You'd have to go back to the "Lord of the Rings #3" at the Oscars to find a ceremony where the awards went exactly as predicted such as they did tonight. I have said for many months that "Slumdog Millionaire" deserved to win because I never found anyone who didn't enjoy it. Everyone I suggested go see it was happier for having done so. It's that rare movie that's innovative & entertaining & has something to say.
My personal highlight of this year's red carpet was the appearance of the kids who came from India to be here for the big show. Six actors play the three characters at different ages, and the littlest ones had never been out of India. Dressed in a miniature tuxedo for him and a blue dress for her, they were just precious?and not intimidated in the slightest.
One of the thrills of the red carpet is the occasional chance to say "I told you so." When I saw Michael Shannon's performance in "Revolutionary Road," I told him to get ready for Oscar to come calling, and it happened. He spied me on the carpet tonight, and gave me a wink saying "you warned me!"
My old pal, Rod Lurie, had an uncanny way of predicting who would be nominated. He would have the talent on early in the Oscar season on his radio show, tell them they would be nominated and make then promise to thank him on the Oscar telecast if they won! Hollywood being Hollywood, they did; and he was able to parlay that into a career directing feature films.
There's a part of me that likes the unrepentant nature of Mickey Rourke's vibe. He walked on Oscar's red carpet in some sort of white suit with an open collar & chains:
telling all who would listen this was his version of a tuxedo. We need him on the entertainment beat just because life's a whole lot, well: entertaining when Mickey's around. I'm glad he came back, and if you're from Jersey and you haven't seen "The Wrestler"?what are you waiting for???
It's 2:30 in the morning and we still have work to do. We started our day at 5am which means we are slowly approaching being up all night?.I have a faith that a nap is on the horizon. And somehow I am still exhilarated.
You see I'm an award show junkie?and I LOVED what I saw tonight ? from the red carpet?the Hugh singing and dancing?the all the acceptance speeches.
Let's start with the red carpet.
Both Sandy and I and our colleagues from KABC agreed it was more packed then it's ever been with media?but somehow I snagged a prime spot where I not only could cue Sandy for his live shot but snap some great shots for 7online off of my blackberry,
The energy that began to flow through the carpet was amazing. From Miley Cyrus to Mickey Rourke everybody was bringing it. A couple of nice moments: At point Robert Downey Jr, and his wife Susan were going through the line.. They were waiting to do a live interview on Canadian Television when Robert turned to his wife and just started dancing with her ? not a long dance just like two little waltz moves and he looked at her smiled and then turned to his interviewer. Viola Davis and Tarajj P Henson coming onto the red carpet together. Now we all have heard about the dearth of good parts for African-American Actresses in Hollywood ? but in this year of "YES WE CAN" here were two beautiful black women ? posing together ? nominated in the same category looking GOREGEOUS?it was a sight to behold. The "Slumdog Millionaire" team ? just seeing the young kids and then the older actors walk down together almost like a family ? the kids all wide eyed the adults from the "little film that could" just so excited was quite a moment.
People always ask me was so an so just as beautiful in person as they are on the screen. I would say for the most part they usually are?one thing when Beyonce walked the carpet the photographers next to me suddenly lost the ability to speak?I'm just sayin'
Nothing though will quite top seeing Meryl Streep and Sohpia Loren ? holding hands and posing?two legends?two inspirations?
As for the show ? a lot will be written about the pacing, the presenters and the "surprises" as an award show junkie I loved them all.
Gotta run we're live in 90 minutes back on what's left of the red carpet. Thanks for reading Sunday
Red Carpet?.Oscar morning?.6 AM. What a beautiful and serene place to be! The Motion Picture Academy took down the tents and removed the tarps leaving a pristine city block covered in lush red trimmed in gold. The fans aren't in the stands just yet, and all is quiet except for a single TV crew in the distance. All the excitement is ahead.
The first stars won't come out for many hours, and the fans aren't even in the stands yet. This little part of what will become a very busy place belongs to me, producer Cat McKenzie, and cameraman Mike Thorne plus a couple of Academy handlers who make sure we behave ourselves. I am so glad to be in their company and so happy to have a calm moment before such a busy event.
The question I am most often asked is: "Do you have fun at the Oscar parties?"
