Oscar Diary: Surviving the Red Carpet Alone

Mad and Ellen

hide captionThe perfect red carpet duo: Ellen Page (left) and Madeleine Brand. Their names sound almost the same, if you repeat them five times fast under the brain-melting heat of red carpet lights.

AP, Courtesy of Madeleine Brand
Renee Zellweger

hide captionRenee Zellweger's hair looked significantly less perfect from the back, Madeleine discovered.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty
Javier Bardem and Family

hide captionJavier Bardem's ode to his mother in Spanish was a highlight for Madeleine. Too bad Regis didn't know how to pronounce his name. In the pre-show performance, Regis called him "Xavier."

Day to Day host Madeleine Brand found out Sunday what it's like to attend the Oscars all alone. She felt a little like a cheap airplane.

9 a.m. Alex Chadwick, my co-host and Oscar date, calls. He's sick. Can't talk. Won't be able to make it. I'm going by myself.

9:02 a.m. Terror. Red carpet. Alone. Reality intrudes: Madeleine, no one knows (or cares) who you are. Still, I pretend they do, and spend the rest of the day getting ready.

3:30 p.m. The limo — scratch that, the Town Car arrives. I live maybe 5 miles from the Kodak Theatre, but it still takes more than an hour to get there. We are in a line of limos that have to be checked for bombs and other assorted IEDs, terrorists, etc. I contemplate getting out and walking, but realize there is a throng of religious anti-Hollywood protesters, and I don't want to be mistaken for a celeb — oh, yeah. What am I thinking?

4:40 p.m. Finally! I get out of the car and step onto the fabled red carpet. On one side, bleachers full of fans who've been waiting for days to see their favorite stars. They shout, "Madeleine! Madeleine!" I see young women waving frantically. I tentatively smile and begin to raise my arm when they yell, "We loved you in Juno!" I turn around and behind me is Ellen Page. Ohhh ..."Ellen," not "Madeleine." I keep walking.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how, I'm funneled onto a lesser red carpet. It's like two parallel runways. On one side, the Lear jets are being photographed like mad, and right behind them, on the other side of a red rope, the Southwests.

I see Renee Zellweger — or, rather, her back. It's very muscle-y. The back of her head looks a little unkempt ... like she slept on it. She ends up making the best-dressed list. I guess the front tells a different story.

I start to think — do I really want to see how the sausage is made? Wouldn't I rather hang onto my fantasy that these are all perfect beings descended from outer space? (Not you, John Travolta. I KNOW you're from outer space.)

But then — there's a fine piece of sausage: Helen Mirren. No disillusionment there. Or with Cate Blanchett. She's also in front of me, looking radiant in a purple gown that shows off her pregnancy.

It's nearly showtime. The Lears and the Southwests get to meet briefly on the runway in front of the theater. The bars are closed to everyone but Harrison Ford, and then I take the elevator up, up, up to the fourth floor — the second mezzanine. The back wall of the theater is my seat-back.

Regis Philbin does his final pre-show performance and calls Javier Bardem "Xavier Bardem." The announcer says we're live in 20 seconds. The lights on the audience go up and everyone gets quiet. It's showtime, and I feel very excited to be part of it. How many gazillions of people are watching? I fantasize that they can all see me. I'm the one sitting nowhere near Ellen Page.

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