GIFTING SUITES: OSCAR SUITES 2009

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Not wanting to leave any product undiscovered, I managed to visit nine suites this year. Whew! (But two actually had nothing new to write about, thank goodness for me.) So, let’s get right to all my wonderful discoveries.

MADISON AND MULHOLLAND AT HAVEN

This place had the absolute most pleasant vibe! I wound-up spending almost five hours here, just talking to everyone. It really felt more like a private party, with everyone mingling–celebrities (such as Tim Daly and nominee Tarji P. Henson), media, and sponsors alike.

It was held in a beautiful private mansion in the super-exclusive Trousdale Estates. Jane Ubell-Meyer, whose Madison and Mulholland hosted the main luxury sponsors, sees to all her guests personally. I’d love to visit her house someday, because I’m sure her gracious hosting extends beyond gifting suites.

Here are the highlights of the new and innovative products that were being featured:

Butler Bag–my favorite purse, the ingenious Butler Bag, in the big Hybrid size, now has two new pals: the smaller Satchel and bigger Tote. They of course have the built-in sections which make them so special. My only dilemma is which size should I get now, and in what shiny new hip color? www.butlerbag.com

Keren Creations Necklace–besides Keren’s creations being beautiful, she actually took the time to pick-out exactly the right piece for each guest! She had us look in the mirror while she tried the necklaces on us, and chose the perfect one to show-off our natural colors to the best advantage. What a caring artist! www.kerencreations.com

Zapi Toothbrush Sanitizer–the name says it all. They’re compact enough for travel and come in sizes for one or two toothbrushes. Even for people like me, who change their toothbrushes very often, this may just be a literal life-saver. It’ll be especially welcome for hotel stays! www.voilight.com [NOTE–UNTIL MAY 31, 2009, YOU CAN USE MY CODE ONLINE FOR 50% OFF THE SINGLES. JUST ENTER OSCAR2009 IN THE COUPON CODE AT CHECKOUT.]

Bam Bags–”the original zippurse.” Their trademark says it all–each purse is made out of ONE LONG ZIPPER! How does one think of such a thing? They’re unique, colorful, and adorable. In many, many sizes. www.bambags.com

Natural Aqua Gel Cure–in general, Japanese people have beautiful skin. So when I came upon this gel exfoliator that’s a big hit in its native Japan, I wanted a bottle for my heels that are a tad rough from years of walking barefoot. (I’m more comfortable that way, but not to the Joss Stone extent.) You can use it anywhere on your face and body, so I’ll keep you posted on the results. www.toyojapan.net

Sculptz Shapewear–something we Hollywood types can all benefit from, I’m sure. It’s underwear to “sculpt” your body. I hear it’s comfortable, as well. Can’t wait to try it! www.sculptzshapewear.com

Bandals–these are the most comfortable flip-flops ever!!! They have a supported arch and a none-painful thong. But the best part is that you can change the band part! The designs are inter-changeable, which make the sandals go from casual to sparkly (or leopard-printed or whatever) in about 30 seconds!!! www.bandals.com

Kenneth J Lane–the jewelry designer I’ve heard about since I was a little girl! As wonderful as his vintage pieces are, his modern designs, which now include fabulous wallets and bags, are just so happening. And it was a pleasure to chat with his wonderful rep at the suite, Barry Ort. www.kennethjlane.com

Phifer Reading Stand–for us reading-in-bed types. It’s lightweight, too, and features a storage compartment for an extra book, in case you’re a quick reader. (Or want to switch back and forth between the biographies of Eric Clapton and Patti Boyd, to figure out the REAL story!) I think it’s good to use on a counter for cookbooks, too. Now, if only I knew how to cook, I’d be all set! www.phiferreader.com

Mark Zunino–this unassuming muscled guy was standing near a display of gorgeous gowns and jewelry. I thought he was just visiting somebody in the suite and was stunned to find-out he’s the designer! His stuff is gorgeous–there wasn’t a gown I wouldn’t choose for myself there! And I’m a real nut over evening wear, having been a fan of Ret Turner since I started my show. I can’t wait to use Mark for the next big event. www.markzunino.com

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Goorin Hats–I saw Jane walking around wearing the perfect black with white pin-stripes hat. When I said I must copy her, I found out they were a suite sponsor! I picked-out an even more fabulous one, and, given the unisex look of them all, Mr. X loved it, too. Now we can share something…outside of our love. (I have a feeling he’ll be happier about the hat.) www.goorin.com

