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Karen Salkin Out to Lunch

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OSCAR SUITES WEEK 2007  View video

I couldn’t have had more fun during Oscar Week if I had won an award myself! Being invited to several Oscar Suites is one of the most fun parts of the year for me. The only change I’ll make next time around is that I’ll physically train for it. The four days of suites are actually more endurance-challenging than a triathlon, and you really need to be in shape.

For the uninitiated, here’s a crash course in Oscar Suites 101. When this trend started several years ago, they were held in hotels, in actual suites, hence the name. Each suite would have a different service (hair, manicures, facials, etc.), and the celebrities involved in the Academy Awards were invited to partake of those services for the days leading up to the ceremony. More celebs started being invited, product “gifting” took over many of the rooms, and the Oscar Suite was born.

The phenomenon has since expanded to many different types of edifices around town, which may or may not be in the form of suites, but the moniker has stuck, no matter where the action takes place. And the invitation lists have expanded to include stylists, very select members of the media, and the many working actors who are not really celebrities per se, but I’m sure are very happy to be included, none more than yours truly (no matter which category I’m invited in.)

This season, I was fortunate enough to attend five (yes, FIVE!!!) of the most popular suites around, over four days. I really did cancel all my other activities for the week, except the taping of my show, “Karen’s Restaurant Revue,” because I wanted to give my full time and attention to the sponsors, and not just “trick or treat” for swag.

The main thing that struck me is that at least 90% of the people I came into contact with were genuinely lovely. Of course, the sponsors wanted to get their company’s message out to everyone, but most really did seem to treat the attendees at least close to equally and not just gush over the big stars. Their good attitudes made the week fly by, and renewed my faith in the humanity of Hollywood, which I really did think was long gone.

So, here are some of the highlights of the week. I hope you can all benefit from this pared-down info. (I realize this article is an epic, but I promise that all the goods and services I’m talking about are worth your time.) The suites are in the order I attended them, as I had a great time in every one, and truly can’t pick a favorite. Now I see what mothers of multiple children feel like. Please try read the whole summary, because great finds are scattered throughout. (I’ll include the websites that I know.)


I started the week at this one, and had such a good time, I returned two days later to film a segment for the video portion of this website. I had previously been invited to Sonya Dakar’s suite for the Emmys in September. It was an easy, enjoyable experience and featured the spa services for which they’re known. But I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of their Oscar Lounge run by Dana Wilkey and the ever-adorable Mimi Dakar, who’s so funny, and so into hair, make-up and fun food (like I am) that she just may be the twin I’m always seeking.

After checking in and taking the elevator to the main floor, we came out into a world of color, flowers, and edible goodies lining the walls, (all designed by dynamo event planner Carrie Zack), which we were encouraged to take off and eat whenever our sweet tooths kicked in! It was like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! (And I never invoke his name lightly!)

Immediately, we were handed humungous see-through duffel bags, courtesy of the TSA-compliant company O2Hide, (get it?--“zero to hide” because this is the country’s first branded line of transparent travel bags which hold everything from lip glosses to knitting, and I think are incredibly reasonably-priced, BTW)) and invited to “shop,” which meant go from room to room and receive many, many gifts. (More on those later.)

oscar pic
The Sonya Dakar Suite also offered several treatments they’re known for, if you had the time and inclination to relax. To that end, I had my hair flat-ironed by Nicolet of the Bahram On Sunset Salon. (Bahram styled my hair for my show for a couple of years, to rave reviews. I was happy to see that his protégé isn’t far behind.) And Blake of Tarte Cosmetics did my make-up, which I’ve been trying to copy ever since. (With not much luck, I’m afraid.)

The last night of the event, I was able to finally relax with a fabulous ME! Bath Ice Cream pedicure. (I guess it really is all about ME!) First of all, the company’s color scheme of pink and blue is mouth-watering enough, but their products, in ice cream flavors (such as the strawberry-kiwi Body Icing and the Shower Sherbet in vanilla and chocolate) look good enough to eat, for real.

