Academy Awards

02/27/2011

NYC in LA

Let me start off by writing that I had hoped to be blogging more on this trip.

But it never fails to amaze me how quickly time can slip by.

All those trips from the hotel room where we are editing Sandy Kenyon’s Oscar pieces to the Red Carpet – Oscar Excitement Central – eventually eat away at any spare time you might have.

All those trips to “In and Out” Burger don’t help with the time crunch either.

 

But enough excuses.

 

Let me tell you about a couple cool connections between NYC and Hollywood, that you might not have heard about yet.

 

The first is something that happened today:

Two students from Hofstra University made a big impression with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and as a result, they are getting the experience of a lifetime.

Luz Pena and Philip Robibero are the Grand Prize winners of the “Oscars Correspondent Contest”, presented jointly by the Academy and mtvU.

They beat out teams from across the country in the competition, and as a result they get a spot on the Red Carpet and get to go backstage in the Press Room and the Governors Ball.

We hope to learn more about this dynamic duo when we turn the tables a bit and interview THEM Sunday morning on the Red Carpet.

 

Hey, we can’t say enough good things about designer and former FIT student Katelyn Bischof. If you watched Sandy’s piece at 11:00 PM on Saturday, you got just a peek at what a pleasant and charismatic individual she is. But more than that, she is talented! Katelyn is the sole designer from New York in this year’s Oscar Designer Challenge 2011. The competition has been documented in the web series, “Oscars Designer Challenge: Behind the Dress” at Oscars.com. The winning design will be announced during “Oscars Red Carpet Live” on ABC-7 at 7:00 PM on Sunday.

 

 

A fellow Brooklyner of mine, Luke Matheny, wrote, directed and starred in the live-action short "God of Love".

It was turned down by the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals.

But now “God of Love” is nominated for an Academy Award.

Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/godoflovefilm and http://www.youtube.com/user/lukemathenyfilms

www.lukemathenyfilms.com.

 

 

Finally, Josh Fox is a theater director in NYC.

He directed the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Gasland.”

Its portrayal of greedy energy companies and sickened homeowners is so offensive to the natural gas industry that the industry tried to have Academy reconsider the documentary’s eligibility.

The Academy refused.

You can watch Diana William’s interview with Mr. Fox on “Up Close” this Sunday.

 

Good luck New Yorkers! We are all so proud of you.

 

Lights, cameras, and lots of action!

-Andy Savas

02/23/2011

Greetings Again from LA

Hello Eyewitness News fans,

One year ago, I wrote my first blog entry from Los Angeles, as I was field producing Eyewitness News’ Academy Awards coverage with Sandy Kenyon.

It was an exhilarating assignment for me, not only because I was on the red carpet in Hollywood, but because it was such an extreme change of pace.

I normally produce the 6:00 AM on Channel 7.

I have access to a world of information from my desk – but it also means that I am, well, at my desk.

Covering the Oscars meant I got to stretch my legs, literally, outside, as I booked satellite windows, set up interviews, and oversaw Sandy Kenyon’s live shots.

It was a total blast and one of the highlights of my career.

 Now, I have the extreme fortune to have the assignment again, and I am most grateful.

Already Sandy, photographer extraordinaire Mike Thorne and I are off to a flying start.

 

This morning we were set to interview Academy President Tom Sherak and the producers of the Oscars telecast.

But some news here in LA threw us for a little loop.

See, Ms. Lindsay Lohan had a court hearing… and the judge wasn’t too happy with her.

In fact, he told her today "I don't care that you're Lindsay Lohan."

And he told her that no matter what, she was going to serve jail time.

 

Well, we got the call from our bosses in New York: Sandy now needs to front a new piece, not Oscar-related, on Lindsay Lohan.

Suddenly, we had twice as much to do with the clock ticking… and since there is a discrepancy between New York time and LA time, we essentially had 3 hours less to complete everything.

That sent us off to the races.

 

As we were waiting for Mr. Sherak to meet us for the interview, Sandy was writing his piece on Lindsay Lohan, using information he and I were able to grab on our Blackberries and smart phones from the wires, online newspapers, and other sites.

Our assignment desk back in NYC was also a huge help (thank you Mark Crudele).

