Jaci Stephen: I won't be going to the ceremony – but I still feel part of the Oscars

Way Out West

Share
Related Topics

Before I visited LA in November 2008 and subsequently moved here in April last year, I had visited the city just once, more than 20 years ago.

A national newspaper, which subsequently went bust, sent me there to cover a pre-Oscars party, and I was more excited than I had ever been about covering any other story in my early career. Certainly a great deal more excited than when the London Evening Standard dispatched me to Hampstead to dress up for a human chess game and I made a little girl cry when she was made to hand over her pawn outfit to me. And certainly more excited than when I had my hair bleached white-blonde and ended up looking like Myra Hindley's less attractive sister.

I said yes to everything in those days. New to London and living off chicken drumsticks stolen from the functions I gate-crashed and smuggled into my handbag, I was desperate for work. I once sobbed to my dear friend, the late Keith Waterhouse, that I really didn't want to do some god-awful piece I had been commissioned to write about dogs. "How much are they paying you?" he asked. "£200," I wailed. He whipped out his cheque book: "Then I will pay you £200 not to write the article!" The uncashed cheque still sits in my drawer, a salutary reminder not to say yes to things you hate.

The newspaper put me up in Burbank's Holiday Inn, a hotel without a hairdryer and miles from Hollywood where the party was to take place. When Warner Brothers heard that a member of the press was being treated in this way, they moved me to a suite at the five-star Beverly Wilshire at the bottom of Rodeo Drive, and there I stayed for four days, a reluctant evictee every afternoon at 4pm, when management begged me to let the cleaners in.

I did some interviews from the red carpet, including one with Joel Grey, who in 1972 had won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Emcee in Cabaret. At the do itself, I sat next to Tom Hulce, who had played Mozart in the Oscar-winning Amadeus, but in 1985 lost out in the Best Actor category to F. Murray Abraham, who played the musician's rival, Salieri. I was new to London, new to Fleet Street, new to Hollywood, and I loved it.

As the city prepares for the 82nd Academy Awards on 7 March, I am reminded more than ever of the industry that is the heart of this place. Will it be Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep for Best Actress? Will Katherine Bigelow's The Hurt Locker triumph over ex-husband James Cameron's Avatar, and will Bigelow become the first woman ever to win Best Director? Will co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin pull it off? What will everyone be wearing?

At the moment, there is talk of little else, and at the pre-Oscars nominees' lunch at the Beverly Hilton last week, everyone put on a smiling face while clearly spitting blood about their rivals. The Bullock/Streep rivalry is barely out of the news, with Bullock joking about tripping up her rival if she beats her to the podium. Streep is maintaining a dignified silence. Bullock did not reveal what she will be wearing on the big night, unlike Victoria Beckham who, we have learnt, will be wearing a sophisticated, flowing gown of her own creation. Our own Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden will also be there, reporting from the red carpet.

So far, I have just one invitation to a pre-Oscars party. It's from my old friends, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, who on Wednesday are holding a poolside event of "treatments, consultations and amazing gifts" from their own spa and associated companies, "to get you ready for the red carpet". Naturally, I will be there, and although I am not going to the actual ceremony, I already feel part of what is undoubtedly Hollywood's biggest event of the year.

It's hard not to be caught up in it, but in the big build-up it's also easy to forget what I have so far learned about the movie industry in my brief time here. It's tough. Incredibly tough. For actors, producers, directors, writers. Especially writers. It's cut-throat. Ruthless. It's an industry in which bullshit invariably triumphs over talent.

The movie-making process is a long and laborious one, a money-making machine that chews people up, spits them out, and moves onto the next course without so much as a backward, guilty glance.

But it's still Hollywood. And hey, as bullshit goes, it's still the best bullshit in the world.



To read Jaci Stephen's LA diary in full, go to lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz