Like most of us, I’ve often fantasized about attending the grand glittering spectacle known as the Academy Awards. But tragically I’ve been held back by my total lack of acting skills, directing skills, or any film-related talent whatsoever. Yet one day out of the clear blue sky I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to gain access Hollywood’s ground zero. I was lucky, but getting the green-light was just the beginning. There were many many unexpected steps on the journey to the golden bald man. So if you ever find yourself married to Sandra Bullock and have to be her date to the Oscars, these are some logistics you will have to consider when turning your Oscar fantasy into a reality.
1. What The Hell Do You Wear?
“Who are you wearing?” You hear that phase uttered at least six thousand times on any given award ceremony pre-show. Obviously for a job like this, I knew that wardrobe was clutch. But really now, what does a 25-year-old dude who wears cowboy boots on the reg wear to the Oscars? I had no idea. With only two weeks to prep, I didn’t have much time. Should I go to a bespoke tailor? A high-end designer store? Hire a professional shopper? What would George Clooney do? Then it hit me.
I put in a call to Men’s Warehouse.
Soon I was allowing a man with a tape measure to grope me in the middle of a room full of nervous teenagers, really nervous grooms, and proud moms. Then a very nice lady explained to me why a cane would make me look like a creep. She asked me to choose between three seemingly identical starched white shirts. Which of these would Clooney take? I closed my eyes and prayed I had chosen correctly. I didn’t want to look like my dad at his high school prom in 1973.
2. How Do You Get To California?
Unless you live locally, are very big on road tripping, or possess the ability to teleport, getting to the Oscars will require you to enter a tin-can filled with other people’s morning breath and be launched towards the west coast at very high speeds. My tin-can left bright and early at 7 AM. I thought about taking a peek in First Class for celebrities, but I soon realized that no self respecting famous person would ever agree to a 7 o’clock flight.
3. How Do You Get Your Credentials?
The Oscars aren’t just like your neighbors’ 4th of July barbecue. You will not be able to Wedding Crashers your way into this thing. That’s why I had to head over to pick up my security badges the morning before, otherwise I’d be stuck on the outside looking in, like that tattoo guy who used to be married to Sandra Bullock.
The Academy Awards take place at the newly renamed Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theater in the impressive Hollywood and Highland complex, just a few blocks from my hotel down the star-lined Hollywood Boulevard. The whole street is like a giant carnival midway with mechanical Gypsy fortune tellers, Egyptian throwbacks to the 1920s, and, of course, palm trees. Mannequins, wax museums and McDonalds fill the thoroughfare. I’m probably not the first one to note that Hollywood can sometime seem a trifle…fake. I hustle over the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk. It’s very long and filled with an insane number of really random no-namers. So if you’re a celeb and you haven’t got your name on a star already you should probably re-examime your life choices
Finally I see the red carpet site up ahead, smack in the middle of the closed-off road. It felt vaguely undignified to see such a high glam event in the prep stages. Like walking in on someone talking a shower or something. The 15-foot golden man standing at the end of the carpet is wrapped in protective Saran wrap and gaffers tape like a massive Edible Arrangement. Tech crew were running amok over the space. And the red carpet badly needed to be vacuumed. Plain clothed crew walk around wearing sheets of paper with famous names (Channing Tatum, Kelly Rowland) attached to them. I’m kind of surprised how small the whole affair is (about a short city block wide from start to finish). Scaffolding and camera cranes tower all around. It’s not like you see on TV. In true Hollywood tradition, they know all the good angles to shoot.
I head in to the complex’s Lowes hotel and wait in line to be photographed and get my badges. It’s just like a glittery DMV, but full of really well-dressed people with cameras and tape recorders dangling around their necks. A few minutes later it’s all official: I’m going to the Oscars.
4. How Do You Wear A Tuxedo?
Boom, it’s the big day! Time to slam on some Beastie Boys, Abba and Wham, hit the shower and make yourself look sharp! But then it was time for another obstacle: Getting dressed.
One of the great myths about tuxedos is that it’s a magic garment that instantly transforms you into James Bond the moment you put it on. Instead I look like a game show host. Factor in this weird cummerbund thing and I appear to be a game show host with a back problem. Cufflinks, studs, pocket squares, suspenders…There are far too many moving parts on a tuxedo. How do you figure out all out? I spend a great deal of breakfast looking up “tux tutorials” on youtube. I’m sure Clooney does the same thing on Oscar morning.
5. What Time Do You Get To The Oscars?
The Academy wants you to be in place by 2 PM (the carpet opens at 2:30), so I assumed I could just easily walk from my hotel like yesterday. Right? Wrong. Very very wrong.
6. How Do You Get To The Oscars?
How do you get to the Academy Awards? No, it’s not practice practice practice. The formerly hoppin’ tourist street now looked like some post apocalyptic disaster movie. Everything is eerily still and empty. Sidewalks are all barricaded with high chain-link fences. Imposing concrete cubes block the roads, and LAPD cops line every corner. The sound of choppers circling above is deafening, and I half expect a rope to drop and a SWAT team to slide down and take me. It’s pretty scary.