As Sandy was interviewing Mr. Sherak, I was setting up new satellite windows for the added live shot and trying to pinpoint video sources for the writer who would be assembling the piece in NYC that Sandy was writing in LA.

Tick, tick, tick…

 

With the Academy President interview over, and the telecast producer unable to break away at the time, we raced back to our hotel rooms, where Sandy finished writing his Lohan piece, and Mike and I sent the material we had shot earlier that morning to NYC (FTP is a wonder). At some point, we wolfed down lunch (or is it breakfast? My body still doesn’t really know).

 

Then it was time to head out to the red carpet for our live shots for the 5:00 PM show (2:00 PM PST).

Already, the red carpet is coming alive. And as Sandy said to Diana Williams and Sade Baderinwa, it is a working construction zone. Several times we almost got hit by golf carts carrying huge golden Oscar statues.

And we still are not done. Right now Mike and I (but really Mike is doing all the heavy lifting) are putting together a piece that will air tomorrow on the remarkable back story of the writers of “the King’s Speech”.

Trust me, it’s a great story!

 

I can’t wait for Day 2!

 

One last note:

Last year, when I arrived in LA for my first Academy Awards, my wife Aransas called me with the wonderful news that she was expecting our second child.

Derby was born in November and is now 4 months old, joining her older sister Savannah, now 2 ½.

To my beautiful girls: I miss you so, and I will see you son,

Lights, cameras, and lots of action,

-Andy

03/08/2010

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Sunday March 7, 2010

The 82nd annual Academy Awards ended by being pretty predictable: no upsets. If you voted in your Oscar pool according to the pundits, you were going to do pretty well. All of the acting winners took their first trip up to the podium, and there were some lovely tributes to their parents—especially Jeff Bridges’ speech. I thought that was a warm & wonderful image of his Dad, Lloyd Bridges, sitting on his bed and teaching him the fundamentals of acting. So often a performer’s talent doesn’t get passed on to the next generation, but in the case of Beau & Jeff Bridges it clearly did. In fact, you could argue that Jeff Bridges has a lot more talent than his famous Dad.

Sandra Bullock waged one of the best campaigns to win an Oscar I have ever witnessed. She made fun of herself at every turn, and insisted to the very end that she would not win. Hell, she even went to pick up her “Razzie” award for the WORST performance of 2009. She showed up everywhere, especially at parties thrown in her honor and ended the lobbying with a line at the winner’s podium asking the crowd if she’d earned it or just merely been persistent….

I thought the use of clips was innovative. Instead of using just a clip from a single scene, the producers took snippets from an entire film or performance. In general though, the show was a solid ‘B’—the kind that will be quickly forgotten. I miss Billy Crystal and his opening tunes SO MUCH, and nobody was better at hosting this show than Johnny Carson except maybe Billy.

Until next year,

Sandy Kenyon

03/07/2010

Barbara's Oscars Bow

Sunday March 7, 2010

Where else can you see folks in full evening dress at 6:45 AM?

There was a whole group of them walking into the Kodak as I returned from two live shots for “Eyewitness News This Morning.” Soon, these early arrivals – messengers and escorts – will be joined by thousands of others. We’ll be on the red carpet at 6:00 PM with a story that has a special importance for me. Tonight marks the last Oscar Special from Barbara Walters. You can see it on ABC-7 at 7:00 PM right before The Academy Awards. As she told me recently, she is going out on top before her Specials could ever become, well, less than special.

I first met Barbara when I was 21, and I interviewed her for a national radio show called “Focus on Youth.” That was the creation of a guy named Garth Ancier who went on to start Fox and The WB networks, head NBC entertainment for a time and create “The Rikki Lake Show” in his spare time. All that was in his future when we met Barbara in her office at ABC News. My first question was, “What was it like to grow up in a nightclub?” As some of you may know, she is the daughter of the late Lou Walters who owned the famed “Latin Quarter” nightclub in Times Square. Barbara grew up around celebrities, and so she has never been in awe of them. After the radio interview was over in 1977, Barbara was kind enough to give me a few words of encouragement, and those words kept me going in the years ahead as I struggled find my place in our demanding business.

