Oscar party in Sebastopol draws crowd for food bank

Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas channeled Hollywood Sunday drawing more than 200 movie lovers to “Academy Night in Sonoma” with a lobby party followed by a big screen presentation of ABC-TV’s live Oscars telecast.

“The energy here is fun, because everyone’s in a good mood,” said Linda Richards, 67, of Santa Rosa, as she filled out a ballot with her predictions of the winners.

“I voted for ‘Moonlight,’ unfortunately, because I hated it,” she said, “but when I vote for what I like, it never wins.”’

And yet, ‘Moonlight’ did win the Oscar for best picture.

Richards also disliked the evening’s front runner, “La-La Land.”

“It was so hyped, it couldn’t possibly live up to that, and Ryan Gosling can’t sing,” she said.

But she was in the minority with her review of the hit new musical, a tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

“I absolutely loved ‘La-La Land,’ because it was charming, and there was no violence,” said Susan Rosa, 60, of Petaluma, with an opinion echoed by others at the event.

Many of the film fans showed up in fancy clothes, from glittering gowns and faux furs to tuxedos.

One of the stars of the party, a benefit for the Food for Thought food bank in Forestville, was Misti Harris in a vintage cigarette girl costume, complete with a short red skirt and black fishnet stockings. A board member of Food for Thought, Harris sold raffle tickets instead of tobacco.

As gala fundraisers go, this one was affordable, with tickets priced at $30, including appetizers, desserts and one drink of wine or beer. Raffle tickets cost $5 each, or $20 for five. The Rialto also held a trivia quiz with prizes including movie posters, T-shirts and Blu-ray discs.

Now in its fifth year, the Oscars party uses the proceeds to benefit its 800 Sonoma County clients affected by HIV and other serious illnesses, said Food for Thought’s executive director, Ron Karp, and Mary Bigelow-Gale, the organization’s events manager.

The Oscar party was part of Food for Thought’s campaign to raise $1.4 million for its programs this year.

By the time the Academy Awards telecast started, the crowd was in a festive mood, clapping along with Justin Timberlake’s opening number and laughing hard for host Jimmy Kimmel’s first quip, “Oh, good! I got a sitting ovation!”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or

On Twitter @dannarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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