Oscar, welcome to Charm City

Christina Spearman dug out her best high school formal gown, took the day off work and headed down to the Inner Harbor on Friday morning to realize the dream of a lifetime.

She was getting an Oscar.

OK, that's a stretch. What she was actually getting, thanks to an 11-city Oscar Roadtrip that stopped in Baltimore, was the chance to pose with an Oscar — to hold the 81/2-pound gold-plated statuette for a few seconds and have her picture snapped with it. But the degree of difference between her and the movie folks who actually will walk away with an Oscar on Feb. 24, when the Academy Awards are presented in Hollywood, was pretty minimal.

With her black, floor-length gown, Spearman looked glamorous (especially for 11 a.m. on a rainy Baltimore morning). She smiled and looked thrilled, clutching the Oscar to her. Cameras flashed. And when she was told, without warning, that she was being given two tickets to the Oscars and some of the surrounding events, she cried.

It was just like on TV.

"Are you kidding me?" she asked, incredulous. Assured that the tickets were very real, Spearman immediately got on the phone with her friend, Michelle Wheeler, who was planning to fly into Baltimore from Charlotte, N.C., in two weeks so they could watch the awards ceremony together. "They gave us two tickets to the red carpet," Spearman squealed. "No, I'm not lying."

Off the phone, the 33-year-old college administrator was still coming down from her emotional high. "This is so great," she said. "It just proves that dreams can come true in Baltimore."

A few steps away inside the Baltimore Visitors Center, Angie Greenup and Ben Gleib smiled and took it all in. The two "Roadtrip reporters," who are accompanying the Oscar on a 20-day journey that started Monday in New York, are used to this kind of exuberance. In fact, they said, they share it.

"We've been given the awesome job of taking this thing across the country," said Greenup. While Spearman's reaction was exceptional — they hadn't planned on giving away the tickets until next week in Chicago, but her enthusiasm demanded a reward, Greenup said — it hadn't been without precedent. Two girls in front of the White House on Thursday, she said, were so excited they sounded about to burst.

"It's amazing how many hard-core fans there are," Greenup said, laughing.

Spearman was one of about 20 Oscar fans — many of whom had been following the Roadtrip on Twitter — who braved the cold and rain to enjoy a momentary connection with the Hollywood awards show they have followed for years. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organized the Roadtrip to help publicize this year's 85th awards show, has been handing out Oscars since 1929.

"It was great to hold an almost 85-year-old trophy," said Tony Labate, a big-time Oscar fan who sells his pop-culture-based artwork through Baltimore's Make Studio.

Orlando Nunez, 24, took the day off from his classes at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"I'm a really big Oscar fan. I'm a really big movie fan," he said, holding the statuette at arm's length to try and snap a photograph of it with his cellphone. "I dream of doing something in the movies someday."

Laura Berardi, a 17-year-old high school student from Charlotte, N.C., was visiting Baltimore with her mom, Joanne, and happened upon the photo op by accident. Like many of those who cradled the Oscar in their arms for a few moments, she was surprised at how heavy it was.

"It definitely doesn't compare to the little plastic things you get in Party City," she said.

Cindy Woods of Glen Burnie sneaked out of work to hang out with an Oscar and had no doubt she'd done the right thing. "This is so cool," she said, staring at the statuette. "You are so gorgeous."


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