I have also learned a lot by watching her interviews on TV. When I sat down with her for tonight’s profile, she told me she pays particular attention to what she calls the “choreography” of an interview because the order of the questions is just as important as the questions themselves. See, I’m always learning from her! Now, I’m not into hero worship (or heroine worship), but I make an exception for Barbara. I am a fan. Meeting her when I was so young changed my life, and I’m going to keep on telling her that until she tells me, ‘enough already’!

Sandy Kenyon

Kenyon is Kool

Day #4

Saturday March 6, 2010

 

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I’ve said it (and wrote it) before and I’ll say it again:

Watching Sandy Kenyon at the Oscars is a sincere joy.

He gets such a thrill from everything Oscar – from the build-up of the Red Carpet, to greeting head honchos – from reminiscing with old friends and colleagues, to making new acquaintances and dispensing advice to newbies – from the thrill of walking into the Kodak Theater to his warm-up act before a live shot.

Sandy savors each aspect of the Academy Awards.

And you know what?

It’s kool.

Not cool like James Dean or George Clooney.

Sandy is too energized by the electricity of the moment to be laid back.

But kool, with a k.

Because he owns this event.

He knows this town like the back of his hand.

And you can tell.

There isn’t a time when we are walking the red carpet that someone isn’t shouting out, “Hey Sandy!”.

He matches each salutation with a smile and a handshake.

Sandy is super prepared.

Each report on the Oscars that we have been running on Eyewitness News was thought up by Sandy weeks ago, anticipating relevant topics weeks before we left for LA.

And as a producer, I enjoy and admire his writing style.

There are so many times after reading a portion of his script that I think to myself:

“He summed up the essence of a story line in just one short sentence.”

He always has an engaging story about the Hollywood of yesteryear or past awards shows or an anecdote about his own storied career.

And the names!

He drops a lot of ‘em.

But isn’t done out of arrogance.

It’s because he actually met these cats.

Sandy understands what the Oscars and celebrity is all about, and he relishes this moment.

It is entertaining, enlightening, and inspiring to watch this professional at the top of his game, in his home court.

OK, enough gushing about Mr. Kenyon.

It’s now Sunday on the East Coast.

It’s show time.

-Andy Savas

 

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03/06/2010

At the Oscars – Friday March 5, 2010

Tevision is a traveling road show...whether it's a disaster in Haiti, a local election, or the Academy Awards.  We invade an area, bring in all kinds of electronic toys, and put everything on a satellite for all to see. An average paved lot becomes parking for satellite trucks. A street becomes a red carpet. Outside my hotel window is an army of denim clad workers, hammering on scaffolding, moving heavy things with heavy equipment, creating a temporary city to honor stars from around the world.  

 

The Kodak Theater is next to a mall...for you New Yorkers not familiar with a mall, a mall is a central place where trendy clothes, trendy accessories, and trendy people all come together to eat junk food (at least that's my definition). To get to the red carpet, live position, or anywhere else, we have to walk by a series of pretzel stands, hamburger stands, whatever sugar & salt laden foods one can think of... I’ve eaten at every one of those stores. There's an old cameraman saying, 'free food has no calories'... I live by, 'if I have to fly to get to a live shot, there's no such thing as "bad" cholesterol'. Every morning starts with a diet Pepsi & a bag of chili cheese Fritos... granted they have found a way to cook eggs on the west coast & they do squeeze oranges here as well, I just choose to not trust anything organic west of the Mississippi. Good news for the makers of Lipton. The rest of the day is filled with processed cheese, monosodium glutamate (I just copied that off my Fritos bag), & sugar. By the time Sunday rolls around, my body is aching for a green, leafy vegetable that isn't tucked in between a greasy bun. Poor Andy, last night we vowed to get a healthy meal from a restaurant that didn't serve food through a window... We ate at Hooters.

