Oscar Fever

By |2017-10-31T06:23:19-04:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

In Hollywood, the Oscar parties take place in ultra chic dining salons with names like Morton’s, Moomba, Sardi’s and Spago. But in Detroit, the most popular Oscar hoopla fest happens in Dave Hill’s midtown Detroit apartment. This year actually marks his 30th anniversary in the Oscar party business.
“I was a small child when I started,” he said with a laugh. “I said, ‘What’s an excuse to have a party in the spring time?’ Then I said, ‘I know, the Oscars.'”
Hill was a student at Wayne State when he threw his first party. Eventually he moved to New York and took the parties with him. There, Hill worked in films for a time, mainly in editing.
“You’re working from one project to the next and you never know what’s around the corner,” said Hill. “So I said, ‘Well, I’ll get a regular job.'”
But Hill was clever enough to find one that still managed to indulge his love of films.
“I’ve been working in bookstores for a while now,” he said. “Since I collect books I get the discount so I can add to my collection.”
That mountainous collection now includes over 6,000 titles, including favorites like signed editions of screenplays by Penelope Gilliate (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and Adolf Green (“Singin’ in the Rain”).
Back in Detroit since 1993, Hill still receives ballots each year from friends in New York, as well as from Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Attendees vote in advance of the annual party, which always takes place the Saturday night before the Academy Awards.
“Now some of the people who came originally 30 years ago come every year, so it’s sort of like a reunion,” said Hill, who added he hosted 80 folks last year.
And there’s educational value in the event as well.
“I have a quiz that goes with it. The theme this year is gangster movies so the quiz goes along with that.”
Last year’s theme was Dracula and horror films. Before that it was James Bond, and another year featured films set in New York. So the question just begs to be asked: Where did his intense love of films come from?
“The first movie I ever saw was ‘King of Kings,’ the silent Cecil B. DeMille film, because they showed it in our church,” Hill recalled. “My parents were strict Methodists so films were kind of forbidden. Then eventually I discovered there was a whole other world out there besides ‘The Story of Ruth.’
“When I was in high school we got an 8-millimeter camera and I started making short films,” Hill continued. “I also made films at Wayne State and took all the film classes.”
Hill’s partner Julio, a native Peruvian, doesn’t always get Hill’s movie obsession, but like any good mate, he doesn’t stop Hill from indulging.
“We’ve been together 11 years,” Hill said. “I’ve introduced him to things like ‘All About Eve’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard.'”
Oddly enough, Hill says he doesn’t have a favorite film.
“I have certain ones I like a lot, such as a French film named ‘Providence,'” he said. “I guess I like foreign films a lot, like Fellini, and I like Hitchcock. In fact, we had a Hitchcock party one year.”
It’s the films and filmmakers that are the focus, not the Oscars themselves.
“It’s just a big show,” Hill said. “It’s political. When I started doing it I was kind of embarrassed, like, ‘Oh God, I’m having an Oscar party.’ I don’t consider them sacred or anything … but I still watch them every year.”
Hill says his friends’ voting is about 75 percent in line with the Academy’s. There have been times, though, when the Academy has definitely erred.
“There are lot of films I would maybe disagree with,” he said. “I remember the year Richard Dreyfus won for ‘The Goodbye Girl’ and I thought Richard Burton was much better in ‘Equus.'”
Today, the 50-something Hill says he doesn’t go out to the movies often.
“I watch stuff on TV but I don’t even rent films anymore,” he said. “A lot of films that come out, well, I don’t have much anticipation for them anymore.”
Part of the problem might be that after 30 years of throwing Oscar parties, Hill has pretty much seen it all. It’s not like there’s a lot of original thought flowing out of Hollywood these days.
“We’re all waiting for ‘Bewitched’ to see if Nicole Kidman is going to twitch her nose as well as Elizabeth Montgomery,” Hill said with a chuckle. “It does seem they’re reaching farther and farther into the bag of old tricks.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.