While the stars were onstage in LA and most of Pittsburgh had settled in for a long winter's night in front of the TV, some 900 guests donned black tie and headed to Heinz Field for the city's very own Oscar bash. Highmark Presents Lights! Glamour! Action! is now in its 13th year as benefit for the Pittsburgh Film Office, and Sunday's party was one of the best yet. A gauntlet of "fans" and "paparazzi" lined the red carpet as nearly 500 guests arrived for the VIP reception. A second wave of partiers came later, but still in time to bid on some terrific celebrity-themed auction items. Where else could you find a guitar autographed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, or a "Dark Knight Rises" poster signed by the whole cast? Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres made way for a strolling dinner with stations that featured tandori chicken, mac and cheese with buttermilk shrimp, braised beef and desserts. Then it was showtime, with the 85th Academy Awards being broadcast on giant screens throughout the East Club Lounge.
Welcoming the crowd was Pittsburgh Film Office director Dawn Keezer, board chair Russ Streiner and honorary chairs Dr. William Winkenwerder, CEO of Highmark, and his wife Pride. The film office has generated more than $680 million for the local economy since 1994 and raised the city's profile on both the big and little screen. A giant boost has been the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit program -- for every dollar invested in the PFO approximately $133 in new spending is returned to southwestern PA.
Helping to raise more than $200,000 were county Executive Rich Fitzgerald with Cathy, former county executive and now Highmark executive Dan Onorato with Shelly, Merrill Stabile, Dollar Bank's Joe Smith with Lynn and David and Karen Haddad. Laurie Streiner gets her own Oscar for orchestrating a great night.