A trip to the Oscars
By Art Shotwell
As I get older, I realize I have less and less time to do the things I've wanted to do my whole life. So, this year, I undertook one of my 'must-do' adventures. I went to the Oscars. No, I wasn't sitting in the audience in the new Kodak theater, rubbing shoulders with the glitterati. I was in what's called the fan bleachers.
A word of explanation might be necessary here. The Motion Picture Academy, the folks that stage the annual Oscars show, see fans as an integral part of the day's events. So, every year they set aside bleachers along the red carpet arrival area for fans to sit. It's hard to imagine stars arriving without all those screaming fans; with just press and television on the scene. Fans make the stars feel wanted and add excitement for all those TV viewers around the world.
In the past, the Motion Picture Academy allowed fans to camp out in the bleachers or for days in advance. By camping out, I mean in sleeping bags. Last year, they didn't allow anyone in the bleachers until the morning of the event, so people lined up on the sidewalk. A handful of hardy soles brought tents.
This year, the events of September eleventh prompted new security measures. The Academy posted an application form on their Web site and invited fans to mail the form, along with a photo, their Social Security number and an ID number off a driver's license or passport. Then then ran security checks. I was notified about 10 days before Oscar Sunday that I was number 135 of 400 to be allowed in the fan bleachers.
Now, I'm not one of those rabid star fans (does anyone admit to that, anyway?), but I am a fan of film and the power it can have on others. And, there's nothing like seeing an event as it happens and not through the eyes of someone else. It's one of factors that prompted me to become a reporter in an earlier life. Anyway, the Oscars has long been on my 'must-do' list. And, this year, the year Oscars came back to Hollywood after 40 years being staged in downtown Los Angeles or near the USC campus, seemed a good time to go.
Back to those fans now. Sisters Sandi Stratton and Babe Churchill are the grand dames of movie fans. They've sat in the fan bleachers every year for 33 years. Never missed a year. They and a few friends now all wear red tee-shirts with the "Bleacher Creatures" moniker. Not to be outdone, another group called "Oscar Chatters" formed a few years ago. I ended up sitting with both these groups.
All fans seem to ask for is seeing their favorite stars wave at them. A little recognition by stars for their fans. So, when Nicole Kidman waved, then started walking over to our area, everyone pushed to the front of the bleachers. Cameras clicked as she neared. Then, she surprised most of us by shaking hands with a couple fans. More pictures. But, a red carpet monitor quickly walked over, pulled her away and apparently told her that's a no-no. He sent her back to the media side of the red carpet.
I can't say I got a lot of good pictures. Most of them just show a crowd of people with a few recognizable faces as they move along the red carpet. More than 3,000 people arrived in a two-hour period. But, I did have a lot of fun watching stars and meeting fans. One more item checked off my must-do list.