I segued right from the pedicure, rendered by Kina Blush of J’Marie Mobile Nail Care, to a chair massage by Suzy Coyle in the Exhale Spa room. As can be expected, I fell right into bed when I got home. (But jumped up a couple of hours later to write this, while the “visions of sugar plums” were still dancing in my head.)

He’s a quick look at some of my favorite products I found at Sonya Dakar’s:

VaVa Water handed out bottles of their healthful waters, which are charged with electromagnetic frequencies for desired results, such as the Voom I sipped all night long to make sure that I stayed awake to enjoy the whole scene! Though I’ve partaken of this product many times, I didn’t realize that they come in different sizes, and fell in love with the smaller, perfect-for-carrying one. Lauren Clarke-Bennett, the founder of VaVa Now, Inc. turned out to be one of my favorite people of the whole Oscar Suite Week.

I received two fabulous soft cotton dresses from Flux Nouveau (sounds like an ice skating move!), which I can’t wait to wear on my next shows.

Numi Tea, which I’ve featured on “Karen’s Restaurant Revue,” had many new products, including tea for your bath! That way, if someone tries to drown you (I think I’ve been watching “Prison Break” too long), you can just drink your way out!

Girl Extra Ordinaire gave me the cutest shirts for Clarence, the Singing Dog, which he immediately wore on the two shows we taped that night, as soon as I left the suite! The company also designs adorable attire for ladies, including lingerie. (Which I didn’t wear on my show, BTW…Well, not that the audience could see anyway.)

LA Pop Art featured mind-boggling posters of movies such as “Scarface,” made-up entirely of the scripts! These have to be seen to be believed.

Lush bath and skin products were packaged so convincingly in food containers, that I actually thought they were groceries!

On a kind note, and you know how I love those, the Sonya Dakar Ultraluxe room had celebs sign tubes of sunscreen which they’ll auction off this summer to benefit CancerCare. The biggest celebrity to do so, (I was the only person around at the time to witness it) was Gywneth Paltrow, on her way in for a facial with Sonya herself, carrying the above mentioned Vava Water. Wonder which “response” she chose! Probably Chill, to go along with the relaxation theme.


Although, as I mentioned above, I really can’t pick a favorite venue, I can tell you that I experienced my favorite day at the Liberace Suite. It was raining and dreary out, but totally warm and cozy inside the Penthouse where the colorful Liberace used to reside. Maybe his radiant spirit was there with us. Or perhaps it was the roaring fireplace or the tented pool area, which allowed us a view of the outside world to juxtapose with how lucky we were to be in such a giving environment.

No matter what was creating the magic, I allowed myself to relax and go with the mellow vibe, which is quite a rarity for me. I just realized that the reason for my contentment was all of the above, combined with how much I truly like the personnel of Primary Action, the company that hosts this suite. Every single one of them makes time to greet each individual who comes through their doors and treats us all with genuine care, no matter what letter “list” we’re on by Hollywood’s shallow standards. (Okay, this paragraph is making even me think I’m PMSing as I write, but I mean every word of it.)

All the sponsors who participated where great, but here are my highlights:

The first suite I saw was Bed Head, which I happened to be suffering from at the moment. So, they re-flat-ironed the problem spots, and then gifted me with the most generous collection of my entire awards suites attendance. It was a big, shiny black bag filled (and I do mean filled!) with TiGi merchandise, including the Lil Hottie mini-flat iron, (named after me of course), several of their hair products, and tons of make-up that I wore to the next day’s suites.

I can’t wait to try the skin care line invented by 88-year-old Elizabeth Grant, wear the stunning Maji Beachwear bathing suits designed by Astrid Fryns (who’s also the winner of the best eyelashes award, bestowed by me, of course), and use the sensuous skin products from Kama Sutra.

