Everybody who dreams of coming to Hollywood also dreams one day of attending the Oscars; in fact, the dreams are congruent since you naturally presume when you get here you are eventually going to pick up one of those gold babies for your outstanding work.
Most of us in Hollywood, despite what you may read however, belong to the wannabes; truthfully, we're the majority of the population. After aerospace left the city some years back, the movie biz became our number one industry in Los Angeles and the wannabes became the de facto middling class. There's quite a few of us, the ones who've had a zillion development deals, pictures that got as far as blinking green lights until the leading actress pulled out so the marketing numbers weren't good enough to carry on, depositions and lawsuits where the process servers harassed the children in the driveway, the office and the assistant on the lot where the inhabitants of the bungalow next door were apt to be itinerant craftspeople just like yourself, each with a story about why, through no fault of their own, the "project" was going south. Why, we are the very backbone of the industry.
Not only that, we are among the few professional groups (writers, directors, cinematographers, etc) to be unionized, though our branches east and west contain some of the most dysfunctional, contentious, persnickety fellow travelers to ever sport the union label. (Pretty soon, with all the squabbling over producer credits, even the producers are going to have to unionize.)
Which brings me to the Academy Awards, without a doubt my favorite show of the year and which is so sacred to me that I almost never accept an invitation to go out, so devoted am I to seeing the ever younger, skinnier, more beautiful girls march down the red carpet (they're union members too believe it or not) with their mussy-haired dates and their publicists and all the cranky directors and neurotic writers, people I've worked with over the years who have, in actual fact, figured out how to get their stuff made.
So when I was invited to attend the show this year, I was beyond excited. I attended the pre-Oscar fashion show, an irreverent look at the astonishing confections stars wore over the years put together by Andre Leon Talley of Vogue and Laura Ziskin, the multi-talented producer of this year's telecast. (Her first Oscars, 2002, was the best one I've ever seen, an homage to filmmaking that recalled the things that inspired us to get into this nutsy business). I imagined myself in one of these slinky, sexy gowns with impossibly high heels and chandelier earrings at the Governor's Ball, every bit as come hither as Scarlett or Nicole or Cate.
On the left, the dress I almost wore to the Oscars
Yet as the event approached, I found myself stressing over what to wear, (knowing full well they weren't going to be looking at me), searching Mapquest for the best route to the Kodak (without incurring humongous limo charges)and trying to figure out how to be famous enough (to be invited to the Vanity Fair party), all things which I hadn't had to deal with since I quietly put away my producing tap shoes for greener pastures. (You need tap shoes in Hollywood even if you don't actually tap dance to get up on the studio exec coffee tables while you're pitching).
It's harder than you think to spend your life scrubbing the floors and then suddenly to be asked to the ball.
I don't want to sound ungrateful: merely to be asked is a blessing and even if Groucho Marx didn't want to be a member of any club that would have him, I certainly always did.
But I realized a couple of days ago that I am a fan, and proud to be one--and I want to see the faces of the stars sitting in the front row, and I want to see everyone swanning down the red carpet and I want to see the commercials. I want the whole Oscar package--and you can't get that if you're sitting in row L on the right side looking at the backs of everyone's heads.
I tried to watch the whole Super Bowl. I know it's the most watched show of the year and truly, I got my beer and my chili and made every effort to be intrigued by all those burly guys running around in the rain.
The limo I almost took to the Oscars
But there's nothing like the Oscars. Yes, the movies are in trouble and yes, we're in a hellacious war in Iraq and yes Barry and Hillary are here this week to distract us from the business at hand, which is....to forget about our troubles for three or four hours on Sunday and let Laura light up our worlds with the glitter, and the grit, that is our much maligned profession.
So I plan to be right here in the den with a glass of wine and my hip nieces who will help me dish and laugh as we roll our eyes at the bloopers and cry, as the mothers all over the world are thanked, and rightfully so.
It's ok. I have my Oscar thank you speech in a drawer, just like everyone else out here, and if I ever need it, with a little spit and polish, it too will run long and be interrupted by the dulcet tones of the orchestra, reminding me, and everyone else that this empress, indeed, has no clothes.