Friday, February 25, 2011

Sweet Heavens! The Oscars Are Coming!

Just going to work. Get off the subway as usual. See the usual Oscar melee. Note the even more increased security than yesterday. Each one scrutinizing each person that goes by. (Good luck with that...) Pass the (on our side) black curtain hanging along this mock wall. Notice when I get to the other side that three cops are there, cause you can see through their side. Cops are talking amongst themselves about each person that goes by, noting who is a troublemaker and who isn't. (This is not even a block from getting off the subway.)

Keep trying to go to work. Take a couple of pictures, because there is some huge press conference going on. It looks like it's some kind of walk through for journalists about what to expect on Sunday. There was one guy I saw on the other side. His laminate read: "International." He looked very lost. Most people's laminates around me read: "Production." And indeed, there they are, laying cable. Putting those plastic things securely over the cable so no one trips over the cable.

This guy's putting pink, yes, pink tape at four spots along the cable line. Interesting. I would've asked him what it was for, but he looked very busy. That and two other guys were over his shoulder, observing and talking to him.

I continue, acting like I know what I'm doing (always the way to get through such situations, FYI). I make it as far as the dreaded alley (the one I walk through every single day to get to work, usually no one is there). Today in addition to their regular command post, and the massive crane trucks nearby to disturb the view, today there is a stop at the end of the way. I just knew someone would be sitting there, checking badges.

This one is a stickler, too. "I work over there." "Where?" I tell her. "What place?" I repeat it again. I even tell her the address, which I've now memorized since Monday's interrogation. She is nonplussed. She gets on her walkie. (I'm not making this up.) I tell her, "No really, the security down there knows me." I'm looking frantically for my security guy. There is a phlanx of guys in yellow coats, but I don't see Cary. She walkies. "Um, got a girl here, says she works down there."

Finally I see a security guy I know come out of the madness. I wave. Smile. He tells her it's ok, and I'm able to walk down the alley.


When I get to work finally and grab my morning coffee, I look out the window and see WHY they are being so crazy with the security. Picture one of those space movies where your hero is on a hill and sees nothing but blackness. Then he crests the hill, and suddenly, a whole village of activity he had no idea was there. It was like that.

All week the parking lot next to Kimmel had been mostly empty. Some activity, which I photographed. Nothing much. Holy crap. You should see it now. (I have pictures, I'll post later.) The entire nearly block-long parking lot is FILLED with TV trucks. With satellite hookups. Must be a dozen, at least. Big old generators to power them. And lots of cable going into the Kimmel building, no doubt for extra power. Unbelievable, truly.

They have their own lunch truck out there. Even a couple of star trailers. (For news anchors? Wow. Who knew?)

The Oscars, baby. Are on!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oscars As We Know It Takes Shape

The red carpet is now in place.

One might wonder, why on Earth do they need to have the red carpet down four days before the event? With rains scheduled?

Here's why. The other biggest addition behind the scenes, visible throughout the alley command center and all around: satellite linkups. News trucks from all over are starting to wander in, for that "Here we are as they prepare the Oscars" story on the red carpet. I swear I saw Chris Harrison out there this morning. Everyone is testing their mics and taking position. Cameras are lining up shots and testing their electricity.

The (what has to be the) credentials booth appears to be made of really strong tenting material, maybe even leather. It has DOORS. Doors with hinges on it. It's pretty much the first thing you see when your limo arrives at the corner of Hollywood and Highland.

What also seems to be happening (subtley) is that the perimeter of their control is pushing further and further out as the days go on. Today (Thursday), you simply cannot go through the alley without a credential and/or being asked for one. There are security lookouts every ten feet. No chance anyone is going to wander somewhere without someone noticing. Although it does bring up the question: what about 3 in the morning? Is someone still out here, guarding things? I suspect yes.

The massive prone Oscars from yesterday have been removed from the command tent, and no doubt put in place. The four smaller statues are also gone. Their place has been filled by news trucks, at this point, mostly from ABC and/or Channel 7. One has to think that ABC owning so much of this block already has to help allow them to do all this. The other merchants are paid handsomely for the inconvenience.

One parking lot, for example, is normally home to a car rental business. The rental cars are lined up throughout the parking lot, and people rent them and drive away. ALL of that is now taken up by the command tents. This person's business is GONE during Oscar week.

So far, you can still get to restaurants in Hollywood & Highland, but man, is it difficult. The elevator is what I normally take. It was subsumed by people laying red carpet, and people taking pictures of the guy laying the red carpet. By tomorrow, it's going to be impossible. The cupcake shop just as you walk in is completely inaccessible too. They must be paid off for this, too.

As you walk on Hollywood Blvd., nearly half of the people you see have laminates with various levels of access on them. Normally, it's 80% tourists, taking pictures. Tourists do not seem as abundant today.