Foster Grant–this venerable sunglass company is still going strong with some of the hippest styles around! And they’re based in my original adopted home, Providence, RI! www.fostergrant.com

In-between gifts, we were treated to a full array of beauty services:

I must say that Lovely Lashes, the Costa Mesa eyelash extension company, is aptly-named. I did indeed look lovely after Yvette Mendoza applied my party lashes in the perfect shape. www.Lovelylashes4u.com

My eyes lit-up (even more than they did from the lashes) when I saw my favorite event-nail-tech, Annette Soboleski, of OPI. Not only did she do a great manicure, (that dried in time for me to chow down on some snacks at the suite), but I got some of their top products to try at home! www.OPI.com

When I saw that the massage I would be getting was a chair one, rather than a lying down one, I was a tad disappointed…until Sandy Machado started working on me. She was amazing! I seriously never thought a chair massage could be that great and thorough. She got to all my bad spots and worked on each until it was putty in her able hands. I wanted to disguise myself and go back for more. And then I realized that this wasn’t Costco with their food samples! www.myspace.com/sandy_m

GBK

Still the gold standard, this one was held at the new, ultra-hip SLS Hotel on La Cienega. And had the most celebrities that I saw this season.

(Sidebar: having been invited to suites, over the years, in both the “celeb” category and the “media” one, I still think that “Press” is ultimately more important to sponsors of all the suites, which only the most knowledgeable ones realize. But, it takes all of us to make them work. If a tree falls in the forest…)

That being said, I was still very excited to see Joey Fatone and Keenan Thompson, the SNL cast member who elicits the most laughs from me. More importantly, here are GBK’s product highlights:

Metropolis Technology hair products–my mouth has been watering over these for months now, both because of their cutting-edge technology and the super-inviting blue and white packaging. They have the best and most innovative line of minis, including blow-dryers and flat-irons. If I could be gifted from just one company at any suite anywhere, trust me, this is it! And the beautiful odor-removing paddle brush was icing on the cake. www.metropolistechnology.com

Dr. Chiu–I’ve already been going to his Beverly Hills office for wonderful facials, so I’m happy for the guests here to receive the same wonderful service that I do. And his personnel, led by his lovely wife, Christine, couldn’t be nicer. www.beverlyhillsplasticsurgeryinc.com

Infinity Sun–after my recent horrible experience with the evil Sunset Tan personnel, (which you can read about in an upcoming column), I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find the lovely Miranda Lynne of MetropoliTAN Studio doing custom spray tans with Infinity Sun products. My tan was just perfect and Miranda couldn’t have made the experience any easier and more comfortable. I was so relaxed, I could have conked-out in the suite after, but I had to move along to show the rest of the guests just how great I suddenly looked www.infinitysun.com www.downtownlatan.com!

Athena Alexander shoes–it’s rare for me to find comfortable shoes for my poor little, chubby, short-tied feet, especially heels. But the second I tried on the ones from this line, I was in heaven! These are comfortable and pretty, the way shoes should be. And the best part is that they’re designed by siblings who get along, making them a triple threat. www.JandAshoes.com

Dara Ettinger cocktail ring–cocktails rings are so now, and these are created from natural stones, such as amethyst, by a lovely young lady. (Who am I? My mother, all of a sudden???) The only problem was deciding which one to choose. And, I mean this, they can double as weapons, which is such a bonus nowadays. www.daraettinger.com

Pur-Lisse Skin Care–I told Jennifer Yen, the gorgeous girl who developed this line that “marries time-tested Chinese beauty rituals with modern French skincare technology,” that if I wind-up looking like her, I’ll do free commercials for it! www.purlisse.com

Hair By Revitalash –first they helped us grow our eyelashes to a luxurious length, and now they’re giving others the chance to grow thicker, fuller hair…so they can look like ME!;) www.revitalash.com

Steve Kaufman–I feel like a moron to have not been familiar with the pop art of this wonderful artist before!!! His work is so full of color and life. You can see why Andy Warhol was a fan and took him under his wing. All I knew is that I loved the New York City Taxi painting–it’s one of the few things Mr. X and I have ever agreed on. I’ve been reading up on Steve for the past hour and am amazed at his bio–I suggest you do the same. I’m going to work really hard on my career now, so I can someday be in his Great Women collection–I just hope that he’ll have the patience to paint lots of wrinkles by then, because that’s how long it’ll take me to achieve that status!!! www.stevekaufmanart.com

