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Work for Oscars is own reward

Before the stars come out in Los Angeles next week for the Academy Awards, a local florist will help decorate the stellar scene.

Eddie Payne, owner of Marion Smith Florist on Seventh Street, will assist a Pasadena, Calif.-based company in making the abundant floral arrangements for the 69th annual awards ceremony March 24.

Payne, 43, used to work in California as a freelance florist. He helped the company, Charisma Floats, make floral arrangements for the 1995 Academy Awards and the annual Tournament of Roses parade.

Payne had lived in Zephyrhills in the early 1980s before moving to California, and he returned to Zephyrhills last year after having his fill of the difficult freelance business.

He kept in touch with Charisma Floats, though. Now, it wants his help again.

Not that the Academy Awards gig will be lucrative.

Charisma will give him lodging but no pay. He's not taking flowers with him to sell.

The night of the awards, Payne will stand in the press area as celebrities arrive at the Shrine Auditorium in their limousines. The rules discourage him from approaching stars during the event or rehearsals. He could get ejected just for bringing a camera.

Why do it?

Partly, Payne hopes for referrals from 11 other floral designers from across the nation also traveling to Hollywood to assist Charisma with the event.

Payne's Zephyrhills shop, however, delivers only to east Pasco.

Mainly, the work is fun, he says.

"It's extremely hard, but the fun is whenever the celebrities get there," he said.

"When it all comes together, it looks extremely nice."

Payne will fly to California on Tuesday to help prepare personal flower decorations for celebrity award presenters and 200 to 300 larger floral pieces to be placed throughout the auditorium.

Workers will place 800 feet of floral boxes containing 2,000 blooming plants and foliage along the red carpet leading into the auditorium.

When it's all done, though, Payne won't get to go inside the auditorium for the big show.

Payne said he has no inside tips on possible Academy Award winners. But he'll be rooting for The English Patient.