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Cheeseburgers, missteps and star kisses

The traffic was hellish, and so was the temperature in the security tent. The seats in the new theater were not built for us full-figured guys. Ernest Borgnine came close to knocking me down the stairs as he ambled toward the men's room.

Otherwise, I had a terrific time at the lush, lovely and long 47th annual Academy Awards _ even though my beloved Moulin Rouge didn't get its due.

So with a nasty headache (yes, I helped quaff those 15,000 bottles of wine and champagne popped open Sunday night), I present my own awards:

OSCAR DRUG OF THE YEAR: Easily the Botox (chicken botulinum toxin) that several stars reportedly had injected into their armpits and palms to prevent perspiration. There's no counting how many used it to smooth facial creases.

BEST SQUEEZE: Getting sandwiched between Glenn Close, Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon as we were directed through the metal detectors.

BEST DRESSED: Nicole Kidman, who designed her own gown with the help of Karl Lagerfeld and the House of Chanel. Runner-up: Sharon Stone in a very revealing Randolph Duke number.

BEST REASON TO NEVER WASH MY FACE AGAIN: I got an "Oh, you're sweet," and a friendly peck on the cheek from Kidman after wishing her good luck in the Best Actress contest.

WORST DRESSED: Jennifer Connelly's gray mishmash by Narciso Rodriguez and Darryl Hannah's shredded pink Dior with gold lame boots.

FASHION MISSTEP: Me, getting the evil eye from Gwyneth Paltrow after I stepped on the train of her less-than-impressive gown.

BIGGEST WINNERS: Lions Gate Films reportedly spent close to $8-million on its Oscar campaign for Monster's Ball (which cost only $3.5-million to produce).

WORST TIMING: The winners' envelopes were delivered along with a handful of lawsuits from construction workers who were injured in the scaffolding collapse just before last year's telecast.

MOST IMPRESSIVE ACCESSORY: The "tiara" on the ceiling of the Kodak Theatre _ a wild, silver-leafed oval chandelier inspired by Michelangelo's Campidoglio Square in Rome.

BEST COMFORT FOOD: Forget Wolfgang Puck's samosas with tamarind, Maryland crab cakes with basil aioli and tuna tartare in sesame miso cones. The biggest buffet rush was for his Krystal-like miniburgers with blue cheese.

MOST PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION: Sir Ian McKellan spent most of the evening holding hands with and sneaking an occasional kiss from his very handsome, very young boyfriend.

BEST REASON TO BE GLAD YOU WERE AT HOME: Many of us had a tough time understanding what was being said on stage at the new theater, though the TV audio was loud and clear.

QUICKEST DASH: Russell Crowe, pacing in the hallway once the awards show started, raced back to his front row seat once he heard Woody Allen had been introduced.

BEST INVESTMENT: The Oscar telecast and related activities cost about $17-million to produce _ but the Academy will bank $46-million from commercials and licensing agreements.

BEST SEAT NOT IN THE HOUSE: Those watching the awards in the adjoining Renaissance Hotel's lower level bar, open for business as usual, were astounded to see Oscar winners rushing by en route to the press area.

FASTEST PROTEST: Right after the awards, fliers were being passed out to complain about A Beautiful Mind's win (Academy is anti-Semitic), McKellan's loss (Academy is antigay) and Will Smith's loss (Academy is antiblack _ I guess the fact that Denzel Washington won that category doesn't count).

Ed. Cassidy is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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