Votre Vie skin care, Wella hair care products, and a stay at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park) that will probably come in handy when selling, pitching or shooting their next project.
Celebrities basking in On3’s beachside sunshine included Anna Kendrick, Anthony Mackie, Benjamin Bratt, Carson Kressley, Derek Luke, Garcelle Beauvais, Giancarlo Esposito, Illeana Douglas, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Dean Moran, John Hawkes, John Waters (who seemed enthralled with this year’s Bratz dolls collection), Kim Johnson, Lennie James, Lucy Liu, Matthew Lillard, Penelope Ann Miller, Shailene Woodley, Terrence Howard, Tracee Ellis Ross, William H. Macy and Wilmer Valderrama.
Lucy Liu and Shailene Woodley at On3’s suite
Though the Distinctive Assets team traditionally sits out the Oscars, Lash Fary always makes a statement with his annual Everyone Wins at the Oscars Nominee Gift Bag, with everything from the frivolous to the functional. The 2012 edition included a bejewelled instant hand sanitizer from Purell, a premium celebratory cocktail party from Italy’s foremost liqueur Disaronno, a Premier Tours Elephant Back Safari to Abu Camp in Botswana, Faiza Cosmétiques advanced anti-ageing skin care system, Eminence body scrub, Dearfoams slippers, Starlettos heel protectors, ThermaRobe luxury heated robes and a stay at (my personal favourite) Live in Fitness Enterprise (LIFE) weight-loss retreat. It really is great just to be nominated.
Male celebrities and tastemakers had their own place to primp and prepare, thanks to the Ekquality Style Haus, sponsored by Chivas and Barefoot Wines. Cutting-edge labels included Luka Prado (hand-crafted Mexican leather boots and belts), Pocket Change men’s tailored shirts and Gemelli custom suits. Though the scene was more relaxed and clubby than the more formal daytime suites, some serious talent attended, including one of the producers of Oscar-winning foreign film A Separation.
Alive! Expo Green Pavilion, one of the forerunners of the green-focused suites, was back, this time at the Peterson Automotive Museum. This time, the charity Fortunate Angels, with founder Kathleen Grace Donnelly presiding, brought support and awareness to original green suite, along with anchor charities Project Green, Fashion Hope, Only You Can Save Energy, and Safety Harbor Kids.
With a talented slew of musicians providing a fitting soundtrack (including tenors Nathan Granner and Ben Gulley, jazz artist Jason Walker and indie rock trio Armada), guests received touch-ups from mineral make-up line Ferro and the affordable Pixi Cosmetics, HE Organic clothing, sensible self-improvement recommendations from Dr Mark Youssef at YouNique Plastic surgery, generous samples of gourmet olive oil from the family-owned Bar Organic Olive Oil, wines from Naked Grape, Bio-K pro-biotic drinks and little scoops of Divine Dips, possibly the best vegan ice cream ever!
Celebrities could also put their fame to good use by recording a PSA to show support and help promote Project Green in the future.
Although Whitney Houston had her personal demons, she will also be remembered for her charity affiliations, including the American Red Cross, Children’s Defense Fund, and United Service Organization. Additionally, Houston made news when she contributed to Nelson Mandela’s mission and created the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children in 1989, to fight homelessness and health issues plaguing young children. With that in mind, she was truly with Hollywood in spirit, right down to her tribute during the in memoriam segment of the ceremony. •
As they were in 2002, celebrities then were very polite and circumspect, graciously accepting their tributes in a very respectful way. Whitney was gone yet everywhere, imbuing a similar sense of humility into the festivities
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