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Partying with Oscar, Baltimore-style

MoviesAcademy AwardsArgo (movie)Les Miserables (musical)

Errol Webber has an unfair advantage when it comes to Oscar parties.

He actually has an Oscar, handed out on stage during an Academy Awards ceremony. And it'll be there for all his guests to admire, pose with any maybe even hold for a few seconds when Webber hosts his first Oscar party Sunday night.

"I don't think there are many actual Oscars in Baltimore right now," says Webber, who was the cinematographer on the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary "Music by Prudence."

Unlike Webber, most Oscar party hosts in Baltimore probably won't have an Oscar. But other parties around town will find their own way to mirror a little of the glamour they'll be seeing Sunday night on TV, as celebrities in custom gowns, Tom Ford tuxes and Bulgari jewels hand out nine-pound gold statues from the stage of Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.

At the Annapolis Film Festival's Oscar party, "We're trying to bring a little Hollywood to the Chesapeake," says Carolyn Sullivan, chair of the PR and Marketing Committee.

That means a red carpet, "paparazzi," an open bar and "festive attire" at the fundraiser for the film festival, which runs March 21-24.

"We're excited to see what people do turn out in," Sullivan says. "We think it will be anything from vintage ball gowns to a bow tie and jeans."

The party boasts a replica Oscar and a full-sized version — "a gentleman in an Oscar suit, a walking Oscar," says Sullivan.

Sascha Wohlhandler, a Baltimore caterer and events planner who's had some experience at Oscar parties, recommends a somewhat similar over-the-top approach for guests converging on parties Sunday evening.

"People should pull out all their diamonds, or rather their fake diamonds, and have a good time," she says. "Tell everybody to dress like their favorite movie star — men can all be bare-chested, or the women in push-up bras, or dresses with lots of boobs exposed."

Webber says that Sunday's party is the rare occasion when he can put on his tux and not feel out of place.

"I'm one of those guys who loves any excuse to dress up," he says. "This is really just an excuse for me to dress up and have a great time with good people."

For others, Oscar parties are all about the food. WTMD general manager Steve Yasko and his partner, Mario Gentile, have been celebrating Oscar night with friends for years. And while they put plenty of effort into the visual trappings — rolling out a red carpet, scattering klieg lights around, having "photographers" pop flashbulbs as the guests arrive — their emphasis is on coming up with a distinctive menu.

"I'll cook all day," says Yasko, who specializes in concocting dishes that reflect the Oscar nominees. In the past, he and Gentile have served such dishes as "Meatballs of a Geisha," "Frosted Nixon Flakes" and "King Cosmo" (homages to, respectively, "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Frost/Nixon" and "King Kong").

This year's menu? You might be sorry you asked, but here goes: for drinks, "Skyballs"; for appetizers, "Caviargo"; for a meat dish, "Filet Miz"; and for a chicken dish, "Hitch-coq au vin." (In honor of, respectively, "Skyfall," "Argo," "Les Miserables" and "Hitchcock.")

"It's a camp classic Oscar party at the Yasko-Gentile house," says Yasko, who hopes to expand the party next year and move it to the soon-to-be-new WTMD offices in the Towson City Center. "It's much more classy than just wings and beer."

It's also not even the highlight of his weekend, Yasko notes. On Saturday, he and Gentile planned on getting married. And on Monday, they're closing on their new house in Locust Point.

"It's going to be a whirlwind," he promises.

When it comes to a menu, of course, not everyone feels a need to come up with Oscar-inspired puns. But at the least, Wohlhandler says, the food should reflect the movies that are being honored.

Riffing off the top of her head, Wohlhandler says menu planners could take a cue from this year's pair of Civil War-era Best Picture nominees, "Lincoln" and "Django Unchained," and go with period foods.

"You could have oysters, roast beef, turkey, venison, biscuits. In fact, that's the kind of food they had at [Lincoln's] second inaugural ball," she says.

Or, she suggests, hosts could take their cue from "Life of Pi," the story of a boy stranded on a boat with a wild tiger as his companion, and have an all-seafood menu, "maybe with a big tiger as the centerpiece of your menu."

A "Silver Linings Playbook" theme might involve stadium food and having "everybody come in their Ravens T-shirts." Or maybe, in honor of "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty," hosts will go Middle Eastern, serving hummus, tabbouleh and baba ghanouj. The New Orleans-set "Beasts of the Southern Wild," she suggests, could be evoked with "gumbo, okra, anything Cajun."

Webber, meanwhile, secure in the knowledge that his Oscar — which, he emphasizes, is not actually his, but the movie's — will make his party distinctive enough, isn't worrying too much about the food.

"This'll be a place to come together and have fun," he says, "just go around and eat all-you-can-eat food and drink all-you-can-drink alcohol." The evening, he promises, will be like "a very relaxed cocktail party."

A little like what will be happening on Hollywood Boulevard a couple of thousand miles away.

"Not everybody will have the opportunity to go to the Oscars," Webber notes, "but it doesn't hurt to feel like you're at the Oscars."

Baltimore Sun reporter Colleen Jaskot contributed to this article.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

If you go

The Oscars Baltimore celebration featuring Errol Webber: 7 p.m. at The Crescent, 951 Fell St., Fells Point. Tickets are $15 ($20 at the door). meetup.com/charm-city-dslr-filmmakers.

Annapolis Film Festival party: 7 p.m. to midnight at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, 126 West St. Tickets are $125. annapolisfilmfestival.net.

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