I have covered 23 Academy Award shows since 1983, and I have never attended even one, single party. When the show is over and the participants get to relax, our work is just beginning. How to properly cover a 3 and a half hour (or four hour) show in a couple of minutes? Answering that question for WABC-TV takes hours of work, and even if the parties were still going when we were finished, we'd be way too tired to stand-up!
The question my wife, novelist Eileen Goudge, is most often asked (as many as five times a day in season) is: "Will you be going to the Oscars with Sandy?" Nope. She would never see me, and besides, she prefers the less intense version of her husband than the one customarily found during this busy time.
All that said, I love Oscar's red carpet at 4:30 PM (local time) on the day of the big show. Seeing all the stars together in one place leaves the atmosphere highly charged. The best definition of a movie star I ever heard was this: "If a star walks into a room behind you without saying anything you will still look around." Why is that? I've spent 30 years coming up with a good answer to that question, and I don't have one yet?except they have a force field (strengths vary): a special quality that draws one's attention, and the best of them have the talent to make you stay focused on what they're doing. Putting them all together in one place onOscars's red carpet has a way of amplifying their power that I find exhilarating. That's why it never gets routine. Like the old song by Jackson Browne goes:
"The lights come-up and you hear that sound?.and you remember: why you came."
When most people think of Sunday afternoons, they think of dinner with family, Sunday night television, and casual relaxation getting ready for the busy week ahead. My Sunday dinner will consist of Twinkies washed down with Diet Pepsi. My Sunday television will be watching a tiny monitor buried deep inside a satellite truck and any casual relaxation will come in one of the many porto-lets.
I've spent the last 48 hours tethered to this edit station in my fancy hotel room. Thank God for my ipod and speakers. The entire 17th floor has been 'serenaded' with a Roots compilation non-stop. If everyone wasn't so pumped up over Oscar, there'd be an angry mob gathering at the ice machine right now. I like to use this trip to learn some more advanced editing techniques so the days are spent shooting and the nights are spent staring at this macbook trying to make all the edits work. It's been a productive trip in that regard. Since the room is filled with equipment, I leave the 'do not disturb' sign on the door...so I'm forced to swipe clean towels off the maids' cart periodically. Cat is kind enough to crack open the door and throw in McDonald's every 5 or 6 hours then beat a hasty retreat (I get very cranky in times like these). And poor Sandy is smart enough to run in, record his track for the stories, and then race out. I'm sure he can't wait for technology that'll allow him to simply track through the door. It's like some disturbing scientific experiment to see how isolation, processed food and lack of sunshine affects a grown man.
When I do go outside to stretch my legs, get some fresh air, and make sure mankind hasn't been wiped out by some rogue government experiment gone bad (I'm a big Stephen King fan), everyone is walking around with these huge press passes. These passes take up the entire front of my shirt. It's plastered with your picture, name, and whatever your 'clearance' is for that day. It's like some bizarre convention where everyone is wearing a 'Hi My Name is ______' tag, except these tags are on steroids. Today the hotel lobby is filled with men in tuxes and women in very fancy dresses...it looks like prom, your cousins wedding, and every bar mitzvah rolled into one. But everyone is wearing this giant credential. Since I spend the night at the satellite farm in a parking lot behind the Jimmy Kimmel studio, I don't have to get dressed up. Every year I threaten to rent a powder blue tux with ruffles to bring a little class to the sat truck...but I don't have the shoulders to pull off an outfit like that. When I do make it down to the red carpet to do live shots, it is kinda cool. They've taken down the tents, uncovered the statues, and vacuumed the carpet. To be so close to such a grand event, to be a part of such an extravagant night, to see all the sights and sounds, that's why I love my job. Not being an actor, I don't think any nomination will come my way anytime soon so I'll be happy in my own little spot out back.
As much as this blog has seemed like a complaint fest...I've had a great time. I've learned some new editing tricks. I've shot some cool stories. I've been in the sun (when I've been outside). I get all the McDonald's I can eat...gotta love the dollar menu. Enjoy the show and while you're watching appreciate all the people wearing t-shirts and jeans who will still be working well after the last honor was bestowed.
It's Oscar Sunday Morning.
It's Oscar Sunday Morning!!!!
I can't believe it's finally here. It's been a great week so far but today is like the fourth quarter of a football game ? what you do in these last 24 hours makes a difference in if you win or lose. Will we make slot? Will we get space on the red carpet?
