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Tampa Theatre rolls out red carpet for Oscars viewing party

TAMPA — Grinning, her eyes tucked behind a pair of large, black-framed glasses, Sandy Crocker climbed out of a limousine, crossed the red carpet and went directly to a line of screaming “fans.”

She took pictures and signed a few autographs.

It's not everyday life, but when you're at the Tampa Theatre to watch a live feed of the 86th Academy Awards, that's what you do.

“It's a happening. It's a real happening,” Crocker said, still beaming.

This is the 16th year the Tampa Theatre has hosted a night for the Oscars. Sunday's event, dubbed Hollywood Awards Night, is billed as Tampa's longest running Academy Awards viewing party.

Last year, Crocker and her then 89-year-old mother, Jo Devo, were the ones whooping and hollering behind the red rope as others popped from the limo.

This time around, Crocker, who has been to the event six previous times, wanted a different perspective. She spent the night with a couple of friends, giving her feet a rest.

“I am a movie-goer and I definitely appreciate the Oscars,” Crocker said. “(But walking the red carpet), this absolutely is the best.”

In past years, the annual event was known as Oscar Night America because it was sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences. The academy took a year off from sanctioning events, but allowed the parties to continue without the word “Oscars.”

For Jaimes Southworth, 10, and her sister, Jordyn Southworth, 13, the name of the night didn't matter. They walked the red carpet with their father, Levi, in tow — recording everything with his phone.

“It's very exciting because I have never been here (for the Oscars),” Jaimes Southworth said.

As she walked the carpet into the theater, the night's emcee, Roan Jivers, a spoof of comedienne Joan Rivers, pretended Jaimes was Emma Watson.

Jordyn Southworth was certainly in her element. She got a taste of what could be in her future.

“I want to be an actress when I grow up,” she said. “I think this is a lot of motivation. I love the photographers and the autographs.”

Tampa Theatre CEO and President John Bell stood at the front of the venue, taking in all of the raucous.

“We look forward to it every year and there's a chance for us to have fun with Tampa's audiences and film fans,” Bell said. “They get to come down and we replicate the red carpet experience. We know we're not in Hollywood, but we have a lot of fun with it. In many ways, we have so much fun with it, it's almost a cheesy event.”

Some of that cheese, no doubt, came from Jivers as she interviewed people on the carpet. She also provided a little stand-up comedy.

While admiring one woman's dress, she quipped: “Taylor Swift wore dresses longer than her last three relationships.”

She moved on to another fan, asking who she was wearing, meaning what designer.

The response: “Leonardo DiCaprio.”

The slip up drew a chorus of laughs from the crowd.

Newton Linebaugh, a member of the New York Yankees front office staff, attended the event with Kelly Bilger.

“It's always a nice evening here,” Linebaugh said, adding it was about his fourth time at the event. “It's quite a lot of fun. This is a big night for America.”

Both found themselves in front of Jivers' microphone on the way in and had fun with it.

“You feed off the vibe of the audience,” Bilger said, “and it's all about the charity inside.”

The charity was in the silent auction taking place inside. Items ranging from dinner to a wine basket were up for grabs. The proceeds from the auction go to help fund the theater, Bell said.

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