Time to brush off the tuxedo, yet again, for the Academy Awards.
I've seen them at Grauman's Chinese and the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, the Academy's small theater in Beverly Hills, the Shrine Auditorium and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown L.A., and the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, of which Bob Hope quipped: "The losers can walk into the ocean." And now back in Hollywood with the Kodak Theater.
That's 64 times, which must be a record.
With son-in-law Kevin Goff as pilot, we are instructed to follow the route that weaved though the cement barriers from one side of Hollywood Boulevard to another, like East Germans approaching the Berlin Wall. LAPD officers, of which there are hundreds, inspected us with a gadget that looks under cars for explosives.
We pass clusters of fans peering in vain inside autos for well-known actors, and reach Highland Boulevard _ a madhouse of chauffeured vehicles.
After going through security, we reach the red-carpeted interview area where celebrities are passed from one breathless interrogator to another. Photographers sit shoulder-to-shoulder for half a block, waiting for a famous figure to come by.
The inside of the Kodak looks entirely different from previous Oscars. The stage is decorated with four massive oriental lamps. The proscenium dazzles with a semi-curtain decorated with 90,000 tiny lights. The center seats before the stage are arranged in a half-moon. Other clusters of seats are arranged in order.
Hugh Jackman began the show with consummate ease. When he went into a Fred Astaire number, "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," he captured the audience. Singing and hoofing with four dozen other top-hatted dancers he was breathtaking.
If he cares to come back, he could rank with Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal as a great all-time Oscar host.
The 81st Academy Awards went pretty much according to predictions.
The first award, for supporting actress, went to Penelope Cruz for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." No surprise there.
Heath Ledger's award for supporting actor in "The Dark Knight" was the most touching of the evening. When his family approached the podium to collect his award, it brought one of the few standing ovations of the evening.
Kate Winslet's winning turn in "The Reader" also was not surprising. Mickey Rourke's personal comeback tale was expected to lead to a win for "The Wrestler," but the Oscar went to Sean Penn for "Milk."
Jerry Lewis drew heavy applause with his rare return to Hollywood to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The Board of Governors Ball was much the same as in other years. The same loud music, the same sumptuous meal by Wolfgang Puck.
One of the guests was Norman Jewison, director of "In the Heat of the Night" and "Fiddler on the Roof." He was asked what he thought of the show.
"I think it was very good," he said. "I was surprised by how talented Jackman is. Then I realized it was because of all of the Broadway work he has done."
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