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SIDE SHOW

OSCAR FLOTSAM AND JETSAM:

+ The bag of freebies going to presenters and performers is worth a little over $20,000, BBC News Online says. It includes a $1,400 watch; a $400 handbag from designer CJ & Me; vouchers for a reclining chair worth up to $2,000 and a bed valued between $1,000 and $1,700; vouchers for a $600 teeth-whitening session; and a stay at the trendy Mexican spa resort Esperanza, worth $2,000.

+ Presenters also will get a gift certificate for $300 worth of Birkenstocks (that will get them up to three pairs, the San Francisco Chronicle says).

+ Among the loot going to Best Actress nominees, from the Los Angeles Daily News: a pair of $5,000 bra straps from Victoria's Secret to hold up evening gowns. The straps, made of white gold and 22 diamonds, are designed to convert into a necklace when the Oscars are over. Also, each nominee gets a home visit from Estee Lauder's "Dream Team" for a day of pampering, including a TSE cashmere robe and a pair of Manolo Blahnik suede sandals for pedicures.

+ Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominees get red suede Hush Puppies with Swarovski crystals.

+ Phillip Bloch is among the army of stylists who live for days like this. He'll be zipping around Los Angeles helping clients, including Halle Berry, prepare themselves for public adulation _ or humiliation. His awards-show preparation kit includes, says the Associated Press, footless, slimming body stockings; strapless bras and adhesive bras; nude-colored underwear; double-stick tape; safety pins; and a needle and thread.

+ Rick Rosas and Greg Garrison, accountants with PricewaterhouseCoopers, are in charge of counting the Oscar ballots and holding on to the envelopes with the winners' names. "I'm a tax accountant," Rosas tells Reuters. "I don't mean to sound Jimmy Stewart-like, but I'm just a simple tax accountant who finds himself in an extraordinary circumstance." Rosas makes his Oscar debut. Garrison has done this before.

+ Uberchef Wolfgang Puck is in charge of the menu for the postceremony Governor's Ball. His menu includes lobster salad, tuna tartare, crab cakes, baby blintzes, beet salad with goat cheese and asparagus, caviar, New York steak and salmon with sesame seeds. He tells the Associated Press he comes up with the menu himself and doesn't take suggestions from anyone. But he's flexible; he is prepared for vegetarians and kosher requests. "Everyone is going to end up being happy," he says.

+ Robin Williams won't be available to save the TV broadcast if it descends into too much drek. He's doing several sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall, the New York Daily News says. One of those shows is tonight.

+ And in case the subject comes up: Sanctity is the poem Russell Crowe read during his best actor acceptance speech at the British Oscars and then got his shorts in a knot over when it was cut from TV broadcasts. It's by the late Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh:

"To be a poet and not know the trade

"To be a lover and repel all women

"Twin ironies by which great saints are made

"The agonizing pincer jaws of heaven."

The official poster of the Academy Awards transforms the statuette into a superhero. "The Golden Knight Returns ..." refers to the show returning to Hollywood, where it began in 1929.

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