It was the Academy Awards, Westport-style -- a true deli-light. Oscar's Deli, that is.
The red carpet was unfurled on Main Street for the 2nd annual "n'Oscars" event sponsored Sunday by the Westport Cinema Initiative in tribute to the movie industry's celebration of the best of the silver screen. The cinema group, besides offering movie fans a local venue to join the Academy Awards swirl, promoted its mission of bringing a movie theater complex back to downtown Westport.
Attendees enjoyed a movie trivia contest, Academy Awards ballots, popcorn and prizes donated by local businesses. There was also an opportunity to sign up for a charter membership in WCI, facilitated by board member Larry Perlstein.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, also the Westport Cinema Initiative's board president, told the gathering it's a significant moment in Westport's history. "We're on the cusp of something very exciting, with a space a stone's throw away here in downtown," he said. "We're still trying to raise enough money to make it happen. Everyone has to get excited about it. This can be an asset for Westport, like Compo Beach and Longshore. I hope you'll be our ambassadors and go out and tell people."
Leading the Academy Awards celebration was Westport film critic Susan Granger, Westport Cinema Initiative's Sandy Lefkowitz and WEBE-FM radio personality Storm N. Norman, who quizzed attendees about both mainstream and Westport movie history.
The emcees also related some of their movie celebrity encounters in town.
"My husband and I had dinner with Paul Newman one evening and he got talking about racing," said Granger. "My husband got so excited, he said he was going to try racing. Paul (a longtime Westport resident) said he couldn't because he's too tall. But my husband went ahead and had a car customized for himself."
Oscar's Deli owner Lee Papageorge recounted a Newman moment as well, sharing a mailgram he sent to the actor in 1987 when Newman won an Academy Award for his role in "The Color of Money". The message read, "It's nice to have another Oscar in town."
Papageorge added, "It's very exciting to have an Oscar's party to raise funds for the theater initiative and it couldn't be more appropriate for us to host, with the common name."
Granger and Papageorge weren't the only ones who had movie celebrity moments to share.
Diane Herman of Westport said she went to Bedford Junior High with actor Michael Douglas. "He was a very nice guy," she said, "and he came back to town for our 25th reunion. He was friends with many of the original families in Saugatuck. It was neat to track his career."
Predictions of the winners for the 85th Academy Awards were not in short supply among the crowd.
Ann Katz, of Westport, said, "I believe `Argo' will take the Oscar for Best Picture. Even though I knew the outcome, I was on the edge of my seat. Ben Affleck was great -- he kept his composure throughout everything that was going on."
Katz's 13-year-old daughter, Amanda, had her own forecast. "I think Anne Hathaway will win Best Actress for Les Miserables," she said. "She gave a really powerful performance even though she had a small part."
Gail Belmuth, of Pelham, N.Y., was just glad to be part of the pre-party. "I grew up in Westport and my daughter and I came here today for lunch. I was surprised by the party. It's a great lead up to the awards ceremony on TV."