Sunday, February 24th, 2013, 3:45pm. After having had my car searched and inspected by LAPD officers on Hollywood Boulevard, I’m in line to surrender it to the valet at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. As I walk across Highland to the security tent, I can already hear celebrities being greeted by fans in the bleachers on the red carpet forecourt.
Once my ticket scanned and having walked through the metal detectors, I’m ready to step on the red carpet where a line of fancily dressed Oscar guests are slowly walking their way alongside the velvet rope separating us from the celebrities. Hundreds of media outlets are present on one side, with the fans on the other. If anyone attending the Oscars is desperately trying to be seen on television on the red carpet by standing in the background of interviews, security ensures that guests keep walking. I call my friends who are watching at home to let them know where I am. I spot Michael Douglas and Dustin Hoffman being interviewed. Then Anne Hathaway... Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer Aniston walks right by me flanked by Justin Theroux. I could swear I recognized Steve Guttenberg from the Police Academy movies. I see Adele and, finally, Best Actress nominee Jessica Chastain posing for a group of thirty or so photographers. I step behind her hoping to appear in some of the selected photos. This is the end of the red carpet.
I come in through the first floor entrance of the Dolby Theatre lobby where the pre-show cocktail
party, as advertised in the arrival instructions provided with the Oscar tickets, is in full swing. After being handed an Oscar program book by an Academy official, I walk by Christopher Plummer, Salma Hayek (being complimented by a fan), nominee Amy Adams and gorgeous Jane Fonda. She is a presenter tonight. So is Reese Witherspoon who is standing in the Dolby VIP lounge. The crowd is so dense that finding waiters carrying trays covered with hors d’oeuvres specially conceived by Wolfgang Puck becomes an arduous task. I manage to get a few salmon bites and, instead of waiting in line at the open bar (which turns into a cash bar during the show), get a glass of white wine from a waiter holding a tray. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter are standing a few feet away by the giant spiral staircase. I cross path with tonight’s nominee Daniel Day Lewis. As he walks by, someone congratulates him for his nomination. Russell Crowe, dressed in sport clothes followed by an assistant holding his tux, rushes through a door in the Dolby lounge that leads to the backstage area. He is performing tonight and obviously didn’t walk the red carpet. Gael Garcia Bernal is there, so are Academy governor Ed Begley, Jr. and actor John Savage. I also recognize character actor Theodore Bikel from the classic Norman Jewison movie, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming. I walk by Michael G. Wilson, co-producer of the James Bond movies. After all, the Academy is honoring tonight the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise. The announcer keeps track of the countdown to the show through the speakers: ‘This year’s Academy Awards will begin in 25 minutes, please take your seat’. At 5:15pm, guests start rushing to their seats through the 3 levels of the Dolby theatre. My seat is located on mezzanine 3 which is packed with people. Tonight is a full house, no empty seats. Minutes before show time, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron stroll on stage to remind nominees to keep their acceptance speeches short. Then, light the lights, let the show begin…
Seth McFarlane appears on the spectacularly designed Oscar stage. The show is punctuated
throughout by beautifully choreographed musical numbers, including a tribute to the film Chicago performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Dame Shirley Bassey sings Goldfinger to celebrate the anniversary of the James Bond franchise and Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were, homage to recently deceased composer Marvin Hamlisch, whose photograph concludes the In Memoriam segment of the show introduced by George Clooney.
During one of the commercial breaks of the 13-act show, popcorn and candies are distributed by
ladies dressed as movie theater hostesses. I take advantage of the 3 minutes to check my text messages. Two friends tell me they saw me on the red carpet behind Anne Hathaway.
Throughout the evening, a few surprises make these Academy Awards a memorable 85th
year: Ang Lee winning Best Director over Steven Spielberg, Christoph Waltz winning Best Supporting Actor over Tommy Lee Jones and finally the presence, via satellite transmission from the White House, of Michelle Obama assisting Jack Nicholson in presenting the Best Picture award. If the three-time winner is rather familiar with the proceedings, having presented Best Picture a record 8 times, it marked the first time a First Lady participates in the Oscars.
As Seth MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth close the show by honoring the night’s losers with a musical performance, people rush to the theatre’s first level lobby to get a glimpse of the participants, winners and nominees exiting the Oscars. While some of them head to the Governors’ ball, others go back to their limos to attend one of the many Oscar bashes held in town. Standing close to the exit, I see Robert De Niro and wife, Steven Spielberg, Hugh Jackman and Jessica Chastain walking by. If they didn’t win tonight, they certainly hide their disappointment. Guests, including me, have their photos taken near the human-size Oscar statues outside. The 85th Academy Awards are over and I stand among hundreds in the underground parking structure, waiting to get my car back.