Strutting down the Oscar red carpet on Sunday may be out of the question. But thanks to Oscar Night America, a grass-roots program enabling local charities to host official viewing parties, those without a star on the Walk of Fame can enjoy the glamour of Hollywood's biggest night. Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gives USA TODAY's Rebecca Heslin the scoop on swank soirees across the USA.
Hilton Milwaukee City Center, Milwaukee
Milwaukee's official viewing party knows no red carpet is complete without Joan Rivers. So the night benefiting COA Youth & Family Center programs even has an impersonator of the Queen of sassy fashion asking guests what they're wearing. "The event features a spectacular silent auction with autographed movie and television scripts, unique items from movie sets, including some from famous Milwaukeeans David and Jerry Zucker (Airplane) and Tom Miller (Happy Days)," Ganis says. 414-263-8383 ext. 114, www.coa-yfc.org
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Atlanta
After walking the red carpet at this viewing party benefiting the Center for Family Resources, stock up on raffle tickets for a chance to get VIP treatment at local spas, a weekend stay at The Mansion on Peachtree and more. "This year's live and silent auctions include items such as a Cartier watch, an official framed invitation from President Obama's inauguration, intro flight lessons, a hot-air balloon ride, and a one-week stay in a Tuscan villa," Ganis says. 770-428-2601, www.atlantaredcarpet.com
Omni San Antonio Hotel, San Antonio
Grab your black tie and boots for this party promoting the Special Olympics. "The night features a meet-and-greet with area Special Olympics athletes," Ganis says. Festivities include a silent auction and large-screen broadcast of the awards ceremony. 512-835-9873, www.specialolympicstexas.org
Hilton Netherland Plaza, Cincinnati
"This annual event celebrates Cincinnati's native sons and daughters who have made it to the silver screen," Ganis says. "Think George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker and Doris Day, with celebrity look-alikes and top-notch local entertainment." As in Hollywood, things heat up once the awards have been handed out. Try your hand at Wii and get ready for your photo booth close-up at the after-party, also benefiting People Working Cooperatively, a local charity dedicated to assisting low-income, elderly and disabled people with home repairs. 513-351-7921, www.pwchomerepairs.org
Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago
"Chicago hosts one of the more exclusive parties that always sells out," Ganis says. Guests truly feel like celebrities as they pass "paparazzi" snapping their pictures and asking questions on the red carpet. Once inside, film fans watch the Oscar presentation live on large high-definition movie screens. To thank partygoers for supporting the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Film Center, guests take home the same programs that Oscar-goers get in L.A. 312-846-2072, www.siskelfilmcenter.org
InterContinental Houston, Houston
In Texas, Academy Awards aficionados go all in for the house — the Ronald McDonald House. The upscale hotel plays host as gala-goers try their hand at poker. In its 13th year, the event will showcase a live feed of the Oscar show from ABC with a special welcome from Ganis. "Guests at this black-tie event will enjoy a fabulous casino, silent and live auction and delicious cuisine." 713-795-3585, rmhhouston.org
Conga Room, Los Angeles
"We try to keep the viewing parties pretty exclusive in an area," Ganis says. "But we made an exception this year in L.A." The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts is teaming up with the Charles Drew University of Medicine/Science for the official Latino Oscar party. "Latinowood will be in full swing with celebrities like Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales and Efren Ramirez," Ganis says. "There will be trivia, dancing and a celebration of a community that has all too often gone unnoted." 800-853-0033, www.hispanicarts.org
Red River Theatres, Concord, N.H.
What better way to toast the film industry than with one of its legends? Oscar-winning screenwriter Ernest Thompson, best known for On Golden Pond, hosts this fab fete and will have his Oscar on hand for guests to pose with. "The party is benefiting the Red River Theatres, an independent film house, as well as Cross the Bridge, an organization that helps underprivileged kids learn about independent filmmaking from film professionals," Ganis says. 603-224-4697 ext. 13, www.redrivertheatres.org
Tchefuncta Country Club, Covington, La.
Volunteer paparazzi and a Joan Rivers impersonator give New Orleans-area guests a real-life red-carpet experience when they arrive at this fundraiser for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana Chapter's Hurricane Katrina efforts. Local celebs team up to emcee the predict-the-winners game, and Ganis says guests have a chance to win a jewelry shopping spree. 504-620-3105 ext. 3154, www.arcno.org
The Langham Hotel, Boston
"Boston's red carpet attracts 500 guests, including celebrities in town for filming," Ganis says. "All the guests are treated like VIPs with outstanding food and wine, a fabulous auction with exclusive movie memorabilia, outrageous gift bags and plenty of surprises throughout the evening." Beantown's night raises money for The Ellie Fund to provide caregiving to breast cancer patients and their families. 781-449-0100, www.elliefund.org