Rock Our World–this company always comes up with unique gifts for each suite, which makes receiving them more fun. This go-round, they were featuring white rock mini-altars. I’ll be using mine to pray that I keep getting invited to all these suites!!! www.rockourworld.net

Thinker Clothing–these tee-shirts that feature designs based on science, technology, engineering, and math, looked vaguely familiar to me. Then I found out that my favorite TV character, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, wears them quite often. His wardrobe always makes me laugh, so I hope that wearing my new one will elicit that same response in my auditions!!! www.ThinkerClothing.com

Lalo Fitness–I can’t wait to use my gift certificate for a personal training session with the very in-shape Lao Fuentes. Trust me, he has his work cut-out for him! I’ll let you know if I live through it. www.lalofitness.com

Verve Energy Drink–Mr. X was happy that I brought home a mini-cooler of all their products, so he could have the energy to watch me peruse all my gifts! www.verveenergydrink.com

SECRET ROOM

This suite, also housed at the new SLS Hotel, had the most new items–I never saw any of these companies before, save for Croc, whose high-heels were definitely new, as well! So, let’s begin with them:

Crocs–you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found-out they make heels now! And they’re much more attractive than the usuals from this company. I can’t wait to be the first one to be seen in these, possibly every time you see me out and about. www.crocs.com

Demi Bella–a mommy-of-3 started this line of fun tees and tanks, so people know your family status without having to ask. Most of them proclaim “Mommy of (fill in the blank #).” I think that’s brilliant. It’s the first time I actually wish that I had kids! (And a sister I get along with, like this designer, Marlo Moleski, has.) www.demibella.com

Big Feet PJs–I’ve long been a lover of footed one-piece PJs, but usually can’t wear them because I’ve hated taking the whole thing off to go to the bathroom. Well, many of the Big Feet ones have rear panels!!! Yay! Now I can happily take off for NY right now, in the middle of winter, because my new PJs will keep me cozy. www.BigFeetPJs.com

She’s Crafty Designs–even more than the beautiful, colorful, glass belt buckles and pins Toni Chirico creates, I loved this couple. He husband was helping out, with so much pride in his wife’s “craftiness,” and they just handled the whole suite experience so well. And her business cards had the best presentation ever! www.SHESCRAFTYDESIGNS.com

Zuzatz–“accessorize your sole” is the motto of this company who manufactures base flip-flops with interchangeable uppers, which come in packs of three similar styles. (Jeweled, leather, animal-print, etc.) Makes packing so much easier! www.ZUZATZ.com

Peacekeeper–this creamy-textured lip (and nail) products company donates 100% of its profits to charity! They asked us to put a lip-print on a paper they post on their site, and say to whom the kiss is. Sorry, Mr. X and even Clarence, but at that moment, the only one I could think of was Hugh Jackman! After seeing his bravura performance hosting the Oscars, can you blame me??? www.iamapeacekeeper.com

Adonia Organics–these totally necessary products are listed as “Greek Beauty Secrets.” Since most Greek guys are pretty good-looking (think Mark Philippoussis, not Pete Sampras), I’m willing to give them a try. It seems like each one is engineered to work in just days, or even minutes!!! At least we don’t have to waste months if they don’t come through. www.greekislandlabs.com

Du-Mi Shapewear–these intimates are purported to shape just the part of the body that needs it, rather than mushing it all together. That’s good news for me because I need help in only one place, but now you won’t be able to distinguish it and I’ll never tell! www.du-mi.com

Calypso Studios–we wouldn’t have been able to even carry all our swag were it not for this Virginia-based company! They gave us colorful re-usable totes, that are designed with the seasons in mind, as soon as we entered the suite. On top of those, they were featuring many kinds of gifts, including innovative clay necklaces. www.calypsostudiosinc.com

Go Commandos–ingenious patches so that we girls can go commando in our jeans. Say no more! www.gocommandos.com

MAIN EVENT LOUNGE

I’ve been to this one before, and love that they offer a new venue each time. Makes it interesting for their guests. This go-round was on the ground floor of a prominent office building near Sunset Plaza. It was good that way because all the sponsors were in the same room, making it easier for us to visit every one of them.

