FRIDAY

Picked up at airport by Eridana, my San Diego friend. Weather was chilly but sunny. Palm & Fig trees everywhere. Bird of Paradise & Hibiscus in bloom. Went straight to the FIDM (Fashion Institute) Costume Exhibit, which included costumes from all the Oscar Nominees, last year's winner, plus many others like Harry Potter & LotR. Unfortunately, no pictures/video allowed, but we can describe in great detail or you can visit www.alleycatscratch.com. On display were:

1) Eowyn's dark blue dress & gold head circlet from the Meduseld scene where she's tending the two refugee kids ("They had no warning...")
2) Theoden's battle armor, including his beautiful sword & a shield that I imagine we'll see more of in the 3rd movie
3) Eomer's battle armor
4) Grima Wormtongue's "dress" (that's what Brad called it!)
5) Theoden's "old man" robes, including the bound feet & gold circlet for the head
6) Eowyn's "other" white dress with the brown vest, the one that appears in some of the promo images, but not in the movie
7) Haradrim (men with the Oliphaunts) armor
8) Hunched-over orc with hand-knife
9) Elven armor
10) Arwen's mourning dress & veil (was actually dark blue... it still looks black on-screen but you can see the individual folds & drapes of the blue fabric whereas you can't with black)

We also *discovered* the store on the other side of the building where you can buy clothing made by the students in the FIDM classes for *real* cheap! Tiffany & Chelsea went nuts in there!

Operating on no sleep (me) or 2-4 hours (Chel & Tiff), we were all hungry & exhausted. We went straight to the hotel, took just long enough to grab lunch at the cafe on the first floor, then crashed for a couple hours in our room, trying to ignore the street & freeway noise right outside our window.

Woke up all too soon to get ready for dinner at the Cat & Fiddle. Discovered my suitcase had been locked by the airport people who searched it, & I didn't have the key. Chelsea tried to pick the lock, but ended up just busting it open instead (cheap lock). Now how did she know how to do that??

Reuned with many Barlibash buddies & my friends from Tolkien Forever. Introduced everyone that I could. Great food, great service, great company!

Walked several blocks to the Arclight/CineramaDome to see the movie. AWEsome sound... better than OUR Cinerama! Great to see the movie again after about 3 weeks without. :(

Meanwhile, Erin arrived & was waiting for us at the hotel room when we got back (bummed a ride from Sandra, who stayed there, too). Talked for awhile, but we were still all short on sleep, so forced ourselves to get some shuteye.

SATURDAY
Breakfast at the 101 Cafe on the first floor. Sitting at the counter this time. One guy in sunglasses looked kind of familiar. Turns out it was Christopher Lloyd! Supposedly, Kevin Spacey is a frequent customer there, & sometimes Ben Affleck, too. Wow, can I pick the hotels or can't I?

Back to Costume Exhibit & store. Now it's Erin's turn to discover the bargains! No tour of the costumes this time, so we only revisited the LotR costumes & spent the rest of the time shopping.

Drove to the Tam O'Shanter Inn for the afternoon buffet moot. Simpetarwen & her friend provided flute & harp music for atmosphere in this lovely Old English/Scottish style restaurant that was Walt Disney's favorite. There were giveaways & we all wrote messages to Bill (Sauron's Truss) who is stationed in Kuwait right now. Food was awesome! Met up with King Elessar & wife (Rick & Karla), who Chel & I met at last year's Pub Moot. They're from Flint, Michigan, & know who my grandfather was! Rick had the great idea of trying to get over to Kodak Theater before they closed everything off, so we could take pix of ourselves on the Red Carpet. We caravaned in 3 cars, but the protestors were blocking so much traffic that we took too long & were going to be late to the next item on our agenda...

