“Your Academy Awards Invitation.” That was the subject line of an email I received a few weeks ago. Needless to say, it raised suspicions. Emails like this I’ve received in the past have included subject lines like “Reward for Spencer Spellman,” which have typically been followed by a line about a family member in Nigeria who wants to wire transfer 10 million dollars to me. My raised suspicions, however, were removed when I read on and saw that it was from United Airlines, the official airline sponsor of the Academy Awards. I quickly realized that this was one of those few invitations I’d receive in life when there was but one answer. It couldn’t be a “Maybe” or “Let me check my calendar,” but only a definitive “yes.”
To be as close to the red carpet as I was for this past weekend’s 87th Academy Awards, you largely have to be one of a couple people. The first is the harder of the two, and that’s to really be somebody in the movie industry. It helps if your film is nominated for an Oscar. The second is to have your name drawn in the random drawing for seats at the Oscar Fan Experience above the red carpet. However, this year marked a first, as long-time official airline sponsor, United Airlines, invited five Los Angeles bloggers to be front row guests on the Academy Awards red carpet, of which I was one. I was joined by the following L.A. bloggers:
But first there was a background check (as mandated by the Academy), an official invitation (by snail mail), and a checklist of what to bring (and more importantly, what not to bring and do, like bringing selfie sticks and taking photos of our badges). And before you ask, I was not in a tux, though if given the option, I would have worn a seersucker suit, and still would’ve been better dressed then some of the stars. Then again, maybe Will.i.am was simply casting for a sequel of Polar Express or Space Jam. We were actually told to bring layers and dress comfortably since we didn’t need to be “camera-ready.” Mother Nature clearly was on her own agenda. I haven’t seen rain in Los Angeles in weeks, so naturally Oscar Sunday brought with it flash flooding. Lucky for us, the seating area was tented.
The red carpet was nothing short of suspenseful, just like the movies it was celebrating. Our arrival time of 10:30 a.m. was later than many others, yet was still four hours before celebrities started walking the red carpet. This meant snacks, selfies (sans selfie stick), coffee, Maybelline makeovers for those who wanted (or needed) it, lunch, and red carpet photos before taking our seats in the bleachers, bringing back memories of high school pep rallies.
Celebrities slowly started to trickle in at 2:30. First Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts, host of ABC’s Oscars Pre-Show. Both Michael and Robin were some of the most interactive with the crowd, and Michael even came over at the end to talk with the crowd for a couple mins, and obviously take a selfie. There was a little bit of a lull until Anna Kendrick tried to sneak in, but not before she waved at me (or was she waving at the crowd?). She was then followed by Wolfgang Puck, and his elaborate (and edible) centerpiece.
It was then that the Oscars envelopes arrived, being carried by this guy, Matt Damon. Or rather, Brian Cullinan, evidently a Matt Damon look-alike, who is one of only a couple people who knows the winners prior to the Oscars.
From here, it was a couple hours of a steady stream of people, most of whom I, nor anyone else knew. Then there was one guy who would’ve made for a great Old Spice commercial, wearing what looked to be nothing more than an upscale toga made of a shower curtain. He kept walking by, waving and kissing to the crowd, but no one waved back.
The closer it got to showtime, the busier the red carpet got, with some hurrying down the red carpet, while others, like Chris Pratt, spent as much as 30 minutes doing interviews right in front of us and interacting with the crowd. There were a number of interviews with the emcee for the red carpet, which included several actors and actresses who would go onto win awards, including Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor, Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress, and J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor.
When it was all said and done, it was about three hours from when people started walking the red carpet until they finished when the Academy Awards was about to begin. One of my favorite moments was at the tail end when Oprah and Lady Gaga shared a hug before racing into the Dolby Theatre. It was moments like this, or Terrance Howard tearing up when talking about his family, that showed the more human side of a group of people that are often elevated to worship status. Once the red carpet was cleared, we walked across the street to El Capitan Theatre for a viewing party.
All in all, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the events of the day. I was up at 6 a.m. this morning to drive from another event I was covering in Santa Barbara County to make it it time to Hollywood this morning. I published this at 3 a.m. So ask me tomorrow what it was like. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget, and a reminder of how much I’ve come to love and embrace everything that Los Angeles is. I’m incredibly grateful to United Airlines for allowing me to be a part of such a special experience and thankful to all of you to let me give you a glimpse into my experience on the red carpet at the 2015 Oscars. See more photos below.