A lot of my friends of asked me about what I am wearing tonight. The Oscars is one of the few events that you cover that you have adhere to a strict dress code. To be on the red carpet means you have to be in formal dress. So every year I go buy a new formal length dress it's kind of my own treat for myself. I'll make sure that Michael takes a picture so you all can see.
One insecurity that I have, I'll let you all in on ?every year for this trip actually I feel like I have to be "dressed up" every day. There's something about covering the Oscars that you feel like you have to be in full makeup and heels everytime you go out on a story. I usually even debut a few new outfits. Being the only girl in the crew ? Sandy and Michael are always sweet to notice and say "that looks good on you" or "that's a great color" Maybe it's a little bit of insecurity because we are surrounded by so many "pretty people" as Michael calls them but I feel like I have to measure up every minute of every day.
Our early morning live shot was great?they have taken the tents off of the red carpet and the carpet itself isn't packed yet with media and stars. It looks really peaceful and beautiful and as the sun comes up over the statue I feel relaxed. I am hoping I can remember this feeling when I'm running around in heels trying to make sure all of our pieces make air tonight at 6 and 11.
We'll be Twittering and sending stuff back to the website so be sure to check in on us. The red carpet will be different this year?but interesting nonetheless.
You meet the nicest people when you're on WABC-TV. I was reminded of that when Eyewitness News viewer Elizabeth Ramos said 'hello' as we walked together down Hollywood Blvd. She was visiting here from White Plains, but she was no ordinary tourist. You see she was one of the lucky winners of the Academy lottery we told you about earlier. She applied many months ago and was selected in to sit in the bleachers and watch the stars arrive tomorrow. I told her what I truly believe: seeing all that big star charisma on a single red carpet is one of those rare experiences in life that's actually better than you can imagine. It never, ever gets old or routine for me.
Of course, this year there will be fewer stars on the carpet because, in a break with tradition, the names of the presenters will not be revealed before show time in a bid to build suspense. The plan is to sneak some of the biggest names in the world in the back, service entrance of the Kodak Theater.
As Elizabeth and I walked, she expressed the feeling of many New Yorkers who come to Hollywood for the first time: it looks a lot like Times Square used to look. I started carrying coffee as a teenager at Paramount Studios in the 70's when the area was at its seediest, and I returned to work full time at CNN on Sunset Blvd. in 1982 so I can report the neighborhood has been spiffed up a bit since then. The Renaissance Hotel, where the staff takes such good care of us, is a beautiful re-imagining of an especially notorious Holiday Inn. Today, it's attached to a shopping center which contains the Kodak, and I'm happy to see the place is packed with tourists.
But still, as Elizabeth discovered--Hollywood is more than a bit frayed around the edges. So what was I doing walking when everyone drives in LA anyway? Short answer: I love the hidden history of the place. There's some of my history here, and a lot of film history as well. "Musso & Frank's Grill" is the oldest restaurant in town (open since 1919), and I always spend one meal at the counter with the legendary Manny Felix: a player of ponies and purveyor of a uniquely personal Caesar Salad. Some fancy restaurant organization gave the man a plaque recently, and at the fancy banquet they didn't know what hit 'em. Let's just say, Manny's a magician in many ways and the speech he gave made it to You Tube.
I love old movies (makes sense, right?), and there is no better place for me during a few minutes of precious down time (that's 'precious' as in precious little) than the dusty confines of the Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop. There's no title too obscure or too ancient for them. They're online at larryedmunds.com, but I like the ritual of browsing at the store. The title of the used book I bought says it all: "The Girls, Errol Flynn, and Me."
It's early Saturday morning in California. The sun is just coming up over the hills. I never get tired of seeing that and thanks to Sandy who made our hotel reservations we have rooms that look right at the sunrise everyday. It's a great way to start the day.
I just got off the phone with Nina Pineda. When I'm on the road I like to check in with her, she's a friend and when either one of us our own the road we watch each other's stuff when it airs and are honest with how it's being received. I am happy to report she had only good things to say AND told me she was reading all of our blogs?OUTLOUD in the newsroom ? thanks Nina!!
Yesterday was a great day. We began the morning with some local New York flair. Two kids from Fordham University were finalists in a competition to get to be reporters on the red carpet on Sunday. They were earnest, and competent, with New York confidence. Although they didn't win ( I felt they were robbed!!) They are on their way to great careers in the business because they understand that our business is to make the story the story, not yourself the story, and for some people it takes years to learn that simple fact.
