Parking Gets an ‘Oscar’
By John Van Horn
It was a beautiful, clear, crisp and cold California day as more than 600 limousines and 700 other vehicles descended on the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, bringing the glitterati to Oscar’s big party. And I was fortunate enough to be invited to stand at the entrance to the “red carpet” and watch the parking professionals Valet Parking Service and Classic Parking put on “their show,” and what a show it was.
Surrounding streets were closed to non-Oscar-related traffic, carpet was laid over the pavement, heaters were up and running, security was strict and the vehicles began arriving about three hours before show time (5:15 p.m. PST). While that might seem early, it’s necessary to allow the actors, actresses, directors, et al. time to greet friends and colleagues, and, of course, time to be interviewed by the various reporters who lined the red carpet.
On the street, Valet Parking Service, which has handled the limousine coordination since the 1970s, and Classic Parking, which handles the valet parking for personal vehicles, stood ready for lights, action, camera, and the entire scene looked spectacular.
Planning for the big day began months in advance as both parking companies worked closely with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, LAPD and other police and security agencies, and the LA Department of Transportation to ensure that the event went off without a hitch.
Highland Avenue was closed for four blocks around the theatre and turned into a one-way arrival mode for limousines; likewise, Hollywood Boulevard was closed to all traffic other than arriving vehicles, all of which converged upon the red carpet area.
Before arriving at the red carpet area, all limousines and private vehicles had to drive through a series of blockades and checkpoints and thereby get “cleared” before entering the drop-off area.
On the limo side, red-jacketed greeters assigned numbers to each chauffeur and a matching numbered claim check to guests, who were assisted out of the limousine and greeted with a warm welcome and brief instructions on how to have their limo returned at the end of the evening.
The limousines were then dispatched to the Hollywood Bowl, about one mile up Highland Avenue, where they would remain until called for at the end of the evening. The terrace area at the Bowl is reserved for the limo drivers to watch the show and enjoy a catered dinner until the time comes for them to retrieve their guests.
Guests driving personal vehicles arrived via Hollywood Boulevard – both limo and private vehicle drivers were given detailed instructions and dashboard passes on how to enter the area around the theatre. They were greeted by black-jacketed valets, who also provided a warm welcome and brief instructions on where and how to retrieve their vehicle at the end of the evening.
If you can imagine a dozen or so limos stopped in four side-by-side lanes with greeters opening doors, people exiting and moving toward the red carpet – all the time with police directing traffic and pedestrians – it is a well-choreographed scene. The limos would move off and another set would take their place continuously through the three-hour period leading up to show time.
The greeters were a marvel to watch, some having done as many as 20 Academy Awards shows. They realized that this was the attendees’ party and treated everyone as a special guest. White-gloved hands ensured that guests headed in the right direction and didn’t step in front of a limo moving just a few feet away.
Tuxedo-clad assistants stepped forward to help with jackets, escort to the red carpet, and when asked by the guest, took a picture for the guest with his or her camera. (Before guests entered the theatre, all cameras were checked to be retrieved at evening’s end.)
The small touches seemed to make the difference with personal service: a hand here, a kind word there, helping with a jacket always makes the smiles a bit wider, said Tony Policella, Co-Managing Partner of Valet Parking Service.
On the valet side, Classic Parking’s Chief Operating Officer, Abe Reyes, and his crew had a constant stream of arriving private vehicles, each of which had to be greeted, receive instructions and then be driven off by a valet, who then had to run back to do the process all over again and again.
Guests got out of their vehicles at different paces, and courtesy was always utmost but sometimes a gentle word was needed to “keep the line rolling.” The valets approached five vehicles at a time in two lanes, and they were able to move them quickly and efficiently. The guests, once out of their vehicles, waited for a break in the limo line and were then directed by the police to cross the “intersection” and enter onto the red carpet.
After the Academy Awards show, many guests headed to the Governors Ball, held on-site, and some go directly to the after-parties held around the city. So there were, in effect, two major departure periods.
Guests who had their vehicles valet-parked were directed to the on-site parking facility beneath the theatre, and depending on the color of their claim check, went to the 4th or 5th level to retrieve their vehicles.
Guests who had arrived by limousine were directed to “call-back tables” to present their claim check number and the “operators” called up to the Hollywood Bowl, where dispatchers were stationed. They, in turn, notified the chauffeurs that their guests were ready for departure. A steady line of limousines drove back down Highland Avenue, where guests, some with the famous Oscar statue in hand, awaited the arrival of “their ride.”
It was quite an afternoon and evening being in the midst of this incredible event and to get a behind-the-scenes look at what takes place in the street.
I recommend that Parking Oscars go to Norm Kinard, Director of Special Events for Valet Parking Service, and to Abe Reyes, Classic Parking’s COO and event coordinator, and their incredible co-workers and staffs. Both men made it very clear that the “thanks” go to everyone who greeted guests, parked the vehicles, worked the call-back tables, and staffed the Hollywood Bowl and the parking garage for making it all happen.
John Van Horn is Founder, Publisher and Editor of Parking Today.
“Oscar” is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Article Abstract from April, 2011