A Night at the Oscars
The following is a tale of extreme something from the land of the weird. It was so exceptional an evening that it would be silly not to document it while the memory is freshish.
So, my pal, Kevin Mack was up for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his work on "What Dreams May Come. About a week and a half ago, he called Ronda and I up and asked if weād like to join him and Martha at the presentation ceremony. They had a friend who couldnāt make it, and it was a rare opportunity to snag an extra pair of seats. Of course, we were tickled to have the opportunity, and by their thoughtfulness.
So Ronda got out the dress she had worn to the "Titanic" wrap party, and I rented the same style of Tux I had worn, and we awaited the Oscars with much excitement.
Yesterday - Sunday, March 21 - at about 2:00, we went over to the Macksā to find a very long car in our accustomed parking spot. The driver had arrived a bit early and was setting up the champagne, and so forth. We went on in, gathered Martha and Kevin, and were on our way to a strange and wonderful evening of absurd gaiety.
As the limo was approaching the theatre, we started to see a lot of protesters, complaining something about a guy named Kazan, and the black lists of the McCarthy era. Not being too up on local politics, I couldnāt figure out if this was a very old group of protesters caught in a time warp, or if there were new black lists coming about, or what. Eventually, our car pulled up to the end of the red carpet that "leads Hollywoodās elite to the most important event of the year.". There were hundreds of people who had been camped out for a week for the chance to watch the stars walk along this carpet. The police opened the door for us, and held the crowd back as cameras of all descriptions shot images of us on the off chance that we might be important. Joan Rivers was there, and Gina Davis (who turns out to be about nineteen foot three). We spent a few minutes milling about in the lime light as various people in front of us satisfied the photo seekers. Eventually we wound our way to the main entrance. There seemed to be heavy security. The cell phone in Marthaās purse triggered the automated systems, and so she had to show her peaceable intent by abiding a minor examination of the contents of her purse. At the same time, the general flow into the theatre had been temporarily stemmed while some other search was carried out inside.
Eventually, we were inside, and found our way upstairs to the reception area where the snacks were laid out, and the bartenders wouldnāt even accept tips.
Murmurs were circulating that Ms. Monica Lewinski was in attendance, and so we set our goal to be that of seeing her, above any of the other multitudinous stars about. I met a couple of people I had worked with in the past, and got the story about this Kazan guy who was causing the controversy with the picketers outside. Apparently, this guy had ratted out his fellow communists to the house judiciary committee on un-american activities in the Ī50s, causing many folks to be black-listed. He had then gone on to make some good movies, I guess, because there was to be a special presentation to him. The protesters evidently found this cause for objection. After reading Pete Seegerās testimony before the same committee, I must say that he showed greater strength of character, to my way of thinking. I wasnāt there, though, and so I cannot judge.
After some chats, some photos, a couple of drinks, and some nifty little crab-things, it was getting toward 5:00, and time to find our respective seats. Kevin and Martha were down on the main floor, with the other nominees, and Ronda and I were up in the balcony. The ceremony was televised, and was pretty dull, but for a couple of moments. The schism in the room caused by the commie ratās award was pronounced, with vehement people on both sides of the fence. I felt no strong emotion over the issue either way. The only thing that struck me as a bit sad was the fact that the man was seriously doddering. He seemed rattled, and a bit senile. His last line in a halting and somewhat confused acceptance speech was something like "Now I think I can just slip away.". I found that a bit sad.
One after another, star after star announced, M.C.ed, or accepted the shiny statues. About halfway through the show, Kevinās award came up, and he won. I was certainly never in any doubt, but it was exciting to see anyway. If you were watching, and donāt know, Kevin was the guy who said, "Iād like to thank Scott Ross, all the people at Digital Domain. Love is groovy. Be positive.". I asked him later how it felt to speak to a billion people. He said it was beyond his full comprehension, but that it was fun.
The rest of the awards were awarded, featuring presenters like Colon Powel, and senator John Glenn. Then came the better part of the day. We had arranged to meet the Macks down front of the theatre so that we could see if we could get Ronda and I into the Governorās Ball - a dinner for the nominees and various important folks. Kevin found us a pair of extra tickets into the tent, but not for the dinner part. For this reason, we found that we were able to get into the very fancy party tent, but we had to stand around during the serving of food. We milled about, and ate snacks as they walked around on platters. During this milling, I bumped into Patrick Stewart (televisionās Captain Jean-Luc Picard). He was pleasant, and shorter than I expected. His head has a very Nubian and distinctive form. At about this time, Kevin was being introduced to the Governor of California, who commented that his award was well deserved. There were plenty of folks there, but in particular, we noticed Gwyneth Paltrow, James Coburn, and Roberto Bernigni.