I had a lovely young girl named Maria as my escort, which added to the experience. Food was provided by Diet Designs, which was a nice bonus, as most suites have little, or no snacks for us busy swag-seekers. www.DietDesigns.com

My favorite gift at this suite was a jeweled necklace from ShelRae, a wonderful jewelry designer who’s married to an animator! (I know–how do I get all this info???) I can’t tell you how much I’d like to visit their house–between the two talented artists, how could it not be colorful? www.ShelRae.com

I had my brows done by Jennifer Charm, and then her great-looking daughter, Mariah Nicole, gave me some colorful new shadows from her make-up line. www.saloncarabella.com www.mariahnicole.com

I found an interesting new item, Green Garmento, which is a giant lightweight bag in which you place your items for the cleaners. Then you leave the bag there for them to hang-up the cleaned clothes in, rather than having them returned in all that nasty, un-recyclable plastic. (Love their motto–”Be fantastic…use less plastic.!”) www.TheGreenGarmento.com

The newest way to help the planet with your wardrobe is to wear shirts made of organic cotton and…BAMBOO!!! That’s right, bamboo. Only the designers at Me To We know how they do it. I chose one that says “Slumdog” because I knew it’d win Best Picture. But who didn’t? www.metowestyle.com

Debbie Durkin, the suite organizer, always thinks of our dogs, which I’m sure my precious toy poodle, Clarence, appreciates. He received a lovely leash-harness combo from My Charmed Pet, making it easier for his daily trips to the park with Mr. X. www.mycharmedpet.com

Plastic surgery is here to alter one’s face from what was intended by the powers-that-be, Spanx takes care of the body and now Lift Kits was invented to…make you appear taller!!! Height-challenged Hollywood guys will love this–no more old-fashioned standing on a crate next to your leading lady. Now I can do a scene with Al Pacino. www.myliftkits.com

MELANIE SEGAL’S “BE THE CHANGE” GIFT LOUNGE

I attended this one, held at the year-old hipster boutique hotel, PaliHouse, because I heard that Make-up Mandy was doing spray tans. Once I got there, though, I was not in the mood to get undressed and go through the process. So owner Amanda Jacobellis was kind enough to give me a gift certificate to have it done at their new store location, right near Urth Café on Melrose. Now I can get glowing at my convenience. www.makeupmandy.com

I was surprised and happy to receive a machine-washable…coat! I understand that designer Massiel Bueno used to be a surfer, so she wanted warm outerwear that’s easy to care for. My black with gray trim coat is warm, cozy, and beautiful! I may even take-up surfing just to wear it more often! www.ogiekanogie.com

A fun service I’ve never come upon at a gifting suite before was tarot readings. Mine was by Brad Kronen. He was so not run-of-the-mill! He spent tons of time with me and we had a great time. Brad was so happy for me when I got the Empress card for my future! He made me feel an empress myself. www.fingerofdestiny.com

Shemoni Jewelry picked-out lovely sterling silver earrings and a necklace for me, from collections they feature at their eight stores! Shemonisterlingsilver@yahoo.com

I got a relaxing hand massage from Marie Bertrand of Montreal, using products by Sense. After a skin analysis by the same company, we were gifted with an overnight bag full of their beautifully packaged, purple and white, chemical-preservative-free skin care line. www.beautifulscience.com

Although ADA Handbags was featuring many beautiful styles, I chose a very hip and happening red and silver belt because it was almost too big on me… and was a SMALL!!! www.ADAhandbags.com

Sometimes, the smallest things thrill me. Such was the case with the new re-fillable Sharpie Stainless Steel. I love these pens, in all their styles. One can never have too many Sharpies! We used our new ones to autograph a poster to benefit Clothes Off Our Back. I’m sure that after I bumped into Hector Elizondo on the stairs at the suite, he signed it, too, because Mr. X has worked with him and says he’s really nice. www.Sharpie.com

DIAMOND SUITE

This was the only all-outdoor suite, so everyone was happy that the weather held up. It was more of a party, taking place in the beautiful backyard of a Bel-Air home in a gated community. And we VIPs received Colleen Griffin-designed his-and-hers bracelets as we entered, which was such a fun change from the usual wristbands! www.613studio.etsy.com

There weren’t many gifts, per se, but there were a couple of services and lots of fun. My face got worked-over with a new hand-held device by Jane Darby of Platinum Image Services, and my hair-do was freshened by Jerome of Private Hair L.A., who’ll cut it at a later date. www.platinumimageservices.com

The best part was the eats, furnished by Su Concierge. Their veggie rolls were outstanding, and I gorged myself on the hot brie with seasoned mini-toasts. Laurie McCarthy’s Oscar-shaped cookies were the perfect finishing touch. www.suconseir.com

