“An Evening With Oscar” for Beacon Media Newspapers

February 2008

Sunday night was the 80th Academy Awards, an event watched by millions of people around the world, as the telecast usually reminds viewers. I was fortunate enough to attend the Oscars for the tenth time because my father works for ABC and the experience was again surreal.

I always intend to get to the Oscars early, around 3:30 p.m., so I can take time walking the red carpet traffic jam and do some gawking along with the screaming fans before the show starts at 5:30, but after hair, make-up, changing into my dress and taking some photos at my apartment, I left late, drove through the rain and arrived at the Kodak Theater at about 4:40 p.m.

By the time I went through the line at the red carpet security tent metal detectors I knew I had to get to my seat fast since ushers do not allow people in the theater during the show, but only during commercials.

Katherine Heigl breezed past me going away from the Kodak as I walked quickly past the dawdling star gazers.

I stopped to have an Academy photographer take a picture of me on the red carpet in front of a large Oscar statuette, which made me feel like I was posing for the most glamorous prom picture ever and then it was full speed ahead past more security and into the Kodak main floor lobby where I ate a cherry tomato stuffed with truffled goat cheese—amazing—off a platter that Seal had just sampled from. Heidi Klum was on her cell phone looking gorgeous in her red dress—mine was red too so at this point I felt pretty confident that I made the same color choice as Katherine Heigl and Heidi Klum.

After sitting through the first six acts of the Oscars I left after best actress was awarded since my dad had given me a printed out rundown of the show and I saw nothing too exciting would be happening for a while. The tributes, sad but true, are usually the best time for a bathroom break. I went to my favorite place during the Oscars, the green room, and stayed there for the rest of the show.

This small backstage room is like an elegant lounge where celebrities go to relax and eat or just look longingly at hors d’ oeuvres, usually before or after presenting an award. This year’s design was vibrant and Old Hollywood, inspired by 1940s designer Dorothy Draper, who used checkered floors, red and green furniture and floral accents.

The hors d’ oeuvres table beckoned with dishes like chicken skewers, addictive gingered carrot wontons, tacoshimi (mini tacos with roasted vegetables), fruit, cheese and other small delicacies and I felt self-conscious about eating more than one but thankfully my job does not include being scrutinized about my appearance.

BlackBerries were also plentiful everywhere I went as executives and entourage members texted away whatever calories they consumed.

A pregnant Jessica Alba sat in a big comfortable chair and Anne Hathaway told her how beautiful she was and how friends had told her that the level of pre-pregnancy fitness helps determine what you will look like after the baby is born.

“You are set in that department,” said Hathaway.

The two sounded a bit like teenage girls complementing each other on their skinniness and feigning modesty about their own bodies but making me wonder if they genuinely think they have average physiques. Then again, they don’t measure themselves against average people.

Javier Bardem set his Oscar down on a coffee table and got a congratulatory handshake from Martin Scorsese. John Travolta told Bardem he loved the comments he made in Spanish for his mother and gave a thumbs up.

Penelope Cruz was in the green room and her small entourage cheered when “No Country For Old Men” won best director and best picture since Cruz is dating Bardem, though it is apparently not public.

After the Cohen brothers finished their acceptance speech I headed out the lobby and into the cold night air to begin my ascent up the Hollywood and Highland Center escalators to the Wolfgang Puck-catered Board of Governors Ball.

Vases of red roses on regal gold-accented tables and clear crystal balls hanging from the ceiling like bubbles made the room feel like a dream, along with the many waiters attentively serving platters of hors d’oeuvres like steak tartare crostini and mini pizzas as well as champagne, wine and martinis just begging to be sipped to accentuate the celebration.

This is the biggest schmoozefest of all where celebrities chat and congratulate each other and the network executives talk about the show’s length and share compliments and critiques with the producer and director. Executives were delighted that this year’s Oscars were over thirty minutes shorter than last year.

The genuine feeling I heard was that the show went smoothly—nothing too exciting—and Jon Stewart did a good job hosting, though Monday revealed the show had its lowest ratings in decades, which I attribute to the low popularity of the nominated films.

Usually ABC executives sit at my table so when Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart came over I looked at my ticket again to make sure I got the table number correct. I was right and Indiana Jones sat down and Flockhart talked to another woman at the table about how fast kids grow up and she was taking her seven-year-old son to the La Brea tar pits the next day.

Dinner always keeps me in suspense equal to that of the Oscar results. Looking at the menu I discovered that wagyu beef was the main course, accompanied by a black truffle macaroni and cheese I could not wait to try since gourmet mac and cheese and truffle are two of my favorite flavors. Servers spooned hot macaroni and cheese from a ceramic casserole-type dish, making it truly feel like comfort food. I had two servings and did not taste truffle but the heavy cheesy dish was still sinfully delicious.

A last course of decadence came in the form of a chocolate raspberry mousse cake topped with a hard chocolate glittery sphere and I wrapped some mini tarts and cupcakes in a gold napkin to take home.

My father and I waited for Pink Martini to play an upbeat song since it is our tradition to dance a bit before we leave, but they transitioned to slower songs and a tango so I accompanied my dad for his last schmoozings with the producer and then he talked briefly with Jon Stewart and introduced me to Stewart, which was unexpected so all I could say was “Nice to meet you. I am a huge fan of ‘The Daily Show'” and Stewart thanked me.

It was about 11 p.m. by then and the ball had emptied of celebrities that were going on to other parties, but the night was over for my dad and I so we grabbed our mini chocolate Oscars that are given out as people leave.

The Oscars seemed to go by faster than ever, but I tried to savor every flavor, sight, sound and feeling and if I go next year I will arrive even earlier so I can make the most of my dad’s 34th and final Oscar show before retirement.

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