Quickly after dinner, we called upon the car, and headed back down the red carpet - this time with Kevinās statue a notable addition to our party. Suddenly the cameras, interviewers, and crowd were much more interested in us (Kevin in particular, of course), and the excitement level climbed a bit, as we started to realize the incredible power of the totem which Kevin carried. There was a log-jam of limos outside, and fancy folks everywhere. Eventually our car came into the queue, and we were off to seek the important parties. We decided to start at the Mirimax/Vanity Fair party. We pulled the car up to the disembarking point, but the valet guy wasnāt having any of it.
"Turn left or Right as you pull away", he said.
Kevin said: "...but I was told that this statue would get us anywhere we wanted to go.".
Now, the valet was speaking to the driver, who was about a half a block from Kevin - (it was a loooong car), and so itās reasonable that the driver wasnāt aware of the award being in the car. The driver said to the valet, "Mr. Mack says that he was told heād be able to go wherever he wanted.".
"He can go wherever he likes after he turns left or right.", said the valet.
So we pulled the car up and around the corner, and attempted to get out there, but the secret service, (or whomever) said that we were in a spot that must remain clear for the Governorās arrival. Kevin said that he had been just talking to the governor, and couldnāt we just jump out of the car?
We went a little farther up the street, and jumped out, Oscar in hand, to see if it was really a magic ticket to any party, or what. As we came up the sidewalk to the lineup outside the club, a cordoned off throng of star-looker-atters started woo-hooing at the sight of the statue in Kevinās hand. The folks in the line deferred, and said, "No no, you go right on up to the front. You donāt have to wait here with us lesser folks.". At the front of the very unmoving line, the security guys were looking very stern, until they caught the gleam of importance in Kevinās hand. They warmed immediately, and asked "How many are in your party, sir?", and in we were whisked. Another gauntlet of cameras, and stars smiling at them. A woman from the British Press called to Kevin, and we went over.
"Iām frightfully embarrassed to admit that I have no idea who you are, but you have an Oscar, and so weād like to interview you."
After a brief interview, we went on in, and I was immediately astonished to find myself in a room where I recognized a lot of folks, but knew none. There was Patrick Stewart again, and Matt Damon, and Farrah Fawcet, and Colon Powell, and Warren Beatty, and Jeff Goldblum, and some guy from "Beverly Hills - 90210", and another guy from "Veronicaās Closet", and Chris Rock, and Kevin Costner, and Val Kilmer, and all sorts of folks.
Throughout the evening, we kept bumping into the very chatty guy who played the fashion-throwback black porn star from "Boogie-Nights". It took us until the end of the evening to place him, but we recognized him right away. We also spoke for a moment to Val Kilmer, with whom Kevin had worked on "The Island of Dr. Moreau". Of everybody we met, he was the only one who was anything but polite and pleasant. His comments were abrupt, dismissive, and quite rude. Val Kilmer is off my party list from now on.
We went to the bar, and we found the restrooms, and we milled about for a few minutes. Kevin got a lot of attention from everyone, as Oscars were the thing of the evening, and he had a nice one. One group of Wall St. investor types got me into a conversation about fuzzy predictors, and later mentioned that Madonna was to be seen in the other room, so over we went towards the door to said room. On our way, Kevin got into a conversation with Jeff Goldblum, who was charming. His demeanour was very comfortable, and his congratulations and advice seemed very genuine, and it was much like meeting a human being to meet him. I told him of my fondness for his role in the movie "Mr. Frost", and we continued on.
In the other room, we found it to be unreasonably cold, and so we turned right around and left, after only a very short look about. We did see Madonna, and Drew Barymore. On our way back out, Kevin bumped into Peter Gabriel without recognizing him (Heās looking a bit rough). Then we saw Steve Tyler, from the band, "Aerosmith" (who always looked a bit rough). Kevin was a bit emboldened at this point, and walked right on up to him and said, "I was told that if I had one of these, I could talk to you.", holding up his statue. Mr. Tyler laughed and said that Kevin could probably talk to whomever he liked. We chatted about the wonder of show business - Steve being clearly stricken with fatherly pride at his daughter, Liv Tylerās own success. She came up after a few minutes, and said she was tired and wanted to go. We said a couple more niceties, and returned to the main room. Once back in there, we walked right on up to Warren Beatty, and Annette Benning (sp?), and chatted a bit there. Many folks repeated the advice that the Oscar would grant power for a while after its receipt, and that Kevin should strike quickly, while the iron was hot, so to speak.
