Brushes with greatness
It was 1993: the 65th Annual Academy Awards. Billy Crystal was hosting for the 4th consecutive time and the theme was the “Year of the Woman.” Imagine my luck… not long after moving from Indiana to Los Angeles and I had a backstage pass to the Oscars! How did I get there?
I worked for the restaurant company that put on the big Governor’s Ball dinner party right outside the show in a huge white tent. My job was to produce a video documentary of our chefs behind the scenes. My cameraman Nick had a giant 1980’s video camera on his shoulder and I had the microphone. We were supposed to shoot only in the kitchen tent areas, but something caught my eye over by the entrance.
“Hey Nick, why is that area roped off over there?”
“Dude, that’s the red carpet.”
“You mean THE red carpet…where the limos arrive? C’mon, let’s go check it out!!”
It was still early in the afternoon and for some reason the security guard was not at his post.
Nick warned me, “Dude… we are SO gonna get busted for this.”
“Hey relax! We have a camera and a mike… and we’re wearing tuxedos. We’ll blend!!”
We snuck through the entrance and squeezed into a spot on the press platform right between Entertainment Tonight and Telemundo, and waited for the fun to begin.
The parade of stars was a collision of colognes, Botox and breath mints, and they all passed less than 4 feet in front of us. There was Bob Hope. Yes, THE Bob Hope. Geena Davis, who is MUCH taller than she appears on screen. Sylvester Stallone… who was much SHORTER than he looked in Rambo.
And then there was Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller himself. I had stood there long enough to begin to believe I was a real reporter. I yelled out, “Matthew! Matthew!! What does the Year of the Woman mean to you?“ He just smiled and said “That has to be the DUMBEST question I’ve heard all day.” And even though he was right, he could have used a little more tact.
I got to see this “great” procession of stars up close, and many of them seemed like genuinely nice people. But many others were just going through the motions with forced smiles, put-on personalities and pushy publicists. I began to feel like I was no longer in the presence of greatness. These “larger than life” figures were really just “life-sized.”
So what do you think? Many Hollywood stars may do some great things in their personal lives, but is celebrity the true measure of greatness? Just because everyone knows your name does it mean that you’re necessarily worth knowing?