I’ve been to the Oscars…
…theatre! (Ok, cheap trick, but hey, isn’t Hollywood all about the fake n fancy?)
I’m watching the 2014 Academy Awards aka the Oscars – right here, right now. Always feels a lil decadent to stay up all night for the sake of a show I could easily see tomorrow, but that would be like watching an important sports final when you already know who went home with the trophy. It’s never quite the same thing. And!!! Ladies and gents, I have been in that very theatre; seen the very steps pretty Jennifer Lawrence fell up last year and walked the very red carpet route she tripped on this year. Read on!
Last summer we were in Hollywood and stayed at the Loews Hotel next door to the Dolby Theatre. I thought the Oscars had a permanent home in the Kodak Theatre and the name change initially foxed me, but once the penny had dropped that we were just next door it was no effort to pop in for a guided tour – very much as an opportunist whim rather than part of our LA plan. Turned out to be one of the best hours we spent in Tinseltown. So much to see and learn. Did you know, for instance, that the definition of a VIP on Oscars night is being a nominee? Doesn’t matter who you are or how many Oscars you have on your shelf at home, if you’re not nominated, you’re a regular Joanna Blogs in a frock.
And did you know, they have 250 fully groomed, gowned and gorgeous stand-ins for celebs who want to pop out to the bar or restroom during the show? And once these double agents have stood in, they have to leave because they can’t be used twice. Obviously. Or that sneaky showbiz cat would be let out of the bag, wouldn’t it? Oops!
Anyway, as we entered the auditorium – and under no circumstances were we allowed to take pictures, no way! Security! Security! Security! One of our party snuck a snap and our guide was promptly prompted by a voice in his security earpiece – I was struck by how small the theatre is. Far more intimate that I had realised, but this explained why each nominee is given just one extra ticket for a guest. And the studios are given a couple more. And – taps side of her nose knowingly – it is also why the Oscars orchestra is located off-site – they need all the space they can get in the theatre. There were large photos of some of the 2013 nominees still propped up in seats. Our guide explained these were the photos the camera crew practiced with so they knew exactly where everyone was seated – provided they hadn’t popped out for a pee. And obviously no one was allowed to switch or swap under any circumstances; they are all carefully planned to make for easy stage access in the event of a win. I scratched my Denzel Washington itch by sitting on what should have been his lap, and very comfortable it was too.
The staff was waxing lyrical that morning because it had just been announced that Ellen DeGeneres would be hosting the 2014 awards. It seemed so far away back then, yet here we are tonight… and she’s rocking it! Again. Second time around for Ms DeGeneres, and from what they were saying at the Dolby, she’s a dream to work with. Yep, you heard it here.
We stood in the bar, which backs onto the Dolby top dog’s private office – a very amiable chap who came in and chatted with us while waiting for some late business bods to arrive – and drank in the atmosphere. On Oscars night, we were told, this relatively small room is littered with random Oscar statues because so many winners pop them down for hugs and kisses when they get back from the hotel next door. Those of us in the know know that they get whisked off to the hotel along a ‘secret’ passage to meet the press. Those who receive their Oscars early on in the evening can return to their seats, but many never make it back in time. So note to stand-ins – pick a winner and you could be in for a decent night out.
Apparently many nominees book rooms at the Loews to fix face, fur and frock – then take a limo ride right around the corner to get to the red carpet. Hollywood is indeed a weird and wonderful place.
But how do they select the nominees and then the winners? Well, according to our trusty guide, all active Academy members (around 6000) are invited to vote for nominees in their respective branches and send their votes to the auditors, PriceWaterHouseCoopers. Then all the active members are welcome to vote in most categories for the winners. Once again, the votes are sent to PriceWaterHouseCoopers where two dudes are tasked with counting the votes behind locked doors. These two presumably honest souls remain in isolation until the big night, when they arrive at the Dolby Theatre with two briefcases, each containing half of the envelopes naming the winners. One chap is placed on either side of the stage and the relevant envelope is given to the presenter as (s)he takes to the stage and ultimately becomes the third person to know the name of the shocked and seldom speechless winner. Seemingly surprise winners can catch out the audience and bookmakers when two favourites split the vote and a lowly third choice grabs the golden guy.
Oh! And as a lil extra non-Oscars trivia thrown into the Hollywood pot – you know those golden stars you see adorning the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame? Well, they cost the name-bearer a tidy $30,000 – so if you fancy having your name trampled, start saving!
And that’s all I’ve got about the Oscars.
It’s been a long day’s night – and in just a few very short hours I’m having my new passport photo taken.
Where are all those ridiculously talented Hollywood make up artists when you need one?