The number one non-cosmetic items were the delicious-smelling Dirt Candles, made of soy products. I told them that I’ll put one or two in my earthquake preparedness kit because they can double as a light source AND a quick healthful snack! And I think I may not even be kidding! Each candle features many accents of aroma, and I had fun sniffing each one. It reminded me of a test I did with my friends when I was little; making them smell all the spices in my still-favorite jars in my mother’s kitchen. I swear, I always got such a kick out of it, and I thank Dirt Candles for bringing back that happy memory.

But my favorite experiences at the Liberace Suite came courtesy of Eminence, a Hungarian company specializing in handmade organic skin care, in the person of Christina Crandall of Synergy Clinical Skincare in Orange County . (Uh-oh, that reminds me that I’ll review the last episode of “The O.C.” in next week’s column because I’m still too busted-up over its demise to discuss it right now. …Well, anymore than I already did with anyone who wanted to hear about it at the Suites.)

At first, Christina performed a lavish hand treatment on me. (I know that sounds weird, but I really can’t think of a better way to word it at the moment.) But, as I was preparing to leave the Liberace Suite, I heard Eminence was also offering facials, so I figured I’d wait out the rain, and didn’t need to still have make-up on as I was headed out anyway. I expected the usual perfunctory treatment that many spas offer, while basically doing a private infomercial of their products.

What I got instead was a full hour facial, in a private room, with incredible results! The best I’ve ever had. When I woke up the next day, my skin was clearer, fresher, and I swear, FIRMER!!! Even Mr. X noticed. When your boyfriend of a hundred years notices your skin, you know you’re onto something amazing, a word I don’t bandy about, as most of Hollywood does. On a serious note, I have good skin anyway, courtesy of my mother, so facials never really do anything for me. That’s why my mind is so boggled by this experience. You know I’ll be using Eminence until my skin is so rejuvenated that I look like an embryo!


By the time I got to Haven House on the third day, I was running low on time and energy, so I had to make it just a quick stop. Regrettably so because it appeared to be the most jumping pre-awards venue that I’ve ever attended. It was held at a private mansion in Trousdale, and was a bit overwhelming for me. It reminded me of my not-so-distant days as a club promoter in that there were just so many people and activities, I didn’t know where to go first.

But, of course, I worked it out and had a fabulous time doing so. I wish I had made time to attend their nighttime goings-on, as well, because the word around town is that I missed some good events. Hopefully, there’s next year. Because of the breadth of Haven House, I didn’t get around to all the sponsors, but here are some of my highlights:

Madison & Mulholland, a luxe product placement company, hosted a whole floor of commodities that I believe were going into goodie bags for the nominated celebrities. Believe it or not, one of my two favorites among them was a gift certificate for a Bissell SpotBot, a compact deep cleaner, that Mr. X will love to use. (It’s weird, I know, but he loves cleaning innovations. Trust me, I’m not complaining. We all know I’M not the one who’ll be using it!) The other was Al Gore’s book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” whose movie version wound-up winning the Best Documentary Oscar.

Fruit Advantage gave me Wild Blueberry supplements, which support healthy brain function. Obviously, they hadn’t kicked in by the time I wrote this article.

I received products from two skincare lines, Desert Essence and Dermaquest, that were represented by girls with gorgeous skin. That bodes well for those of us who are going to use the serums on ourselves.

2 girls
There was one giant suite offering many different beauty treatments, but since I was on my way to film at the Sonya Dakar Lounge, I couldn’t take advantage of them. On the way out, though, I spotted the Revlon suite, and went berserk. I live in this line’s Overtime Mascara, and when I entered, someone called out, “Karen!” I looked up and saw it was Suzie Kim, my favorite make-up artist on “Brothers In Arms,” a movie I did last year. She really wanted to re-do mine here, but since I was in a mad dash out the door, she just hooked me up with their new line of Sugar Sugar Lip Toppings and Lash Jewels to try myself. Can’t wait!

