LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Is it the shoes? Maybe not on the hardwood, but the Oscars red carpet is a different story. This is also a different kind of year.

The million-dollar shoe designer tones it down, and celebrities collect some swag while raising awareness of the arts.


TO BLING OR NOT TO BLING: Because of the not-so-glitzy economy, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman decided to forego his annual tradition of sending a one-of-a-kind pair of heels decked out with $1 million worth of gems down the red carpet on an up-and-comer's feet. Weitzman said such an extravagant display would not be appropriate this year.

"There are things that are right, and there are things that are not right. This year, we have chocolate shoes," Weitzman said pointing to a table of candy replicas at his suite at The London West Hollywood, where stylists were stopping by Thursday and Friday to pick up shoes for celebrity clients.

"You know how the old saying in retail goes: 'Sometimes you have to eat your inventory,'" he said.

Last year, the fancy-footwear designer chose "Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody to wear specially designed $1 million diamond-encrusted shoes to the ceremony, but Cody caused furor, calling the selection "a cheesy publicity stunt." She opted to wear a pair of simple gold flats under her flowing Dior leopard print dress instead.

Weitzman hopes his "big fan" Angelina Jolie, the best actress Oscar nominee who previously donned nude Weitzman heels to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes, will again wear a pair of his shoes Sunday.

SWAG TIME: Oscar time is swag time in Hollywood, and gift suites in Beverly Hills were bustling Friday.

The Haven suite, held at a private hillside home with views of downtown L.A., offered couture gowns, anti-cellulite treatments, fancy handbags, eyelash extensions and vacuum cleaners — all while raising awareness for the arts.

Stars who visited the suite were invited to record public service announcements for the Creative Coalition in support of federal funding for the arts.

"The point is to use the spotlight of entertainment and the spotlight of celebrity to focus on the arts and funding for the arts," said Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, a 20-year-old nonprofit group attached to the entertainment industry.

Paula Abdul picked up a Charlie Lapson evening bag, fellow "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi grabbed Foster Grant sunglasses, and "90210" star AnnaLynne McCord reveled in the pampering treatments.

"This week has been absolutely crazy," she said. "It's nice to be here and relax a little and be a girl for five minutes."


Associated Press Writers Derrik J. Lang and Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.


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