My night at the Oscars

I learn not to impersonate Colin Firth and walk the wrong red carpet. Is Helen Mirren sitting in my chair?

By , / Contributor

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    Rachel McAdams walks the red carpet at the Oscars.
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For some people, the dream is to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series. For me, it's always been to stand on stage and thank my agent, director, actors, wife (or wives), children, and that special kindergarten teacher who said, "You can do it, Chuck. You can win an Oscar." Smiling down, I would acknowledge my ferocious, lionesque producer, say, Harvey Weinstein, for growling at all the right times.

And now here I am. Twelve rows from the stage. On the main floor. At the 2010 Academy Awards. I am poised to jump out of my seat, run down the aisle, and leap onstage to accept any award except, possibly, supporting actress. But, not surprisingly, I am not nominated. I am here courtesy of dear – make that very dear – friends.

Even though I am properly adorned in tuxedo and perpetual smile, it didn't take long to realize my lack of importance to the general public. It started when I got out of the car and the people lining the sidewalks let out a massive groan that someone less than nobody had arrived. Trust me, do not try to fool them with a jaunty British accented, "Hi, Colin Firth here."

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And then quickly looking around, in vain, for a camera to flash in my direction, I am walking up the red carpet. Actually, it's not the red carpet. This is the other red carpet, the one created especially for non-nominees. It is definitely red. And the people on it look terrific. But it is surely a synthetic material we are stepping on while the potential winners to the left are walking (slowly, very slowly) on natural fibers.

Once I give up waving to the crowds that don't wave back, I recognize that there are beautiful people everywhere. Forget the barbs the commentators aim at the dresses of various female stars (though the width of some skirts does make it look as if they won't make it through the bathroom doors). They all look fabulous. There's not a pore in sight.

What I quickly realize once inside is that I am not just at a TV show, but a party. A bash with lots of well-known people who sure look like they're having a good time. It's as if I am standing in line at the supermarket thumbing through the latest magazine, and I don't have to put it back on the rack. Yes, that really is Helen Mirren who, for one chilling moment, I think is sitting in my seat. What do I say?

"Excuse me Your Majesty, but I believe you have usurped my chair?"

And Mariah Carey is sitting next to me – something I am certain to mention once a day for the next six months.

Eventually I even get to eat at the Governor's Ball upstairs, where an easy way to detect those who are not in "the business" is to see who is consuming course after course. Only the accountants – and me – ask for seconds.

And then it's midnight. Like Cinderella, I am going home. Yes, that really was Harvey Weinstein standing in the aisle when he was asked by the woman I am escorting to please move out of the way. The same Harvey Weinstein who turned to me and with a shrug and a sad-little-boy look on his face moaned, "The story of my life. Always getting pushed around."

OK, so I didn't get to thank my kindergarten teacher, and Harvey Weinstein was a cub, not a lion. But I do have my Oscar. I don't mind, at all, that it's three inches tall and made of chocolate. Wolfgang Puck gave it to me. I thanked him. It was the shortest acceptance speech of the night.

• Chuck Cohen, an advertising writer, lives in Mill Valley, Calif.

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