The glamour end of this state always feels far from the rest of California. This is especially so on Oscar night.
The red carpet teems with people more beautiful than any Californian you’ve ever met, Kamala Harris included. More articulate, too. And so humble, so honored just to be nominated, so amped to be standing here next to George Clooney.
That, at least, is what TV shows us. Too bad the camera operators never widen the shot, because the Oscars have a secret. The celebrities are only the tiniest fraction of the real Academy Awards scene. Busboys, crew members, fans, frumpy first wives of balding producers – one of the first things you notice if you cover the Oscars is the crowd of improbably normal-looking locals who form the backdrop to all those famous faces.
There they are, everywhere, fat, thin, rumpled, shushing their kids, smoothing their hair, rubbernecking just like you as Leo DiCaprio wafts into view, head like a balloon on his frail little body. In the ladies’ room, there are 10 women who look like extras to every sighting of Salma Hayek adjusting her décolletage or Faye Dunaway smoothing her pantsuit.
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At the bar, the Everymen are three deep, perspiring like your neighbors in church clothes, awestruck as Anne Hathaway wanders by, looking just like Anne Hathaway, only translucent.
In the audience, they’re most of the rows from the middle of the floor to the cheap seats – screenwriters in weird glasses, agents’ wives in Fred Segal dresses, UCLA kids hired to fill seats, somebody’s lawyer from Pasadena. Documentary filmmakers who’ve starved all their lives just to make this one movie. Costumers who live alone with their dachshunds. Security guards photobombing so their grandma in Compton can see them.
Ordinary people shouldn’t be a surprise, but they are in person, and I think of them every year when I watch the Oscars, those 9-out-of-10 folks in the house who always get cropped from the picture. They’re like so much of this state – only other Californians know they’re out there.
I’d say that shouldn’t be the case, that all should have a share of the spotlight, but one of the best things about this place is its hidden knowledge.
So this is for us, and us alone, to know on Sunday, as we take to our couches here in that less-glamorous California: Sometimes what’s in the frame doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes there’s a whole other vista, off-camera.
Somewhere out there, on that red carpet that’s actually cheesier than it seems in photos, are real human beings who are more like the rest of us than you’d imagine.
They just aren’t the celebrities.