We also got to spend time with nominee Melissa Leo. She's from the East Village and this is her first nomination. Melissa Leo is nominated for a small movie with a small budget, she told me herself she doesn't think she'll win but when she says it's an "honor to be nominated" she means it.
She graciously allowed us to spend time with her while her hair and makeup people were trying out some looks for her to wear Sunday night. She was so "in the moment" enjoying her whole week here. She talked with such joy at catching up with friend and fellow nominee Richard Jenkins at a Hollywood party and spoke with humor at the fact that she drove herself all over Hollywood from party to party, it was neat and a memory I'll have forever of being close to someone as they are experiencing the accolades of being at recognized for being at the top of their craft. It was a learning experience in that she isn't letting all that attention go to her head, she's handling her moment in the sun with grace, humility and a little bit of humor.
The red carpet is getting crowded now. Journalists from all over the world are here doing reports. It's like a mini United Nations at times. I heard a German crew yell at a security guard in German and it didn't sound pretty. Saw a crew from India doing a walking standup and spoke to a crew from Spain giving them directions to this "hamburger" place they keep hearing about "In and Out Burger" How did they know I'd know where it was? J
The excitement is building and I gave the whole crew a morning to sleep in because once we start going tonight, we don't stop until Monday morning. Wish us luck the Oscar marathon is hitting mile 18 or so and for those of you who have run one you now a lot of us can it the wall at mile 20. I have faith though that this crew will break through and cross the line strong.
The countdown to the 'big' show is in full gear, the trucks are in place, the tally lights on the cameras are glowing red and the carpet is no longer draped with plastic. It's fascinating to watch an event that has been planned for an entire year, come together in the final few days. At this point the 'vision' has been put into every form imaginable...email, architectural drawings, and pitch meetings. Now it's up to the laborers' to do their magic...the men and women who move the gear, set up the tents, and broadcast the show to you on Sunday night. For all the pomp and circumstance the ceremony still needs the physical force to make it all happen; that process, for me, is more interesting than any dress or acceptance speech.
The past few days have been a blur of stories ranging from the poorest to the most opulent. On Friday, we went to Melissa Leo's suite to tape her getting her hair and make-up done for Sunday night. Sandy and Cat were exceptionally excited about being a part of her moment. I, being a grumpy camera guy, didn't get the 'draw'. Cat explained it in a way that even an emotionally challenged guy like me can understand...Melissa Leo is/ has been recognized in her chosen profession much like a doctor wants to perform the complicated surgery or the camera person wants to photograph history. She has acted her way into an elite group and her moment , also her personality, makes this time inspirational to those around her. Man it sucks when the producer points out what a cynical, old man I've become. There is the story on the two Fordham college seniors who entered a contest to win a spot on the red carpet. If they win, they get to be a part of the media frenzy, the lucky recipients of a 6 inch space on a jam packed riser fighting for 20 seconds to talk to 'Brangelina' and all the other celebs...I won't be a 'spoiler', you have to watch to see if they win. The cool part of their story, to me, is the passion of these guys, the newness of the experience. Man it sucks to have Fordham college students point out what a cynical, old man I've become. The last story I'll relate to ya'll is the annual interview of the host, who is Hugh Jackman this year. The security to get into the theater is beyond ridiculous. There so many layers of badge checks, radio transmissions about your 'clearance' and handlers telling where you can and more importantly can't stand. By the time we actually reach the host, I'm ready to kill someone. Then we walked into the interview area, Sandy was at the top of his game and I started setting up with a bad attitude. Once Sandy kicked into high gear, asking all the right questions, Hugh Jackman's enthusiasm was infectious. Instantly I forgot about all the hassle getting into the room and shared in Hugh's excitement. Man it sucks to have a personable, down to earth celeb point out what a cynical, old man I've become.
Reading back on this blog, I've come off somewhat negative. Let me fix that, being a part of the media and going on all these 'big' stories, you make friends with the crew people in different cities. KABC, our sister station in Los Angeles, is the home to many great people. And after covering the Academy Awards for the last 7 years, I've become 'annual' friends with most of the crew. We only talk once a year, no Christmas cards are exchanged, no birth announcements are sent, but I feel as close to them as any family member. I look forward to getting caught up with all of them. Although we don't have typical 'office' jobs, we bond the way most co-workers do, sharing common goals and problems (and man, camera people can complain...occupational hazard). As Sunday gets closer and the labor pool grows, I get to see more and more of my friends. They drive the satellite trucks, set up the cameras, and roll out the cables. I get to be a part of that process, to share in that experience, and to get re-acquainted with old friends.