One more TTT viewing, this time in the actual Dome at the Arclight. Eridana dropped us off there, & we met up with Meneloth, Lithilien Quicksilver, Holbytla & a few others. Yet another awesome viewing with excellent sound! When we got out of the movie, we had to bum a ride to our hotel. Rhonda (Meneloth) volunteered, but when we all got to the parking lot, we decided to take group photos. A young man drove up & parked in the empty spot next to Rhonda's PT Cruiser, got out & asked if we wanted him to take our picture. He was immediately handed about 7 cameras!! Turns out he had just seen TTT, too, & he was the one who laughed out loud at Gollum's argument with Smeagol. He was coming back to see Gangs of New York, trying to see all of the Oscar contenders before the awards ceremony (he said he was a TV editor).

On the way to our hotel, Rhonda decided she was hungry & asked if we wanted to go to the In 'N' Out Burger (similar to Dick's in Seattle), which was an "essential California experience". We were all game. Drove up to the speaker & she said, "I've got a carful of people here, so you'll have to be patient with us." The speaker said, "Bring it on!" ;) He continued to tease us when we pulled up to the window, too!

Back at the hotel, we were still a little keyed up, so it became a girls' slumber party, including trying on clothes, eyebrow shaping, hairstyling, and yes... a pillow fight!!

SUNDAY
Finally, a good night's sleep! We all slept like rocks! When we dragged our butts out of bed & got ready, we decided to skip the cafe downstairs, stars or not, and walked out the door with the ultimate destination of the Kodak theater. We got partway up Hollywood Blvd when we encountered the largest farmer's market we'd ever seen! We discovered the most succulent fresh oranges & ripe strawberries! So, we had our breakfast in a tres chic little setting... standing around a garbage can, filling it with orange peels & strawberry cores! At the intersection of the 4 streets being used by this market, Tiffany was delighted to discover a Kettle Korn vendor, and that completed our breakfast.

Continued on to the theater, only to discover at the intersection to cross over to that block that we were barred from crossing over. The policeman guarding the barrier told us that we could go back one block, down 2 blocks, then cross over to the other side of the street where we had to get in line to go thru the metal detector/security station. We were willing to do this & finally made it to the opposite side of the street from the theater. The sidewalk was completely hemmed in by 7-foot tall fencing sections that were draped with a black mesh cloth.

You could see through it pretty well, but not well enough for good photography. We did find one space between 2 sections where we could stick our cameras thru the opening & get unobstructed pix. I was also able to utilize the flip-out LCD screen on my camera (tilted down) to get some good pix by holding it straight above my head. Chelsea climbed up on a pillar & was able to snap a couple pix before a security guard came over and said, "Darlin'....." to warn her that she'd better get down.

Walked back out the security point & crossed the street to eat at Mel's Drive-In Restaurant. There was some important guy (could tell because he had a wad of laminates hanging from his neck) sitting in the booth next to ours. Our waiter was delightful. He called me "Sweetie" & the guy who brought the food said, "Here you go, Love". We all decided that we loved Hollywood!!

We walked back along the Hollywood Walk of Fame looking at the stars on the sidewalk, when suddenly "Tiffany had an epiphany" in one of the souvenir shops. Since Andy Serkis didn't get nominated for an Oscar, we bought one of the replicas (had to settle for "Friend of the Year" since "Best Actor", etc. are forbidden on the imitation ones). We wanted to show him that we thought his performance was deserving of an Oscar in our eyes. With that in hand, it was now time to scurry back to the hotel & get ready for the party.

Chelsea took a long time doing Erin's hair, & it was fabulous when it was done, but it also meant that she was late in getting herself ready. We finally had to turn on the TV because the Oscars were starting. We all signed the bottom of Andy's Oscar with Eridana's silver pen while Chelsea rushed to get ready. Lord of the Rings won for Visual Effects & we cheered, wishing we were at the party for that. Eridana & Tiffany decided not to wait any longer and left, while Erin and I waited for Chelsea. Finally, we grabbed a cab & arrived at the gala event!

