Out at the Oscars


My Oscar day started with perhaps the gayest thing ever: Putting on a tie, only this time (finally) without the assistance of an internet how-to video. Which is when reality set in: I was going to the Oscars.

In the past year, I’ve gone from being laid off — a victim of the economic climate and cutbacks across all of journalism — to rehired and sent to awards shows ranging from the Emmys to the Golden Globes as a sort of pinch hitter for an understaffed publication. It’s been a roller coaster, for sure — but nothing compares to the realization that you’re headed backstage at the so-called biggest night in Hollywood.

Once I was suited up — Barney Stinson would be so proud — my colleagues and I boarded the press shuttle to the Kodak Theatre and stopped at a light in front of a gaggle of anti-gay protesters at the intersection of Highland and Sunset, just a few blocks from the Hollywood & Highland complex that houses the Kodak. This year’s target film: A Single Man, written and directed by out designer Tom Ford. Guess Dustin Lance Black‘s acceptance speech for his Milk screenplay wasn’t as far-reaching as it could have been. But the best part of seeing the protesters was the collective groan that ensued from all the members of the media that were aboard my shuttle.

Once we were set up backstage, I headed to the press arrivals bleachers, iPhone in hand to email my reports to my colleague backstage. The backstage area was housed in the neighboring Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and it was a long walk back down to the street-level arrivals area — with no less than four metal detectors and security checkpoints where I spotted an out security guard and exchanged the ever popular nod of acknowledgement. It was nice to see family.

The press arrival bleachers was like a tech convention: Flip cameras, everyone on their iPhone or BlackBerry sending reports back to home base, jockeying for position to interview the few stars who stopped for the umpteenth time for interviews. All that separated the press bleachers from the diehard fan bleachers was one wide swath of red carpet — and work stopped every time the diehards screamed for someone — Tyler Perry, Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Stewart were all ear-piercingly received. Stewart bypassed all the press and waived to the diehards. My heart fluttered a little. (Is it March 19 and time for The Runaways yet?)

Returning to the interview room backstage, there were a few other women in suits and we all exchanged that knowing smile that came with wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors to the Oscars. It was instant membership in the Out Reporters Club and it was extremely comforting.

Once the show began, it was impossible to keep up with anything else. Winners were announced on stage and slowly made their way back to the reaction interview room that played host to a very international press corps. Everyone was buzzing that there’d be an upset and I only hoped that we’d see history with Kathryn Bigelow.

Bigelow and Sandra Bullock were scene-stealers backstage. The moment Barbra Streisand said, “Well the time has come,” and Bigelow’s name announced as best director &mdsah; for The Hurt Locker — all the women in the pressroom let out the night’s biggest round of applause. Backstage, an emotional Bigelow immediately addressed her historical win:

“Well, first of all, I hope I’m the first of many (female best directors),” she said. “And, of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I long for the day when a modifier can be a moot point. But I’m ever grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmaker and have them feel that the impossible is possible and never give up on your dream.”

It was Team Bigelow for the win as the sound of reporters frantically typing to capture her every word flooded the pressroom.

The icing on the cake, however, came when Bullock made her way backstage. The last of the night’s winners was asked about her “lover, Meryl Streep” and the media attention given to their kiss at the Critics’ Choice Awards:

“I think because no one expects Meryl to, you know, roll with the flow like that,” she said. “I think no one realizes how much fun Meryl Streep is. I mean I’m not going to tell you half of what she’d do or what she’s done. … I don’t think anyone expects her to do it. That’s why it makes the headline. She’s an awesome broad, and I think she’s an extraordinary actor but she’s also a really free, fun human being, so I think it’s because it was Meryl. I kissed Meryl. No one’s ever taken the bull by the horns like that before, but I did.”

And with that, the backstage interview room became the gayest place on Earth and a new Sandra Bullock fan was born. Maybe I’ll finally get around to watching Speed now.

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