Speaking of taste treats, La Provence, a Beverly Hills-adjacent restaurant that I, the restaurant critic for BeverlyHillsPeople.com, never even heard of (!), provided lovely little cupcakes and colorful macaroon “sandwiches.” The latter are almost to pretty to eat! www.laprovencecafe.com

I was immediately attracted to the colorful, lightweight shawls being displayed by Violet Del Mar. My mouth literally watered when I saw the one, called “Berry Turquoise”, that reminded me of the dress that Flora and Merryweather were making for Sleeping Beauty on her sixteenth birthday. One wanted it blue and one pink. When they waved their wands at the same time, it came out half and half. The combo has been my favorite ever since. And now I can wrap myself in it! violetdelmar@gmail.com

My favorite bottled water, Vava Water, has developed a new skin care line, Vava Skin Care. How did they come up with that clever moniker??? The products feature the same electromagnetic frequency technology that they use on their water. They debuted it at the recent Sundance Film Festival, and brought it here, so hopefully, our faces will be as thirst-quenched as our throats! www.vavawater.com

Unfortunately, no suites offered pedicures this year, but when I was hoping to come upon one, I was wishing that someone made foldable flip-flops to bring in my tiny purse. Well, guess what–someone does! Floc Designs invented Pocketflops that fold in half. They’re made from tires, and for some reason, have Obama’s picture on them. I’m just glad that I dreamed them, and here they were! www.flocdesigns.com

I’m still confused by all the products that were being featured by the My Gear Store guys, but I managed to find some small IPOD accessories for Mr. X. They said they’ll send me some more, but I never hold my breath when sponsors say that. In a column next month, I’ll let you know if they come through. www.myGearStore.com

Wesley Peterson, the west coast rep for D.S. Laboratories hair and skin products, was by far the cutest guy at any suite, (despite the fact that I noticed he shaves his chest hair, which I hope he doesn’t mind my mentioning!) I have no idea what he was gifting, but I had fun looking at him as he talked about his line! If his lotions and gels make us look a hundredth as good as he does, sign me up for a ton of it! www.dslaboratories.com

When I was stuck in the Hamptons last summer with no razor and no time to stop into a store and get one, I was thrilled to find the fabulous My Smart Pac in a goodie bag at the first party I put in an appearance at. In addition to the aforementioned razor, there were all kinds of convenient, TSA-approved travel size products. And come in His and Hers, to boot! www.mysmartpac.com

And yes, I am including Sunset Tan here, as this was a more positive experience than I had in the recent past. (My column on that is still to be printed in this space.) Their rep, Mary from the corporate office, was shocked to hear of my rotten treatment at the hands of the WLA and Studio City branches, and assured me that she would take care of the situation. She handed me a new gift certificate, and said to please try again and report back to her. Always being one to forgive and forget, I assured her I’d give them a second chance, as long as I didn’t have to deal with either Dana or Brianna. Wish me luck! I have a feeling it actually will be better this time. www.sunsettan.com

OSCAR EXPERIENCE

This one was at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and was really all about hair services. There was a scheduling snafu where I was concerned, so there’s not much for me to tell you about, unfortunately. But I want the sponsors who did come through for me to get their props, so here’re the scoops on them:

I was happy to re-connect with Ja’maal Buster, the adorable eyelash guru who moved to Los Angeles this year. He’s done my lashes many a time, even for my TV show, but alas, it wasn’t to be this time because I had had mine done at the first suite of the week. He was crazy busy at this one anyway, so that part worked out okay. But I know we’ll work together again in the near future. www.JaMaalBuster.com

The vivacious Juhi Singh was here again from NY. She performed facial rejuvenation through acupuncture on me, with some appetite suppressing needles thrown in for good measure. I still managed to down two mini-cupcakes on the way out, before the effects kicked in!

This was a beauty suite and not a gifting one, which I actually like better (when it works out), but the lovely young ladies (who are both former athletes from Massachusetts) who rep Hearts On Fire, “the world’s most perfectly cut diamond” company, bestowed upon me a lovely silver pendent with “Dream” inscribed on it alongside a diamond chip. I was happy just looking at their super-stunning Architectural Collection based on masterpieces from around the world. The one that brings to mind the Beijing Olympics’ “Bird’s Nest” is the most impressive. But I’m holding out for the Brooklyn Bridge!! www.heartsonfire.com

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