Ever wondered what it’s like to stand on the stage of the Oscars? Well I’ve done it. And it’s like this…
The Oscars are held each year in the Kodak Theatre, this year renamed the Dolby Theatre after Kodak’s 20-year, $75m naming deal expired. It’s a new building right next to the venerable Grauman’s Chinese Theater whose pavement bears the imprint of the hands and feet of several generations of star, from the famously tiny feet of cowboy Alan Ladd (whose leading ladies were placed in ditches to make him look taller) to the bohemianly bare feet of Susan Sarandon. Round the corner is the Roosevelt Hotel, where I stayed the night, and saw the tiny room where the very first Oscar ceremony was held way back in 1929 (above). That ceremony took just 15 minutes and was attended by 270 people.
The Kodak/Dolby Theater was purpose-built for the Oscars. Surrounded, in the traditional American architectural style, by a shopping mall, it has a wonderful inner atrium around which spiral four floors of ramps, rather like New York’s Guggenheim museum. An intriguing “foot”note: its steps are built extra-shallow to cater for the precarious heels of stars who, in the immortal words of Mariah Carey, “don’t do stairs”.
In fact the lobby proved too popular with the stars during the inaugural ceremony. So many propped up the bar instead of sitting through five bum-numbing hours of awards that loads of seats had to be taken by “seat fillers”. They’re the body doubles who lurk at the edges of the auditorium, ready to leap in and keep the place looking full for the cameras should the stars need to go and powder their nose (for much of Hollywood, this is not a metaphor). So organisers simply cancelled the free bar. This apparently got everyone back inside, the cheapskates.
I came here on a guided tour rather than as an Oscar nominee (though give me a few years…). But I still got to stand on the vast stage overlooking the 3,200 seats which will on Sunday snugly house the expensively pert buttocks of Hollywood’s elite. This is where, at the inaugural ceremony in 2002, Whoopi Goldberg descended 90 feet from the ceiling on a trapeze, dressed like a bird.
“Anyone want to say something?” our guide asked. My fellow tourists looked at their feet. But would this chance ever come again? I was seized with the spirit of Sally Field: “You like me!” I shouted, arms outstretched to the empty seats which I imagined, like Frank N Furter at the end of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, filled with the cheers and tears of Hollywood’s glitterati. “You really like me!”
The guide shows us up to a box. The lower ones are reserved for ageing Hollywood royalty: Kirk Douglas, Sydney Poitier, Liza Minnelli. The upper ones are reserved for the Board of Governors, and standing up here, you can see why: you can see right down the cleavage of every leading lady.
Up a lift, we access Winner’s Walk, a long corridor lined with photos of past Oscar winners, down which new winners are herded with their 8.5lb gold-plated statuette clutched tightly to their bosom. In the Sistine Chapel, they have a special room in which new Popes are allowed to go and cry before they exit, newly infallible. The end of the Winners’ Walk is where Hollywood’s freshly anointed royalty are given a moment to sob before straightening their shoulders, lifting up their chins, and facing the media in the Renaissance Room.
It’s a great tour. And one day, I swear, to quote a certain ex-Californian governor, I’ll be back…
For my Oscar predictions for 2014, click here.