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Bruce Vilanch

* He has written just about every TV function, including this year’s Oscars, which he writes about here.

Thursday: It’s the first full day on camera at the Shrine. Stand-ins troop up on stage and rehearse the written material. It’s always fun to hear their unique interpretations and, if that’s not enough, the director generally has a 300-pound woman appear as Gwyneth Paltrow, a joke the stagehands never fail to enjoy. Later, Billy Crystal arrives and I join his team of writers to rehearse all of his material. I would tell you about it, but since he filmed “Analyze This,” he has a friend in Jersey named Carmine who will fly out here on a moment’s notice with a Louisville slugger in the overhead compartment.

Friday: The performers of the nominated songs--Aimee Mann, Phil Collins, Gloria Estefan with ‘N Sync, Sarah MacLachlan with Randy Newman and Robin Williams--yes, that Robin Williams--arrive to rehearse their stuff, as do Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Queen Latifah and Garth Brooks--good God, it’s sounding like the Grammy awards--to rehearse a special piece that Burt Bacharach has put together. At 8 p.m., a moment of silence will be observed for the interpretive dance rehearsal that might have been taking place at this hour. Everyone will then take off their tutus and get back to work.

Saturday: This day is known fondly as the Stations of the Cross. Presenters are forced to review their material with the writer, who suspects that they only first looked at it in the car on the way over, but writers are a suspicious lot by nature. In truth, most of the presenters have gone out of their way to study the material.

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Oscar Day: There’s an early run-through, with Billy and as many performers as can be mustered. The theater is given over to bomb-sniffing dogs who unfortunately can tell us nothing about the show. Don’t worry, I’ve asked. The first shrieks from the other side of the building tell us that some fabulously overdressed couple has hit the red carpet and show time is near. This is generally a good time to look up at the heavens--if you can see them through the police and television helicopters--and pray. It is Sunday, after all.


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