To the estimated 33 million people watching from home, the Academy Awards are a delicious spectacle, a televised celebrity prom salted with convenient commercial breaks so no one gets overstimulated by all the adulation.
For the 3,100 guests inside the Kodak Theatre, however, going to the Oscars is something of an extreme sport. And on this plush field of play it's generally the women who excel.
It's a marathon run in stiletto heels. The warm-up starts midafternoon with hair and makeup, and then there's a series of sprints through unspeakably glamorous vignettes (the limo ride! the red carpet walk! the pre-ceremony cocktails!). Midway through the four-hour ceremony, though, the hors d'oeuvres are a distant memory, dehydration sets in and toes go numb. A second, or third, wind fuels the kick to the finish: the Governors Ball and assorted after-parties. It all ends sometime after midnight, feet bare and swollen, limping across a hotel lobby littered with empty glasses.
Guests arrive as early at 3 p.m., 2 1/2 hours before the ceremony. While the stars clogged the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, inside guests intercepted waiters carrying trays of high-protein hors d'oeuvres -- ahi tuna and steak tartare -- that would have to carry them through the next six hours. (There were also caviar-topped potatoes for those not on the Atkins diet.)
"The hors d'oeuvres, that's our main course," said Susan Belohovek, who was accompanying her husband, Jim Belohovek, who works in visual effects. She was glad to have them though. Before arriving, she was too excited to eat. Just in case, she stashed a protein bar in their limousine.
Guests washed the finger foods down with cocktails and tiny bottles of Evian -- notably not 1-liter bottles. There's no running to the ladies' room until a commercial break, and no getting back into the auditorium until the next break.
Experienced Oscar-goers -- managers, agents, publicists and the like who have attended multiple ceremonies -- approach the big day like athletes. They go to bed early the night before. They work out that morning to build endurance. They wear deep pockets to carry food rations.
The Kodak seemed to have better food circulation than Oscar's old haunts, the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. At the lobby bars during the show, there were shrimp cocktails and small sandwiches on sale for $5.
"I'd pay $20, I'm so hungry," said one woman in line.
While nourishment was top priority for some, others concentrated on comfort.
Shar Viane, whose husband, Chuck Viane, is an executive at Buena Vista Pictures, had to forgo some fashion concerns. Pointing to her gold low-heeled sandals, she explained that a newly healed broken foot made coordinating her outfit tough this year. "The bottoms of my feet are taped to my shoes with double-sided sticky tape, so my feet won't slip," Viane said. Problem solved.
"It's just survival of the fittest," says publicist Ronni Chasen, who has attended more than 15 Oscar ceremonies.
Ah, yes. But Darwinism has never looked so good.
'Fantasy is an F-word that hopefully the five-second
delay won't do anything with.'
Peter Jackson, thanking the academy for honoring the world of his film