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The Oscars

An island of true blue in a sea of designer glamour

March 01, 2004|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

As the stars strolled the red carpet dressed in gowns by Versace, Chanel and Valentino and suits by Armani, six movie fans in the bleachers wore attire making its own fashion statement: five dressed in dress blues of the U.S. Marine Corps and one in dress blues from the U.S. Navy.

All six served in the major combat phase of the war in Iraq and, thanks to the TV Guide Channel, were given VIP seats near the red carpet stroll as well as tickets for the "Night of 100 Stars Oscar Gala" bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Chosen by a drawing at Camp Pendleton, the six came equipped with cameras and orders from colleagues.

"All the guys want a picture of Angelina Jolie," said Navy medic Rhoel Caneso Flores, 31, who has already received orders to return to Iraq.

Their long deployment in Iraq left them behind schedule in watching the top movies of the year. " 'Bad Santa,' especially the part with the midget," said Lance Cpl. Leigh R. Lagasse, 22, when asked to name his favorite film.

For some, the experience in Iraq has shaped their view of the movies.

Lance Cpl. Ismael Villalobos, 19, gained a greater appreciation of "Black Hawk Down" and its depiction of the chaos of combat. "They got it right," he said. "That's how it is."

Cpl. Katie R. Walker, 26, has sworn off movies with violence. "They just bring back too many flashes of things," she said.

If the Marines and Flores had no trouble picking out their outfits -- military regulations require dress uniforms in semiformal occasions -- their spouses and significant others had choices to make.

Joan Flores, 29, is eight months pregnant. She found a stylish maternity dress just minutes before the mall closed Saturday.

Hollywood isn't the only place concerned about color coordination. Marine rules say that women being escorted by Marines in dress blues must wear "tasteful" dresses of blue, red or black.

"I had a beautiful pink dress but couldn't wear it," said Lagasse's girlfriend, Erin Gaian, 23, who donned a red gown purchased Saturday from Neiman Marcus.

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