It is March 2nd and I am on the red carpet at The Oscars. The last four days have been the worst days I have ever spent in California and the best. Why? Because you see, I have been hanging out with the most fickle of men, Oscar.
Bonnie at the Oscars
Since last July I have been writing this column for Castanet and have been contributing articles here and there to Off Centre magazine. In the past I have contributed articles for news media such as the Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald, Cochrane Times, Airdrie Echo and FFWD magazine through Centre Stage Theatre Company and Calgary Opera, but my Castanet Column has been the most fun because I have been able to feature performers and find out what inspires and motivates them. It has also given me the chance to reflect on my own productions with New Vintage Theatre. So how did this get me to the red carpet?
Back in February I applied for press credentials to go to The Oscars. I had no idea if I would be successful, but I did know that I had the writing to back me up so I decided to go for it. I was going to be in LA at that time anyway so why not? When I got the word back that I had made it through the two vetting processes I was over the moon.
It was a “pinch me” moment to get my photo taken and the pass that read “The Oscars-Bonnie Gratz”. With it I was able to go all over the Loews Hollywood Hotel (where all of the press and production staff are housed) and to the red carpet area for Set Up which means I could stay on the red carpet and take photos and meet/interview people on it up until 12 on the show day. Unfortunately in order to be there for the show I would have had to apply back in November - at that time I had a temporary teaching theatre at Rutland Senior Secondary and thinking of walking the red carpet would have never occurred to me then.
So what is the worst part of this experience you ask? I arrived on Feb.28th - Los Angeles was in a state of panic. They received more rain that week than in all of the rest of the year prior and mud slides were everywhere. Stores and hotels were surrounded by sandbags as the cold rain pounded down, hurricane-like. Oscar was eerily encased in plastic everywhere and the red carpet was covered by thick sheets of tarpaulin. This, coupled with frequent thunderstorms, brought out the nervous Academy Organizers and ABC Network Execs to meet and discuss just how they would pull this all off. A custom made clear awning was built to shield starlets from the driving rain but even that had to have a crew of staff to knock off the pools of water with long sticks on a regular basis to keep the entire thing from collapsing. Water and electricity are not friends and with the most expensive camera equipment from around the world being set below, press was a little more than edgy. This craziness continued throughout the day on March 1 as press did their dry runs but it was obvious that Oscar and Mother Nature were not friends.
What was the best part? Absolutely being part of the most exciting annual live show on earth. When I arrived under dark skies the morning of the show everyone was buzzing about the event; the red carpet was revealed and crews had worked through the night to set up the vignettes of Hollywood past throughout the long walk from Hollywood Boulevard up the sweeping steps to The Dolby Theatre-the place of the big show. Flowers were everywhere and everyone in the press contingent was dressed as if they were the movie stars. Press from around the world - London, Turkey, China, Australia, Greece and, yes, Canada were set up in every corner pre-taping their openings to their programs and even taping possible outcomes. Although pressed for time and in crowded quarters people were extremely respectful and kind, even the big guns, like Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, etalk’s Ben Mulrooney and Tanya Kim, and the very handsome Tyson Beckford were happy to pose for photos and chat about how thrilled they were to be a part of the biggest show around.
When the clock struck 12, in true Hollywood rags to riches to rags fashion, we were booted off the red carpet and told our time was up. As I walked back to my rental car along Hollywood Boulevard in my not quite dressy enough dress, sparkly shoes and too much makeup the rain came down making me feel like Cinderella on her way home from the ball. I left thrilled, sorry it was over too soon and hoping someday I can return - hopefully next year!