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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Conan O'Brien goes Wilde at Irish Oscars party

Katie Byrne in Los Angeles

Published 01/03/2014 | 02:30

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Talk show host Conan O'Brien and wife Liza Powel O'Brien at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California
Talk show host Conan O'Brien and wife Liza Powel O'Brien at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California
Claudine Keane and husband Robbie Keane at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California
Claudine Keane and husband Robbie Keane at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California
Sarah Bolger at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California
Sarah Bolger at the Irish pre-Oscars party in Santa Monica, California

IT didn't matter if you were Irish or not – everyone wanted a ticket to the hottest 'Irish' Oscar party in Hollywood.

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"How many people here are Irish?" asked comedian and chat show host Conan O'Brien at Thursday night's 'Oscar Wilde: Honouring the Irish in Film' party in Los Angeles.

A sea of arms immediately sprung into the air.

"I don't mean 'kiss me I'm Irish, I'm mostly Italian'," he added, when it looked like the entire room were claiming to have harps on their passports.

"I mean, who's really Irish here?" he asked again. This time there was a collective lowering of arms.

The annual Oscar Wilde party, which takes place in director JJ Abrams's Bad Robot production house in Santa Monica, is a celebration of Irish film and filmmakers and is one of the most coveted tickets on the Oscars pre-party circuit.

While O'Brien joked that the event's organisers bestowed awards on those whose "names sound Irish", he went on to link his ancestry back to Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

"I can tell you that I'm the most Irish person here," he asserted. "On a genetic level. Let me tell you why."

O'Brien went on to explain how his ancestors gradually populated a small farming community in central Massachusetts. "For 160 years we married other 100pc Irish people, which means, ladies and gentleman, I am dangerously inbred."

O'Brien was one of the 'Irish' honoured at the ninth annual Oscar Wilde event. Despite a dubious attempt at an Irish accent, the chat show host kept the crowd entertained with a hilarious acceptance speech, in which he bemoaned his pale skin and recounted an ill-fated road trip between Kerry and Dublin.

"Leave it to the Irish to give a major film award to a man who has never appeared in a film," he laughed.

The other award-winner on the evening, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, only started his family tree research when he heard he was receiving the honour. On collecting his award, he thanked "my family and especially one man. . . Daniel Hurley, who first came to this country and in a way made this all possible."

There were plenty of bona fide Irish people in attendance too. Claudine and Robbie Keane moved to the city in 2011, and revealed that they had settled into the LA lifestyle.

"America is a whole different ball game when it comes to after-school activities," said Claudine. "Robert is doing after-school this, that and the other. He's now started karate."

The couple made headlines last year when they sold their Hollywood home to ex-Spice girl Mel B. Speaking to the Irish Independent, they revealed that another house move is imminent.

"We've no attachments here," admitted Claudine. "We tend to sell every year and move somewhere else. It's a good way to experience the city."

Unlike other Oscars parties where black ties and ball gowns are compulsory, the Oscar Wilde party is known for its relaxed approach and smart-casual dress code. Film director Steven Spielberg has described the event as one of the best in Los Angeles, while previous honouree Colin Farrell praised it for its "lack of pretence".

Entertainment was provided by Elton John's protegees, The Strypes. The Cavan teenagers are managed by his Rocket Music Management company and recently appeared on Conan O'Brien's show.

Among those enjoying their performance were Northern Irish band Snow Patrol, who are spending time in LA writing their new album. Other attendees included actresses Sarah Bolger and Antonia Campbell-Hughes, as well as Philomena Lee, the woman who inspired the Oscar-nominated film 'Philomena'.

The event is the brainchild of Trina Vargo, founder and president of the nonprofit US-Ireland Alliance.

The organisation recently launched the by-invitation Cultur Club, a way to bring Irish people in the US together more frequently.

Irish Independent

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