Designated parking areas are assigned in various local hotels. I assumed I’d have an easier time on foot. I thought wrong. Policemen send me on a round-about route, many blocks out of my way. Even with my badges, I go through several security check points, medal detectors, and bag searches. But finally I’m in. And I’m hungry.
7. What Do You Eat At The Oscars?
Press gathered in a small alley just south of Hollywood Boulevard, and directly behind the Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel studios. Phalanxes of satellite trucks and RVs (known as “Star Wagons”) fill the lots. The Academy doesn’t cater for us press-folk, and sadly Wolfgang Puck’s Oscar cake is off limits to us.
So we’re kind of on our own in the way of food. Luckily our gracious VH1 crew order us a heap of burgers and fries from the iconic California chain, In-and-Out for our very own Oscar Noms. We chow down and head to the carpet. And that’s where I rapidly discovered many questions and answers. Starting with…
8. How Do You Walk On The Red Carpet?
We’ve all been there: It’s a super fancy occasion so you bust our the shiny patent leather Buster Brown’s you’ve only worn once to your cousin’s wedding three years ago. You’re feeling slick and good, but those smooth soles are out for blood and you fall right on your face. Yes, fancy shoes are slippery and pose quite the hazard. How do you keep yourself from falling flat on your face during Hollywood’s biggest night? Our very own Janell Snowden gave me the answer: duct taping the soles of your shoes. Brilliant! I do the same, and soon I can move without fear.
9. Where Do You Stand On The Red Carpet?
Space is obviously tight at an event like this, and it required some serious musical chairs to get a spot for little old me. Three-tiered bleachers line the edge of the carpet, with “TV personalities” in the front row, producers and tech crew one step up, and camera men with the good birds’ eye view on top. I had a small 2×3 rectangle marked off for me, and let me tell you; You become VERY territorial over that 2×3 space. A stray cord or misplaced water bottle takes on the seriousness of an invasion.
Looking around at some of the other larger media outlets, I began to feel trickles of “spot envy” creeping in. But then Extra correspondent Mario Lopez took the spot next to me, so I realized it couldn’t have been too bad. What’s good enough for Slater is good enough for me. I would have wished for Maria Menounos, but this isn’t a perfect world.
10. What Do You Do If You Don’t Know Who A Celebrity Is?
2:30. Show time! The press and crews are poised and ready for action, and bodies start streaming down the red carpet. It’s very exciting, right!? Ehhh, not so much. In the same way that it’s kinda lame to show up at a party right when it starts, most of the big names are waiting to make their big entrance. So for the first hour, you’re stuck with folks like second producer of the best foreign animated short. What do you do when you’re fishing for interviews and you’re face to face with a “celebrity” who you’ve never seen before in your life? Well thankfully their publicists march out in front of them, holding pieces of paper bearing their names and what they’ve done to get them to the Oscars. Yeah, it’s gotta be a little embarrassing, but much less embarrassing than a potential interviewee catching you Wikipedia-ing them on your phone.
Soon enough the big guns start trickling in. They take a minute to get down to my part of the carpet, but you know they’re coming because of the crowd’s screams.
11. How Loud Does It Get On The Red Carpet?
Think of a basketball game after the final buzzer. Or a baseball game after a home run. Or the Super Bowl when it’s all over and the Quaterback is saying he wants to go to Disney World. Yeah, it’s that loud. A frenzy is starting to take over. I’m so excited that I could wet my pants! But then a thought hit me. One that had never cropped up during my wild Oscar fantasies…
12. What Do You Do If You Have To Pee On The Red Carpet?
Despite only being February, it was pretty hot on Oscar Day. I had downed quite a few water bottles in order to stave off the ultimate humiliation: Fainting on the red carpet. But that brought with it it’s own issues, and now I really had to go to the bathroom. What was I going to do!? Cameras to the left of me, Mario Lopez to my right, red carpet dead ahead? I was trapped! For a while I tried to just suck it up and deal with it, but realizing that holding my knees together in pain would severely compromise my reporting skills, I flagged down a security guy. He lead me down a small path behind the bleachers, and down an alleyway with portapotties. No, not glittering Hollywood portapotties— just regular ones.
13. Which Celebrities Looked Way Better In Person?
Pretty soon things got into full swing. Something I hadn’t realized was how constant the flow of people was going to be. It wasn’t just couples going one by one like a damn square dance. This is a mad dash filled with the entertainment elite! The carpet was so full that it takes a minute to realize that Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, and Tom Hooper are ALL standing directly in front of you. There’s just too much going on. But that being said, a few faces stood out as being strikingly gorgeous in person.
Jessica Chastain is pure old school Hollywood glamour, and she got mucho bonus points for hugging pretty much every reporter she spoke to, even if they had just met. Maybe it’s an old trick, but it worked on me. Plus her gorgeous hair bounced around like a dang Herbal Essences commercial.
It’s no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence can really turn it on for the red carpet. Never has someone so attractive been so approachable. AND she won an Oscar a few hours later! Why must you have it all, J-Law?
And of course Harvey Weinstein looks good in anything.
14. Was Anne Hathaway’s Alleged “Wardrobe Malfunction” Really That Bad In Person?
Ehh, not really.
15. Does George Clooney Shop At The Men’s Warehouse?
Hard to tell, but our tuxes do look pretty similar…