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Kisses, bling and screaming fans: The do's and don'ts of surviving

February 23, 2009|Geoff Boucher and Chris Lee

The Oscars' most important pre-show ritual, the red carpet arrivals, should be an orderly ordeal where everyone looks fabulous and simple cause and effect abides. By rights, it's a place where the Academy Awards' pomp and pageantry, as well as movie stars' bling, decolletage and witty quips, can be alternately celebrated and scrutinized.

But there are certain hazards when celestial beings touch down. With that in mind, The Times offers this behavioral primer for the scarlet real estate.

Do flaunt what you've got: British reporter Fearne Cotton stood in front of more than 300 members of the media, batted her kewpie-doll eyes and declared she was bringing her viewers "live exclusive coverage" from the Oscars.

Don't overreach linguistically: The on-air personalities of celeb journalism spend all year memorizing the names of Angelina Jolie's brood and the latest "American Idol" hopefuls. On Oscar day, the focus shifts to art-house concerns. Three hours before showtime, journos in their shiny rented shoes were practicing the pronunciations for the names of cast members of "Slumdog Millionaire." Overheard: "I'm working on a phonetic for when these young people come up to me, but I think I may just give up and go with 'Nice to meet you.' My Hindi is not reliable . . . "

Do prepare for the worst: Either due to the threat of rain or the influence of comic-book movies, quite a few women were wearing elbow-length gloves made of a shiny material. According to an unofficial Times estimate, at least six fancy ladies on the carpet were rocking this look.

Don't let your guard down: After making it 90% of the way into the arrivals staging area, "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens suffered a somewhat severe-looking wardrobe malfunction. As she stepped from a small riser where she and her date, Zac Efron, had been interviewed, her black gown appeared to get caught on something. With the help of a burly security guard, Hudgens shook the bottom of her dress for nearly three minutes, trying to make some correction; she looked like she was trying to put out a small brush fire. She ended up fleeing the carpet and leaving Efron to face the paparazzi solo.

Don't cry . . . too early. "Doubt" director John Patrick Shanley said the key to success on the red carpet was timing. "You don't want to have a big emotional revelation at the beginning of the carpet. You can say a little and smile but you have to save yourself. You can have the breakdown or the epiphany later. You have to hold onto it. The middle of the carpet or the end. That's good."

Do remember to plug: Phoebe Cates, looking luminous but also focused, said that everything she was wearing was for sale at her store. "It's called Blue Tree in New York," the actress said. "There's a website too."

Don't panic: Sir Anthony Hopkins, looking dapper and trim, said sweating was for nominees. "Stay cool. You can't worry too much and get nervous. That's quite a bit easier to do when you're not in competition, of course. The event is a bit overwhelming to people, but I did get accustomed to it. When you're in competition, it's difficult to have a good time, but that's a good problem to have."

Don't be insensitive: Dan Glickman of the Motion Picture Assn. of America said the trick this year was to dress to impress, not to depress. "Right now, around the country, people are dealing with some difficult times and the present isn't as bright as the past. I went to the pre-show party last night and the tone was different. There were some things toned down. My advice is leave some jewelry in the drawer this year."

Do bring ID: The security cordon is no joke, with limos running a gantlet of concrete barriers for celebrity drop-offs, the bomb squad sweeping for suspicious packages and various FBI and Sheriff's Department agents on high alert. "I can't believe this is Hollywood Boulevard," Emile Hirsch said, shortly after arriving on the carpet. "The security getting in here is insane."

Don't touch the bag: The names of the winners arrived in two satchels carried by representatives from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Brad Oltmanns joked that although the bag was handcuffed to his wrist, that precaution wasn't entirely necessary, because of the tall, serious man strolling three paces behind him. "You wouldn't want to touch the bag." On his priorities for the evening: "Smile a lot and don't forget the bag."

Do come thirsty: After wending past the scrum of world media and screaming seat fillers and posing for photos in front of a black tie-clad paparazzi, celebrity guests and nominees entering the Kodak Theatre's soaring rotunda are encouraged to whet their whistles. Awaiting them: flutes of Moet & Chandon Champagne.

Don't forget to be big: Sean Combs has not made the Hollywood impact he hoped for -- Remember "Made"? Not many people do -- but he was the biggest star on the carpet Sunday. Well, sorta. He was featured sporting a white-coat tuxedo in an eight-story tall cologne ad on the TV Guide building facing east down Hollywood Boulevard.


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