 

At this point, my boss probably thinks all we do is eat while we're here so.... the days are spent walking through the mall from my make shift edit bay on the 17th  floor to different places interviewing Academy Officials, celebrities, and going live from the carpet.  All the while waving our giant passes to get past multiple security check points. Depending on which check point we've entered determines whether or not we have a tan vested, radio dispatched Academy representative escorting us. Don't get me wrong, they're all VERY nice... but as they walk with you, they're having some disembodied conversation with some, I’m convinced imaginary, person on the other side of their headset. You might be making some 'nice weather' conversation only to be met with a polite smile and that familiar distant eye roll one gives while listening to voices in their heads (we've all sat next to 'that' guy on the subway… only he wasn't wearing a headset). I've found, if you really want to get their attention, just wander away from your escort... all of the sudden, you become the hot topic of conversation on the two way radio (not that, 'that' has happened). Most of the day is spent in my room sitting at an edit bay. Sandy is great at organizing all the movie clips, past award ceremonies, and celebrity interviews... so I sit in front of this laptop and piece together all the stories for the next day. I have an ipod stereo which I’m sure my temporary neighbors DON'T like very much. I have a great view of Hollywood. I have these blogs to keep me sane. So here I sit surrounded by empty Pepsi bottles, hamburger wrappers, beta tapes, in a symphony of loud music... & I wouldn't trade it for anything!

 

Mike Thorne

Oscar Past and Presents

Saturday March 6

“It will not rain,” said the President of the Academy about Oscar Sunday. “No,” said one of the producers, “it will pour.” I hope not. Rain and the tarps & canopies necessary to keep everybody dry dim the luster of the red carpet by about 10-20% in my opinion. My favorites are the Oscar days in past years when the big day has dawned under cloudy skies and the sun emerges about noon. There’s mad rush to take down the rain gear, and the golden glow of the afternoon sun hits the gold of the Oscar statues setting the scene for a fine parade of the famous. The rain washes away some of the LA smog, and green hills seem close enough to touch.

A fun aspect of the red carpet that doesn’t really translate on TV is this: so many of the nominees are SO NERVOUS. Even the ones who were famous before they got nominated. They might be fine leaving their house or hotel room, but there are so many people and such a buzz when they step out of the limos and onto the red carpet, that it intimidates even the veterans. Makes the stars seem almost human to me. I like that.

Another aspect of Oscar week I like is the class reunion aspect of these proceedings: the sense of same-time-new-year I get when greeting colleagues from years past and officials such as The Academy’s Executive Director, Bruce Davis. Our sister station KABC-TV makes it possible for us to provide you with Oscar coverage. We use their satellite truck to transmit and their people to run it. KABC’s Dave Klein’s been helping me so long (since 1982!) that I remember when the man had a full head of dark brown hair.

I’ve said many times before: Oscar’s no place for rookies. It’s just become too complicated to cover, BUT this year our producer, Andy Savas, is proving me wrong; and I gotta revise my opinion. If you’ve ever watched Eyewitness News from 6A to 7A then you know Andy’s work. He’s the producer of the hour. Now, a good show producer who rarely leaves the studio needs different skills than a field producer, but Andy’s got game both at home and away. And, he’s really become at home on this beat after just a few days.

Case in point: the gift suite. These are only-in-Hollywood deals. Stars go to a hotel with an empty bag and load up on expensive swag. Brands set-up in a big room for the privilege of GIVING AWAY their stuff. Sarah Palin even swept through one of them here this week. Mike, Andy and I set out for one in a fancy hotel. No, not to collect swag, but to shoot it. We arrived to be told we couldn’t shoot just yet because one of the stars of the reality show “The Hills,” Audrina Partridge was busy snagging free stuff and didn’t want to be disturbed! So, we cooled out heels while the NON-star did her thing.

That was when it struck cameraman Mike Thorne and me: Andy was chatting up publicists and turning on the charm like he was born in this town. He wasn’t, but he sure took to the game! By the way we left with only the tape in our camera…    

The hotel where all this activity took place was once called “The Hyatt House,” and it’s located right on Sunset Blvd. in the area known as West Hollywood. The chirpy publicists at the gift suite were clueless to the fact this particular hotel occupied a unique place in rock and roll history. The British Bands of the 1970’s who came to LA on tour nicknamed it the “RIOT House” because of its permissive staff. It was here that John Bonham of Led Zeppelin drove a Harley through the lobby and into an elevator, took the elevator to the roof and drove around the pool on that roof a couple  of hundred times. Some of the other stuff that happened there cannot be repeated in a family blog, but: Rock ‘n Roll never forgets.

