If hoopla happens, they'll shine, we'll whine

Times Staff Writer

Like a lot of people, I went to my high school prom half-heartedly. I asked a girl I didn't care about, a prep school girl (hey, it was an angle), and she said yes. At an after-party, she made out with another guy. I watched. At dawn I drove her home, and she made out with me. We were both tired. I wore a white tuxedo.

Oh, speak, memory! This Sunday, the mother-of-all-high-school-proms, the Oscars, is to be held, and like so many of us who went to our proms in a white tuxedo, with a girl who ended up making out with another guy, I once again will watch, even though, once again, I have not been nominated for anything.

Have you? It is not a rhetorical question. I am asking if you've been nominated for an Oscar. On Sunday, all over L.A., people, many of them already feeling bad enough about themselves, will have reason to feel worse: They have not been nominated. For anything.

The day of the Oscars, in fact, is a day in which the city becomes uniquely divided -- not between the active and the lumpen, or the Valley and the Westside, but between those who have been nominated (we shall call them the Nominees) and those who have not (we shall call them Those Who Have Not).

On the one hand, it is hard for Those Who Have Not to live in Los Angeles on Oscar day. It feels as though the people in town leading the real lives are the Nominees. You can see it on the faces of all the Those Who Have Not going about their usually life-affirming Sunday activities -- hiking the canyons and walking the flea markets and valet parking for brunch.

Stare at them, probe their eyes, and this is what you will see: The love is gone. Yesterday, everything made sense; today, nothing.

Yeah, maybe at the swap meet they'll pick up a vintage Philco radio that doesn't really work but will look great in their kitchen for $10. But how much better would they feel about that radio if they'd gotten the bargain as a nominee for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture?

Much better, that's how they'd feel.

Imagine how full Oscar day is for the Nominee. Eat, etc. Solve crossword puzzle. Receive Pilates instructor. Take phone call from Larry King. See something being sold on TV. Want it immediately. Speak with children, who are brought into the bedroom one by one for morning meet-and-greet (remember, Dylan is the girl's name). Clean baseboards (optional). Get dressed.

Then -- oh, boy -- red carpet arrival. No, wait, nominees slipping through side entrace this year. War on. Somber mood. Paparazzi verboten. Meanwhile, that pack of Those Who Have Not, the professional sycophants, forced to make contingency plans, to be somewhere else with their hard hair and microphones. Movie studio publicists meeting furiously to decide where, how, when.

Bob Goen and Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight" have decided to help out by making "Entertainment Tonight" not quite as entertaining. This includes secret Bob-Mary pact not to smile simultaneously but to take turns. While you smile, I'll be glum, and vice versa. In another epoch, Bob and Mary -- and their "Access Hollywood"/"Extra"/E! offspring -- would have been depicted in oil paintings as centaurs (tell me you wouldn't want to see them with hoofs and a tail. Tell me this wouldn't help you understand what it is they do.)

So where were we? Oh, yes, the centaurs are whinnying about the Nominees. They're wanting to know how the Nominees feel. That's the stupidest question I've ever heard! How do you think they feel, you centaur dummies? They're the Nominees!!!

It used to get to me, being a Those Who Have Not on Oscar day. I envied the Nominees, resented them. I worried that the Nominees were holding clandestine meetings with major city officials. These meetings would be taking place at L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills, I figured -- or no, in some sort of post-Sept. 11 celebrity bunker built on a hill, maybe near the Getty. "Look," I could hear the Nominees saying, "half those people out there are centaurs. Can't we send them somewhere?"

In this meeting, the Nominees would discuss expanding the rights of the Nominees -- beyond the no-waiting thing in restaurants and the free designer clothes and what I understand is a very flexible interpretation of the phrase "primary care physician." I decided the entertainment industry was evil -- the seven deadly sins its Bill of Rights. And yet, I could never get beyond one vexing, contradictory issue: If the entertainment industry is so evil, how can Tom Hanks be so nice?

Thanks to a referral, I no longer think the Nominees are meeting, though the whole nature-of-evil thing is a tougher nut to crack. And I have even learned to like L.A. on Oscar day. It starts, my therapist says, with myself (for the record, my therapist is not a Nominee and thus can be trusted). I'm not sure what happens after that, but I know it starts with me, and as the news readers would say, "we'll have more for you on this breaking story as it develops."

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