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Calender Goes to the Oscars : Making the Scene on a Path Paved With Screams

March 28, 1995|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Except to the Oscars, if we're lucky enough to snag one of the 2,600 (plus guest) invitations to the 67th annual Academy Awards on Monday. That was the first coveted trophy on the road to the one that's golden, trademarked and a bit more elusive.

Oscar night is intermission for the generally glamour-deficient '90s--when Hollywood premieres just aren't what they used to be, when publicists are paid as much to shield their sought-after charges as promote them. These days, Oscars offer the red carpet of choice for movie stars to do what they do best--be movie stars.

"Movies open at 1,000 theaters in one day," said film critic and Oscar arrivals-meister Roger Ebert. "Where else can you go? One night every year there's this feeding frenzy when you can see all this high wattage of stars."

And such an unbelievably noisy feeding frenzy. This is serious business, with hundreds of raving fans hunkering down on bleachers outside the Shrine Auditorium to see what the stars are wearing--on their backs and on their arms. As for the stars, whose sole consolation for all their hard work is millions of dollars, they finally get to hear the applause.

Oh, yes. And the screaming too.

*

While in previous years, the awards have been center stage for demonstrators variously heralding the rights of homeless and homosexuals, as well as for the occasional frolicsome drag queen, Monday was quiet. Except for the noise, of course.

But if red is the Chinese color for happiness, the carpets were filled with ecstatic stars and the occasionally annoyed one. Such as Oscar presenter Jamie Lee Curtis, who seemed peeved after braving a battery of repetitive questions.

"We're in a world where people only want to know what you're wearing," she said snippily in a long cream-colored gown with a beaded top.

"Well, what are you wearing?" veteran Variety columnist and official star-greeter Army Archerd asked. Several times.

Curtis finally admitted she was sporting a Pamela Dennis. Later, when a reporter asked a question that wasn't frivolous--what did she think about the threatened federal arts cuts?--she answered with what she would be wearing later:

"My protest pin."

But it wasn't all youth and packaging that set off a scream fest from "the fans in the stands," as Archerd likes to call them. Supporting actor winner Martin Landau set off a sonic boom when he arrived with his screenwriter girlfriend Gretchen Becker.

"It's a great night," he said. "And whatever happens tonight will be memorable. I'll have a great evening or a terrible one."

The night was even memorable for one of the most powerful women in show business, Oprah Winfrey, who arrived in a flounce of chocolate silk and tulle train to present the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to her friend Quincy Jones.

*

"Pulp Fiction" folk won the voice vote among the fans, who howled hellos to comeback nominee John Travolta and a bored-looking Uma Thurman. The supporting actress nominee came in a "Breakfast-at-Tiffany's" 'do and lavender gown on the arm of her professor father.

When Oscar's other good friend, best actor nominee for "Forrest Gump" Tom Hanks, arrived with wife Rita Wilson, the ebullient star declared it the Super Bowl of entertainment. But his appearance was drowned out by the whir of helicopters overhead.

Still, it was possible to come too fashionably late, as last-minute celebrities missed their amplified Archerd greeting. Best actress nominees Jessica Lange and Miranda Richardson had to enter the auditorium without the fanfare.

Die-hard fans came early and they came far to stake out their claim to a ringside bleacher seat. Masato Okawa, a 22-year-old Japanese student wearing a Bubba Gump Shrimp T-shirt, made the 10-hour flight from Hakodate to hit the bleachers by 9 p.m. Saturday. Then there was Amy Ledwell, a Redlands homemaker who is 5 1/2 months pregnant. She bemoaned a very long night sleeping on the slats: "I'm never doing this again."

So is it all merely a fashion piffle, a slash of very expensive leg on the way to something grander inside the auditorium? Not to arrivals warhorse Ebert.

"Are they excited?" he said earlier. "Are they drunk? It's always a possibility. They're there without any script."

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