One Party Report
TheOneRing.net Staff Writer
There are many accounts of Sunday night’s Return of the One Party and will be many more. It was the kind of night where memories are golden but photographs are still required and sharing the experience is part of its social nature. Camera crews from literally around the world were on hand to record and broadcast the events and if rumors bear fruit, highlights might turn up in places that will pleasantly surprise you next fall.
Ian Smith will provide a virtually word-for-word account of the best moments and will mix them with his intelligent and sharp opinions and impressions and if we are lucky he may even drop in the impressions his honored guest had about the event as well. Others will catalog personal events not only of the big night but of meeting with other TORNados and drinking up the glitz of Hollywood. Mainstream media accounts will continue to pour in – and as a working journalist let me comment that I am bitter about the lack of understanding many reporters had about the event despite press releases and constant information feeding. I have read so far that it was free, that it was put on by the official fan club and that it was required to wear a costume. The Vanity Fair party is called that in print so why not name our party properly? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Since nobody is likely to get the truth of what the party was from the Associated Press, permit me to give my version of the event.
It was a fantastic party. It was a gathering with remarkable fellowship. It was a labor of love. It was expensive – for both guests and hosts. It was TORn staff’s moment to prove its worth, individually and collectively. It was an historic moment in the history of fandom – and not just Tolkien fandom. It was the eruption of 1,000 anticipatory souls. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It was fun. It was intense. It was sweet. It was hot (inside). It was chilly (outside). It was eternal. It was oh-so-brief. It was Hollywood. It was international. It was sentimental. It was fun. It was surreal. It was months of planning suddenly executed and over in a few hours. It was a rock concert. It was a festival of lights. It was many more things as well and probably a bit different for each person attending.
The American Legion Hall is on Highland Ave., nestled between the famous Hollywood Bowl and the Kodak Theater. It is an historical hall of heros, built by war veterans to have a positive impact on the community, fitting for our event.
The line for entry into the white tower started a few hours before the scheduled opening and by show-time, stretched to the end of the block and around the corner. When the gates finally opened, the procession led guests through a metal-detector (as do all paths in such times), past security, through check-in and into the building. Staff and various volunteers spent much of the weekend getting the place properly dressed for Middle-earth crowds. Banners adorned the walls, wraiths on steeds guarded entrances, Gollumn watched from his perch on stage, an oversized card for PJ waited for signatures, webs and spiders lined a downstairs hall, one-of-a-kind momento waited for bids or raffle tickets, signs were placed to direct guests, scents of food wafted through the corridors and bar maids stood ready to pour.
Eventually the Oscar telecast started and our Master of Ceremonies, Quickbeam – who to many is the face of TheOneRing.net – launched into his entertaining and warm welcome between Oscar’s commercials. I admit being amused at the time by the amount of folks getting together to simply watch television.
Unseen by fans were folks like staffer Arathorn, who had donned a tux only to stay in a hot little control room to run the myriad of electronic needs for the night’s happenings. Power went down far away at the TORn server and it was this unsung and, at this party, literally unseen hero who managed to get things going again so that there was even a web site at all during the night.
Before long he was out of his tux – after all, what was the point of wearing it while sitting in a dark room? Other outstanding technical folks were there helping with either equipment or extra fingers or knowledge. The party size nearly doubled via TORn’s live web broadcast of the events and it took computers and operators to make that happen. As I type Weetanya is holding things together while everybody else travels home or continues a vacation [Why thank you, MrCere! Keep talking like that and I’ll scrapbook all 400 of your photos. – Wee]. There are no shortage of invisible heros.
Not to toot staffer’s horns too much but others on that night directed volunteer work, advised security, escorted media members to keep the fire marshal happy, ran stores or raffles, checked in VIP guests, dealt with complaints, filled media requests for interviews and remained on-call to fill in as needed. Still, all these jobs might be the most fun one can have while “working” so nobody was complaining.
The telecast for me was a blur and I even had a difficult time remembering how many Rings Oscars had been given at a particular moment but I knew the mark was perfect. When the “Best Adapted Screenplay” was given to “Return of the King” it was clear that a sweep was entirely possible and even likely. I was walking through the art deco bar in the basement after helping some media conduct a “Lord of the Rhymes” interview (great funny stuff by the way) when this went down and the 40 people in that bar were nearly as loud as the 700 upstairs in the big arena. It was then that magic became a tangible sensation on my spine.