It was at about this time that I spied Ms. Lewinski, and pointed her out quietly to Martha, Ronda and Kevin. We agreed that we must talk to her, she being the celebrity amongst celebrities for the evening. As it happened, she was speaking with Donny Osmond, and so we got to meet him as well. Donnyās a freak, Monica was quite pleasant.
That was a pretty strange encounter. She really was a star amongst stars, attracting attention from many who would otherwise have been the subject. She was very nice, and the conversation stayed clear of recent political events. She asked if she could hold Kevinās Oscar, commented on how heavy it was, and on we went.
After a while, we decided to proceed across the street to Elton Johnās party. As we crossed the street, folks were shouting "Kevin! Kevin Mack! Over here! Can we take your picture?!". Kevin was laughing and smiling as we made our way up to the door. This time the security guy diverted us away from the others who were also entering, and towards a camera crew and a guy with a mike.
"You are aware that this is an AIDS benefit party?" said the interviewer.
"Why, yes", said Kevin.
"Well, thatās the point of this party. How do you feel about that?"
"... umm... Well, Iām all for fighting disease. Fighting disease is good."
Itās kind of like that war slogan - "Support our troops in the Gulf". What the hell can you say about that? That you donāt support the troops? Even if you against the war on principal, itās very difficult to say that you donāt support the poor sods sent to fight it. It was kind of like that. "What do you think of this party to benefit AIDS victims?" - how do you say anything other than, "Thatās a good thing." to that? What other comment could one pass?
Anyway, after the interview, Kevin was taken firmly in hand by security, and brought directly before Sir Elton, with us in his wake. There was an early childhood imprint evoked by his stately presence. I think the album was "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" that brought me such happiness as a child of six or seven years old. I was very impressed by his presence, and pleased to have had the chance to meet him. The crowd at that party fell off quickly as distance from the host increased, and so the only other person we could see in attendance with whom I was hoping to speak to was Mr. Jim Carrey. Kevin brought us up, and I was able to ask him in person if he was really from Aurora, Ontario. He is, and he lived there for the first four years of his life. He gave me one of his goofy big overacted smiles all for myself, and that was it.
It was around 2:00 or so at this point, and we were pretty hungry and tired. We were going to go back to the Mirimax party, but were waylaid while crossing back over the street. At first it was just a couple of people who wanted a photo of Kevin with his statue. Then they wanted a picture with Kevin, then several autograph pads appeared. The crowd was slowly encircling Kevin, and he was starting to look a little spooked. We dragged him away from his adoring admirers, and headed back up to the security team for Mirimax again. This time they informed us that the fire marshal was closing the party, and that it was time to go home.
Once more, we entered the long car. We decided to ride in the limo with the Oscar along Sunset Strip, just for the Hollywood moment of it. It was a moment.
We ended up at a neighbourhood Mexican restaurant that we frequent - La Cabana. We go to this place every couple of weeks, and have been doing so for years. Until Sunday, however, it was like they never recognized us, and their attitude towards us was almost rude. We kept going back because the food is so good. Sunday was different, as we had brought our own centerpiece for the table. They were very happy to feed us at 3:00 a.m., and Kevin got to sign his autograph once more.
It was indeed a trip to the inner-sanctum, of sorts. We were in a crowd of rare notoriety, and we were accepted by virtue of Kevinās achievement. I canāt recall so surreal, and so thoroughly enjoyable an evening, in terms of new experiences and extreme privilege. Never have I felt the adamant fawning of a crowd aimed even in my rough direction. It was a little disturbing to me how eagerly these people on the other side of the rope wanted to elevate us above them. They seemed to want to make gods of the Oscar-bearers so that they might feel privileged to have been in the presence of greatness.
In all, it was a new experience, and a rare one, too. I am glad that Kevin won this much deserved award - and it was incredible to be able to accompany him on his ride through this threshold in his career.
Thanks, Kevin, and Congratulations. This is just the beginning.