The decorations were faboo, as we entered thru the side door! We were given maps indicating the various rooms & their functions. Inside the door, with trees interspersed all around (& a life-size Lurtz statue lurking behind one corner) was Fangorn Forest. The 2-story tall hall to the left with the stage at the front of it was Meduseld. There was a HUGE Two Towers banner that completely covered the wall behind the stage! The empty pool in the back of the building, which had a music stage, a bar, and a fog machine, was the Dead Marshes. From the Dead Marshes, you could pass thru the Black Gate, past the auctions & raffle tickets and the Ringwraith rearing up on his black horse, to get to Mordor, which was the smoking lounge. If you bypassed the Black Gate, you made it to Rohan, a room with well-polished, shiny dark wood paneling where the buffet and main bar were. Across the main entrance hall from there was Helm's Deep, which was just another place to sit & watch the big screen. Meduseld, Helm's Deep & the Dead Marshes all had big screens & Rohan had smaller TVs mounted up on the walls, so you could go from room to room without missing any of the Oscars telecast. During commercial breaks, Quickbeam (Cliff) would get up on the stage in Meduseld & make various announcements, which were also broadcast to the other screens. I was in the Dead Marshes when Lord of the Rings won its 2nd Oscar for Sound Editing, & the whole building exploded with cheers. I saw Sandra manning the raffle tickets at the Black Gate, went to say hello, & bought $10 worth of tickets.

The costumes worn by some at the event were, for the most part, pretty awesome. There was a Boromir there who was on a par with Ron at RingCon! I saw a reasonable facsimile of Theoden & Eowyn, some Galadriels & Arwens, plus Thevina Finduilas (whom we knew from Barlibash) who had a locket around her neck with pictures of "her boys" (Boromir & Faramir) inside! There were other generic, medieval-looking costumes, too.

Ran into Colleen Doran, comic book illustrator (A Distant Soil) I met at Comic-Con, who looked fabulous in a dress that rivaled Renee Zelweger's dress in Chicago! She was soon called on-stage to talk about her newest project: illustrating the Complete Tolkien Sourcebook to be published this fall. Then the raffle drawings began. I actually won the last group of items! I thought it was the one that included a Colleen Doran lithograph, so I was quite excited, but that was actually the one before mine. Didn't want to lug the stuff around so I waited until later to collect it. Quickbeam then introduced all the TORn staffers, including the original founders.

In the meantime, the front entrance (between Rohan & Helm's Deep) had been blocked off, which meant celebrities were starting to arrive & being rushed up the stairs to the VIP party on the second floor. I was heading for the back door out of Meduseld, when I ran into Tiffany & Erin who pointed out the fact that John Rhys-Davies was trying to get IN to the room! Since I had missed him when he was here in Seattle, I carefully worked my way closer to him. Finally, it was my turn. I shook his hand & told him how awed I was at what he went thru to do the part of Gimli. He put his arm around me, rubbed my back a little & tilted his head against mine as if to say thank you while Erin took our picture. I so admire the fact that he didn't seclude himself upstairs when he arrived, but made a point of coming downstairs immediately and put up with people crowding around him for probably a good half hour!

After I got my picture taken with John, I was running around trying to find Chelsea so she wouldn't miss him. Couldn't find her because she had stationed herself right by the front door (along with Derek & David), and she got to shake Dominic's hand when he came in the building! She was on Cloud 9! I went back to Meduseld then, to hang out at the same place where John R-D had come down the stairs, hoping that more of the celebrities would do the same. Nothing happened for a long time, though, so a bunch of us hung out by the corner of the stage to say hello to Quickbeam instead. Good choice, too, because Quickbeam stepped up to the podium, recited some Haldir lines about alliances between elves & men, then introduced Craig Parker (Haldir)! Craig said a few words while Quickbeam was backstage again. When Craig was done, Quickbeam announced that he might have a big surprise for us, one he hadn't been expecting. A couple minutes passed as we all started to get quite warm from the press of bodies in the room. Quickbeam came back, & in a serious tone, asked if some people would please volunteer to watch the proceedings on one of the screens in the other rooms because we were violating fire codes with the number of people in the room. Once that was accomplished, the stage started filling with the well-loved and familiar faces of: Sean Astin (Sam), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Jim Rygiel with his Visual Effects Oscar, the sound editor with HIS Oscar, Barrie Osbourne (Producer), Mark Ordesky (Exec. Producer), Grant Major (Production Designer), Dan Hennah (Art Director), Alan Lee (Visual Consultant), Bruce Hopkins (Gamling), and Andy Serkis (Gollum)!!

