A few weeks ago, while trying to find a date that would suit a number of people for a get together at my house (apparently, a monster endeavour), one couple suggested February 26. “February 26??” I chuckled. That’s so East Coast. No one who has been living in Los Angeles for a reasonable amount of time, would ever dream of picking Oscar night for anything social, other than issuing an Oscar party invitation.
Los Angeles is often thought of, especially by East Coasters, as a city of illusions but the reality is more complex and nuanced than that. For the melting pot New York is supposed to be, there is a sense of homogeneity that is altogether lacking in LA, and which adds to a depth that can be missing in New York.
Nonetheless, whether our lives here are tangentially touched by the entertainment industry, or not at all, film culture is part of our everyday life, as testified by the preparations leading to Oscar week-end, starting with the closure of Hollywood Boulevard for a week prior, causing annoyance and even more traffic, or the new saga of the former Kodak Theatre in search of a new name (and a new sponsor) now that Kodak is bankrupt or the LA Times investigation into who makes up the notoriously secret voting Academy (it turns out it’s a bunch of white, old fogeys. How surprising).
At 9:30 on Saturday morning, on Rodeo Drive, a man of gargantuan proportions, in shorts and high tops, clutching a video camera, is shooting still shuttered shop windows and oversized vases of Bougainvillea. His wife, only a touch smaller, “simply loves these flower arrangements!”. They both perk up at my walking up the stairs, with a purposeful step and dark glasses, as if I belonged. They stare for an uncomfortable moment, trying to decide if I am noteworthy, but, in reality, my dark glasses are there to conceal the hazy fumes of last night’s partying, and my hurried step is an effort to get to my hair appointment on time. I am loathed to tell these out of towners that their chances at spotting a celebrity on Rodeo drive on a Saturday morning are zero to nil. But isn’t it the fun of visiting Los Angeles? The possible frisson of seeing George Clooney walk by and tell their friends in Tennessee?
As soon as I sit in the colorist’s chair, Heide’s first question is if I am going to any parties tomorrow, the unspoken subtext being “Oscar party”. Not quite, but I have friends coming over, a vegetarian dinner in mind and the usual ritual of criticizing clothes and hairdos a la Joan River, while filling those boring commercials with mindless chitchat. It’s enormous fun without the pressure of having to look good.
Oscar night landed on my calendar as soon as it was announced, that is the Angeleno I have become. If you can’t fight them, embrace them. I love LA for a million things that have nothing to do with the movie culture – I love it for being at the forefront of many a trend, for the in your face nature, for its experimental art scene, for its beaches and its food and the clashing yet co-habiting cultures. I love it for its light and its lightness, for its survival and pioneering spirit, for being a bastion of liberalism and for letting people be. And yes, I also love it for being the epicenter of where dreams are created and I am happy to celebrate, for one night, those dream makers who, at times, take themselves a bit too seriously, but, on the best days, still create magic.