Imagine my excitement when William Wages, the director and cinematographer of the Deadly Sanctuary Book Trailer we had just produced called to tell me that he had arranged for me and my husband, Jerry, to attend the black tie ASC Awards Dinner in Hollywood where he would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in cinematography! What an honor to be invited to share in such an amazing event, I thought, and then it occurred to me that I had absolutely NOTHING suitable to wear!
My dear friend, Wilma, joined me on a shopping trip and helped me find the perfect (and relatively cheap) gown and shoes. Finding the suitable jewelry came a little later and I was thrilled to be able to put the whole ensemble together within my budget! I knew I'd be in the company of ladies gliding about in gorgeous, expensive designer gowns and jewelry and I sure didn't want to look like the "country bumpkin" from Phoenix. My husband found the perfect tux and we were off to Hollywood!
It's an easy six hour drive from Phoenix and we arrived at the Renaissance Hotel by 5pm in spite of the ever-present irritation of rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles. The hotel staff was gracious, professional, helpful and our room was on the 11th floor overlooking the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards are held each year. We had a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner at the Grill in the nearby mall and then decided to explore Hollywood at night.
What a kick! It's like Halloween 24/7 on Hollywood Blvd. Actually, it was kind of like Halloween and the State Fair combined. Scores of young people dressed as characters from blockbuster films roamed the star and handprint-embedded sidewalks in hopes tourists would pay them to have their photos taken with them. Back dropped by colorful neon lights, we walked past more young people playing a variety of musical instruments, singing, dancing, and there was a fair number of young ladies parading about in scanty outfits. It was noisy, crazy, a bit overwhelming at first, but most entertaining. I got the feeling that almost everyone we saw there was a "wannabe" waiting for their big break, but alas, were relegated to perform on the fringe of the film industry which dominates every facet of life in the downtown region of Hollywood.
Saturday dawned clear, bright and smog-less for a welcome change. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we walked one block to where Bill had invited us to attend the ASC Open House which is situated in the oldest home in Hollywood. By the way, ASC stands for American Society of Cinematographers. Once on the grounds, we pushed our way through hundreds of people and finally found Bill surrounded by dozens of industry veterans he'd worked with over his 30 year career. There was lots of "shop talk" about film, lighting, cameras, editing, working with actors, sets, location nightmares, etc. So interesting!
One thing most striking to me was that Bill Wages is so highly regarded in the film industry even though he chose not to live in Hollywood. Everyone knew and respected him and the work he's done on so many films and television shows such as Gods and Generals, Buffalo Soldiers, Big Love and Burn Notice, to name just a few. The walls of the old home, recently given a million dollar face lift, is lined with photos dating back to the silent film era with many recognizable actors and actresses from Hollywood's Golden Era. There was a mind-boggling display of old cameras from the ones used to film Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz to the giant cameras used to film in Panavision during the 1950s and 1960s. It was altogether an enjoyable and educational experience!
Sunday, the day of the Awards Dinner was another beautiful, but cooler day in Hollywood. We had breakfast at a downtown deli with Bill and got to meet his lovely wife, Cathy and his four sons. He was a bit nervous about giving his speech that evening, but we all assured him he'd be great. Later that morning, we drove to Canyon Country to visit our long-time friend and veteran stunt coordinator, Walter Scott at his ranch for several hours then returned in time to have my hair done up for the dinner.
It was such fun slipping into the lovely gown and shoes. I felt like a princess as my handsome husband took my arm and guided me up the stairs to the Grand Ballroom. It took some effort to negotiate the long gown and higher heels than I am accustomed to wearing! My heart beat a little faster when I heard the swell of voices and there was a palpable air of excitement filling the evening air. There were already hundreds of people milling about, cocktails in hand, and it occurred to me that most of them were no doubt accustomed to attending affairs such as this one but for me, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime event so I intended to soak up every last detail. It was thrilling indeed to "make our entrance" and pose for an official photo before finding our table in the huge, beautifully appointed ballroom. We found Bill (Bill has the beard and glasses) who looked very handsome in his tux and Cathy wore a stunning gown. I still couldn't believe I was actually there mingling with the other 1500 film industry attendees.
Before long, we were seated at a table for 10 with 8 camera operators who all knew Bill and regaled us with hilarious stories of some of the films they'd worked on over the years. We even got to meet Clint Eastwood's personal cameraman. The wine flowed as the cavernous room roared with thousands of voices while uniformed people flitted about the room serving a delicious dinner of filet mignon and salmon. It was exciting to see Harrison Ford and Antonio Bandaras, John Crier and other actors there just a stone's throw from our table. A host of other "best of" awards were handed out for 2011 films and then they played a series of film clips from many of the projects Bill had either filmed or directed over the years prior to his wonderful speech. The fairy tale evening ended way too soon, although I was ready to ditch the 4 inch heels by 11pm. We'd hit the weather just right as it was overcast and raining when we drove away the next morning and headed back to sunny Phoenix. As the city skyline faded behind me in the distance, I knew I would always look back on that magical, memorable evening as one of the highlights of my life.