I've got a pretty bizarre job. I know this, because my friends and family constantly tell me this whenever my Facebook updates casually mention encounters with the likes of Charlize Theron and Stephen Baldwin (in my mind, all celebrities are created equal).
Still, the crazy and surreal meter went into overdrive for me last night when I stepped onto my first Academy Awards red carpet. First of all, don't be too jealous; my feet barely touched the carpet before I was relegated to the press area that literally was behind a 4-foot shrub. I can't blame the Hollywood elite. If I were Sean Penn, I'd want a barrier between me and Nancy O'Dell at all times too.
It's kind of difficult to convey the truly bizarre nature of any red carpet, let alone the world's most famous one, but let me try. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly of what it's like to go toe to toe with the stars on Hollywood's biggest night. Billy Bush would kill me if he knew I was going to share these secrets, so this is just between us, all right?
The Good: You're at the frickin' Oscars! I can be a tad jaded, but when I caught my first glimpse of the carpet, those giant shiny Oscars and the screaming fans, I might have gotten a goose bump or two.
The Bad: Your brain short-circuits pretty quickly. Why? Because suddenly you're being faced with a choice between Anne Hathaway and Sarah Jessica Parker, who are both walking up to get interviewed by you. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?!? (I chose Anne.) The human brain isn't meant to make these kinds of crazy calculations on the fly.
The Ugly: You know how it seems like celebrities just casually sidle their way up to reporters in an orderly fashion? Here's the reality: If you're lucky, there's someone on your staff that's helping to wrangle the "talent" over your way. More often? You have to literally scream like a wild banshee to get their (and their publicists') attention, and then pray to the god of Us Weekly that they see fit to acknowledge you. I'm usually pretty bad at this, because I like to cling to the last vestiges of my dignity, but something came over me last night, and the piercing scream I made in the interest of getting Brad Pitt's attention scared the hell out of me. Oh, and he walked by anyway.
The Good: Sometimes, things come out of celebrities' mouth that just shouldn't. Here's the thing about red-carpet interviews: They are impossible! What meaningful chit-chat is there to be had with a huge celebrity in such a bizarre setting? None. So what do you do? You go fishing, and hopefully they say something a little different that Lisa Rinna didn't get. And, by God, sometimes it works. When I asked Sir Anthony Hopkins what his guilty pleasure was and he responded "American Idol," well, that was unexpected ... and awesome.
The Bad: Sometimes things come out of your mouth that just shouldn't. So remember that thing about your brain not functioning? So you're just trying to keep conversations going, stay in the moment and all that jazz, and you end up insinuating that Evan Rachel Wood would like to be one of the women on "Rock of Love." She didn't seem so into that idea.
The Ugly: Sometimes things come out of your mouth that really shouldn't. Hard as it is to keep a conversation going with one celebrity you're familiar with, try keeping up with a gaggle of child stars who have never been in America before and are hopped up like they've just gorged on a crate of Häagen Dazs. So, yeah, I kind of pitted the adorable "Slumdog Millionaire" tykes against one another by asking if only one could be a star, who would it be? And yeah, I followed that up by asking how they were planning on partying later that night. Median age of the group? I'd say 11.
Red carpets, they do strange things to you.