Los Angeles Confidential - - Contents -

os­car, baby! For al­most 90 years, there’s been no more ex­cit­ing time in LA than the sea­son lead­ing up to that big In­dus­try day when the world cel­e­brates the best of the best in moviedom.

Dur­ing the first Academy Awards, way back in May of 1929, the af­fair was a sim­ple one, as be­fits the small town that Hol­ly­wood once was. In those days, ev­ery­one knew ev­ery­body, and the “fam­ily-style” ban­quet at the Hol­ly­wood Roo­sevelt ho­tel was an in­ti­mate gath­er­ing. In fact, our first Best Ac­tress win­ner, Janet Gaynor, re­marked years later that had she known how sig­nif­i­cant her award would one day be­come, she would have been a bit more ap­pre­cia­tive that even­ing. How times change.

These days, the Os­cars are just the cul­mi­na­tion of half a year of glit­ter­ing fore­play: Film fes­ti­vals from Toronto to Cannes to Tim­buktu (well, not quite)… SAG Awards, BAFTA, the giddy-fun Golden Globes!… They all fuel a $$-and glamour-soaked en­gine that drives a world­wide phe­nom­e­non en­joyed to­day not just on big screens across small-town Amer­ica, but on ev­ery phone screen and iPad from Uruguay to Ulaan­baatar. How clever were those orig­i­nal pi­o­neers, Mayer, DeMille, Warner, et al., to have en­vi­sioned such a zeit­geist gone vi­ral?

But for­get the busi­ness. What the pub­lic loves—then and now—are the stars. With all due re­spect to the bread-and-beurre no­bil­ity who peo­ple Euro­pean mags like Hola!, the Grand Duke of Liecht­en­stein and the Queen of Eng­land can’t com­pete with good ol’ Amer­i­can “aris­tos” like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. For nigh a cen­tury, Hol­ly­wood roy­alty from Glo­ria Swan­son (she mar­ried a French mar­quis to make the point) to An­gelina Jolie (aka the for­mer Princess de Pitt) have com­manded the world stage. It’s LA-LA land’s gift to the world or­der and our city’s true crown­ing achieve­ment. Bravo.

I must take some small credit for help­ing fuel the mad­ness. Celebrity cul­ture, from my ear­li­est mag­a­zine days, has been my liveli­hood. I’ve re­ported on stars from Paulette God­dard (Mrs. Char­lie Chap­lin, Burgess Mered­ith, and Erich Maria Re­mar­que, in that or­der!) and Michelle Pfeif­fer (never for­get hang­ing with her one sur­real, sunny day in Mal­ibu) to Yale class­mate Jodie Fos­ter, sec­ond cousin Richard Gere, and Brit/It fun gal Kate Beck­in­sale, our cover star last year, who bonded with me over our love of Jane Austen and, well, nico­tine. Os­car for Kate B. one day? You bet.

As ex­cit­ing as Tin­sel­town is to­day, I’m fa­mously a fan of old Hol­ly­wood. I have a col­lec­tion of 200-plus clas­sic movies in my li­brary, and, way back when, coau­thored The Va­ri­ety His­tory of Show Busi­ness. How I would have loved to have been a gad­fly on the wall of those very first Os­cars back in ’29, watch­ing queen Mary Pick­ford sch­mooze Para­mount king Adolph Zukor; princess-in-wait­ing Joan Craw­ford, Pick­ford’s soon-to-be daugh­ter-in-law, kick up a Charleston with Buddy Rogers (Pick­ford’s next hus­band, in fact); and silent film prince John Gil­bert squeak­ing away in his not-so-talkie-ready voice with court jester/“jazz singer” Al Jol­son.

Which re­minds me. Dur­ing a luncheon at the Penin­sula ho­tel last year, Ms. Beck­in­sale and I chat­ted about start­ing a se­ries of clas­sic movie nights up at Soho House in West Hol­ly­wood. We were drink­ing, of course—me Scotch, she tea.

Gotta cir­cle back on that. Could it be in the stars? Well, it’s Hol­ly­wood… Why not?

And the win­ner is... from left: Jump-start­ing awards sea­son mad­ness with pre­sen­ter Mark Wahlberg at the Hamil­ton Be­hind the Cam­era Awards; do­ing the rad car­pet with artist/ bad boy Zachary Crane at the Golden Globes; get­ting down and dharma with hip hop mogul/guru Rus­sell Sim­mons at his new WeHo bou­tique/yoga stu­dio, Tantris.

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