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George Christy 09-25-2009

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Overdue, isn’t it, for the Emmy Awards to be broadcast simultaneously on both the East and West Coasts.   With the Internet, Blackberrys, Twitter, phone calls relaying the winners before the 8 PM airing on the West Coast, the three-hour delay appears antediluvian.    Mentioning this to executives during the 61st Annual Prime  Time Emmy Awards, I encountered a 100% agreement.
More agreement surfaced that host Neil Patrick Harris juiced the evening, as he did with the Tony Awards in June.  And that he should be booked now for next year was discussed after the Nokia Theatre ceremony during HBO’s posh party at the Pacific Design Center. Two thousand guests celebrated the cable giant’s 99 Emmy nominations – more than any other network for the ninth year in a row, winning 21 awards.  They concurred that the HBO fete is Numero Uno, which is why everyone convenes for this auspicious evening that’s remembered with huge thanks and appreciation.

HBO’s grand-slam soirees and premieres are created and designed by Billy B, as friends call him.  This is our resident genius Billy Butchkavitz, who grew up in a rambling Eastern Pennsylvania farmhouse, and stores humongous grab bags of surprises in his hip pockets for the fabled fetes he designs.   Two years ago for HBO’s Emmy party, Billy dazzled the crowd with his Thailand theme, and last year’s HBO’s Brasilia decor still has Lynne Segall, an admitted fan who’s the LA Times v-p of entertainment and advertising, in awe and raving.

This week, HBO guests marveled at Billy’s centerpiece in the dining area of the 20-foot-in-diameter chandelier of glittering ruby-red crystals, extending 28 feet from the ceiling.  A knockout that had eyes gaping.  Billy claims the inspiration for his overall décor was Parisian couturier Paul Poiret (1879-1944), who banished the corset and created free-flowing, luxurious Art-Decoesque gowns for his clients.   “Poiret’s famous for hosting the most extravagant parties for a fashion designer,” informed Billy, noting that the rose was Poiret’s signature, with Billy creating a garden for the party with one hundred ten-feet-tall rosebush topiaries he custom-ordered and had shipped by boat from China.   Blood-red roses dressed the tables and buffets, with many guests assuming that Billy was inspired by HBO’s popular series, True Blood.

Entertaining were slim-waisted Mongolian fan dancers, a quartet of Las Vegas showgirl violinists in pink gowns playing Begin the Beguine and other oldies-but-goldies performing on elevated stages that everyone could see.  Also bellydancers and flame throwers.    Wolfgang Puck Catering served a “greenmarket-inspired menu,” with a Godiva Chocolatier station of infinite varieties.  Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne was poured, as was Belvedere vodka.  Laura Mercier’s Makeup Lounge and Oscar Blandi’s Hairstyling Salon refreshed the arrivals.

Drew Barrymore’s sugar-plum-fairy ballgown by Monique Lhuillier was a couture standout, as was The Office’s Emmy nominee Melora Hardin’s tiered yellow silk organza with vintage black lace by Ali Rahimi.  Here and there were the usual fashion victims.  Especially those who can’t “walk” a dress since their days and nights are spent in flip-flops or Nikes.

Backbiting begins and continues for three-and-a-half hours in Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, August: Osage County, playing at our Ahmanson Theatre through October 18.  The sterling ensemble cast of this polished road company stars Oscar-winning Estelle Parsons as the matriarch of a self-centered, dysfunctional Oklahoma family.  Rivetingly entertaining, it brings forth howls from audiences, as it did this week, with actors Scott McCray and Gina Bellafonte (daughter of Harry) unable to control their laughter.  “The truth is it’s about our families, and we relate,” mused Gina, “also about other families we won’t mention.”

A native of Tulsa who joined the Steppenwolf Company in Chicago as actor and playwright, Tracy Letts describes August: Osage County, flawlessly staged by Anna Shapiro, as a “political parable,” bursting as it does with gripping revelations of alcoholism, infidelity, sexual harassment, substance abuse, incest, pedophilia, and more.  A black comedy?  Well, yes, claiming, with such dialog as “This country was always a whorehouse.  But at least it had promise.”  (We’ll forego quoting the rest for the sake of propriety.) 

A five-decade veteran of theater and film, Estelle Parsons, at 82, remains fit as a track star, considering her character’s physical demands, which includes running up and down the 350 steps in Todd Rosenthal’s set.   Estelle credits her lifelong commitment to yoga, fitness training, hiking and dance classes for keeping in shape.  You can’t fault the cast’s right-on performances, with Shannon Cochran as Estelle’s eldest daughter telling it like it is.  The audience roars as she sasses, “Thank God, we can’t tell the future.  We’d never get out of bed.”

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