MOVIES | Dust off your tux! Oscar Night America benefits Aegis Foundation


Oscar Night® America is bringing the glamour and enchantment of Hollywood to Minnesota.

The Aegis Foundation, Minneapolis, was selected by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of its sanctioned 2010 Oscar Night America charities. This year’s program is located at the historic Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis.

Cities across the United States vie to hold official Oscar® telecast viewing parties during the Academy Awards® ceremony, donating all proceeds to charity. The March 7 event will be the Academy’s 17th annual affair.

William Panzarella, Aegis Foundation executive director and founder, applied to host Oscar Night America last June. “There is a waiting list of 600 [nationally] to be a sanctified Oscar Night America charity,” he says.

Only one charity party in a given market may participate in Oscar Night America®, according to the Academy. Since its beginnings in 1994, the event has raised $24 million nationwide in charitable funding.

“All of the money earned by each charity in each city stays in the local community with none of the proceeds coming back to the Academy,” says Randy Haberkamp, director of special projects for A.M.P.A.S®.

The entire profit of Oscar Night America will go to Aegis Foundation’s designated beneficiaries the SMILE Network and RECLAIM, says Panzarella.

As an endorsed event, Aegis is authorized to use Academy trademarks and logos, as well as recorded public service announcements for radio and TV. The Oscar® statuette will be on hand for photo-ops. A red carpet will run across the hotel lobby.

Panzarella spent much of his adult life in Los Angeles regularly attending Academy Award® ceremonies and afterparties for Elton John and Vanity Fair. “I had all access to backstage at the Award shows,” he says. “So that is why I was so excited to be the official Oscar Night America charity. It’s my passion. My other passion is to raise money for Aegis.”

Oscar Night America® has a rich history in Minnesota, where it started as a house party in 1988 by private individual Scott Mayer. In 1994, the Academy sanctioned two parties in two cities, Minneapolis and San Francisco. It has grown to 50 cities this year, according to Haberkamp.

The Minnesota AIDS Project took over from Mayer in 2000, says Executive Director Lorraine Teel. MAP relinquished their license after 2009’s Oscar America party, citing low attendance. “We never lost money, but we never made money,” she says.

MAP’s communication director David Folkens said they also made the change to focus more on the Minnesota AIDS walk. “It’s been challenging because we were producing the [Oscar] event relatively close to the Walk.”

Mayer remembers some of his Oscar® Nights bringing in 4,000 people. “I think it’s great that the Aegis Foundation will be using the Academy Awards as an opportunity to raise money for good causes,” he said.

“The Minnesota Aids Project was one of the charter charities when we began this project fifteen years ago,” Haberkamp says. “We are happy to maintain a solid Oscar Night America presence in Minnesota with the Aegis Foundation.”

Pazarella said the theme for this year’s Oscar® event is The Tradition Continues. “It is being passed on to us,” he says.

While many attending the viewing party will be dressed in tuxedos and gowns, formal dress is optional. Prizes for the best-dressed male and female will be given out. Other prizes go to those correctly picking the most Oscar® wins.

Hollywood-style swag bags will be given to the first 150 attendees and contain items like Ugg Australia gift certificates, MD Skin Care samples, and discount coupons.

Confirmed local sponsors include Audi, Ferrra Pan Candy, Opulent Vodka, and l’etoile magazine. Best Buy is loaning the event ten 50-inch television screens. KSTP, the local ABC affiliate, will broadcast the Awards and provide an emcee.

Panzarella says they are making Oscar Night America accessible to the community by providing two different levels of ticket prices: $150 for VIPs and $45 for general admission.

“It’s a great cause for 45 dollars,” he says. “It’s little things like that that can make our event a success.”

The VIP rate includes a three-course meal at the hotel’s Porter & Frye restaurant, and a VIP lounge with its own bar and viewing screen located in the transformed, Academy-worthy Skyway.

Hors d’oeuvres made by chefs from Porter & Frye will be available from 6:30 p.m. Cash bar cocktails begin at 5 p.m. and specialty drinks from the hotel’s bar will be offered at a discount rate.

Hotel Ivy sales manager Joel Breeggemann says he looks forward to the event. “This is such a huge night in the city and across the country and we are very excited to be a part of it,” he said. “In addition to the all of the glitz and glamour, we feel fortunate to be part of such a great cause and look forward to partnering with The Aegis Foundation.”

Aegis Foundation board member Kamie Clark Moen recruited One Brick volunteers, who will assist Oscar® party-goers as red carpet escorts and help them down the red carpet.

One Brick Event Manager Corey Bianco says their volunteers also lend a hand with registration and a very busy coat check. “You’ve got to love those Minnesota winters,” he said. “We make sure everyone is having fun and take photographs at the event.”

Moen hopes Oscar Night America will return to its early days of a less elite function and be more for the masses. “Dust off your tux and give back to the community,” she says.

What: Oscar Night America event to view the 82nd Academy Awards® benefiting Aegis Foundation’s designated charities Smile Network and RECLAIM.

When: Sunday, March 7. Doors open at 5 p.m. Swag Bags to the first 150 attendees.

Where: Hotel Ivy, 201 South Eleventh Street, Minneapolis, 612-353-3605. In addition to providing the venue, the hotel is offering room discounts for the big night.

Tickets: VIP $150 (with group discount on purchases of six or more tickets), $45 general admission. Ticket info: 612-280-4256.

The Smile Network funds surgical missions and provides necessary supplies needed to repair birth defects, notably cleft palates, burns, tumors, and other genetic defects free of charge to children.

RECLAIM provides access to mental health support for LGBT youth such as counseling, outreach, gender exploration groups, smoking prevention, and other services.

Aegis Foundation works with at-risk, underserved, and imperiled youth including runaways, homeless, and HIV/AIDS infected young people.