Thursday, April 22, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs, at the Academy Awards

In the 70's the year of "Nashville", my friend, who's husband was a producer, offered her Academy Awards ticket to me, and her friend, Tad. She had been several times, and the novelty of it had worn off, and she preferred to stay at home and watch it on tv.
I was very excited to be going to the Oscar ceremony, especially because 2 people I had become acquainted with, were nominated!
Robert Altman was the ex-step-father-in-law of a friend of mine, and I had gone with him to several parties at The Altman's,and to screenings of his films. Lily Tomlin was a friend of the Groundlings, had been to see our shows, and hired several of us to work on her specials.
Back then, it was held at the beautiful, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, downtown, now home to the LA Opera.
I wore a long, vintage, peach-colored, silk brocade chinese dress, with the high collar, and slit up the side. It was the closest thing I had to a formal. Tad in a tux, of course. I was shocked to see some people showing up in denim, but this was the 70's, after all. It was fun watching all the people coming in, and then we went to find our seats. We were in the very last row! There was equipment and monitors, and cables everywhere, some partially blocking our view. But still, we were there!
After the first few commercial breaks, where everything just stops, and there is just silence, and you can see the commercials on the monitors, but not hear, and you're just sitting there, I understood why my friend chose to stay home. It was kind of boring. But still, we were there!
And it was very long, like it always is.
After the show, as everyone was streaming out, I felt a little left out, as my friend had not purchased the tickets to the Governor's Ball. That was extra.

I was to attend the Governor's Ball another year, but not as a guest.

It was the year of "Titanic." I was doing catering work, and I got the call to work the Academy awards. Hmmm, this might be interesting, so I took the job.
Every person in LA who did catering work was probably there that night. I think it was one server per table, so they needed hundreds. Armies of actor-types in tux shirts and black bow ties.
This year, it was at The Shrine Auditorium. We got a briefing, and inspection, and were specifically instructed not to talk to any of the guest unless it was related to the job. And, DON'T talk to anyone in the kitchen!!! Those chef types are egotistical assholes! Who knew!? This was before all those asshole chef shows on tv!
The hall was huge, and gorgeous, all greens and golds, and plants, and matching linens, and little Oscar statues everywhere. Even some of the appetizers and desserts were in the shape of Oscar.
During the awards telecast, we were all busy bees backstage, and had no idea who won what. Not until they all started streaming in with their statutes in hand. Kim Bassinger! Yeah! James Cameron, Curtis Hanson. I nearly ran right into Kate Winslet; looking stunning in her emerald green, medieval-inspired, Alexander McQueen gown. Loved it!
I had Ellen Burstyn at my table. Deep Sigh. I had a personal story I would have loved to remind her of, but I couldn't. A very close friend of mine, who was a movie freak, wrote her a fan letter after he saw "The Last Picture Show." Because he was a very intelligent and thoughtful person, I'm sure it was a memorable letter, and she answered him. He was so thrilled.
Twenty five years later, as he lay dying of AIDS, in USC Medical Center, she happened to be visiting AIDS patients, and inexplicably, came to his bedside. He reminded her of the letter, and how much it had meant to him that she answered it, and she remembered.
I couldn't mention to her that he was one of my closest, oldest friends, and how much her letter, and the visit so many years later, meant to him. I just had to hold it in, and think about it to myself.
I worked my butt off that night, and the catering people who were running it were all high anxiety, and barking orders. I felt like a slave.
All in all,it was an interesting experience, but I would never do it again. Kind of like my trip to Morocco.
At the end of the night, as I was leaving, I picked up several of the real gold covered chocolate Oscars that people had left on the tables. I took a couple to my Mom. She had them in her fridge for years.


  1. Love that story, thanks for sharing. You write beautifully!

    1. You do write beautifully! XOXO