Several years ago, I applied for press credentials to cover Hollywood’s annual celebration of self-love known as the Academy Awards. To my surprise (and eventual chagrin) I received a reply indicating that my coverage was welcomed. That is, if I wanted to cover the assembly of the bleachers they set up on the sidewalk so the Hoi polloi can gawk and stalk the celebs outside the Kodak Theatre.
The Academy actually has a media staffer assigned to handle the press for this “event” and, sadly, some journos actually show up. Apparently, that’s where they go to euthanize their dignity. Fortunately, I double-checked the itinerary before renting a tux, boarding an economy flight to Burbank and catching the subway to the Hollywood and Highland Station, which happens to be the cleanest subway on earth because no one knows it exists.
Needless to say, I didn’t bother claiming my coveted credential to the bleacher assembly, though I’m sure it was followed by a lovely party replete with gift bags and heaps of schadenfreude served atop crostini. Hollywood seizes any excuse to have a party and the media likewise seem to enjoy standing outside looking in. Since I write for a comparatively small publication 400 miles from the action, the “upside” is that I’m seldom invited “inside” or “outside,” which I realize sounds like the backing vocal on a Beach Boys tune, if not merely sour grapes.
Since declining to write what surely would have been a Pulitzer-worthy pre-Oscar piece (“Bleachers on the Boulevard: The Masses, Their Asses and Thirteen-and-a-Half-Inches of Gold”), I’ve barely kept up with the annual love fest. But I do continue to receive Oscar spam, which is presently cranked to a fever pitch with several missives a day landing in my inbox.
Recent updates include the attendee lists of pre-award luncheons and occasionally their menus. I for one don’t need to know what our stars are digesting, but for some outlets, the phrase “Too Much Information” doesn’t exist. Without TMI, TMZ couldn’t exist, for example, and thanks to TMJ someone, somewhere isn’t getting a part.
Literally, while writing this, I received this Academy news flash: “‘Oz’ Ruby Slippers Find Their Way Home, Major Acquisition for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.” Sigh. So what does this mean, someone finally opened Dorothy’s gym bag? Besides press releases from Oscar central, there is a veritable dog-pile of publicists trying to news-jack Oscar-awareness for their clients. Consider the Beverly Hills’ Avalon Hotel, which has mixed up a drink menu in honor of the Best Picture noms. I stomached the ingredients list for “The Help,” dubbed the “Southern Comfort Hurricane,” which was only mildly offensive, but stopped reading once I got to the “Sidecar” prepped for the “Midnight in Paris,” that, given its director’s romantic proclivities, should have been a Shirley Temple.
I’ve got Oscar-fatigue and I don’t even own one (yet). Bert Salzman, one of Sonoma’s Academy Award Winners (yes, we have several), once let me hold his Oscar, though the honor came with the proviso, “Don’t be an a—hole.”
I didn’t know what he meant until I off-handed, “It’s heavier than I thought,” to which he replied, “That’s what every a—hole says.”
I won’t hazard a guess as to when I might have another chance to be an a—hole whilst wielding a statuette of a little man, though I’ll assume it’ll either be when I’m accepting my own Oscar or conducting an exorcism.
Since either event somehow seems possible (when I’ve been drinking), I’ve prepared speeches for either inevitability. For the latter, it reads something like, “Exorcizamus te impuri spiritus sed relinque vinum,” which is Latin for “We exorcise you impure spirit but leave the wine.”
My Oscar acceptance speech, however, isn’t as tidy, which is ironic since I’ve been rehearsing since I was 11. The problem is that I keep changing who I’m going to thank in the 15 seconds they allot to sum up an entire career. To wit, I’ll keep it brief, “I’d like to thank the editors of this space, without whom I wouldn’t have a place to bitch about the Oscars – or send my invoice.”
Daedalus Howell is a columnist at the Sonoma Index-Tribune and author of I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country.