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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Tampa Theatre offers red carpet experience at Oscar event

TAMPA - Arthur Chiang could earn an Oscar for Sunday night’s performance. For several weeks he’s told Whitney Mayer the ring he bought her for an eventual engagement was lost in the mail. No, really – he ensures – it was lost. Then, on the red carpet, in front crowd of onlookers gathered for the Tampa Theatre’s 15th Annual Oscar Experience: Tampa, Chiang dropped to one knee and proposed. . She said yes.
“This is kind of our place,” Chiang said. “We’ve been dating for the past two years and we’ve been coming here all the time. We had our first kiss here and it just felt like this was the perfect place for this.” Clutching his right arm, her head leaning in to him, Mayer, a one-time film student, couldn’t hold back her grin. “He’s awesome,” she said. The Clearwater couple was among hundreds who walked the red carpet and posed for photos as they entered the theater to watch the 85th Academy Awards. The Tampa Theatre is one of 46 sites across the nation to put on an event sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With a ticket purchase, guests got a limo ride, red carpet stroll – with screaming fans clamoring for autographs – in addition to popcorn and soda. Pat Mann was not Pat Mann Sunday night. Instead, wearing a pink gown and white satin, elbow-length gloves, she was Marilyn Monroe. “If she was around today, she wouldn’t like me,” Mann said, joking. Mann, of East Lake, was joined by Margaret Hawcroft, who was wearing a black dress and a sheer shawl over her shoulders. Hawcroft, of Trinity, was playing the part of Ms. Moneypenny, James Bond’s secretary. Hawcroft’s husband was dressed as Bond. The trio is originally from England. “Oh my gosh, I’d do this again,” Hawcroft said, with a heavy British accent. “I think it’s wonderful. What a fun night and we love doing things like this. My goodness it’s just super.” Over the years the event has evolved from a high-dollar ticket – at one point reaching more than $100 – to an occasion that can run between $20 and $40. Ian Wald and his girlfriend Emily Kling made the drive from Spring Hill to Tampa. Wald said he immediately knew Kling would be up for a night at the theater when he saw the online advertisement. “It’s exhilarating,” Wald said still buzzing from walking the red carpet with Kling and being interviewed by a camera crew. “It gets your heart racing. The interviews and the pictures, it’s exactly like what I imagine the celebrities go through.” When Wald brought the idea up to Kling, it didn’t take her long to say yes. “One second,” Kling said. “I just like to dress up.” It was the couple’s first time at the Tampa Theatre. The venue’s CEO and President, John Bell, said the night is all about having fun and creating memories. “It’s Hollywood’s night and it’s the movie’s night,” Bell said. “There’s this excitement because everyone is familiar with what really happens in Hollywood; with that whole spectacle, so for us to be able to sort of re-create it in a fun, almost cheesy way in Tampa, is a lot of fun. It’s exciting.”

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