Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Red Carpet swagger

Away from the woes of the world, the smarting pain, the bitter tears of Yemen, Nigeria, Syria and the Ukraine, the City of Angels is glittering, glowing, drowning in champagne, caviar and plenty of ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’! Right smack in the middle of Los Angeles, California, stands a world-famous spot known as Hollywood. It was almost called ‘Figwood’ because of the many fig trees it grew, but mercifully the wife of the 500 acre-land owner Henry Wilcox, who bought it in 1897, much preferred the name ‘Hollywood. By 1910 it started its climb to being the capital of the film world.

After a year of sweat and toil on celluloid and at the box-office, the population of this film industry prepares for its annual Red Carpet parade.

Known as Award Season, it starts early in January and culminates with the giving out of the gold… the much coveted Oscar, February 22nd.

The breathless suspense of trepidation and expectation shake the very foundation of the city. “Who will seize the gold?” is the question on everyone’s mind.

Out of 253 films produced this year in Hollywood, (compared to 1288 in India), only a handful or more reach the finals; that is they are considered worthy of receiving a nod from their peers.

Tributes and trophies are awarded almost every week and there is little time to waste.

It starts early in January with the People’s Choice Award, which should be the most important, but is the least, then on to the Golden Globe Awards started 72 years ago by the Foreign Press Corps, and by all accounts it is the most relaxed, most friendly and most enjoyable event. The Critics’ Awards follow and next come the Guild Awards, actors, directors and writers. The British Awards try to find a place in between and have grown in popularity through the last decade.  Finally, comes the long awaited ‘jewel of the crown’, that little golden statuette known as ‘Oscar’.

The origin of the name is still disputed. Some believe Walt Disney first christened him, others credit Bette Davis but the most popular version is the one attributed to the secretary of the Academy of Motion Pictures who commented on first seeing the ‘golden boy’: “Why, he looks like my uncle Oscar”! Whatever the source, the name stuck but the academy faithfully clung to the name ‘Academy Awards’ until three years ago when it finally gave in and officially called the big event “THE OSCARS”.

The Red Carpet itself may not cost much, but to those lucky ones chosen to strut it, it costs millions.

Walking the Red Carpet is a study in lavishness. The finery, the frippery, the resplendent gowns, the dazzling gems are only the final product of a series of hard work. For weeks in advance the nominees, presenters, invitees go through a hysterical process of preparations and intense personal improvement. Those svelte, shiny, smooth looking belles and beaux rush to their trainers to work on their bulges and imperfections. Yes they have them too! They exercise often for eight hours daily, follow a strict regimen, try clothes and seek jewellers to loan them their treasures. Big names like Cartier, Tiffany, Van Clef& Arpels, Chopard, Harry Winston etc, are only willing to loan their diamonds to A-list stars, others settle for less known jewellers who want their products exposed and get immediate advertising.

To rock that Red Carpet is no small matter. It was calculated three years ago that Charlise Theron, dressed by Dior and jewels by Cartier was worth $10 million dollars for that one brief moment on the Red Carpet.

The average cost however including manicure, make-up, hair, costume, jewellery is $90,000 to $100,000. Moreover, hundreds of thousands are spent on advertising the movies, transporting, promoting, lobbying and wooing the voting academy members, for not all members have a voting power, costs hundreds of thousands more. Forbes broke down the average Red Carpet expenses last year to $120,000. The stylist fees range from $1,500 to $10,000 a day, and it takes many days to put it all together for that singular swagger on the Red Carpet.

What does it cost the stars? $0… Nothing! The studio pays for everything from manicures to limousines, and the designers, jewellers, etc donate their products. Not bad being a star in Hollywood during award season, but pay they do in stress, fear, anxiety, sweat and tears.

They have their favourites on the Red Carpet! Who will delight, who will shock, who will be copied and who will be torn to pieces. Everyone looks forward to a few Red Carpet stars such as Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, not to mention the ever-alluring Jennifer Lopez.

Why a Red Carpet, and when did this tradition start?

The first known mention of a Red Carpet goes back to the 5th century BC. In Aeschylus’ play “Agamemnon”. The Greek king’s wife Clytemnestra set up a path covered by a Red Carpet to murder her philandering husband.

Railroad cemented the red carpet tradition when famous passengers walked on and off the train on a plush red carpet, adding to the luxury and uniqueness of the trip.

Everyone in the film world now awaits the golden idol of film and fantasy, the most elegant accessory of them all, the one they call Oscar.

With the winds of war dizzily whirling around us who can begrudge Hollywood royalty their shining moment?

“Things are entirely what they appear to be, and behind them, there is nothing”

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

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