Backstage at the Oscars: Weird and wonderful

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By now, you’re probably sick of coverage from the 84th Academy Awards. You’ve been through idle conversation at work with peers surprised about The Artist win, while your closest friends just knew that it would destroy The Iron Lady. Your social media feeds have been electric with conversation about Billy Crystal and Angie’s thigh. If you’re a regular Daily Planet reader, you may have already read my Twitter coverage from the pressroom, or caught some of the @ArtsOrbit retweets. Moreover, pretty much every single press outlet that you might read was also there, from Rotten Tomatoes to Reuters, dishing the dirt about the backstage interviews. It’s over, and we’re all already looking forward, sort of, to what the 85th year of the Academy Awards will bring. In that light, it seems that I have little to offer a reader, other than a glimpse into what it was like to be behind the scenes at the Oscars.

While the experience was epically surreal and honestly pretty weird, generally, the trip was totally incredible. L.A. is beautiful, although there are too many gorgeous women there, and I hope that someone does something about that soon because it’s bad for the ego. There’s lots of awesome food around, everyone was incredibly nice, and the traffic wasn’t as bad as I had been told it would be. Also, Mötley Crüe got stuck in my head every time I drove down Sunset Strip.

At the actual event, and all of the other events surrounding it, security was insanely tight, and while everyone was pretty nice, not everyone was well-informed about where press needed to be, so Jamie Millard and I had a little trouble navigating that aspect. But like that famous Beach Boys song—which I’m completely certain, is about something else entirely—we got around.

I’m sad to say that I didn’t see any stars during times that I wasn’t on duty. I might have seen Cee-Lo Green coming out of the Jimmy Kimmel studios, but I was in a parking lot by myself at night when that happened—I was doing my best not to see or be seen by anyone as I waited for Jamie to pick me up from the Oscars shuttle that transported us to and from the Highland Center—so who knows.

Jamie, however, saw a ton of stars while photographing on the red carpet, and told me a couple times how it took George Clooney about two hours to make it down the red carpet because he spent time talking to everyone and acting super awesome/being incredibly nice—even while some of the sassier press people gave him a hard time about his date. Other hot red carpet news is that when Sherri Shepherd (from The View and Precious) was walking down the red carpet, one of the press guys in the bleachers yelled “Octavia Spencer! Over here!” and she cursed him out for being a racist who considers all black people to be the same person. The biggest news was that Angelina and Brad showed up 20 minutes after everyone else had arrived—some of the press had even already left, but then suddenly there were just roars of applause and cheers coming from the entrance to the red carpet, and it was Brad and Angie. They took their sweet time. Maybe Angie was anxious about showing off her now-infamous leg.

For my part, I hung out in one of the many interview rooms. When Tom Hanks did his broadcast walkthrough of the path the winners take after winning their award, and he wandered back into the “press room,” I received an avalanche of tweets and texts asking where I was. In truth, there were about five press rooms. The one he stopped in is where the winners get their photos taken with the statue and the person who presented their award.

My room housed a startling number of table rows, each one seating around 30 reporters. If a publication or website was unable to secure a table, additional seating was available at the front of the room, closer to the stars, but without access to a power supply, or table space. (Although I was not assigned a table, I secured one, but in the end I wished I hadn’t because Meryl Streep shook the hands of those in the front row after her interview.) Along the walls of the room, the Academy had set up an Academy Award reference library complete with librarians, a transistor radio table—where reporters could “rent” a radio to listen to the broadcast while interviews were going on, and a line of court reporters transcribing the interviews then making them available to reporters via print or email. It really is a huge to-do.

My table included a large number of Spanish-speaking news outlets, some from the UK, and a group of very young, beautiful women working for well-known fashion, gossip, and culture magazines, who were of the diva sort, and spent a great deal of the evening talking about how tired they were and how they hated the fact that they had to work the Oscars—which to my mind made sense, but bummed me out a little. Also, though the Academy fed us, some of the people at my table were complaining about the distinct lack of alcohol (that was kind of a shame), and noted that the Golden Globes was a much better time. I guess we’ll all have to keep that in mind when planning for next year, but for now, my mind is still blown that this wild experience has already come and gone. Like the sands of an hourglass, these were some days of our lives.