Monday can't get here soon enough --- hey I have to keep up the image.
"Put this in your blog," said Motion Picture Academy President Sid Ganis to me this afternoon as we were standing together on the red carpet. He was urging me to spread the word about a competition the Academy held for student journalists. The winner gets an actual spot on the red carpet to cover the arrivals of the stars on Sunday night. Actually, we were (for once) ahead of Oscar's head honcho.
This morning producer Cat McKenzie introduced me to two Fordham students, Justin Shackil and Garry Van Genderen, who were among three finalists in this competition flown to LA to participate in pre-Oscar festivities. The two guys were using their time wisely chatting up CNN's cameraman and other professionals looking for tips along the red carpet. They'd earned a spot in the finals by submitting videos with Justin on camera and Garry behind it. Justin didn't need any tips from me (though he listened politely when I did offer a few words of advice). Turns out, he'd previously interviewed Derek Jeter and A-rod!
Sid announced the winning team, but it wasn't them. Justin & Garry did get a good consolation prize: a seat in the bleachers with the fans on Sunday. I really felt in the larger game of life?these guys are going to be winners.
Then, it was off to Melissa Leo's hotel suite where the down-to-earth star of "Frozen River" was getting ready for another round of pre-Oscar parties and interviews. She has been a working actress for 25 years, and she's finally getting her moment, and it couldn't happen to a sweeter or more deserving person. She won't win, but her work in "Frozen River" was the best of any actress this year. If you have ever taken my advice about anything: go rent this movie!
I gave her a DVD of "The Star" (with Bette Davis in the title role) because I thought it might help her prepare for an upcoming film we'd discussed back in New York when Melissa sat down with me. Our profile will be on channel 7, Friday at 11P, and on line after that. Melissa seemed truly touched and laughed when I told her I had met the formidable Miss Davis and interviewed her numerous times in the last years of her life. Miss (it was never 'Ms.' with her) Davis told me once, "often in life, I am 100% right: right, right, right, right, right!"
Leaving the red carpet, I said hello to Robin Roberts from "Good Morning America" who was getting ready to rehearse for the Oscar pre-show that's she's hosting. She looked stunning in slacks and aviator shades. Robin is the kind of person who takes those sunglasses off when she greets you so that she can make proper eye contact. After dealing with so many stars who aren't so generous, I notice that sort of gesture, and I appreciate it.
California sunrises are truly beautiful...New York sunrises may be equally as amazing but I'm usually asleep at this hour. I talked to friends in New York yesterday... they told me how it was rainy and slushy, my day was in the 70's and I got a little suntan (I wonder if KABC has any photog positions open?) This job is great whereas last Friday Jim Dolan and I were in the middle of a field, stinking of jet fuel, interviewing witnesses of the Continental plane crash in the frozen tundra known as Buffalo and now I am surrounded by 'pretty' people in a tropical oasis. I haven't figured out which story I prefer.
Yesterday we packed up all the gear and drove the kids (Cat and Sandy) to a cool little place called Project Angel Food. Journalistically it's great to get away from all the dresses, jewelry, and 'look at me' stories associated with the Oscars. This piece reflects how everyday people and celebs are giving back to the needy in the local area. Another fun part of my job is to take people, people who give up a part of their lives both in time and emotion, and give them some notoriety. We profiled kitchen workers, at least they were working in the kitchen that day, who cook meals for the sick and infirmed. You can watch the Project Angel folks in the piece we're doing on the economy and Oscar this week.
Then it was back to the 'red carpet'. Not to break the illusion but the 'red carpet' is actually a section of road they close off in downtown Hollywood. And for anyone that knows LA traffic, this truly jams up their world (no pun intended). The funniest part was the city crew scrambling to fix the potholes while the carpet workers were waiting to roll out the rug. The security surrounding the Academy Awards is extreme to say the least. They provide an 'escort' to follow us around while we're in the 'carpet zone'. Since Cat, Sandy and i have been here so many years, they know us and know that we won't commit some sort of offense against Oscar. Yet there are always some new people with earpieces and a suspicious eye that we need to break in. A little side story that ties into the Project Angel Food piece; i was talking to a security worker about how she got the job of watching over me (heaven help her) and how her employer let her off for a week to be at the Academy Awards. Because I'm an idiot and not thinking, she told me that she was one of the many Americans recently laid off. Sometimes it's the little moments that turn my black and white, viewfinder vision into a color picture. So Kim good luck trying to control the crew from New York and Happy Birthday!