Sandy Kenyon

03/05/2010

Time Crunch

Day #3

Friday, March 5, 2010

 

Red carpet friday

 

As a news producer, I wage a constant battle with time.

Part of my job is trying to squeeze all the current local, national, international, entertainment, and sports news into a one hour newscast.

Trying to cram all that information into such a relatively tiny space takes a lot of work and practice.

 

Here at the Oscars, I may be away from the comforting familiarity of the newsroom, but I am still battling time, but it takes a different form.

It’s all because in LA, I am operating in East Coast Time and West Coast Time… at the same time.

Here’s a look at what my day was like today.

I went to asleep around 10:00 PM LA time.

Sounds early, right?

But that was late… because it was 1:00 AM in New York.

And I had to wake up at 4:00 AM Eastern Standard Time, which is 1:00 AM Pacific time.

When I put in the wake up call, an incredulous hotel desk clerk said “You’re not going to be getting much sleep, are you?”

Story of my life… especially here.

OK, so where was I?

Oh yeah.

Ran around getting Mountain Dew and coffee and Starbursts and a bagel (nothing like the bagels in NYC, let me tell you) to be on the red carpet at 5:00 AM EST / 2:00 PST, to make sure everything was cool with the satellite operator.

Sandy met us later on.

He went live at 6:00 AM EST – but it felt like the wee hours of the morning because, well, it was!

After our live shots with Eyewitness News This Morning were finished, it was back to the hotel.

I wanted (needed) at least a few more hours sleep.

Did I get them?
Not a chance. Couldn’t fall back to sleep.

And after all, it may be 4:00 AM in Hollywood.

But it’s 7:00 AM on the Upper West Side.

There are producers and managing editors and operations managers to check with.

So… more computer and script work.

Then a press conference to shoot on the red carpet at noon… but it was already 3:00 PM in NYC.

Sandy’s piece that he wrote the day before and Mike began cutting the night before and finished this morning now had to be fed, to make it for the 5PM News in New York.

But the day is only half over in LA.

So, after the piece is fed to 7 Lincoln Square, we race to shoot an event that we may include in our coverage later on.

Is the day done yet?

Not a chance.

We have to finish a piece that’s running at 11:00 by 9:00 PM… but it’s still only 6:00 PM in LA.

Confused yet?

I sure am.

I had to write out my day, step-by-step, hour-by-hour, just to make it through.

 

What time is it again?

Maybe time to wave the white flag in my constant battle against time.

 

-Andy Savas

 

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Red Carpet and Reunions

Red Carpet and Reunions

Friday March 5, 2010

Oscar is literally under wraps here in Hollywood.

Rain is in the forecast for this weekend, and the many gold Oscar statues are sheathed in plastic under clear plastic canopies.

Glamorous it’s not, but with any luck the showers will pass in time for the show.

In previous years the rain gear has been removed just an hour before the big show begins.

I’m so excited because two of my favorite people in the entire world are going to be appearing on “Good Morning America” come Monday.

Those of you who have been kind enough to follow my reporting through the years may remember “The Bleacher Babes.”

Babe Churchill and her sister Sandi Stratton have been in the stands at the big show since I was a teenager.

Babe came one year right after cancer surgery. Sandi had a health scare just a few months ago, but there they were in the food court yesterday afternoon having a cookie or two.

These wonderful Southern California women have been part of my life since my first Oscar show in 1982.

They are treasured by the Academy and they are among the few who are so beloved they do not have to enter the lottery for places in the stands.

They are automatically included along with members of their families although these grandmothers do undergo background checks just like the others.

That is just part of the Academy’s EXTENSIVE security measures.

This year they’re carrying cameras into the stands for GMA and will share footage of the stars’ arrivals with you when they appear live the morning after the winners are announced.

 They’re especially excited that GMA producers are sending a car for them early Monday morning.

If anybody deserves the ‘star treatment’ it’s these two remarkable ladies. I’m so happy and proud for them…it’s like my own mother was appearing on GMA!

The Thursday live shot for Eyewitness News at 5 was done under hectic circumstances. As we got ready to go on-the-air, the head of all communications for the Motion Picture Academy, Leslie Unger, stopped by to inform us about a hundred publicists representing some of the biggest stars in Hollywood would be briefed BY BULLHORN during our live shot.