All of us lived the next bit in our own way but being with 1,000 screamers for “Best Director” and “Best Picture” (which were absolutely certain with so much across-the-board support) and having streamer cannons go off with the director announcement was something to behold and to feel. It was astounding. Literal tears were shed as people celebrated with hugs and handshakes and high-fives. It was a marvelous collective experience that cannot be duplicated at home with a television, no matter how big the screen or surround the sound. Being in the Kodak theater would have been an experience without compare but short of sitting with the LOTR crew, I would rather have been with my 1,000 friends.
The next part of my evening was individual rather than collective as I crowded among the impressive list of gathered media, getting elbowed by the BBC’s 2nd crew and the Associated Press and a mob of other world-wide news organizations. Our party was a happening news spot and was in definite demand among agencies across the globe. John Rhys-Davies arrived almost impossibly quick. Like those that came after, he was gracious with the press before heading in to talk to the fans gathered. From the blue carpet outside it was easy to hear the throngs responding to him inside.
After quite a long pause, the Oscar procession started arriving in force. The media was pleased to interview any and all of the winners but there was a whole new level of excitement when Peter Jackson showed up. From my observation, he has learned how to deal with demands on his time and he was polite and friendly but didn’t linger as long as others who might be new to being in such demand. The woman from the BBC commented, “Oh PJ has a great big stain on his shirt and his tie is backwards! I just love that!” Jackson indeed was disheveled but efficient and in control. With some cajoling he hoisted his Oscars for a photo.
He was almost the last of the group to arrive and as soon as the final folks straggled into the VIP tent, PJ led them immediately on stage in the main hall for what so many of you have read accounts of already. I snuck on stage to get the best TORn photos I could manage but the best shots were all from amidst the crowd who were eating up every word. PJ introduced each of the winners and pulled them to the microphone and again I leave it to others to relay the details but each had something to say and each was shown some TORnado love.
For the record, I hear from the horses’ mouth that Billy Boyd, Lawrence Makoare, Bruce Hopkins and Sala Baker had been at the official New Line party, hearing that they would gather there first and then hit the TORn party later. Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and others took the same approach which didn’t work since the fire marshal shut us down around 2 a.m., much to Baker and company’s chagrin.
Hopkins, Makoare and Baker visited the previous day during set up and actually were going to help lift a stone statue off of a stand to be used for the bronze Gandalf. It turns out the statue was bolted down but the trio and a few other heavy lifters were given a tour of the building’s war museum which was amazing and even included a Maori war shield and club. Now there is something you will not see in an AP report.
The evening’s worst news came as the final fans were filtering out and suddenly, gift-bags were gone. I am not in-the-know about how this happened but I do know there were once enough for everybody and then there weren’t. TORn is completely sorry about this and we hope those who missed out still enjoyed the festivities and weren’t too hurt by the absence of the bags. We are sorry.
The party was special in a number of ways. First, to have the winners of awards come to fans first and with such openness and sharing is a rare and perhaps unique event. Those not in attendance should feel a part of that as well. Those physically in the room were representatives for all those who couldn’t be. Jackson and company weren’t just speaking to 1,000 fans but all the fans. They appreciate the support they have received from all of us for much of the seven years they were filming.
However, even if not a single celebrity showed up, it wouldn’t have mattered. This was a physical gathering of friends who are usually linked by images and words by the shrinking power of the internet. Old friends were greeted, friendships were forged and seeds of the ever-growing Tolkien community were planted. This was, as far as I know, the culmination of the greatest fan base in film and literature, expressing its unity and good-feelings with each other to celebrate the film versions of a fantastic literary work. Tolkien’s own grandson Royd was there, which for me, is as important as having actors or art directors.
Quickbeam toasted the good professor and fandom and the film-makers and then the TORn staff gifted the four web site founders (Calisuri, Corvar, Tehanu, Xoanon) with personalized rings made by Paul Badali. These four set out to create something great on the web but even they underestimated the power and energy that would become TheOneRing.net. They were wise enough to let others lend energies to the cause and those who think the site has run its course now simply don’t get it. In the words of Jackson himself, “Let’s not shut TheOneRing.net down!” Fifty years of Tolkien fandom will not suddenly disperse. Would TORnados attend a TORn convention? I think so. If you think so too, let somebody at TORn know.
Fandom has changed over the last 20 years. Star Wars might have been the beginning of movie-fandom as we know it today but it took another leap forward with TheOneRing.net and although all film-makers don’t get it yet, the way films and fans interact is forever changed. Talk at the party was about “movie history” with the sweep of 11 Oscars but the event itself was history unfolding as well. Vanity Fair better look out.