I just went out to the doughnut shop across the street looking for bagel served with a New York attitude and all i got was a croissant with Southern California flare...I truly am a New Yorker at heart.
We are half way through our day. Which is strange because in NY most of my friends are just getting off work now and heading to happy hour, the gym or to catch one of the Academy nominated movies.
It's been a long but very cool day. We started our day finishing up a rush script for tonight's 11 o'clock show. See we had hoped to bring you our interview with first time Oscar host Hugh Jackman tonight?but because he will be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning at 7am?our interview has been embargoed until after noon on Friday.
This meant that the piece we had planned for 11pm Friday - has to run tonight. Luckily when we're in LA because of the time difference we pretty much shoot a day ahead anyways so we were prepared.
After we tweaked Sandy's script we headed to the red carpet for a preview of the food and drinks that will be at the Governor's Ball, the dinner held right after the Academy Awards. As we walked into a tent that's on the far end of the red carpet the smells coming out were amazing. Sizzling mini-Kobe beef hamburgers, and fresh salmon. Right behind the table - celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck is telling the inspiration behind each dish?and I thought what someone just wants one of his pizzas?
After Wolfgang we went to interview Hugh Jackman. He couldn't have been a more regular fellow. He went to shake Michael's hand as Michael was setting up and goes "Sorry mate, trying to shake your hand while your working" There are some celebrities that get it and some that don't right there with that statement I knew that he was the former.
We had a good interview - and while Sandy went to log and Michael went to start ingesting tapes so we could edit, I made a food run to our favorite place?yup In and Out burger. We ordered our fries "animal" style which means they come with cheese, onions and bacon on top?not quite what Dr. Oz would order?but darn did they taste good.
Michael is now furiously working off those fries editing our 11pm piece. Hope you like it?.it's a serious one for us. "Is the glitz and glamour of Oscar appropriate during a Recession?"
I've just returned from a very busy place: backstage at the Oscars. Grand Central Station at rush hour seems calm by comparison. Producer Cat McKenzie and cameraman Mike Thorne and I stood in a hall outside the green room waiting to interview Oscar host Hugh Jackman. We were just off stage right of the Kodak, and we could see a tantalizing glimpse of the "intimate" staging for this year's show. Jackman told me he's so close to the audience he can even give someone a lap dance if he wants!
I was chatting with the head of the Motion Picture Academy Sid Ganis who told me he had been watching our reports in the taxi cabs during a quick trip to New York City. I asked him to take me out on the big stage and show me the set, but he said the producers would kill him if he did. Guess I know who's boss here now!
Hugh is that rare star who's actually an approachable good guy: a 'bloke' to use the ultimate compliment in his native Australia. We only have a few minutes with the song and dance man, but he makes each second count. He told me that he'd reached out to previous hosts Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg for advice and even run a few possible routines by Steve. Jackman told me the scariest part of the job came when he first got it, and they told him he had to fill 6-7 minutes at the top by himself. We asked him how he's going to do that? But, he said the old line about "tune-in and find out."
Oscar hosts are not supposed to play favorites, but he's rooting for one person in one top category. Sorry to leave you hanging, but to find out who?you'll have to tune in to Eyewitness News at 5 PM on Friday. You see: I can play that 'tune-in and find out' game too?
The Academy has broken with tradition and has not revealed who will be presenting awards on Sunday night so security backstage has never been tighter. We were standing there getting turned to and fro by stagehands moving mirrors, and Cat was being given the 3rd degree about our second camera. She politely put it in her pocket until we got with Hugh Jackman. Backstage at the Oscars is not a place to "go all New York" on people.
There is something magical about watching Hollywood Blvd. getting transformed into the world's most glamorous runway. One hour it's just a stretch of asphalt that is closed to traffic. Soon, it's covered in vast swaths of red carpet the length of a football field. And this is not cheap carpeting either. Watching the lush red pile with gold trim getting put down gets me excited the way an athlete must get pumped up before a big game. The task couldn't be more mundane, but watching the workmen in the afternoon sun gives me great comfort: the comfort that comes from ritual, from knowing it's that time of year again. As I always say, the day I am NOT excited along Oscar's red carpet?is the day I pack it in, but I can assure you it's still a thrill.