There are also traffic guards, to direct traffic away away away from the Kodak. Don't even THINK of parking on adjoining streets. You will not be able to move until Monday. Actually, if you are driving, at this point, you would be well advised to stay far away from Hollywood and Highland until Monday. It's not going to be pretty for you.

For the rest of us, though, it's beautiful. Look at that big Oscar statue, towering above everything! And the tents to keep everything dry. A walkway for press that doesn't normally even exist is high above Hollywood Blvd. Stunning.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Lockdown at the Kodak

The biggest change is tents. Tents everywhere.

Also, the entire block of Hollywood Blvd. (from Highland to Orange) is now shut down. Traffic rerouted. Big trucks fill the streets with names like party favors on them. Unclear what they are unloading, but they keep coming all day.

Security at every station. Trying to get to work (through the alley) involves a burly security guy asking me for my laminate. Sorry, I just work here. What's the address? It's a temp job. You expect me to remember the address that I've never needed before (since the first day six months ago)? Luckily, another security guard in the alley who knows me vouches for me, and I'm allowed to pass. I give a silent thanks for the fact that I'm constantly friendly to the various security guards I pass.

There is a big sign on the corner of Hollywood & Highland, which loudly proclaims: "OSCAR!" right next to a huge picture of a gold Oscar. And by huge, I mean multiple stories tall. Both of these images will feature prominently in tracking shots on every station. You will see them constantly, trust me.

In an upcoming post, I'm going to try to include some of the pics I've been taking on the scene. Trust me, it's not easy. I just bury myself in gaggles of Japanese tourists. (They always have cameras.)

Getting to work is even more of a nightmare.  One of the two alleys back is completely closed off. He does let me get through the other one. I see WHY this one is closed off, later, when I get to work.

Looking through our upstairs windows (pictures forthcoming), I see giant Oscars laying in the middle of this parking lot (probably being burnished with extra gold paint). Whereever they have giant Oscars along the red carpet, they are going to originally come from this staging area.

Another notable fixture of today is all the cameras and microphones being tested at various spots along the red carpet route. There are always cameras on Hollywood Blvd, but these are the expensive high-tech kind. TV cameras.

I'm going to try to get up to my favorite restaurant on the balcony to see how much of that is closed down, and what pictures I can get for lunch today. Back later.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Lockdown at the Kodak

I never really thought about it, frankly. The level of security it would take to keep the Kodak Theatre safe for the Oscars. But since I work close, I thought I'd blog about the transformation as it goes along.

*Bleachers have been erected. Signs are posted on them: "No public access without permission." Seriously? They shut down ALL of the businesses around here? Well, that was my first thought. Upon further examination, it seems that they have guards at each entry point to block access, but with much maneuvering, you can get around.

*Jimmy Kimmel Live has offices across the street from the Oscarcast/Kodak. Under normal circumstances, he uses the parking lot directly behind his offices to put on lavish concert spectacles for his shows. The stage set there is HUGE, nearly two floors high. Spotlights at every angle on six different scaffolds. Public access, of course, is blocked on all sides. Getting off work usually involves fighting through the crowds who are standing in line in the alley, waiting to see the show.

On this day, the entire beautiful massive stage set is being dismantled. In the six months that I've worked in the area, I've only seen it get more and more elaborate and added to. Crews are out there, tearing each piece meticulously down.

*The parking lot where the massive stage had stood is now, actually, a parking lot. With cars. Nothing but cars and empty spaces as far as the eye can see. Weird.

*The parking lot NEXT to this one, that Kimmel had been using for their parking lot, has now become command central. It looks like a movie set. Trailers ring the periphery. Guards at every level. Big signs, saying, basically: Don't even THINK about trying to come through here. Big signs in the alley saying: if you think about parking here, even for a minute, you will be towed. (Where were they a few days ago? Big-ass trucks always block this alley.)

*The normal parade of Elvises, fake cops, Mary Poppins, Spiderman, Darth Vader and such that throng Hollywood Blvd. are gone, daddy, gone. Not a one in sight, which is quite jarring, actually. The only thing left is the musicians trying to hawk their CDs for $5.

*Getting into Hollywood & Highland for a sandwich is actually still possible. But right in the middle... damn my memory... it seemed like there was a fountain or a stone structure of some kind right in the middle. Huge. People used to sit on it. Whatever the hell it was, it's completely GONE now. A big white spot on the floor where it used to be. So the whole entryway is open. Big open space. Crazy. And there are three times the amount of cops there used to be. NINE DAYS BEFORE THE OSCARS.

*Other people I know who live in the area have complained about parking problems, even those living blocks away. Parking's always bad around here, but now, they are just absconding with whatever spaces they feel they need. I'm happy, cause I have all that beat. I take the subway.

Fliers on subway: "Hollywood & Highland Stop will be CLOSED the day of the Oscars." Metro Red Line trains will bypass the station. Street closures around the area prompt four bus line changes. Wow.

Can't wait to see how this evolves over the next week. I'll keep you posted.