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The Oscars

Where she knows everybody's name

No celebrity escapes the sharp eye of Vivian Boyer, whose job is to greet the talent and escort the jubilant winners through the backstage maze.

March 01, 2004|Lynn Smith | Times Staff Writer

At 2 p.m. on Oscar afternoon, Vivian Boyer stood on the red carpet at Hollywood and Highland in black shirt, pants and sensible shoes, waiting. She had left her Encino home early as she has for 19 years, so that she would arrive before the nominees. And she had done her homework, looking at photographs in Entertainment Weekly to make sure she would recognize B- and C-list celebrities.

Her first job, as one of a handful of volunteers trusted to handle the talent, is to make sure no nominee has to face the red carpet media gauntlet unescorted. Her second job is to guide the winners, pumped with adrenalin, dazed and confused, from the stage toward the deadline journalists backstage. She will lead some of the world's biggest and happiest celebrities over cords on the floor and through well-wishers, and hand them off to another escort who will guide them to an elevator and the press rooms upstairs.

The jobs require considerable aplomb. Boyer, the former publicity director at Warner Bros. and now a freelance publicist, knows what the stars need on a day that could alter their careers and lives: direction and just the right amount of deference.

No matter how famous they are, she said, the winners can never believe it. "It's amazing to see their reactions. That's the joy. I don't know that there are that many awards that make people so happy.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday March 02, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Actor's home -- An article about publicist Vivian Boyer in Monday's Calendar section said she had visited Harrison Ford's home in Colorado. Ford's home is in Wyoming.

"They're euphoric. They're in a daze. They're willing to do whatever you tell them. If you didn't, they wouldn't have a clue what to do."

Boyer, a widow and grandmother, retains the Long Island accent of her native New York. She knows many celebrities personally (she's been to Harrison Ford's Colorado home), and while some prefer a down-to-earth approach, others like to be treated like royalty. Depending on which type they are, she says "Congratulations!" or "How wonderful for you!" or something "touchy feely" but "not overly friendly."

The safest approach is the middle ground: "You try to make it like they're just people," she said, "just a little bit more important.... You try to think how would they want to be treated?" She never tries to shake hands because, she said, the stars' fingers tend to be firmly clutched around their gold-plated 8 1/2-pound statuettes.

In the wings, she watches the drama unfolding on the stage 15 feet away. "Otherwise, you don't know who won. You need to make sure you know them. You don't want to say, 'Who are you?' " Boyer's job isn't easy. She is on her feet all night, sometimes running from one winner to the next.

One year, after she sent a winner to the press rooms when he was needed to be on stage to present an award, it was decided the job required two people. On Sunday, Michael Roth, publicist for the Staples Center joined Boyer. Both had studied the script in advance to be able to guide winners to the right place.

Once, Boyer said, she lost Catherine Zeta-Jones in the shuffle, triggering a frantic search by the volunteers. "It turned out she was already in the elevator," she said.

Boyer said she is no longer as star-struck as when she first started working in Hollywood. But she's still a fan. "If you're not impressed -- just a little bit -- you shouldn't be doing it," she said. "It's nice to be part of something important."

*

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