Monday 21 January 2019

I've been to Hollywood for the Oscars and believe me, you're far better off watching it at home on the telly

As anyone who's ever been to Hollywood will tell you, the first thing that strikes you about the place is just how cheap and shoddy it all is.

Sure, the palm trees are there, along with the unrelenting sun, the sandy beaches, and the beautiful people, but the glitz and the glamour? Well, they're a little harder to find. Especially if you're a lowly traveller who's just endured 11 hours in an Aer Lingus economy seat.


The main Tinseltown tourist attraction is the 100 yards or so of the Hollywood Walk Of Fame that passes by the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre (where you'll find the handprints and footprints of the truly legendary and the ridiculously lucky), the Disney-restored El Capitan Theatre (another Sid Grauman creation, complete with a giant Wurlitzer organ that rises up out of the floor) and the recently-built Kodak Theatre -- home of the Oscars.

Take a five-minute walk in pretty much any direction from this stretch of Hollywood Boulevard though, and you'll find sex shops, pawn shops and head shops (marijuana is officially medicinal in California, and the smell is everywhere).

You'll also find a scattered army of homeless people, drawn to California by the heat, and drawn to this particular corner of Hollywood by the constant stream of disorientated and mildly disappointed tourists.

You stand a better chance of bumping into a much-loved movie megastar on Henry Street than you do on Hollywood Boulevard. The real stars are high up in the Hollywood Hills, far, far away from the maddening crowd of little people who have come to worship at their altar.

The only stars you're going to see on Hollywood Boulevard are the 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass ones that you're walking on. Each star costs the celebrated recipient $25,000 (e18,150), which, I guess, must be the price of eternal fame. And general maintenance.

If you're going to bring home any shots of you and a famous face, the hordes of celebrity imitators loitering on this two-block tourist hotbed is going to be your only real chance. Even if it is with a 56-year-old Marilyn Monroe. Or a pot-bellied Spider-Man.

Once a year though, this tacky stretch of plastic fantastic is really home to Hollywood's finest, as the Oscar ceremony lures cinema's biggest stars to this hallowed if hollow ground.

It's the night when the great, the good and those reaping the benefit of a smart marketing campaign come together for what is essentially Hollywood's annual office party. With prizes.


Hollywood has always been about the hard sell, and when it comes to putting on a show for its billions of occasionally satisfied customers around the world, you can be sure there's going to be enough glitz and glamour to make the average Xpose girl eat a family-size tub of Sudocream in one gulp.

I've always been fascinated by the enormous gap between Hollywood: The Legend and Hollywood: The Reality, and so, last January and February, I decided to live there.

From my balcony, I could see the Kodak Theatre, and over the week leading up to the big night, I watched the fever -- and the miles of scaffolding -- rise. Best of all, I had access behind the curtain too, having wangled a press pass. The night was costing me a cheap black suit (plenty of those on Hollywood Boulevard too, of course), but, hey, this was going to be special.

Or, at least, that's what I thought. The reality is, whether you're standing behind a barrier, a few hundred feet away from the world's media and their barriers, or you're sitting snug as one of another two hundred and fifty bugs in a rug in the pressroom deep in the bowels of the Kodak Theatre, you're really not there. You're watching it on the monitors.

The TV screens offer you the sort of up-close and personal view that you're never going to get at the Oscars.

Which is why, this year, I'm happier to watch at home. In my pyjamas. Drinking beer. And jeering loudly. And security can do nothing about it.

And I'll be thinking about all those poor souls out on the street, waiting in vain for someone famous to pop over so they can rub their Oscar for luck. And my fellow journalists, all tuxed up and with no fridge to go to. For over six hours. Ha.

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