BTW, all of these Awards suites are famous for hosting celebrities. Haven House seemed to have the most, at least during my brief stint there. The only people who interested me, though, were the two females from my favorite show “The O.C.” They’re Mischa Barton, whose character, Marissa Cooper, was killed off last year, and the girl who plays Taylor Townsend, who wound-up with Ryan, Marissa’s ex, after her expiration. I was worried the whole time that they’d run into each other and we’d have a catfight on our hands! I guess all the guys in attendance were rooting for just that.


On Saturday, still reeling from the previous three days, I headed down to the gorgeous Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel for the Main Event Lounge & PennHouse Awards Suite, which, I understand, is the first time producers of two different suites merged. It’s a great idea and definitely made it easier on their guests. I must pause a second here to observe that every spot I attended (save for the Liberace Suite, which had a lone good guy in the mix) was run by women! And nice ones, at that! How’s that for girl power??? (And being held at a hotel, this one really did consist of suites!)

I had been told by other attendees that the Lamborghini Watches were not to be missed. Well, guess what? Their area was so constantly busy that I did miss them! I can’t believe it! Of course, I saw the ultra-hip watches right from the start, and kept meaning to get back to them when they were less clamored for, but never made it. Gives me impetus to get there earlier next time.

Most Oscar Suites didn’t have much in the way of food, (who really had the time to stop and eat anyway?) so I was delighted to find my favorite meal set-up in the hallway between the rooms. Afternoon Tea! It was like an oasis in the desert. Turns out, Kim Shimmel, one of the hosts, loves taking tea almost as much as I do, and ordered it for the guests. I think it was the only time I took a break all week.

There were many charity aspects to this suite, but my favorite was the Bond and York Fine Furnishings Auction to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

I saved this Lounge’s best part for last. I found my hair’s soul mate at this one. I’m not kidding. His name is Michael Haase and you can usually find him at Christophe Salon in Beverly Hills. As I was sitting there, calmly allowing this stranger to take a scissors to my head, without batting an eyelash (neither of us did, actually), I was thinking about the length of time it takes people to find The One. I’m usually fortunate in that category.

I knew that Mr. X was the love of my life within one second of seeing him onstage, three days after I arrived in L.A. I found Clarence, the Singing Dog, in just about that same time frame. And I still have friends from early childhood. Though I’ve been fortunate with hair stylists, I never felt the proper connection until I met Michael. This is not the only reason I knew, but he told me in the first sentence that he watched my show from its inception. He described it perfectly to Katie, his assistant. We laughed and I spent much more time in this Oscar Lounge than I meant to.

But, though you may click with a stylist personality-wise, it’s all about what you come out looking like. I went there with good hair from the other suites this week, so I truly thought there was nothing left to do to it. But, with a modicum of effort, Michael improved my look in a subtle way, without ragging on the work done by his predecessors, which I thought was totally commendable. I hope he and I collaborate really soon and that you see his work on my future shows. And that you all find someone you instantly bond with, as I did with Michael.


And lastly, I finished up my Pre-Oscars week at a private home in Hancock Park where the Beauty Cafe was held, which featured many relaxing sponsors, exactly what I needed at this point. I was gifted with one of my favorite jewelry pieces, had a manicure, and two, count them--TWO, facials! What could be better??? Here’s the info:

The second I walked through the door, I saw the cleverly-named Rock Bands, which are innovative one-of-a-kind leather wristbands, each featuring a different stone that’s beneficial to the mind and body. I chose black obsidian, which is excellent for removing negativity. It must have worked because I had only peaceful experiences during the rest of my time at the Beauty Café. I think I’ll wear it on every audition from this moment hence!

American International provided China Glaze nail polishes, whose alluring Ruby Pumps is the color Theresa used on my nails. Everyone who saw them copied me. (Okay, I must fess up and tell you I also copied from the girl ahead of me.)

I had limited snack time amidst these beauty regimens, so I indulged in only Mary Louise Butters (her real name) Brownies, which came in exotic flavors, like Peace. (Made with cranberries and pecans.)

