February 20th, 2009
08:51 PM ET

The last 'Late Night' of Conan

Editor's Note: Tim Farley, an Atlanta software engineer and creator of Whatstheharm.net, requested tickets for a "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" show last month. Much to his surprise, he received two tickets for the February 20 program, O'Brien's very last "Late Night," as the host is moving to the "Tonight" show in a few months. Here is Tim's report.

Warning: The following is light on spoilers, but there are a couple. – Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

This past January 20 was a great day for many people, but I had an extra reason to celebrate. On that day I received an unusual e-mail from NBC. There had been a special lottery announced to obtain tickets to the final tapings of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." I had sent in a single request to enter my name. I was rewarded with a pair of tickets to tonight's broadcast, his final show in New York.

I made arrangements to fly from Atlanta to New York with my brother. As long-time fans of the program, we were not going to miss it. Others were equally enthusiastic. Hundreds waited on line in the frigid February New York weather for a mere chance at a standby ticket. We talked to several who had actually camped overnight - one of whom got in line so early he had to figure out how he'd watch THURSDAY night's show. (He finally watched on his laptop, tapping into a wi-fi connection.)

Some 31 standby tickets were issued.

Taping began at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. We met others in the audience who had traveled from Minneapolis, Alaska and Canada to see the broadcast. It was a fantastic ending sure to please fans of the show. The White Stripes performed, but the other guests on the program were left as a last-minute surprise. One recognizable gentleman stripped to lime-green short shorts and danced to some music, to Conan's horror. (Those of you who watch the show regularly will know who this is already.)

One thing you won't see on air was the crowd of almost a dozen friends of the show, including current and former writers, gathered by the stage door to watch the taping from up close. This included former head writer Robert Smigel, who was snapping photos of the proceedings with a digital camera.

Conan continued his trend (started on Monday) of demolishing his set and handing out hunks to the audience. Some of the pieces were so large they had to be further chopped up with an axe. And he ended the program with an off-the-cuff and teary "thank you" to everyone who had helped him.

It was all well worth the price of admission (to reference an old Johnny Carson joke) - and well worth the plane ticket, too.

–Tim Farley

Filed under: television
February 20th, 2009
12:45 PM ET

Questions about the Oscars

The 81st annual Academy Awards will be presented Sunday night, and we have two questions.

1. CNN.com’s Tom Charity has already made his winners’ picks. What are yours? Comment below or send us an iReport.

2. It’s no secret that Oscar ratings are in decline, whether for lack of a rooting interest, boredom with endless awards shows or exhaustion with celebrity culture (or all of the above). What would YOU do to mix things up and make the Academy Awards worth watching from beginning to end?

Also, stay in tune with the Oscars by coming to the Marquee blog and watching CNN on Sunday. CNN.com’s Jacque Wilson will be live-blogging from the red carpet, and “Hollywood’s Gold Rush” will air live on CNN Sunday night at 7 p.m. Eastern. While hosts Brooke Anderson, Kareen Wynter and AJ Hammer look over the red carpet, you’ll have an opportunity to comment on the gorgeous gowns, natty tuxes or out-of-place fashion faux pas. So watch the show and come by the blog - your comment may appear on CNN!

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Celebrities • movies
February 20th, 2009
11:10 AM ET

$30 million worth of 'ooooh'

Editor’s Note: CNN’s Jacque Wilson is in Los Angeles for the first time to cover the Academy Awards. Follow her blog updates from the event Sunday right here at CNN.com/marquee.

Michael O'Connor looks over some goodies.

No girl can turn down jewelry. So when accessory style expert Michael O’Connor invited me to observe several of his Oscar appointments, I jumped at the chance - if for nothing else than to be in a room with $30 million worth of “ooooh.”

O’Connor is a liaison of sorts between celebrity stylists and accessory designers. He gathers jewels he thinks his clients will like so that the stylists don’t have to run to a bunch of different designers. In return, they take $34,000 watches off his hands.

In this economy the celebrities are cutting back, O’Connor said. He expects red-carpet walkers to veer away from bling and head toward classic pieces that "can stand the test of time."

That, of course, means platinum.

For fabric, O’Connor sees less red, more black, white and dark blues. But simple colors don’t mean the process is any easier. Stylists take weeks putting together the perfect outfit for their client. The neckline affects the hairdo, which affects the necklace, which affects the earrings, which affect, again, the hairdo. And then when the celebrity changes his or her mind the day before the event, O’Connor gets a call at midnight.

"Celebrities are just like you and I," he told me. "They wake up in the morning and say, 'what was I thinking when I bought this outfit? It makes my butt look fat.' Or gives me no chest, or height or whatever."

Funny, I say that about every outfit I wear.

And just when I was about to head out the door, my head spinning from the sparkle, in walked the stylist for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. She knew what she wanted and it didn’t include anything that dangled, had rubies or was too white-diamond. "Angie," she said, wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t wear that.

Thousand-dollar baubles aside, I’m still shocked that I was in a room with someone who could call Angelina Jolie "Angie." Can the Oscars on Sunday really top that?

- Jacque Wilson, CNN.com Associate Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
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