As I spoke, an army assembled back of the camera to hear from Leslie, and while my taped report was playing, they all trooped by me down the red carpet.

Just before it was time to speak up live again, Stan Rosenfield – who represents Oscar nominee George Clooney (and Robert De Niro, among others) said hello.

Said cameraman Mike Thorne: “only Sandy would have a class reunion in the middle of a live shot…”

 

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If there’s a theme to this post it’s this: the Oscar show is a chance to re-connect with folks I get to see once every year at the Academy Awards.

It is with that in mind that I headed to “Musso & Frank’s” restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. located just a few blocks from the Kodak Theater and the red carpet.

This place has been in business in the same location since 1919!

I always visit with Manny, a waiter so popular just his presence draws ordinary folks back along with the famous and the infamous.

He treats everyone exactly the same: with a smile and a REALLY lame joke.

He’s old school:  makes a Caesar salad right in front of you, and while he was making mine, he told me a story about Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe that happened just a few feet from where I was sitting at Musso’s counter.

Seems two sailors from Brooklyn came in and rushed over to Joe to tell him what big Yankee fans they were…made a big fuss of Joe…ignored Marilyn TOTALLY.

Suddenly she cried out, “hey boys! What about little ‘ole ME?”

All of this happened more than half a century ago, but a guy like Manny makes that history come alive.

As much as I have enjoyed watching the Oscars on TV, there is nothing like being where we will be on Sunday afternoon.

Seeing all those charismatic and, yes, beautiful people in one place never gets old for me. You understand what makes them special.

Sorry folks, but they are not EXACTLY like you and I.

They have a quality, an X factor that says, “look at me” and when they are all together in one place and the crowd is quite literally going wild, the shot of adrenaline I feel is almost intoxicating.

The day I am not excited in this way…I promise you I will quit.  

Sandy Kenyon

03/04/2010

At the Oscars - Thursday, March 4

By Mike Thorne
 
The alarm echoed through my tiny apartment at 4 a.m. today...I hate that alarm!!! Stupid me thought it would be refreshing to crack the living room window to let a little night air in...you know, 'refreshing' night air. Stupid because 'refreshing night air' makes for a cold morning apartment. But this cold morning wasn't so bad because I was heading out on a morning flight, a morning flight taking me away from the snow coverage, freezing winds, and icy streets. It's that time of the year...Oscars!!!

Oscars...the Academy Awards...thank God it's held in winter! So off we go in a car to Kennedy Airport, to get on a plane heading for sunny California! California...home of celebrities, O.C. housewives, fake body parts, and the Oscars. For almost a week, Sandy Kenyon, (producer) Andy Savas and I get to play with the pretty people.

We have new member of the team this year...as our beloved Ms. Cat McKenzie has decided to become a boss, 'overlord', 'the man', the big cheese, key master, that person in nicer clothes that yells at us worker bees...so she doesn't come out to play with us anymore. We miss her already!!! But now we have Andy...he's doing a great job! He hasn't complained about my driving. He makes Sandy happy. He likes In & Out Burger. What more could you ask for in a field producer?
 
The first day is a whirlwind of credentials, cables, and curses. Credentials are the backbone of this whole operation. People walk around with giant placards around their necks...depending on the color, lettering, who knows what else, tells security just how far one is allowed to breach an area. This part of the week is easy...eventually walking 20 feet is like the opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan." Cables, because my room, is a maze of wiring. Boxes of gear, which quite frankly, I have no idea what each piece is for!!! If I can plug it in and the little light comes on, then it's a crucial part of the operation. It looks as though a Best Buy blew up in my little space on the 17th floor. But, on an up note, I got the iPod player to work...hey, everyone has to have priorities. And, well, curse words, because I have no home training (sorry Mom).

What is very cool is to watch the transformation of a city block into a magical event. From the laying of the carpet, to the setting up of tents, to positioning of statues, slowly the street landscape changes into a runway fit for Hollywood elite. Every morning when I go street level, every time we return from a shoot, every hour, it seems, the countdown to Sunday is marked by another feat. The street turns red, gold statues appear everywhere, Hollywood and Highland become a place where stars are honored.
 
Michael