Andy stepped up to the microphone & said something I couldn't understand in his Gollum voice. The crowd went wild. I don't remember the order of events while they were all on stage, but here are some things that happened... Sean, Dom & Billy went over to the instruments left on-stage by the Emerald Rose band & picked them up as if they were about to play for us [snicker]. Quickbeam presented Barrie Osbourne with the "Gandalf Oscar" statue that had been sitting on the podium all night. Barrie put in a call to Peter (4 a.m. NZ time) which was piped thru the loudspeakers. Sean took charge (of course) in trying to talk to Peter & work the crowd, but he got frustrated because the mike wouldn't work. While he was at the podium, though, someone (Erin tells me it was Derek) started chanting "Ru-dy! Ru-dy!" The whole room chimed in, & Sean had a huge grin on his face as he ducked his head in acknowledgement of that recognition. Sean & Barrie also announced that they were pretty sure "The Long And Short Of It" would be on the DVD (Extended?).

It was all over too soon, & they started filing off the stage. Tiffany, Erin & I locked eyes and knew what we had to do. We got aggressive & pushed our way thru to the side of the stage. Tiffany & I managed to get past the guy who was holding back the tide, but he was going to stop Erin. A transformation took place that still has me floored. In a commanding voice, Erin said, "It's okay, we're cleared!" and shoved past! Then we were standing in front of Andy & handing him the Oscar statue. Tiffany tried to tell him that we thought he deserved an Oscar for his performance, but she got slightly tongue-tied, so Erin took over. Andy was floored & seemed very grateful, but he must have thought we just wanted to take a picture of him holding it, because he asked, "Is this something that I could have?" "We got it for YOU!" we exclaimed. He was surprised & delighted, grinning from ear to ear & happily took a picture with us.

Our mission accomplished, we relaxed & moved about the party excitedly telling everyone what we'd done. All of us seemed to go our separate ways, so all of us have different "close encounter" stories to tell. The stars hadn't left the building yet. They stuck around for awhile afterward. Tiffany turned around and was face-to-face with Alan Lee. Erin had a long chat with Craig Parker. Tiffany got a long smooch on the cheek by Bruce Hopkins while Erin was fumbling with the camera to take their picture. I know Derek & Chelsea had more contact with the celebrities, & pretty sure Hollie & Ty did, too. They'll have to tell their own stories!

Soon afterward, the party started winding down, so I retrieved my raffle items (Cave Troll bust, 14k gold One Ring replica by Noble Collection, CD Cardz, bookmarks, t-shirts, luggage) & "goodie bag" and said goodbye to many friends who were on their way out. Watched as 2 guys tried to crash the party & collect a goodie bag, one who was obviously NOT dressed for the party. They were escorted out.

While Tiffany & I waited for the others to come outside, Calisuri's dad came over to us and chatted for awhile. Then Erin & Chelsea showed up, & the four of us piled into a taxi, rode the few blocks to our hotel, went thru the goodies in our bags, then crashed with our minds reeling & replaying the entire evening over & over.

MONDAY

We stumbled around, still in awe from the night before, and packed up all our stuff, checked out, then headed to the costume exhibit one last time. Met up with several other ringers there, including BeastyBunny (from San Francisco) & her friend. We all grabbed some food at the cafe at FIDM & found a table outside. For 2 hours, we sat there comparing everyone's experiences and discussing our favorite subject (LotR), with Derek inserting pertinent information from the Silmarillion, as usual.

Erin & Derek were taking a cab to LAX, while Eridana drove Tiffany, Chel & me to the Orange County airport. On our way, we heard sirens & lights coming up behind us & watched as 2 suburbans labeled "Bomb Squad" zoomed past. With that distraction, we missed our turn onto 405 & had to double back briefly, but we made it to the airport in good time. We completely forgot that Erin was going to be waiting for us when we landed because her plane landed first, but there she was when we exited the ramp! Another happy reunion! ;)

End of Story