Part of my Oscar ritual is to give two ladies who call themselves "The Bleacher Babes" a big kiss. We took care of that Wednesday afternoon before my live shot at 5:45 P. Babe Churchill and her sister Sandi have been part of my life here since my first Oscar show in 1983. They have known Oscar for many more years than myself. One year Babe had an operation right before the Academy Awards, but she still made it to those bleachers! There is a lottery that fans enter for the right to sit in those few hundred seats outside with a good view of the stars entering the Kodak Theater, but Babe and Sandi are invited back every year due to their many years of devotion. One of the great thrills of recent years for me was seeing them talking briefly to Regis Philbin on TV when he hosted the pre-show. They are the true stars of this event for me, and our friendship is one of the great through-lines of my life.
These are tough times for so many people, and we wondered about whether or not it's appropriate to have so much glitz and glamour at the Oscars when so many are facing tough times. We're working on some answers and we'll have that for you later in the week on Eyewitness News. We spent time at a local charity today?in the kitchen at Project Angel Food where hundreds of meals were prepared for those in need. It was a trip worth taking, and when I go into the lavish Kodak Theater to interview Oscar host Hugh Jackman tomorrow, I'll be thinking about one of the volunteers who told us the stars should take off their gowns, put on an apron, and help her dish up those meals!
It's sunny here. I don't mean to gloat since I hear it is cold, rainy and slushy in New York. I've never been one of those people that "needed" to be in the sun, but I will say my mood suddenly felt brighter when we got off the plane and stepped into the semi-warm(it's around 65 degrees) sunshine.
It's great being back here for the Oscars. This is the third trip Michael Thorne, Sandy Kenyon and I have taken and we are in a familiar rhythm.
Check in ? get credentials ? go to In and Out Burger ? shoot first story?.write first blog?do first live shot?shoot more?.eat more?you get the drill.
The nice thing this year is a lot of the Oscar crew are now recognizing us ? I guess it's because the three of us travel in pack for most of the week ? and we read "NEW YORK" from the speed of our walk to the way that we talk?.we're a little hard to forget. Those who remember us give us hearty greeting when they pass us in the hotel or near the theater, it makes being away from the comforts of our newsroom just a little bit easier. I feel confident that if there's a problem they'll help us out.
Our best reunion had to be with a young man named Mark. He is a "press guide" or babysitter really. When you are on the red carpet or shooting anywhere in the Kodak Theater you are assigned a "guide" to make sure you don't shoot anything they don't want you to shoot and that you are following all the rules (no wireless mics, wearing the right credentials, ect)
Mark has been in our guide for the past 3 years. 3 years ago he was a senior in college getting ready to look for his first job. Last year we met his young fiancé. This year we met his newborn son Owen. When Owen looked up at me and grabbed my finger the way newborns do?I had the strangest of feeling of family. Don't worry though he hasn't gotten soft on us. The next day when we tried to use our wireless mic to shoot some teases (we mistakenly thought the "no wireless" rule started on Thursday not Wednesday) It was Mark who very nicely came up to me and said "Now Cat you know the rules?"
The other "family" we get to see out here are our colleagues from KABC the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. They are really good to us when we come out from helping out with making sure our live shots and stories get back to New York to answering my million questions about the city, Oscar protocol ect. We had to run to their newsroom last night to pick up a tape?.and what a newsroom??it's the size of football field!! Of course when I tell my LA counterpart Cari what a great huge newsroom you have ? ours is a 4th of this size ? she says but you are in the middle of Manhattan! It's a great reminder to be thankful for what you have.
Speaking of thankful?.today's story at 11 is one we worked on both in NY and here in LA ? "Is the glitz and glamour of Oscar night appropriate during an era of Recession? "I'm curious to know what the Eyewitness News audience thinks. We spend part of our morning yesterday at a soup kitchen just a mile away from the Oscar Red Carpet to get their thoughts as well. I hope you enjoy the story.
This afternoon we get to interview the Oscar host, Hugh Jackman?you could say I'm a little excited ? He's cute!!! More on how it goes tomorrow.
The Academy Awards are filled with lights, color, and celebs but I see the red carpet in black and white. My sight is through a viewfinder. For all the glitz and glamour at the Oscar's there's a ton of technical people bringing that magic to your living room.
