Earlier this week, I travelled to Hollywood carrying a small folder of important documents and ID papers. Then I presented those documents, together with my passport, to a gentleman who inspected them at length, before issuing two hi-tech passes that will hopefully get me into Sunday's Oscars.
The visit took several hours, and was one of many inconveniences I've undergone to convince The Academy that I'm not a terrorist. The process of getting "cleared" began in October when I filled in detailed forms requesting an invitation, and continued in January when they requested more personal information, plus a copy of my driver's licence.
I'll be screened yet again on the big day, when roads around the Kodak Theatre will be cordoned off by police, and dinner-suited arrivals (even the famous ones) forced through bag-scanners and metal detectors. Guests are advised to arrive two hours early, so they don't miss kick-off in the queue.
Security will be in-your-face, that's for sure. Yet while the endless armed guards may upset the civil liberties lobby, most guests, even in liberal Hollywood, will be happy to see them: as any airport traveller will tell you, the US public finds few things more reassuring than a heavy police presence. Experience shows that American events actually can be gauged by a simple law: the more cops on hand, the more seriously organisers want to be taken. If soldiers are present, like they are at the Superbowl, they want you to think it's your patriotic duty to watch.
Compared to the UK, where police sit in CCTV rooms, this American way with security probably seems brash and overbearing. But it's also less sneaky. And what, ultimately, is the point of the Oscars if they aren't just a little bit brash and overbearing?
How to secure your place
Security Paranoia also affects LA's suburban landscape, where it's a badge of middle-class respectability to have a sign on your front lawn warning would-be intruders about 24-hour guards armed with guns and attack dogs.
This week, a local shop began selling fake warning signs to homeowners who want to pretend that they've hired guards. The salesman reckons roughly half his customers will buy them to deter burglars; the rest will simply want neighbours to think they've become more affluent.
Royal role model
Tim Burton has revealed that Anne Hathaway's character in his new Alice in Wonderland was modelled on Nigella Lawson. Watching the rather good film, I noticed a more obvious piece of identity theft: the "baddie", played by Helena Bonham Carter, is a carbon copy of Miranda Richardson's Queenie in Blackadder.Reuse content