I have a very good friend who works at the Academy and each year she gets to attend the Academy Awards with a guest. She has been rotating the honor amongst her friends and this year she invited me!!! It was a once in a lifetime chance that I couldn’t pass up. The first major thing I obsessed about was what I was going to wear. I collect vintage gowns from the 1920s – 50s, so I decided to focus on trying to look like a Hollywood star in the 1930s. Myrna Loy was my key fashion inspiration.
I have to give credit where credit is due. Charlotte Del Rose is a fantastic vintage clothing expert, designer and stylist who selected my dress and helped to put the look together. Then the amazing vintage hairstylist Reina Salas did my hair and helped with the make up! If you want to work with either of these brilliant ladies, I will gladly give out their information.
I wore a dark blue velvet bias cut dress that was made in the 1930s that I purchased at Playclothes. It has a gold deco belt buckle with faux diamonds and saphires. I also wore gold t-strap 1930s style high heels and carried a gold beaded clutch purse on loan from a friend. I found a fantastic hair dresser who made my long hair look much shorter, as that was the fashion at the time. The hair and make up took close to 3 hours, but here is the result…..
We drove in my friend’s car and believe me, the process of getting there took a long time! There were a bunch of protesters standing at the corner of Highland and Sunset holding up really hateful, cruel, homophobic signs. One of the signs even read, “Heath in Hell.” That was horribly mean, insensitive and entirely out of line. Those people were just complete fools. We pulled up to the valet area and they had bomb sniffing dogs and numerous security people open up our car. They even had mirrors on sticks that they ran under the car and they opened the trunk and went through everything. After we checked the car in, we had to get our tickets and IDs out and check in for the show. Then the fun part….we got to walk the red carpet. I used to work for a publicity executive at a studio and have been on red carpets before, but it was always as an employee. This was my first time to be there as an actual guest. It was a nice change of pace. The red carpet was very very crowded. They tell everyone to keep moving all the time, but no one really does. Everyone was just walking around very slowly to watch what was going on. The stars of course were constantly stopping for photographs and interviews on the carpet. Somehow, I ended up walking in right behind Robert Downey Jr. and his wife and someone told me I was even visible on the E! Channel.
When we got inside, someone from the Academy took all of our pictures in front of one of the giant Oscar statues. We went upstairs and attempted to get some hors d’?uvres, but that proved to be very difficult. The waiters kept zipping by so fast and by the time I would grab them, the tray would be empty. My friend and I literally hung out by the kitchen so we could pounce on the waiters immediately when they came out with the food. While some people there were intent on gazing at Brad Pitt, I was more focused on eating crab cakes.
Being that my friend and I are not famous, our seats were pretty much in the attic of the theatre. We were waaaaaaaaaaaaay up high at the back of the highest balcony. It was steep, dark and there was not much railing…and I am clumsy by nature and was wearing heels. I was afraid I was going to fall and tumble off the balcony and plummet to my death. During the commercial breaks, tons of people in the balcony kept getting up to get drinks and hang out at the bar on the floor level where the stars all congregate. We decided not to do this. Seeing stars is ok and all, but we just preferred to stay put and enjoy the show.
I’ve read on the internet that most of the critics hated it. Personally, I really enjoyed it!! I think the problem is that people just expect too much!!! It is an awards show and not a work of masterpiece theatre or something. Besides, the critics have hated Chris Rock, Ellen, Jon Stewart and pretty much everyone who has ever hosted in recent memory except Billy Crystal. There is just no pleasing the critics. I thought the show had a great energy, it moved along quickly and I loved having 5 past winners from different eras present the acting awards. I thought that was an excellent new addition to the show. I also loved Hugh Jackman. He was fantastic. I liked how the production designer of the show re-imagined the stage, which was set up to look like a 1930s style cabaret.
I have some friends who watched the show on TV at home and most of them didn’t like it at all. Perhaps it was something that was much better live than on TV.
As for the winners themselves, there were few surprises. The only big upset for me was that WALTZ WITH BASHIR was totally robbed of the Foreign Language Film Award. That really shocked me. Otherwise, everything else was pretty much predictable. I was thrilled that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE won. I was also thrilled for Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter for MILK. Those awards were well deserved and their speeches were very moving. I just wish there weren’t so many other award shows leading up to the Oscars, as it makes everything so anti-climatic!
From where I was sitting the stars looked about like the size of ants, so I often had to rely on watching the monitors that were up near the balcony. I was really hoping to see at least one old movie star up close and as I was leaving the show, I got my wish. Jane Russell was standing outside the Kodak theatre all by herself. I’ve seen many of her movies, so I walked up to her and said, “Hello Ms. Russell, I’m so glad to see you here this evening!” She gave me the nastiest “go to hell” look I have ever been on the receiving end of in my entire life. She didn’t say a word. I smiled, shrugged and walked away.
All in all, I had a really great time with my friend and I was grateful to have experienced this 81 year old Hollywood tradition live!!