Biotene gifted us all with a carrying case chock full of oral hygiene products. I never knew there were so many different kinds of teeth and mouth conditions!

I couldn’t choose between the two featured facials, and then I found out they were different and complemented each other, so I went for them both!

other guy
This is what really happened: I was on my way to the VibraDerm treatment, which exfoliates, very comfortably, I might add, when I got side-tracked by the cutest guy I’ve seen in awhile, Alex Rodriguez. (Not the REAL Arod, but he’s so cute, he could be the baseball star’s younger brother.) He was there with his mom, and his sister, Monique, who was administering a different treatment, courtesy of Spa Angels, a company who specializes in private spa parties. Alex was headed toward her room, and I was just pulled along by his charm. (And green eyes, if truth be told.)

So, Monique did a non-surgical (well, duh, we were at an Oscar Lounge!) mini-facelift with a Chromalift suction machine. The whole process was extremely relaxing. Then I headed back over to VibraDerm, and they did a mini-microdermabrasion. The irony of the whole thing is that I’ve been too tired from all my suite-ing to even look in the mirror to see how everything worked, much less go to parties and flaunt my new looks. So, I’ll try to do full treatments, separately, in the near future and report on them then. But for now, I’m going to sleep for a long while--at least until September’s Emmy Suites begin!

Karen’s Restaurant Revue airs on March 5, 2007 at 8PM and March 12 at 8:30PM (2 different shows) on Time-Warner Cable, Channels 98, 77, 37, or 3. Check the listings in your area.

Missed one of Karen Salkin's previous restaurant reviews?
Out To Lunch Dec. 28 -
Karen's year-end wrapup
Out To Lunch Dec. 19 -
Karen reviews Chakra
Out To Lunch Nov. 28-
Karen reviews "Jersey Boys" at The House of Blues & Frankie Valli
Out To Lunch Nov. 28-
Karen reviews Tesoro Trattoria
Out To Lunch Oct. 27-
Karen reviews Deli Boys
Out To Lunch Oct. 27-
Karen reviews Chakra
Out To Lunch Oct. 16-
Karen reviews Cinespace
Out To Lunch Oct. 6-
Karen reviews Aphrodisiac
Out To Lunch Sept. 26-
Karen reviews Ugo and Patina Catering
Out To Lunch Sept. 14-
Karen's Food Court Guide
Out To Lunch Aug 29-
Locanda Del Lago review
Out To Lunch Aug 17-
Karen reviews CUBE on La Brea
Out To Lunch Aug 9-
Karen unveils her quick breakfast, lunch and Chinese menu favorites and visits Nathan's
Out To Lunch July 31-
Karen does a NY restaurant run-through extending from Manhattan and Brooklyn
Out To Lunch July 20-
Karen talks about The Greatest Show On Earth
Out To Lunch July 13-
Karen's Dark Secret
(okay, one of them) and reviews
Osteria Latinia
Out To Lunch July 6-
Library Tea Asia de Cub
Out To Lunch June 29-
Upstairs at Vitello’s,
Jurlique Day Spa,
"Back On Broadway"
Out To Lunch June 20-
Organic To Go, Cafe 50's
Out To Lunch June 13-
Karen reviews Mr. Chow's
Out To Lunch June 6-
Karen reviews Amici
Missed one of Karen Salkin's entertainment and theater reviews?
Read Karen's theater review of Edward Scissorhands, Plaid Tidings and quick movie notes
Karen reviews Champions On Ice
Karen comments on Andre Agassi
Karen reviews the annual Emmy Suites
Karen reviews "Curtains" and Burton Morris
Karen reviews "Water and Power" and "Hayfever"
Karen reviews "Much Adoobie About Nothing"
Karen reviews "So You Think You Can Dance?" and "Beehive"
Karen reviews "Doubt?" and "Fat Of The Land "
Karen reviews "Sweet Charity" and the "Marvelous Wonderettes"
Karen reviews "Nightingale" and "Souvenir"
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