When I went to work this morning at 5 am, the only person outside my apartment was some drunk guy who kept calling me 'steve'...i don't know who 'steve' is but i feel sorry for him when this guy sobers up and finds him. I was lucky enough to hail a surly cab driver.
I packed up the 6 cases of editing and camera equipment on Saturday. My producer, Cat ordered an extra large town car that could handle all of our gear and luggage (wait until my bosses see that excess baggage charge with Delta Airlines). Cat, who's a great producer, still hasn't learned the finer art of packing light either. You should've seen the look of fear in the drivers' eyes when the gear just kept being wheeled out of the front door of WABC. It's basic math, you can't get 20 cubic feet of stuff into a 10 cubic foot space but somehow we made it happen. To be fair to Cat, she does pack a lot of gear as well. She brings extra tapes, files, and everything else I didn't know i needed (just ask her). So now we're all loaded into the town car and heading for JFK but still the sun hasn't broken the horizon. Despite the early hour, there's an excitement in the air, an excitement that comes whenever you get the opportunity to challenge yourself professionally.
At that hour, traffic is light and the Van Wyck is clear. All that's going through my mind is 'what did I forget?', 'is the edit equipment going to work this time?', 'Man, I shouldn't have drank all that diet pepsi before we left the station'.
Getting to the airport is half the battle. Then comes the challenge of dealing with curb side check-in. All those bags make the curbside handlers drool. They know you need them, I mean really need them, to get all that gear inside the terminal and on the plane. Eight bags most of them over 20 lbs, you need that cart attached to that curb guy and he wants that tip. Game On! I take the camera and backpacks while he loads all the cases on the cart. Every once in a while I hear him 'grunt' when lifting a case, we both know that grunt is raising the tip. I look at it like the first challenge on the road to oscar. For the record, if any of those handlers happen to read this...I tip well and appreciate all your help!
Once all the bags are checked, the light at the end of the tunnel is just past airport security...that light takes shape in the form of Burger King. Nothing better than a well-placed bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on busy travel day.
Now I'm sitting in the spacious coach section of this fine airline. There is a heavy set man with a terrible nasal condition blocking my view of Queens as it slowly disappears beneath the wing. Despite my busy morning getting to Los Angeles, the excitement of the trip is slowly setting in.
Ok...my body and mind is still in the greater New York area...so I'm waiting for the sun to rise over the famous Hollywood sign. Seems like whenever Oscar is involved, I'm up at the crack of dawn. Our little Oscar team (Cat, Sandy, and I) aren't do to meet in the lobby until 9 o'clock this morning. So here's another blog.
We arrived in LA yesterday afternoon. Somehow, with the help of Cat, we got all the gear into this posh hotel in Hollywood. I don't think these bellmen are used to dealing with all those heavy cases. But, once again, they are attached to that cart. Man, I gotta get me one of those carts and just walk around the city sometime.I would make a fortune.
Next comes the fun process of turning this beautiful hotel room into an editing bay. Most people stay here to enjoy the sun and sights of Hollywood, I on the other hand, rearrange furniture, put all the coffee pots and hair dryers in the closet, and use the dresser to hold tapes. If the hotel happens to read this...don't worry I put everything back in place before I leave (and I don't steal that fancy robe in the bathroom). Now to the cases, you know the ones I've been complaining about all this time. Inside those cases are miles of cables, little boxes that have all kinds of pretty flashing lights, and who knows what else. The WABC engineers took pity on me and showed me how to hook all this stuff up...but you can't take their vast experience and cram it into my mind in the few years I've been here. So needless to say there are many phone calls to the maintenance shop (sorry guys and Al, I bet you're sorry you gave me your personal cell number). Here I am with miles of cable with all kinds of different connectors..all leading to decks and boxes that don't seem to have the same inputs. I can get all the pretty lights to start flashing (hey that's easy...just plug them in an outlet...I've been plugging in stuff in for years) but getting the lights to flash when they need to..well that's not happening. It is truly like trying to put a round peg in a square hole. After about an hour of cursing, trial and error, and yes I'm man enough to admit it, a few tears, it seems to work. My friend and fellow photographer Todd showed me this cool trick with different colored tape. He takes the red tape and puts it around the cable...then takes red tape and puts it on the proper outlet...pretty smart, no wonder why the engineers like him best.
I'm really looking forward to today. Today I forget about moving boxes and dealing with cables....today I get to be a photographer.
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